on lists and being image-bearers.

I was having dinner with a married girlfriend and a single guy friend one night and the topic inevitably turned to dating & marriage.  We’re all in (or nearing) our 30s and it just makes sense that this topic comes up more and more in conversation.  Somehow we got to talking about our preferences in a life partner.  My guy friend started talking about his dealbreakers.  He discussed how he had been getting to know a woman and how he had witnessed her lose her temper.  That was an immediate turn-off for him and he began to distance himself from her.  I tried to tactfully let him know that everyone at some point loses their temper.  She could have been having a really bad day, etc.  Granted, it’s not an excuse for losing one’s temper but I thought it was premature to become disinterested in a person because they turned out to be…well…imperfect.

My girlfriend offered one of her own dealbreakers – she could not date a man who didn’t speak good English.  I was surprised.  I understand how people have preferences but I didn’t consider these things dealbreakers at all.  But then I realized I had voiced similar opinions in the past.  So here I was, contemplating what I wanted to say to add to this conversation when my guy friend hit me with a doozy of a dealbreaker.  He didn’t want a girl that came from a broken family.  I was floored and stupefied.  This man is a loving godly person.  Couldn’t he see what he was saying was demeaning and unloving and unkind?  Did he really think that women from broken homes were somehow “less than”?  That he was entitled to a woman that came from a perfect family background and never lost her temper?  I tried to be kind as I carefully added my 2 cents.  Inside, my heart was breaking.  Is this how we choose whom to pursue or who we allow to pursue us?  How discouraging to live in such a world.

The bible declares we are made in the image of God.  I like the term “image-bearer”…we are image-bearers of God.  What does this mean?  Mike Erre, pastor at EvFree Church describes the duality of being an image-bearer of God and being a fallen sinful human in this way:

you are a person who has intrinsic dignity, honor, and worth. You, like the rest of us, are also broken and bent toward what is worst for us. But the good news is that Jesus has come to make things right. He invites you into that redemption.

To recap: we ALL, no matter our backgrounds, no matter what we’ve been through have the same intrinsic dignity, honor, and worth.  We are ALL also broken.  We must never believe that we are somehow “less broken” or “more worthy” than someone else.

When choosing or praying for a life partner many of us like to make a list.  This list may contain “dealbreakers” – characteristics or traits you absolutely cannot have in a life partner.  The list may also contain “must-haves”.  A list of items you wish your partner to be.  Many a person has spent countless hours pondering their list and praying over it convinced that if God really loved them He would give them what’s on their list.  Convinced that this person they have made up in their minds is exactly who God has handpicked for them.  I have several problems with many of these lists (note I did not say ALL of these lists).  I don’t believe God has handpicked a person for everyone.  I believe God let’s you choose – although He knows who you will choose.  I truly believe in my heart that we were made FOR God and not for another person.

The List.

I also don’t believe that God actually values most of the items people place on their lists.  There are 2 things that I find on most lists…

1. Appearance.  People put things like “blond” “blue-eyed” “dark-hair” “fair” “not dark” “not (insert race here)”.  People place these items in their lists and say well God knows what my attraction gift is…it’s not that I’m racist, I’m just not attracted to certain people.  Is an “attraction gift” even in the bible?  I’ve never read a passage with regards to that so I have to think this is something people have made up to make themselves feel better about making these choices.  And I can understand having a preference for people who look a certain way…but there is a difference between stating a preference and saying “I absolutely cannot see myself marrying an African/Indian/Chinese/Caucasian person.”  Why? Do you think God cares about race?  Do you think He cares about whether a person is short or tall or dark or fair?  Can you see God showing up and saying “my daughter/son you cannot marry this person because well…they’re kinda chubby.”  Let’s be honest – we are being superficial.

2. Background.  I will reference my friend’s dealbreaker of not pursuing someone who comes from a broken home.  Going beyond that this isn’t even the person’s fault – you really can’t blame a person for their parents’ decisions…Do you honestly believe God judges people based on where they came from?  Didn’t Jesus open his arms and his heart to the worst of the worst?  The shunned?  The outcasts?  The sinners?  That list includes you and me by the way – did you think we were any different?  That we were somehow cleaner or better?  Debra Katherine Fileta, author of True Love Dates has this to say in her article “I settled in marriage…and here’s what happened”:

BACKGROUND is just that: the backdrop.  No matter what “background trait” we’re talking about, how often do we move the background qualities to the forefront- defining people by their history, their past, or their origins…instead of defining them by who they are today? As Christians, we should be the FIRST to have eyes of grace and clarity, looking for the truth of a person’s here and now, instead of defining them by the background story.

I was so encouraged by my girlfriend’s eventual response to our conversation.  She texted me a day after saying that she had thought about what we talked about and realized that preferences were a good thing as far as reminding yourself not to repeat certain mistakes in choosing who to be in relationship with but ultimately she realized that we all need to be flexible enough to respond corrrerctly when God reveals what He thinks would be best for us.  She also realized that having these kinds of dealbreakers were indeed degrading to others.  In fact, she shared that she never expected to be so happy in a marriage to a man that was more sensitive than herself and she realized that had she stuck with her own dealbreakers she would not have the wonderful marriage she has today.

I’ll be honest.  I have made my own fair share of lists with superficial and degrading dealbreakers.  I have judged people on appearance and background and a host of other things that I know God does not value.  Friends, we continue to demean and degrade each other as image bearers with these kinds of lists.  How would a woman who came from a broken home feel had she heard my guy friend’s comments?  What about a man who was foreign and struggling with his English…how would he have felt if he had heard of my girlfriend’s dealbreaker?  Do we truly treat others as fellow image-bearers of the Most High?  Please, let’s treat each other with the dignity, respect, and kindness we all deserve.  Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate those lists.


If you want to check out Debra Katherine Fileta’s article please click here.