Imagine that you were born in a foreign land and you have been appointed for a special mission since your birth to find your way back to your homeland where your inheritance awaits you. You are also tasked to try and bring as many people as possible back to your homeland – of their own free will. This mission will take you on a very long journey through dangerous terrain and hostile territories. You may select a group of no more than 10 people to help you succeed in your mission. How would you go about selecting your team? What traits would you look out for?
In the imaginary scenario described above, I imagine most people would be quite discerning in their choice of their mission team. After all, their own lives and the lives of others depends on the success of this mission. It would be wise for a person with such a mission to start training and preparing from as young as possible, building up his physical strength and mental agility, learning as much as he can about the terrain he will need to cover and spending time with others whom he knows will help him to succeed in his life’s mission.
As Christians we actually have such a mission. We are born into the world for the sake of making the journey home to God the Father, bringing with us as many people as we possibly can to share in our inheritance. We are meant to live our lives always with our eyes trained on Eternity. Our entire lives is one long pilgrimage and we are launched into it whether we are prepared or not. We do not know what lies ahead of us on the journey or what challenges and tests await us. But we have been given the freedom to choose a team to make this journey with us. If we choose wisely, our chances of succeeding in the mission increases greatly. If we choose foolishly, we can endanger our very lives and the lives of others.
Much has been made on the sanctity of marriage and the importance of keeping a marriage strong and loving. But many people forget that the “upper limit” of your marriage is pretty much set from the start by the person you choose to be your spouse. Grace perfects nature, it does not change it. So know full well the nature of the spouse you intend to marry because by golly, it sure isn’t going to change! In fact, as the challenges grow, so too will characters be tested as gold in fire. If you have chosen a spouse that is gold, trials will bring out the best in him or her. If you have chosen ill, then trials will be that much harder for you to bear.
If your vocation is marriage, choosing a spouse may be the most important decision you will ever have to make in your life. “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part” is always beyond what a couple can imagine on their wedding day. The spouse you choose will determine the path you take for the rest of your life. You will mold each other into one another’s likeness and you will become a joint influence for good or ill on your families, friends, and indeed, the world. What do you want your life’s legacy to be? Have that in mind when you choose your spouse. What kind of person do you wish to have become when you are on your deathbed? Have that in mind when you choose your spouse. Who would you entrust your most beloved people’s (including your parents and any children) lives with if you were to die early? Have that in mind when you choose your spouse.
Wow, that’s an enormous task, you say. Indeed it is! But we are given plenty of opportunity to practice before coming up to bat (if I may use a baseball analogy). We prepare ourselves for the enormous task of choosing a good spouse by learning to choose our friends. Most people forget or fail to realise the enormous impact that our “inner circle” has on our personal growth and direction. Wise people are discerning in who they spend their time with, who they open their hearts to, and whose energy and example they allow to impact them. They observe who the people are that bring out the best in them and who bring out the worst in them. They carefully learn to recognise strength and goodness in character and choose role models they can learn from and companions who challenge them to live the fullest and most worthy lives. The wise neither overestimate their strength nor underestimate the challenges that face them or the influence that others will have on them.
Think of it – if you are unable to exercise prudence, wisdom, and discipline when choosing your friends, how likely is it that you will be able to choose your spouse wisely? The two are inextricably linked especially since it is highly likely that you will choose your spouse from among your friends. Jason Evert of Theology of the Body for Teens fame tells young people not to go into “missionary dating” – that is, dating with the goal of changing someone or helping someone. Neither should we go into “missionary friendships”. There is a difference between our larger mission field and the people we choose to be on our team to anchor us.
With so much at stake, how can we learn to choose our mission team wisely? It begins, as it always does, with our self-identity and our relationship with God. The people we choose to be in our inner circle say a lot about who we are and what we stand for. If we have a clear mind and purpose in life, it would be reflected in the way we live and the people we share our lives with. If God is the first and greatest love in our lives, we would order all our relationships from him and to him.
Finally, if you are someone who purports to “give up everything and follow Christ”, consider this option: Let God take the burden of choosing your spouse and your friends for you. If you can’t trust God to do that, you won’t be able to trust him with your life. If you truly believe that God loves you, that he knows the plans he has for you, then let him be the one to show you who the people are that will help you love him and others the most fruitfully. After all, who is wiser than God? Who loves you more than God? So let God choose for you, then trust him, obey him, let go and let God himself lead you unfailingly into the Promised Land!
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. – Proverbs 13:20