When I was in third grade I participated in the M.S. Read-A-Thon. We got sponsors and read booksfor a month and Pizza Hut was involved somehow. I don’t really remember how it all worked, but at the end of the month there was an all-school assembly where we got prizes based on how many books we’d read.
I had read a good number of books but not enough to get the prize I really wanted—the stuffed Sleuth Dog. When they called my name, they incorrectly said I had won Sleuth. I was shocked, but obviously happy to accept my undeserved prize. But before you think this post is about grace and getting what we don’t deserve, they realized their mistake.
And then they had to step up and take a dog back from a third grader.
I handled it well actually, which impressed everyone. I knew I hadn’t earned it. But then I knew something else: I knew next year I was going to win that dang dog! And you know what? I did. But here’s the thing: a fourth grade boy is not the same as a third grade boy. I still wanted the dog, but honestly I had moved on. It didn’t mean as much by the time I got it. Sleuth went into the stuffed animal pile.
But this event did show me two things that have held true.
First, I’m a competitor, and I will work my tail off to win. I can set goals and go after them. I may not be the best, but it won’t be because you outworked me. This of course is good and bad. It made me a good athlete, but it also can drive me crazy on the golf course when I should just be enjoying the four hours with friends.
Second, almost nothing you “win” ends up being as good as you thought it would be. There will always be the next goal.
This is a huge problem for guys when it comes to dating and getting married, and I’m sure it is true in some form for women as well. We are conditioned to earn our prizes, but this is not the way marriage works.
First of all, you don’t earn a spouse. They are not prizes; they are gifts.
When our attitude is about “attaining” someone we are in trouble. No woman wants to be a goal, even if she might act like it. They don’t want to be an object to attain and, frankly, they don’t want the pressure of having to be the “thing” that satisfies us because they know what happens when we get there—they end up in the pile with our other conquests.
A person should never be a goal, but what about marriage as a goal?
I think this makes a little more sense. But we need to be careful here too because, to be honest, any of us can get married to someone. If getting married were the goal, there’d be a lot less single people. Settling versus waiting for a perfect person is a whole other post, but the point here is that marriage is not something we earn.
Remember no prize lasts; it satisfies for a moment.
We don’t want to get a spouse, have everyone congratulate us with a big party (Hello, super wedding-focused, Ladies…) and then say, “Okay, on to the next goal.” There are so many people who get married and then say, “Now what?” On the flip side, one of the surest ways to stay single is to not do anything, and I’m not suggesting that. It is a really thin line we have to walk.
To do it well, we have to walk with Jesus.
It means realizing first of all that no prize—not even the right person—can sustain us. Only Jesus can. We have to fight to receive our core value from Him. Then and only then are we going to be free enough to really love somebody else the way we are meant to love.
And loving someone else that way—that would be the point of getting married.
If you know someone who is struggling in this area, would you email them this post to encourage them?