Anyone old enough to have had any sort of life experience will tell you that you will get to a certain point in your mid-to-late 20s where people around you will begin to question your life choices – that is if they haven’t already. Questions will range from the timing of your masters and eventual PhD degree, to the number of kids you plan on having, and the exact number of years you plan on having between them.
If you happen to, like me, fall into the category of ‘still single’ during these blessed years, the situation will spiral downwards fairly quickly. Your parents’ narrative will go from, ‘Focus on your studies’, and ‘Don’t waste your time with boys who will waste your time’ to ‘Stop being so picky’ in the blink of an eye, and without any forewarning whatsoever. One moment, they loved you and wanted your well-being, and the next, all they seemed to care about was the well-being of your hypothetical two sons and daughter (who ideally will be born 2 years apart, of course).
To add insult to unintentional injury, your friends will slowly begin to couple up around you. Jessica will get serious with that Lebanese guy she met when you went dancing that night. And Joey will post pics of the bae-cation he and Sharon (Sharon #2 whom he met at his crossfit gym, and not Sharon #1 who turned out to be a little too psycho, even for Joey’s standards) took to Fiji. One-by-one your friends will fall into everything from relationships to various levels of situationships, and you will find yourself watching Doctor Who reruns on Friday nights because while there are a million other things you could be doing, there’s no one to do it with.
(No, I am not talking from personal experience – I would spend ANY night in watching Doctor Who reruns – are you kidding? lol.)
And if that wasn’t stressful enough, these same friends and family members will begin to talk to you about something every well-meaning person in your life is suddenly deeply concerned with and troubled over: your standards.
While you’re not entirely sure if you have standards, or what they are, or if these loved ones even know what they are, they begin to try to convince you that yours are considerably too high. Why else would you be single under the guise of not being ready to mingle? You’re not ugly. You can hold a decent conversation without having to bring up last night’s GOT episode as a filler. You smell good (most of the time). There should be no reason WHY you are still available.
If you are indeed human, this line of questioning will get to you. You may have tougher skin than most, but it’s still impossible for it not to. You might even find yourself questioning any standards you might have, and listing them out so you can figure out which ones to cross off in order to find yourself a suitable enough life-mate.
But wait a second – before you go off revising the list of standards that you’ve spent some twenty-something odd years building (or maybe even ripping it to shreds completely), let’s think this through. Permit me to help you think this through. I’m not saying that your loved ones are wrong, or that you don’t need to adjust your wishlist so that it reads less ‘high expectations’, but I think first, we need to establish some ‘God-expectations’, and figure out where we stand from there.
Sound good? Good.
Adam and Eve: The Bachelor, Season 1
Of course, if we are going to talk about standards, and just how high they should be, we have to start with the very first relationship known to man. While the story of Adam and Eve might seem to play out like a really bad episode of VH1s ‘Dating Naked’, there’s a bit more to it than naked boy meets naked girl.
Genesis 2 tells us that when God made Adam, he placed him in charge of the Garden of Eden, to work in it and keep it in order. After watching Adam flail about trying to figure out how to actually make things grow, and finding way too many things out of order in the Garden (this is the ‘Told By Eudora’ version btw), God decided that it wasn’t good for man to be alone, so he would create ‘a helper meet for him’ – someone who would be a personal companion, a support system, and a sharer in the work God had given him.
Funny, then, that the next thing God did was to create animals.
He formed animals and birds from the dirt of the ground and brought them all to Adam to see what he would name them.
(Isn’t it amazing, by the way, how throughout the creation story, God names His creations Himself, but once man comes into the picture, He gives the task of naming over to Adam? But that’s a word for another day!)
In naming the animals, the Bible tells us that Adam was still unable to find a helper suitable for him. So God puts him to sleep, pops out a rib, and makes Woman. When Adam awakes, he meets her, and determines she is the one for him:
“Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!” he declares.
Now, this is not me saying I believe in love at first sight (hey, if it worked for you, I’m with you – I too would like a Jerry McGuire moment of my own). What I am saying is this: there were a lot of options for Adam to choose from when it came to a helper, and when the time came, of all of them, he chose Eve. Adam had to have had some criteria of what he needed in a helper in order to recognize who was and who was not the right helper for him.
And so should you.
How High is Too High?
Now, back to your supposedly high standards. What the heck are they anyway? Not your specific standards (though I’m curious about those too), but just high standards in general?
I think the problem we have is that we confuse standards with preferences. They are not the same. Standards are required or agreed upon levels of quality or attainment. A preference is a greater liking for one alternative over another or others. YOU ARE NOT CRAZY FOR HAVING STANDARDS. I repeat: NOT CRAZY. As Christians, we must all have an agreed-upon set of standards when it comes to the people we choose to do life with – they are standards set by God and clearly outlined in His Word. They differ from personal preferences that have no real bearing in God’s Word.
A standard is, ‘I want to be with someone who places a premium on family, and spending time with family.’
A preference is ‘I don’t want to date someone who takes the subway, I want to date someone who drives a BMW’.
A standard is, ‘I want to be with someone who is faithful and trustworthy.’
A preference is, ‘I want my man to dress like Idris Elba circa GQ 2013.’
See, your standards aren’t too high, they are perfectly reasonable… you just might have them mixed up with some preferences. And while you are completely entitled to your preferences, understand that you cannot let those take the lead when it comes to the decision of who you spend your life with. As Christians, we MUST have standards – no two ways about it. If Christ has standards for us, then we must have/expect similar standards from the people we choose to become one with. It is our preferences we must assess and reassess to ensure we are not completely allowing our own carnal desires to carry us away to LaLaLand.
Maybe care more that he is hardworking (godly standard) than that he has a million dollars in the bank (preference). Be more concerned that he knows his body is a temple of God and he treats it as such (godly standard) than with how many packs he has (preference). Spend more time looking to see if he is generous (godly standard) than expecting him to fly you all over the world on his black card (preference). See where I’m going with this?
Here’s an activity to help you figure out what are standards versus preferences:
- Grab a pen and paper
- Write down all the things you’re looking for in a potential partner. Yes, all 79 of them. Don’t worry, i’ll wait…
- Now, hopefully, one of those things on your list is a love for and fear of God. Make that its own subsection, and see how many of the other things on your list can fit under that one title. For instance, I expect that a man who loves and fears God would be trustworthy, and faithful, and committed to family, and someone who serves and cares for others, and is generous. When people ask me what I’m looking for in a man, my list is a lot much shorter and a lot less intimidating than it used to be because ‘loves and fears God’ pretty much sums it up.
- Take a look at what’s left over. These are your preferences – but even these can be split up into categories. Some things are important to you because they are tied to your purpose and passion – others are simply there because you’ve watched way too many fairytales as a child and romcoms as a young adult that your expectations have been warped by worldly desires and expectations. For instance, I did this exercise with my friend Julian last night, and turns out that he couldn’t be with someone who didn’t love music as much as him. Given that he’s a producer, music is his passion, and he constantly needs to be surrounded by it. Being with someone who constantly asked him to turn the music off or to stop what he loves most, would betray both his passion and purpose, so that is a NON-NEGOTIABLE preference for him. See, it’s not that preferences are wrong or unreasonable, they just need to be evaluated and categorized by importance/negotiability. And they should never take precedence over standards.
Spend your time in God’s Word figuring out what the traits of a godly man/woman are, and set those as standards in your life – for both yourself and your potential partner. It’s not that they will have all of them in line yet or that they will be Jesus reincarnate – but a man/woman who loves and fears God is always looking at working hard to meet the standards Christ has set for him/her. He/She is constantly running after becoming the best version of themselves and learning from the best teacher around. And that’s what you need to be on the lookout for.
So are your standards too high? No. It’s more often the case that they aren’t high enough.
Supply and Demand
I know what you’re thinking – the million-dollar question: if my standards are reasonable, why then am I still single? Why do I always end up kissing frogs? Well, I could give you the whole timing spiel, but I know you’ve heard that a million times before and will hear it again, and while it is both true and important, it isn’t of much comfort.
I honestly think one of the reasons many daughters (and sons) of God find themselves playing this prolonged waiting game isn’t that our standards are too high, it’s that our standards aren’t high enough.
Basically, it all boils down to Economics.
(Bear with me y’all – my four years studying Economics have to serve me somehow lol. Keep reading, and eventually, i’ll get to my point.)
There was a theory formulated a while ago – Say’s Law – that purported that supply created demand. It suggested that the more supply of a product or service there was, the more people demanded it. It was later disproved. Keynesian economists found that it was actually the reverse: the more something was in demand, the higher the supply for the product or service was. When demand dwindled, so did the supply.
Here’s how the theory plays into our narrative on standards:
Somewhere along the line, men and women of God started to lower their standards. In a desperate effort to beat timing, in a desire to fulfill our own carnal desires, and to achieve some sort of man-made status in society, we compromised on what God desired for us. We traded long-lasting, strong foundation, godly relationships for speedy hookups, flashy weddings and 10-year lifespan marriages. And because that was all that we demanded – because our standards fell so low – that’s all people felt they needed to supply. And so the result is a shortage of people who desire to meet God-standards because we stopped expecting them to. And the children of God are left looking like we have impossibly high standards, when really we are not expecting anything from anyone that God wouldn’t expect from us.
But don’t worry – as bleak as the forecast currently sounds, all is not lost. Demand creates supply. The more we recognize and stand on our standards, the more we are holding both others and ourselves up to higher standards, and the more we will meet them.
Stand By Your Standards.
“But Eudora, I’m meeting all these guys/girls and they all seem really nice, but there’s always something that’s just clashing with my standards. Sometimes I feel like I should just compromise and take what I can get.”
Me too, man, me too.
I cannot count the number of times when I got to the point where I almost convinced myself that, for instance, breaking my vow of celibacy would be worth a relationship with some person or the other. We convince ourselves that the person is everything we need when really they are just most of what we prefer or want. And a preference is never ever worth compromising a standard for. Trust me, I’ve learned that the hard way, several times over, and I’m sure you have too.
Once again, let me be clear: it’s not about seeking perfection. No one has it all together. There’s absolutely no such thing as a perfect person who will meet every standard all of the time. It’s about seeking a work in progress whose foreman is Jesus. The kind of person who KNOWS what the standards you share are, adheres to them, and when he/she falls below a standard, doesn’t just stay there, but gets back up, and keeps chasing hard after Jesus. If he/she does not know the standards or share them, then you CANNOT hold them to them, and they definitely will not be holding themselves to them either. Think about it this way: you can’t get upset at a toddler for coloring outside the lines when they don’t know or understand what the lines are there for. Similarly, you can’t call out someone’s bad driving when you have created lines of demarcation in the road that only you can see. You both have to agree upon and see the lines, in order for the rules of either situation to hold any bearing to either of you.
So what do we do? In the face of mounting pressure and questions, and a perfectly normal desire for companionship, how do we not get proverbially ‘lost in the sauce’ and stay true to our standards in a world that feels like it no longer has a use for them?
Well, I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll tell you what works for me:
- Be open and honest. Don’t be afraid to tell people what your standards are, even if they might seem high to them. Their opinions of your standards are not your problem. We’ve already established that they’re not too high, and it’s your preferences that might need some work, so voicing them will help you recognize that that guy who seems nice? Maybe his standards are just a little too low for you. You’ll find yourself kissing a lot fewer frogs if you’re just open enough to tell them you’re just not that into frogs.
- Stop looking at everyone who references Jesus as a potential life-partner. Those of you who spend the hour after service greeting and scoping for un-ringed ring fingers, shame on you LOL. Lemme save you some time by telling you that just because he/she calls himself/herself a Christian, doesn’t mean they love or fear God. And if they don’t love or fear God, you can’t expect them to share your standards.
- Don’t be in a rush. I talk to so many young women in their teens and early twenties who think their singleness is the end of the world, and I start to wonder if I’m the crazy one for being OK in this season of singleness. Time is a man-made concept. You are not on the clock. God works in seasons – and each season is necessary for the next. Without Winter, there would be no Spring. LOVE and ENJOY the season you are in NOW. Learn what you need to learn. Grow where you need to grow. There is PURPOSE in your singleness. This might be your only chance to do many of the things that God has called you to, and many of the things you just want to do. Don’t waste this time pining after a hearts desire that God has every intention of fulfilling for you in HIS timing.
- Adhere to the standards (and preferences) you set for others because chances are, they’re expecting the same. Don’t expect to be with someone whose finances are rock solid when you have the spending habits of a 5-year old with a credit card. Don’t look for someone who is faithful and trustworthy when you are yet to learn what commitment means. Don’t expect to land someone who is caring and considerate when you always think of yourself before everyone else. Don’t seek out someone to love you when you have not as yet learned to love yourself. Understand that you are a work in progress, and that takes time, and some of that time needs to be alone.
- Understand that high standards do not equal perfection. Standards are merely agreed upon levels of attainment. You won’t always make the cut, but when you agree to them, you can always work towards them. If you don’t, then all bets are off.
- Remember you are worth the wait and the wait is worth it. Steven Furtick preached a message this past weekend (Part 3 of Bars and Battles Series), and he said something that resounded so deeply with me: you don’t want to end up married to someone God doesn’t want or didn’t prepare for you. You don’t want to spend your life living shy of God’s best. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to carry a YSL bag, I want the real deal, not a cheap knockoff. So I’m going to take the time to save for it, search the catalogs, make sure I’m getting the right one. A designer bag is a huge investment and one you don’t make lightly. So is a car, or a house, or any other thing we consider to be of value – and all these things are decisions we spend long periods of time pondering before we commit to any of them – so why are we such a grab-and-go culture when it comes to the one thing that is probably the biggest investment of all: the investment of our hearts? Take your time – you are of inestimable value yourself, so invest wisely.
- Stay focused. If you are steadfast enough and keep your eyes squarely enough on God, you will get to a point in your walk where pleasing Jesus and living up to what God expects of you will be far more important than what others think of your love life. When you are so focused on what God requires of you today, you won’t be worried about tomorrow. It’s like back in Eden – Adam was doing all that God asked him to. He wasn’t concerned with having someone by his side – only with the tasks God placed before him – and it was God who decided when the right time was for Adam to have some help. And he woke up one day, and there she was. Focus on what God has set before you right now, and in due time, He will honor the desires He’s put in your heart.