Throughout the years of our family's history -- from the middle 1970s, when Cathy and I were first coming to know each other, until the present time -- a consistent thread has woven itself into the fabric of our lives. Simply expressed, this theme can be described as an ever-growing confidence that our Heavenly Father knows our needs more fully than we know them, loves us more than we love ourselves, and has at His disposal an infinite storehouse of good gifts, each of them carefully crafted by His loving hands so that it might fit perfectly into a specific life.
Each human being born on earth is faced with a rather stark choice -- that of doing things his (or her) own way or God's way. The former pathway leads to confusion, frustration, and eternal separation from Him; the latter provides for its
traveler such benefits as guidance, provision, and eternal life.
Of course, the most crucial decision that can possibly be made by an individual is that of welcoming or rejecting Jesus, the Son of God, who has laid down His life as a sacrifice for each person who has ever lived -- or will ever live. Yet, in addition to this monumental choice, each human being has the privilege of making several others, including those that touch upon the practical facets of everyday life, from relationships to finances to physical and emotional well-being.
While reflecting upon this theme, I concluded that it is one that needs to be presented, by means of concrete illustrations, on the pages of this website. With great delight, I realized that Mark, the third-eldest of our 14 "team" members, had, during the years of his latter teens and early twenties, taken the time to place into written form many of his reflections upon this subject. At my request, he has furnished a three or four of them for use in this space, each of which appears below.
Rick Arndt (Dad)
(Note: Family Room members may access a number of additional articles penned by Mark. These articles appear in the Mark's Remarks section of the Family Room.)
Day Note" (Written in
You Wait" (Written in
"Why Wait" (Written in late 2003)
"And While You Wait" (Written in late 2003)
"Single-Minded" (Written in early 2005)
"What I Look For" (Written in early 2005)
About These Articles
Valentine's Day Note
(Here's a brief note I posted in FamTeam Today last Valentine's Day.
I thought it might not be a bad idea to dust it off and post it here for
this year, also.)
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!
For some reason, I felt it on my heart to write a few words of encouragement to all my fellow singles out there who are trying to wait for God to provide their future spouses.
I know it's not always easy to hold out, and I know
Valentine's Day certainly doesn't make it any easier. However, I would urge you to try to use the strong feelings you may have on this day to propel you to a deeper love and a deeper devotion toward God and your future spouse, rather than letting these feelings contort into jealousy or self-pity, something
we're all prone to do.
Please know that this desire to meet the right person is natural, healthy, and wonderful.
And, actually, I think it's something we should be grateful for. I think we can honestly thank God for the
"hunger," because if we didn't long for it before it was given to us, it would not be nearly as wonderful when it
is given to us. If the aroma of food wasn't so tantalizing before the meal was served, mealtime would not be nearly as
And I think you can even be thankful for the poignant, sometimes painful, reminder
Valentine's Day brings, even for the ache it puts in your heart, knowing that this day is an opportunity for you to prove to your future spouse and to yourself, in a very real, tangible way, just how deep your devotion runs.
On a day like this, it can be tempting to toss aside your commitment to the one-and-only right person and to simply cram someone -- anyone -- into that slot so that you can celebrate
Valentine's Day. However, I actually think that, as a single who is holding out, you
can celebrate this day just as passionately and romantically as any couple does.
It may not involve heart-shaped chocolates or lacy letters, but you can truly love your spouse now -- as vividly as if you were kissing his or her cheek -- by purposely, consciously, reserving and preserving that parking spot closest to your heart, even when the desire to fill it is at fever pitch.
If waiting stings sometimes, I think we can be glad
-- not in spite of the sting, but because of the sting -- because it is a way for us to truly feel the sacrifice, for us to truly be giving something up
for the sake of our future spouses. When God leads you to the right one, you can present him or her, not with an unused heart that has never felt before, but rather a heart that has
known the tug of alluring "almosts," that has felt the ache of letting attractive opportunities pass by, a heart that has been tested by time, tears, and heartaches, yet has gladly endured and has gladly set itself apart.
As a single, I know that the flaring up of strong feelings on this day is almost unavoidable.
But we always have a choice. It can be a fire that burns us or a fire that fuels us.
And if I could issue one challenge to my fellow singles out there (and to myself), it is to make this day a monument of devotion, not of depression.
Aim your attention outward, not focusing on what you don't have, but
rather on what you can give -- and give up -- for the sake of your
This day is a celebration of commitment, of selfless, honest, and true love; so
don't let its theme be one of self-pity or self-focusedness. Whether you know the name of your other
half or not, let today be a day of joy, a day where you celebrate, commemorate, and actively
-- excitedly -- express to him or her the length, strength, and depth of your devotion.
Just You Wait
I've actually found this to be one of my most difficult articles to write.
Not so much because of the subject matter, but because I've had a hard time figuring out the right approach to the topic.
I wanted to write about physical purity, about saving sex for marriage -- topics of enormous importance.
However, whenever I would open up a new file and try to write the reasons to save sex for marriage, I would find that the article would end abruptly, because the main reason to save sex is so simple.
God said so. And, really, that should be good enough for any of us.
Though I had a bunch of further thoughts on the subject, I didn't want to cheapen it by adding additional reasons.
To me, it felt like writing a long article about the reasons for not stealing.
True, there are dozens and dozens of good reasons not to steal, but to list them would take attention away from the bottom line -- that stealing is wrong.
However, as I thought about it, I realized that to just emphasize not having sex before marriage is only half of the picture.
The word "abstinence," while accurate, has always struck me as a little dry and colorless.
All it brings to my mind is an image of doing nothing, of abstaining, of saying no to something appealing.
And sometimes I think we only focus on the negative side of things -- that is, what we
shouldn't do -- instead of focusing on what positive things are implied by it.
Abstinence is, of course, a wonderful thing, and something I'm strongly in favor
of. However, I think sometimes we forget that it isn't only about saying no, only about waiting, only about not doing something.
The flip side is something wonderful and beautiful, something that makes me
want to save it, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is something that thrills my heart to think about.
It basically all boils down to this. I want to save my entire self -- my heart, my affections, my commitment, my body -- for the girl I am going to someday marry.
Rather than giving pieces of my heart to many different girls, I want to give my whole heart to one girl, the one and only that I'll spend the rest of my life with.
Instead of being like a hunter with a shotgun, firing bullets in every direction -- wounding many but capturing none -- I want to wait for the one and only, and then, like a sniper, fire one well-timed and well-placed bullet.
My whole heart. All for one.
Of course, there's nothing so earth-shaking or abnormal about this.
It's the exact same commitment virtually all married men and women have made -- to love and honor your spouse, to be faithful, to forsake all others.
The only difference is I want to be faithful to her, to forsake all others,
now, in preparation for her. I want my heart to make no distinction between past, present, and future.
Either way, it's hers.
Also, I think that waiting will be a tangible way I can prove to my future girlfriend that I value and respect her.
By holding out for her, I'd be saying, "Yes, believe me, I want to, but I see you as such a treasure that I'll gladly wait as long as it takes to win
you." It's so easy to profess love, to say that you see someone as a rare prize, but the best barometer for how much a guy values a prize is what
he's willing to give -- and give up -- to acquire it.
Regardless of my words, my actions will be the most eloquent expression of what
she's really worth in my eyes. I want my actions to constantly underscore,
"Waiting for you is such a small price to pay. You're worth every second of
it." It's so easy to say you love someone, but this is a way
to back up any statements of love with love.
Sadly, I think one reason many marriages fall apart is because the couple
"acts married" -- to put it delicately -- before they are married.
Then when they are married, they find that it's not much different.
It reminds me of people who have opened their Christmas presents early, played with them a while, but then, just to be official, they re-wrap them and stick them back under the tree.
When Christmas comes, they re-open the presents and may ask themselves,
"This is it? Why do people make such a big deal out of
Christmas?" If the privileges of marriage are permitted outside of marriage, then I think it takes away the incentive to stay married.
If marriage wasn't something to be respected and revered before the wedding, why should it be afterwards?
I want our wedding to be more than an exchange of rings and an excuse to have a party.
I want it to have real meaning, real significance. I want it to be a fiery line, a solemn passage, that brings real changes to our lives.
I want it to be clear that the altar alters us.
I want there to be a big difference between the unmarried us and the married us.
On that day, we go from being two separate people -- a boyfriend and a girlfriend, a fiance and a fiancee -- to
one married couple who will completely melt into each other. When I carry her across the threshold, I want it to be more than a formality.
I want it to be a fiery line we cross, one that forever welds us together, and makes us inseparable because of it.
When I used to consider how far to go before marriage, I would basically see it as a speed limit -- that is, how fast I could go without breaking the law.
However, the more I ponder how overwhelmingly worthwhile it would be to save myself for my bride, the more I
want to respect and honor the line, and to actually distance myself from it.
Ironically, when I talk about putting a buffer zone between me and the temptation, sometimes people suspect it's because I think I'm better than they are, or that I think I'm so strong and pure.
Actually, the opposite is true. The truth is, I know all too well that the phrase
"sex appeal" is not an oxymoron. Of course it is appealing, of course it is tempting.
It is precisely because I know how weak and imperfect I am, how impure my motives can be, that I want to leave a cushion.
It's because of my tendency to trip that I don't want to walk near the edge.
The best way to avoid falling into the Grand Canyon is to stay out of Arizona.
I have personally seen way too many people fall.
I have seen couples that I greatly admired and respected -- and still do -- who have caved in to temptation.
They didn't intend to give in -- in fact, they very much intended not to give in -- and yet, somehow it just happened.
And if they can fall despite good intentions, I know I certainly could.
It doesn't necessarily ruin their lives or their marriages, but I do know that many of them regret it so intensely.
So many kick themselves and lament, "If only we waited a few more months, if only we had been more far-sighted.
If only." My heart aches for those couples who gave in before their weddings -- perhaps just once -- who have to carry the consequences with them their entire lives.
Although God can completely forgive them and give them a fresh start, they still retain the bitter memories.
It puts a damper on their wedding night. It taints what should be delicious.
A fireworks show is absolutely breathtaking when in the right environment, but disastrous if set off at the wrong time (say, in your living room).
When set off in the wrong context, not only do you not get the show in its fullest glory, you so often also get burned.
Sex is a wonderfully explosive thing. It can completely melt two people together and create a permanent emotional link between them.
Positive or negative, it can leave deep impressions on the very center of your heart.
The joy can be unforgettable, but so can the regret. Recognizing its wonderful potential, but also respecting its tremendous power, I want to keep the flame far away from the wick until
we're really ready for its amazing chain reaction.
I want to be able to enjoy our honeymoon without shame or sadness, without any regrets.
I want nothing to spoil or water down the gunpowder. I want to leave a wide margin, to not even come close to the line, until
we're locked together. And I'm not just doing this for myself; I'm doing it also to guard my future wife's heart.
If we cave in, she'll be burned, too. And even though I don't know her name yet, I already love her enough to never want that to happen to her.
And this is looking way ahead, but I'm also doing it for my future kids.
By simply obeying God and making marriage a prerequisite for sex, it is physically impossible for me to bring a son or a daughter into the world who doesn't have two committed parents.
There are many things that I won't be able to guarantee my kids. Jobs fall through; money can be tight; life can be so unpredictable.
But by respecting God's boundary, I am guaranteeing that all of my future sons and daughters will at least have the structure and security of two very-in-love, forever-committed parents.
If we could only think long-term. Any number of days of waiting will be so few compared to the number of days where we completely belong to each other.
If a girl and I are going to be married, then this pre-marriage season is the
only time of our life together when we won't be physically involved.
This hands-off time is a brief, unrepeatable season -- like the small spot where the beach and the water meet, but there's an entire ocean of time together after that.
We should cherish this season, because this is the rare time.
This is our only chance to write a history.
One day, I will probably be married to the girl who makes my socks roll up and down.
When that happens, suddenly everything will be allowed. Everything we've been carefully guarding against will be permitted, even encouraged.
And as my bride is slowly walking toward me at our wedding, bearing a telling smile, and when I recall the things that we did and did not do, how am I going to feel?
What will I be happy I did? What will I regret?
And on our fortieth anniversary someday, when we look back on our wedding day and our wedding night, will we be happy then that we waited?
And when we share our story with our future sons and daughters someday, will we be proud or ashamed of our example?
Have you ever heard of someone who regretted purity?
Have you ever seen someone look back longingly on his or her past, lamenting that he or she waited?
I never have.
I think sometimes people forget that abstinence isn't giving something up; it's
saving something. When you drop coins into a piggy bank, the coins
do not disappear! You'll get it all back, only in the form of quite a jackpot!
What we forget is that the season of waiting isn't a season of nothingness.
It's a season of saving, storing, and preserving passion. When my mom cries during the last scenes of a romantic movie, it isn't because there is anything particularly moving about seeing two faces kiss each other.
It's because all of the longing, waiting, and preparation from the previous scenes is finally ripening.
People may think they're being clever by fast-forwarding to the end of the movie, but they're actually cutting out the very thing that makes it so powerful.
Yes, the last scene is usually the best of the movie, but the reason it packs such a punch is because of a whole love story leading up to it.
I would say that one of the biggest misconceptions nowadays is that you're missing out by saving yourself for marriage.
On the contrary, I think those who don't set anything apart for their honeymoons are the ones who are missing out.
For them there is no awe-inspiring new frontier, no ta-da, no feeling of
"wow, here we are!" There's no history and no story.
No jackpot stored up or set aside, no fresh treasure to give your new husband or wife.
The apples were picked before they were ripe, and now there's little left at harvest time.
By waiting, you get the exact same thing, only with so much more power, passion, and permanence.
Every dollar you've deposited you'll get back, with interest! You get a wedding night just like any other couple, only with hearts that have been slowly seasoned by a history of waiting and hoping.
You'll have reached the exact same point, only with a legacy of love and longing leading up to it.
What a wonderful feeling it will someday be to realize that you've made it across the finish line.
The waiting may have seemed long at the time, but now, in a flash, it's forever over.
You now belong to each other for life. That's it. Case closed.
There's no backing out now -- and of course who would want to! The door is locked behind you, and the only person in the room with you is the person you are goofy-in-love with.
You're wedlocked together, and you've thrown away the key.
Some people think I'm strange for actually wanting to put off something so appealing.
They can't seem to understand my reasons, as if I must be slightly insane (this, I admit, is a possibility).
What is funny to me, though, is that my desires for doing this are about as common and as mainstream as you can get.
So many people have an ache in their hearts for the very same thing that I do.
I would bet that if you polled people about what things they wanted most in life, most people would say that they want a stable, growing, lasting, passionate relationship with one right person.
So many people dream of and long for true love and commitment, for the love of their life, for knee-weakening romance, yet somehow those who are actually holding out and preparing for those things are looked upon as strange or repressed.
Many people long for the destination, yet they can't understand why others are on the journey.
If I had to sum it in a sentence, it would simply be: I want to do it right.
A lover of steak will not settle for a microwaved hunk of raw meat.
He will want to slowly cook it, slowly marinate it, and give it just the right seasoning.
He'll happily endure the preparation, not because he is anti-steak, but because he's pro-steak!
He loves steak and knows how good it can be, so he knows it's worth doing right.
In the same way, love looks pretty darn good to me.
Love, and what love will ultimately lead to, look absolutely delicious.
And if a steak, which is quickly gone (especially considering how fast I eat), is worth waiting for, isn't lifelong love worth waiting for all the more?
If anything is worth taking the time to do right, it is love.
In closing, what I hope you take away from this article is not just the rule itself and an insistence that you obey it, but also a taste of the importance and beauty of patience and purity.
And also, perhaps, a fresh faith that God clearly knows what he's doing, and knew what he was doing when he gave us this rule.
Saving sex is for our great benefit. It is not a repressive rule designed to spoil our fun, but actually a recipe for love at its loveliest.
After all, the whole idea isn't to not have sex.
It is simply to save it for the right time and for the right person where it can be in its most passionate and most powerful form.
It's not just a no; it is saving it all up for a big, bright, beautiful
I once heard it said that true love doesn't just wait; it plans.
Yes, physical passion is something to wait for, but don't just wait.
Whatever your past, you can start saving yourself for your spouse now, remembering not only that you are waiting, but also what it is and who it is you are waiting for.
Do it not only out of duty, but out of uncontainable love, with a joy in your heart and a glint in your eye.
Just you wait.
A wise man -- me -- once said, "A wait is worth its weight in gold."
Roughly a year ago, I was in a shambles inwardly. Outwardly, I would always say that I trusted God in everything, and to a degree I did, but I refused to completely hand over the reins of my life. Especially when it came to finding the right girl. If he wasn't going to do something to help me find the right one, I had better get going trying to find her myself.
My intentions were always sincere and good. I wanted to find a girl -- no, the girl. I didn't want to just play the field with dozens of girls. Sure, I was lonely at times and wanted a companion, but I was mainly eager to find my future wife. I wanted to honor her, I wanted to respect her, I wanted to make her happy. I wanted to woo her, to surprise her, to make her heart smile.
These were all great motives, but I let these positive longings interfere with my trust in God. Although I would never publicly question God, nor would I even dare question him directly, I was constantly trying to persuade him into leading me to the right girl right now.
I would give God deadlines. Masked as trust, I would say, in effect, "God, I trust you to lead me to the right girl. I'll wait. In fact, I'm willing to wait five whole months. So from now until January 1st, I'm going to give it all to you." This sounded noble, but I now realize how arrogant of me it was. As if I could fool God into delivering within my timetable! What I really was saying is, "I'm giving you five months, God. But after that, I can't promise what I'll do. Sure, you're good to go for five months, but after that, I can't guarantee my loyalty."
I was willing to surrender almost all of it... but not all of it. It's almost as if I was holding onto part of it just in case God turned my future into something I didn't want. Then I could swiftly yank it back.
Finally, I gave up. God got through to me. At long last, I told God -- and I meant it from the heart -- that "whenever, or if never, you lead me to her, I will happily accept it. I will give these issues to you indefinitely." It really boiled down to a change of priorities. As long as I remain in God's will until I die, I will have a successful life. If I am ninety, and about to die, and I've never even dated or kissed a girl, I will smile on my deathbed, as long as I have pleased God.
I wouldn't have time to recount the entire story in this article, but let me just say that August 4th of 2002 was a life-changing day for me. I had trusted God before, but it had always been a conditional trust. But it was at that moment, on that sizzling summer day in 2002, that my trust became unconditional. Previously I would essentially say, "God, I'll only follow you if it means
having a girlfriend." But after that day, I said, "God, I'll only
have a girlfriend if it means following you."
Patience is never exciting. Especially patience with no end in sight. Sometimes it can feel like riding in a car with no windows. You're told that you're moving, but you don't feel any different. You don't see the scenery moving, you don't see your progress. You see nothing to reassure you that you're not just holding still and wasting your time.
If God were to tell me, for example, that I would meet the right girl in exactly 714 days, I think it would be a lot easier to wait for it. That way I could plan for it and keep my eyes on the days, watching them tick downward. But I don't think that's the kind of trust and obedience God wants from us. He wants us to be willing to do as he says even if it looks like we'll get nothing in return. He wants us to follow him anyway.
If God said to wait, we should wait even without a reason. But God loves us so much that he gives us good reasons and great results. Waiting will be so worth it. Consider each day you wait to be a tangible way you can show your future husband or wife how much you love him or her. Watch the days go by with delight and anticipation. Make tally marks on a piece of paper if you like. You are storing joy. You are storing romantic moments. You are forsaking all others. You are not missing one single good thing by waiting. In fact, the longer you wait, the more it will all be worth one day.
Someday, looking back, I'll probably see why it was when it was. In fact, looking back now I can see why it wasn't sooner. It's a good thing my life isn't in my own hands. If it was, I sure would have screwed it up by now!
I'm no less eager to meet her now than I was then. I'm no less in love with her now. The difference is that finding the right girl is no longer my duty. It's not up to me. It never was up to me. That's not in my job description. Like salvation, she is not something I can earn. I know I won't deserve her anyway! She will be a gift from God -- and what a gift!
And While You Wait
You know, come to think of it, maybe "waiting" is a bad choice of words. Waiting implies being still. To me, waiting evokes a scene of someone quietly sitting on a rocking chair, calmly looking out the window for a car to pull up in the driveway. I suppose that is partially accurate, but it's incomplete. If waiting for my future spouse were as simple as killing time, all I would have to do is find a convenient way to slip into a coma. "Wake me when she arrives."
Nope. Waiting for God to provide means putting to rest our attempts to make it happen ourselves, in our timing, or on our terms. But while we wait, there is plenty we could, and probably should, do.
Change your energies from, "I've got to find the right person!" to "I've got to be the right person! I have to be ready!" Redirect the energy to preparing yourself. If you are single, then this is the season where you can prepare for the season where you prepare for marriage.
What this mainly means is getting your entire lives, every aspect, lined up with God. No holding back, no halfway. You'll never be perfect, but don't let that stop you from trying. Focus on God alone; make sure he is your highest priority. Invest in your relationship with God, putting it above all others.
You see, I think God wants us to be whole people. Marriage is for two people, not two halves. While my wife will complete me in many ways, I think God wants me to be content and dependent on him, whether or not I'm hitched. He wants me to follow him on my own before my wife and I follow him together as a couple. Even when I am married, there will be many times when it will just be my integrity or my trust in God that is being tested. I have to be ready for that. I have to have my own foundation with God, my own relationship with him.
At first, what I am saying about contentment can almost sound cruel. It reminds me of a joke I heard a while back. "A bank will only give you a loan if you can prove you don't need it." Will God not let you get married until you no longer want to be married? No, not at all. But I think he wants us to stop using the idea of getting married as a crutch or a cure-all. My wife will be wonderful, and I'll be entirely crazy about her, but even she won't be able to solve the problems only God can fix.
Don't hold your happiness ransom. I used to figure that I couldn't let myself be completely happy or content, because then God would think that I liked being single and he wouldn't hurry in bringing the right girl to me. Dare to be content. It is one of the bravest things you can do while waiting.
To me, there are few things more attractive in a girl than contentment. Even contentment without me. In one sense, I don't want her to need me that much. I think it's a God-driven desire in me to want to strive to win her heart. Desperation is a big turn-off. Frankly, if a girl is simply desperate for a guy, it's not all that flattering if she is interested in me. Once again, of course I want to do all I can to fulfill her and to make her happy, but there is only so much a human can do. She will need a contentment in God.
Watch out for self-pity. Remember, even if you are doing a noble thing by waiting, you can do something very noble by doing it cheerfully.
You don't need to stop dreaming about the other person. Keep planning. I have so many ideas already planned. I literally keep a list. In fact, I wish I could share some of the ideas now, but I'm afraid my future wife will read this, and I don't want to spoil the surprise. But just remember that there is nothing wrong with anticipating. Anticipation is good, but you can't only anticipate. Waiting is great, but you don't only wait. You wait, you anticipate, you prepare, and you plan.
Even now, I get over-anxious at times. I sometimes fear that God won't be late, but that my own thick-headedness will cause me to pass her by. Thankfully, even a thick head won't stop God. If I miss her the first time, God can arrange a second time. And if I miss her yet again, God can make it even more clear the next time. What I think we really need to do is believe that God is real, God is with us, and that God is able. He will get the job done despite all obstacles, even if one of the obstacles is my own dopeyness. He surely has a plan for me, whether it is for me to be married or not. Whatever his plan, it is good. And I should thank him, even now, for that fact!
Today is my twenty-first Valentine's Day. It's hard to believe that I've been through so many!
This holiday is notorious for hearts, both broken and non-broken. Either way, it seems to make an impact. Those who are in a relationship are expected to celebrate it; those who are single are inadvertently reminded that they are single.
Valentine's Day may bother you if you're single. It may make you feel like Charlie Brown. Not that many years ago, it bothered me, too. I have since asked myself, though, "Mark, just why does it bother you?" I thought for a moment and then answered, "Well, because I'm single." That's when the issue began to come into focus for me. I wouldn't mind being reminded that I am single if I don't mind the fact that I am single. The pangs I would feel on Valentine's Day were only little glimpses of the fact that I was not content with being single.
In fact, now that I look back, it wasn't only that I was not content being single. To an extent, I refused to be content being single. I wanted very much to be married; that's what I felt like my "role" was supposed to be. And through some distorted reasoning, I worried that if God saw me happy in my role as a single, perhaps I would make him think that all was well, and perhaps he'd make me stay single.
Now that I think about it, I suppose it was almost an act of defiance as well. I was convinced that, no, I was not supposed to be a single person, hence I would refuse to act like a happy one. It was a little bit like a kid on a little league baseball team. He wants to play shortstop -- that's where he's convinced that he's meant to play -- but instead the manager has him play in the outfield. Pouting and grumbling, he goes out to the outfield and refuses to hustle, refuses to try, and is sure to let the manager know how unhappy he is where he is. I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but that's an analogy of the way I acted with God.
Finally, it dawned on me how foolish it was to refuse to be content. I realized that there were only two possible scenarios for my life -- that I will be married or that I will not be married. If I am going to be married someday, then I only have a limited number of single years remaining. Let's say that I'll meet the right person in, oh, seven years. Either way, I'll have to live for those seven years, so I might as well be content, joyful, and productive as I pass through them. I might as well make them seven years that I will be proud of.
And if I am never going to be married, then I will be single for the rest of my life. That gives me all the more reason to learn to be content, joyful, and productive while single because I will never be anything but single! In either situation, it would be foolish to refuse to be content.
In these articles, I often talk about "the way I was," or how "I used to think this way," or that "I once was not content." And that's true -- I have learned a lot, and I have come a long way. But boy, can I still get antsy at times! Even though I'm trying my hardest to be joyful and content while single, I still occasionally have to catch myself and remind myself to have patience and to wait. Even after we've given it over to God, I think we all have "flare-ups" of impatience or restlessness now and then, especially on days such as Valentine's Day.
Sometimes when I feel this way, I find it helpful to assign myself a little homework. I challenge myself to come up with ten reasons I can appreciate being single today. This isn't a way of crossing my arms and saying, "Hmmph! Well, I didn't want to be married anyway!" It simply means disciplining myself to be thankful for whatever my circumstances happen to be. Besides, the objective fact is, like it or not, I am single. So I might as well enjoy it. I might as well live joyfully, because I'm living anyway.
I am able to focus more on a one-on-one relationship with God. Although I still keep busy now, it is probably easier to cultivate a personal relationship between me and God than it will be when I have a wife and family.
I am able to give more time, attention, and affection to my family and my friends right now. Once I have a wife and a family of my own, they will naturally become my primary focus.
I have more time available to pursue my own hobbies and interests. Although I try not to be self-focused now, I know that I have a unique luxury of being able to do what interests me if I have spare time. I may not always be so free.
On Valentine's Day, anniversaries, birthdays, et cetera, I am free of any obligations. I'm sure it's a delight celebrating these things, but it also adds responsibilities and sometimes pressures.
I am more free to do things with "the guys" such as going on road trips, staying up late playing games or just chatting, playing tennis, disc golf, et cetera.
Right now, I primarily have to be concerned with only my issues, not the issues of two people. My wife will have needs just like anyone else, and it will be my delight -- but also my duty -- to look out for her.
I can wear the same shirt for twelve days straight if I want to. (Er, I say this only theoretically, of course.) I greatly look forward to sharing life with a woman, but with it will also come the responsibilities of always making sure that I'm pleasant to live with.
I have more time to build up character and practical traits before having them tested by the challenges of having a wife and a family. Had I been married sooner, I would have been far less prepared than now.
I will appreciate the right person all the more because of the wait. Had I met the right girl the moment I started liking girls, then I may have taken her for granted. But because it has taken longer than I expected, because of the occasional ache of waiting, I know it will be easier for me to cherish her as much as she deserves when the time does come.
It means that I have made it one more year, one more Valentine's Day, in saving myself for the right person. It is one more bit of tangible proof of my love, one more piece of evidence of my commitment to the right one.
That may be more than ten.
Anyway, the point still remains. When I look at the exact same situation, but through the lens of gratitude, appreciation, and contentment, I realize that I have many reasons to feel blessed by being single. Oh, it goes without saying that marriage has tremendous advantages, but the single life isn't without advantages also. And instead of holding my happiness ransom until a certain dream of mine comes true, I need to appreciate the joys and good points of where I am right now. Being content while being single does not mean that you are any less passionate or less excited about meeting the right person; rather, it is a choice to be appreciative and joyful even when that longing is not yet met.
Like that little league kid I mentioned before, I need to sink my teeth into my position in the outfield while I'm there and stop moping that I'm not the shortstop. Maybe there's a lesson I need to learn in the outfield. Maybe it will help me appreciate the shortstop position more when I do play it. Who knows, maybe I'm meant to always be an outfielder.
It helps me to see it as a win-win situation. If the wait is longer, then I get to continue enjoying the perks of being single longer. If the wait is shorter, then I get to experience that amazing, heart-melting privilege of committing for life to one person sooner. There will be perks and challenges to both, and I need to be careful not to always think the grass is greener on whichever side I'm not on. Perhaps it's time to enjoy the greenness of the lawn right beneath my feet while I'm here.
I have noticed that marriage does not cause either contentment or discontentment; it simply reveals whichever trait is already there. Many married people long to be single; many single people long to be married. Sadly, a person unable or unwilling to find joy and contentment as a single often will not find them in marriage either. But the opposite is true as well. A person who has learned to find joy and contentment as a single will often find them in even greater abundance in marriage.
When I talk about learning to enjoy being single, I hope it doesn't sound like I'm knocking marriage. Marriage is a wonderful, beautiful thing that we have every right to have a burning desire for. In many ways it can be heavenly, but the fact remains that it is not heaven. My future spouse may be godly and a real angel on earth, but she won't be God. I can hardly wait until I meet the right person; I ache to find her sometimes. I can't tell you how many times I've been out howling at the moon, lonely to talk to her, to be near her, to hold her. She will complete me in ways no other human ever could. But she will be a human, and not God. And although she'll fulfill me in many ways, she will not be able to fulfill me the way only God can.
So I would encourage you, on a day when you're most likely to feel discontentment if you're single, to find your joy in God. Find your delight in him now, wherever you are. Don't tie your contentment to something earthly, because nothing on earth is guaranteed. There's no guarantee when, if ever, I'll be married. There's no guarantee that I'll ever have kids. There's no guarantee that I will live even one more year. But there is a guarantee from God that -- marriage sooner or later, marriage or not, a long or a short life -- he is always there and he never changes. He is good, and his plans are always good. And knowing that, I can be perfectly content.
What I Look For
title of this article may give off the wrong impression. This
isn't at all meant to be a personal ad. The purpose of this
article is not to advertise myself to try to get potential wives to send
in their resumes.
Rather, this article is meant to,
very simply put, let single ladies know what sorts of things guys like
me appreciate. Your female friends or your parents may already
encourage you to cultivate traits such as these, and I know their advice
can be very helpful. However, I realize that, as a guy, I am in a
position to speak to single ladies from a unique perspective. I
can tell them straight from personal experience what guys with my
priorities look for and appreciate. Perhaps my advice will carry
an extra degree of credibility, not because I'm an expert or especially
smart (it's a coincidence), but simply because I am a guy, and a guy
very much attracted to the fairer sex, which makes me perfectly
qualified to tell you what sorts of things I look for.
The most important thing I look for
in a girl is a close relationship with God. I pray she has an
unconditional love for him. I want her to be totally sold out,
totally surrendered to God and what his will is.
The reason why this trait is by far
the most important is that I know it will affect every other trait in
her life. If the engine of a train is going in the right
direction, then every other cart will naturally tend to follow. In
the same way, if a girl's heart is going "full steam ahead"
for God, then all of the other qualities I pray for seem to fall into
I have been amazed to discover that
I am often able to detect whether a girl's heart is close to God without
anyone telling me. There often is an indescribable aura of
steadiness and peace about her. It can't be faked, and it can't be
hidden. Gals, one of the best beauty tips I can give you is to get
your heartbeat in tune with God's. Love him fully. Let his
light shine into, and out from, every part of your life.
Outward appearance does have some
value, but I don't want my future wife to be so focused on her looks
that she neglects more important attributes. Wanting to look your
best is a good goal, and I hope she takes that goal seriously, but
there's so much more to a girl than just eye candy. Of course it's
important to take care of yourself, to stay in shape, to make the most
of everything you've been given, but an over-emphasis on outward
appearance can sometimes mean an under-emphasis on something more
But while we are on the topic of
outward appearance, let me briefly share what I find attractive.
Ironically, I find that the girls who are not attempting to lure
guys by dressing scantily are actually more attractive. Skimpy
dressing may get more guys immediately interested in you, but only
temporarily and for the wrong reasons. I've found it actually
becomes an obstacle in me becoming truly, permanently interested in a
girl. If all I can see when I look at her is a body on display, it
makes it much more difficult to even notice her personality, her unique
heart, or what makes her different from every "body" else.
However, the girls who have gotten
my highest admiration in this area over the years were not the ones who
shunned all attention to outward appearance, seeing it at as too
superficial, nor were they the ones who seemed to focus only on their
looks. Rather, they were girls who each seemed to see themselves
as a gift to their future husbands, a gift with many dimensions -- a
heart, a soul, a mind, a personality, and, yes, a body. And out of
a deep love for him, they didn't want to neglect any facet of the gift
they'll give him. They made a real effort to make themselves
attractive not out of selfishness, but out of love -- not to receive
attention, but to add to what they can give.
To me, outer beauty is a
stained-glass window. Yes, it makes sense to polish the glass and
make it look its absolute best, because physical attraction does have
its place, but even the most beautiful stained glass still looks pretty
dull in the shade. A love for God and for others, an honesty and
simplicity of heart, a well-developed personality, all create an inner
light that shines through the stained glass, making its colors and
features glow. The girls who have really attracted my heart's
attention, not just my eyes' attention, were those who had an inner
radiance that made their outer beauty -- and every other part of their
being -- beautiful.
In my opinion, a contentment in God
is one of the most desirable character traits a girl can have. I
don't want to only be a crutch for my wife. I don't want her to
have been so desperate to find somebody that she came after me. On
the contrary, I want her to be so content with being single that I have
to prove myself worthy of her time and attention. Of course I want
the girl I marry to want to be married (especially to me!), but I
want her to have learned to be content and happy wherever she is.
What I really want to do is catch my
future wife in the very act of being herself. I don't want her to
be desperately looking for a guy, but rather to be peacefully following
God and making the most of her present situation. I want us both
to be so busy looking upward at God that we forget to look in front of
us, and we bump right into each other.
I pray that she is selfless. I
want her primary focus to be outward, on loving and serving others,
rather than worrying only about her own world. No, it's not that I
want a servant. See, one of the things I look forward to the most
is serving my future wife, looking out for her needs, making her
happiness my priority. I want to be her servant, but I
can't do that if the position is already filled. If she has found
full-time employment serving her own desires, it leaves little room and
little need for me.
Humility is a trait that seems to go
hand-in-hand with this. You've probably noticed how, when you see
someone self-important or self-centered, you can't wait to see him taken
down a peg. You tend not to admire him, because he already gets
enough admiration -- from himself! But you may also have noticed
how, when someone is humble and doesn't try to draw attention to
himself, you can't wait to be the one to recognize and honor him.
I want to be my wife's biggest fan, the one to continually discover
new hidden and unadvertised treasures in her, to continually be
awestruck that she has even more riches than she ever let on.
Basically, I would like to see her
so busy humbly serving others and thinking outside herself that she
leaves a big void for me to fill. The less concerned she is about
serving or lauding herself, the more I can be.
Selflessness and humility are two of
the most attractive traits anybody -- male or female, the young or the,
um, ex-young -- can have. To me, the most captivating young lady
isn't one who puts herself in the spotlight, but rather one who is
a spotlight, who is providing light for others. When a girls
attention is aimed outward, she not only tends to warm every heart she
reaches, but she herself begins to glow. Her whole person
radiates. Every part of her becomes so beautifully lit, but from within.
Wastelessness. I may have just
made that word up (spellcheck doesn't like it, anyway).
Nevertheless, this is an important quality that I look for. I hope
for a wife who makes the most out of whatever situation she is in,
whatever God gives her, even if it takes some effort. I definitely
want her to know how to be still, to be peaceful, to relax, but I do not
want her to aim any lower than her potential.
Perhaps a better word for this would
be industriousness. I sometimes avoid this word because it brings
to mind a factory belching out smoke, which isn't the image most ladies
are seeking. Another good word would be resourcefulness.
Basically, I want my future wife to waste nothing, to always make the
most out of everything she is given -- her time, her appearance, her
personality, and her relationship with God.
Gratitude, thankfulness, joy.
To me, one of the quickest turn-offs in anyone is self-pity. Joy,
I have come to learn, is not so much a mood as it is a decision.
Sometimes it will come automatically, and the joy and gratitude will
just seem to spill from you. The true test comes, though, when
things don't go your way. I have learned that it's not so much
your circumstances that determine your happiness; it is your reaction to
I know some girls who I'm sure can
hardly wait to meet their husbands, but they're still single. But
rather than sitting around and moping about it, they're using the time.
They're joyful and radiant; they're investing time in other people;
they're grateful for what's right in front of them; somehow everything
they touch seems to turn to gold. Not only are they better off
because they have found ways to be happy and productive, but their sunny
attitudes have made them so attractive, so pleasant to be around.
For their joy alone, some of them have become quite the catch.
On the other hand, I have seen
people who also can hardly wait to meet the right person, and they also
are still single. But they let this fact defeat and depress them.
They may feel sorry for themselves, or just sit in a cloud of gloom,
refusing to be happy until the right person comes along. Not only
are they sad, but their attitudes make them less likable, which probably
in turn makes them sadder.
The circumstances are the same, but
one reaction is a turn-off and the other sparkles with beauty.
Self-pity can become an endless cycle producing more self-pity, but joy
can become an endless cycle producing more joy.
I observe my mom. With all the
work involved in keeping a family of sixteen people running smoothly,
I'm sure she has earned the right to gripe now and then, but she chooses
to be cheerful. She decides to be thankful. I'll bet she's
not always in the mood, but she makes up her mind to be joyful.
Not only does it make her happier, but it makes the family happier,
which gives her even more reason to be happy, and the beautiful cycle
starts all over again.
Ladies, keep your standards high.
High standards in a girl make me want to straighten up and do all I can
to achieve them. They pull out the best in me. I want her to
keep a high price tag. I want her standards to encourage me to
work hard to somehow meet them, to never let me slack off or take her
for granted. When I see a girl with high standards -- for herself
and in dealing with guys -- I can't help but have a tremendous respect
and admiration for her, even if I'm not specifically interested in her.
I tip my hat to those ladies who find their delight in God and are
unwilling to settle for anything less than his best for their lives.
One thing I especially respect in
young ladies is when they aren't "available," per se.
They aren't available to anyone except their future husbands. They
are already taken, spoken for; they just don't know by whom yet.
Their focus is not on being a partial fit with many guys, but on being a
perfect fit with one right guy.
You can either be a rare key that
fits only one lock, and by definition doesn't fit all the other
locks, or you can compromise and melt yourself into a putty that can fit
every lock. The putty approach does have its appeal because
it will probably bring more guys who have a casual interest in you.
However, since putty has no distinct shape that makes it stand out,
these girls will probably have very few guys who see them as
extraordinary and irreplaceable jewels. If you make yourself
interchangeable, guys will quite naturally tend to regard you as
interchangeable. Yes, putty can mold to fill every keyhole, but it
isn't defined enough to truly unlock a heart. If you give a dollar
or two to every guy you meet, you're likely to appeal briefly to many
guys, but you won't have much of a jackpot left over to truly mesmerize
What I hope for is, not a girl who
will give me a few dollars, but a girl who is storing up a jackpot that
is worth laying down my life to obtain. Not putty that can
temporarily fill my lock (and any lock), but a girl who is willing to
set herself apart, who is happy to close all other options, so that she
will be a perfect, priceless fit for my lock alone. She'd be worth
doing anything to win, because there would be only one of her in the
world. She could command any price, she'd be worth giving up
everything and everyone else for, because she would be a true rarity, a
one-in-a-million match that could never be replaced.
Above I have highlighted a handful
of the characteristics that I would encourage any young lady -- in fact,
anybody at all -- to try to cultivate. It may seem like a lot to
take in, but you know what? You don't have to print out a
checklist to make sure you're developing the right traits. When
you're following God fully, I think you'll find that these
characteristics naturally start to grow in you.
An illustration I like to use is the
difference between an artificial Christmas tree and a real Christmas
tree. When putting together an artificial tree, you have to focus
intently on the minutiae of the directions to figure out how to
perfectly pose each branch so that it takes on the right shape.
However, a real tree doesn't have to be posed; it is healthy and lush
not because it had to be perfectly adjusted, but because of its simple
and thriving relationship with good soil. To be properly shaped as
an artificial tree, you have to be so self-aware and conscientious, but
to be properly shaped as a real tree, you merely have to be!
Most of the girls who have really
caught my attention over the years weren't straining to follow some
complicated self-improvement formula. Most of them didn't have a
flashy Christian resume. It had nothing to do with talent,
intellect, accomplishments, or even how long they had known God.
In fact, one of the most amazing
things about them was their simplicity, their ordinariness, their
childlike hearts. Yes, their traits stemmed from decisions --
because we all have a choice -- but what captured my attention was
merely the results of a relationship with God. Because they were
planted in him, their lives produced love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
And guess what? These things were like beams of light shining
through stained-glass windows, causing them to truly dazzle!
It wasn't a perfection so
much as it was a direction. They weren't perfect, but their
hearts were turned toward God. They loved the right things, and
the results were too lovely to ignore. I can make as many lists as
I want, but if I had to sum up what I look for in one phrase, it would
be: a girl who loves God.
I write this not to hasten the
arrival of my future wife -- that's up to God, not me -- but to
encourage those ladies out there who are humbly loving God and his
principles. Please, stay rare. Please keep serving God,
please keep doing as you do. I know for a fact that there are
still guys out there who are longing, praying, pining for girls just
like you, hoping that godly women like you still exist.
I know that sometimes you may feel
like you're the oddest person in the world. You may feel so
different, so unusual. You may sometimes look at other people and
cringe at how strange you must look compared to them. You may
occasionally get discouraged by how rare you are. I want to
encourage you that it is precisely because you are rare that the
right guy will appreciate you so much. Yes, it is true that you're
uncommon. But so are diamonds.
About These Articles
The articles above were written by me, Mark Arndt,
between of 2003 and 2008. Additional similar articles -- about twenty
-- are available in the Mark's Remarks section of the Family Room.
From time to time, people have asked if they could share certain articles with people they know.
Here is a policy that I've come up with:
If you're simply passing an article on to help a friend, feel free to do that. If it's just a one-on-one sharing-to-help-an-individual kind of thing, you don't need to bother getting my permission. After all, my whole intention for writing these is
so that people can read them! Feel free to print them up, or
better yet, pass on a link to this website. In any event, I would ask that you refer people back to this website. It's a really handy link to pass along:
With the recent surge of
bloggers, people sometimes have asked if they could post the articles in
their blogs. Feel free to post excerpts of the articles in blogs, but be
sure to provide a link to where they can read the whole article and
where they can read additional articles.
Basically, what I'm trying to do is make sure that people
are always steered back to this website. From time to time I
update this section -- adding new thoughts to old articles, or adding
completely new articles. If there are a lot of "copies"
of these articles floating around on other blogs and other websites, I
can't update all of those when I update this section. So by doing
it this way, by having people come to this site to read the entire
articles, it helps keep it all consistent.
Now, for any larger uses of these articles -- things along the lines of distributing them to more than a
few friends, or using parts of them in a book, newsletter, other
website, or anything like that -- I would like you to get my okay first.
I think I'm pretty approachable. I only bite when provoked. In fact, I'm probably more scared of you than you are of me. So when in doubt, just ask me.
There are two ways to contact me. One is my e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The other way is regular mail, and the address is as follows.
P.O. Box 800
Belleville, IL 62222