Is "The One" Worth Searching For?

The idea of “the one” or a “soul-mate” is quite common in popular culture today.  The Twilight series based 4 rather lengthy books on this concept (I am not sure how, but its an impressive feat nonetheless).  I will never forget Serendipity, whose plot is based on two people who met briefly in the past who later in life attempt to reconnect because each simply feels that the other is “the one.”  Even some of the most popular romantic comedies play off this idea on some level–Sleepless in Seatle, You’ve Got Mail, and Hitch come to mind.   Rarely in these movies are the consequences of “the one” mentality played out in any sort of realistic way.  Rarely do these movies take an honest look at what effect looking for “the one” has on the people closest to us. In fact, in most the movies I have mentioned, there are perfectly nice and likable people who are left alone simply because they are not “the one.”  Their stories are rarely told and their scars are most often overlooked.

The typical romance movie rarely tells the tales of the effects of the separations and family breakups caused by faith in “the one.”  In the rare instance that they do tell such a story, it is unrealistically portrayed as acceptable and hurt-free.  I can’t interpret this in any other way than an elevation of personal human freedom and happiness over commitment, sacrifice, and faithfulness.  Such Hollywood love, excuses far-reaching relational sins and makes joy in relationships purely circumstantial.

Many Christians have picked up this idea of “the one” and treated it almost as if it were biblical dogma.  Matt Chandler has called this “the one idolatry.”  He points out that Christians sometimes look so fervently for the perfect mate that they begin to worship the idea of a perfect woman or man that in fact does not exist.  I have personally witnessed young Christians pass up on relationships with very godly people based solely on feelings or break off relationships with a potential godly spouse because, “I just don’t think he/she is the one.”

Let it be known that I fully believe that God is sovereign over all things (Eph. 1:11).  I fully believe that He knows who you will marry as He knows all things.  However, I think that such knowledge is too wonderful for us (Psalm 139:6).  In addition, I often tell the single folks in my church, “don’t follow your heart!”  Why?  Because your heat is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9).  And in general, Scripture discourages making big decisions based on signs in the sky.

Three reasons why the search for “the one” is unhealthy:

1.  The heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:21).  So listening to your heart, quite frankly, can be very dangerous.  Certainly Christians have the Holy Spirit living in them and receive guidance from the HS, but this side of eternity we will always be fighting our sin nature and bottom line, your feelings cannot always be trusted.  God’s Word, on the other hand is trustworthy in all things.

2. “The One” mentality undermines the Bible’s teaching on the enduring nature of marriage.  People get divorces left and right today simply because they are not happy.  I don’t think that is a legitimate ground for a divorce.  “So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6).  God intends for Christian marriages to last so long as both spouses live.  We could talk about exceptions to that rule, but certainly I think we would all agree that that is God’s design for marriage.  The idea of “the one” elevates immediate, individual human happiness over the lasting joy that is found in Christ-like enduring loyalty.

3.  Scripture just doesn’t give us any indication that believers are to look for signs and wonders as they search for a spouse (Matt. 4:7).  One might argue that Isaac was told to look for signs, but that is a pretty unique instance and I don’t think that is normative for all believers.  What Scripture does give us plenty of is commands for husbands and wives.  So what I encourage singles who want to be married to do, is look for those attributes in their spouse.  And in all honesty, there is only one clear requirement for Christians in terms of marriage–”do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:4).  Look for someone who loves the Lord, everything else is secondary.  I would also encourage single to marry someone they are attracted to, though even this can be taken way too far.  Bottom line is that you probably won’t marry someone you are not attracted to, but true attraction is far deeper than physical.  Compatibility is probably important, but it is often taken too far in my opinion.  Further, compatibility is something that can grow over time as you learn to appreciate and understand your spouse.  The idea of “the one” does not encourage such growth but rather encourages despair when a certain level of compatibility is absent in a relationship.

So what should single Christians look for in a potential spouse.  Its pretty simple.  Someone who loves the Lord (more than just on the surface–which probably involves some thoughtful investigation rather than just accepting their testimony) and someone you are attracted to (and I do not mean mere physical attraction, don’t forget God intends for marriage to be a enduring union).

Finally let me say to all of you who are married, please don’t go home tonight and tell your spouse, “you are NOT the one.”  Instead I would say with Matt Chandler, “I know you are the one because I married you and as long as we both live, you are THE one and I love you and I will sacrifice in order to grow to love you more.”  To my wife and I that is far more romantic anyway.

About Drew Dixon

Drew is an editor at Christ and Pop Culture and editor-in-chief of Gamechurch.com. He is also a pastor, soccer coach, and writer. Drew also regularly writes for Think Christian, Bit Creature, and Paste Magazine. He has also written for Relevant Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @drewdixon82

  • Matt

    My wife and I were discussing this same issue just a while back. I (and she) believe that it all comes down to our faith in God’s law and His institution of marriage. Following God’s guidelines leads to joy. I think that is true even when bad decisions put you in a “less-than-ideal” situation.

    Obviously, the latest Romantic Comedy can put unrealistic expectations on your own romantic vision, but people are looking for answers. And “the one” gives an answer, flawed though it may be: “Find the right one and it will work out. If it’s not working for you, then you probably chose the wrong one. It’s certainly not your fault!”

    Christians can just fall into the Christian version of “the one”–looking for the “God-sent” person–rather than following biblical boundaries and relationship roles.

    DISCLAIMER: I, too, believe in the Sovereign nature of God over every situation. And now I am going in search of THE Chick-Fil-A sandwich that God wanted me to have for lunch. Ok, that might be a bad comparison.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    Yeah I know what you mean, and I think the Bible would have us be honest when things aren’t going well and admit, “yeah it kinda is my fault.” Joy is not circumstantial for the Christian. That is why I made the point about growing in compatibility–its not something that if its not there, then the marriage is doomed.

    I completely agree, when we live in marriage the way God designed it, when we cherish it as a permanent union as long as we both live, we find joy in that.

  • Rebekah

    seems like good counsel. what do you say to singles who go for years and don’t really encounter anyone who has those qualities AND shows even remote interest in them? i still think a lot of the good advice given by Christians about ‘dating,’ ‘courting’, etc. assumes that most folks are mingling enough with viable, strong Christians to where they have options. as for myself (and several respectable dear friends of mine), that hasn’t happened. sometimes it feels like the message (by default) is that our ‘gift’ is singleness.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    Rebekah,

    Great question and one that I am actually trying to help a couple of friends think through. If you have the desire to get married, I don’t see any reason why it would be wrong to pursue avenues where you could meet godly men that are potential mates.

    I don’t buy this whole, “when you stop looking, God will give you a spouse.” I have heard that story a lot but in reality, the people who tell that story never really stopped looking and why should they? Did God not say that “it is not good for man to be alone”? Singleness is not a curse but a blessing no doubt (ala 1 Cor. 7 and Matt. 19) but marriage certainly is a blessing too and generally speaking it seems that the Bible assumes most people will get married.

    So I don’t know exactly what to say, it could be that God is calling you or any other person in a similar place to singleness and you need to embrace it, I don’t know cause I don’t have the ability to see into your heart and know God’s exact plan for you, however, I would say as well if there is a strong desire in you to marry, the Bible gives us no indication that such a strong desire is wicked or untrusting of God. Of course if that desire consumes you to the point where you can have no joy in Christ, then it has become idolatrous, but I think you can have a strong desire there and not be in sin.

    So to answer your question, I would say that unless you live in a really small town, there probably are some godly Christian singles where most people live, you just may have to get a little creative about meeting them. A lot of people scoff about this but I think parents, mentors, pastors can be great match makers and there is nothing wrong with “being set up.” I know a lot of folks who have met their spouse that way.

    I would also say that I think for some Christians online dating can be a viable option. I think you have to be careful (you have to be careful in any type of dating/courtship) and invite accountability, but it could be a way to meet someone. There is a new site called Marry Well that sounds intriguing–it is a dating/courtship site dedicated to connecting marriage-minded Christian singles. I think you even have to get some recommendation letters from folks at church or pastors or something. Tim Challies wrote about it not too long ago. There are probably other sites that do this well.

    Anyway, I hesitate to say much more because again I don’t know where you are at spiritually etc., but the stop looking and accept singleness may or may not be for you. It could be that you haven’t found anyone because you haven’t looked hard enough (again I don’t know, just throwing out the possibility).

    That is the best advice I can give right now–I will probably think about it later and have much more helpful counsel, but thanks for the question!

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    Here is a link to marry well: http://marrywell.org/

    And here is a link to Challies’ article on the site: http://www.challies.com/archives/sponsored/marry-well-a-better-path-to-marriage.php

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    If you’re single, you have the gift of singleness. You have that gift until the day you are not single anymore.

    @Drew – Another aspect of the Myth of the One is wrapped up—and wrapped up powerfully—in the concept of God’s personal will for our lives. If one presumes both that in every decision God has a Best Choice for the individual and that God’s will in these matters is discernable, it is perfectly reasonable to deduce that The One is a very real and biblically sound notion. Following through, it becomes incumbent upon the believer to seek that will especially in matters of such great import as Choosing a Spouse—it becomes vastly important for the believer to discover if the person in view is the one God wants one to marry.

    Of course, the idea of God’s will in such matters is extrapolated errantly from a theological system. I wrote about the difficulties of this version of Finding God’s Will for My Life seven years ago, but I think the topic’s still apropos: http://www.nowheresville.us/arch/bestof/vex17.php

  • peter bartlett

    Coming from you, Dane, that last post was positively romantic!

  • Greg

    I’d have to agree with Drew. As someone who is single, I hate hearing “when you stop looking, God will give you a spouse.” If there’s one thing I struggle with, (which there are more) its tending to be too passive. I don’t really need advice to encourage that passivity. People say that, but at some point, if you meet someone worth pursuing you have to take some initiative as a relationship doesn’t usually just happen. Granted, you should probably avoid regarding every single of the opposite sex as a possible mate, and perhaps in that way the advice is of some worth.

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    But every member of the opposite sex is a possible mate. Given time and circumstance, everything is possible.

    So then, possibility is not the problem. The problem is figuring out what you want, to what degree do you want that, and to what degree you are willing to compromise what you want for what you can reasonably expect. Well, that’s the first problem. The second problem is motivating yourself toward what you want (i.e., wanting what you want enough to overcome the comfort of passivity, which is a whole other kind of want).

  • GG

    I think a quote I found on Twitter yesterday applies to Christian dating… “Prayer is not a substitute for action. Action is not a substitute for prayer.”

    I’ve seen people lean to far in either direction. My aunt is in her 50′s and still expects a man to magically fall into her lap but she doesn’t go anywhere outside of her circle, won’t shorten the list of “must-haves” for her potential mate, and won’t consider things like online dating. I also have friends who sleep with attach themselves to unhealthy guys who are completely inappropriate, but they consider it to have been “God’s will” now because they made it to the stage of marriage.

    As a sidenote, I also do not appreciate people telling me that if I ‘get right with God’ or ‘prepare myself for my husband’ that he (the one) will come. The assumption being that “I’m married because I did something more right than you did” which is not necessarily the case.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    @The Dane – “If you are single, you have the gift of singleness. You have that gift until the day you are not single any more.” I agree completely–that should have made my original post.

    Given what the Bible says about singleness there is absolutely no reason to think that God is upset with you or withholding from you because you are single. Paul says he wishes everyone could be like him, because they would be more able to engage in ministry. If we are here on earth to glorify and treasure God supremely, someone who is single is absolutely free to do that. Marriage doesn’t necessarily make you more able to worship God. So singleness is a blessing that I try to encourage people to make the most of because it does seem that most people will end up married, but I often encourage singels–don’t waste your singleness angry cause you are single.

    Your second comment there is good advice I think.

    I talk to people all the time who are unsure if they are where God wants them to be and I think a lot of that stems from this unbiblical understanding of the will of God. I tell people all the time that I can tell them exactly what God’s will for them is–it is for you to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And you can do that in just about any profession and with just about any believer of the opposite sex as your spouse.

    The rest comes down to wisdom. You can’t mess this up either, whoever you marry IS THE ONE and you are free to grow in oneness with them and free to grow in compatability and attraction to them.

    I find it very very sad when people break off marriages because they “fall out of love” or somehow discover that the person they married was “not the one.” I feel like those folks need to hear some difficult but very important truths about what it means to become “one flesh” and “what God has joined together let not man separate,” “submit one to another,” and “husbands love your wives like Christ loved the church.”

    Christ doesn’t fall out of love with his bride and He will never determine that she is not the one.

  • Rebekah

    Yes, I’m from a small town and I went to a small Christian school years ago for college. I suppose that was my ‘best shot’ for meeting a believing man, but at that time, I needed to find the Lord and solidify a foundation with Him.

    At the church events I’ve been to post college, there is at least a 2 or 3 to 1 ratio, females to males. So, from my experience, there haven’t been all that many men around, let alone the kind that would visibly reflect that Jesus is their Lord, Savior, and King in their day to day lives. That is a must for me because I’d be bound to this person for life. I don’t come across lots of single guys at church who have a really strong commitment to the Lord that endures hardships.

    Now, God is sovereign over all these things, who I meet and who I don’t and the fact that I’m 29 and single.

    Still, sometimes when I look around at other wonderful solid women I know who are single into their late thirties and early forties, something wells up within that says, ‘this isn’t how it was intended to be.’ Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. Obviously, there is some emotion behind my thoughts, so it’s tougher to discern if I’m on track. But I think for some of us, singleness happens because of the result of sin in the world. Too many folks who are ‘growing’ up self-focused and put off maturity for several years, too easy of access to sex without commitment, a negative feeling about marriage due to so much divorce in our parents’ generation, other women who are willing to compromise Christianity to be in relationships, other priorities that folks have when they are done with college, etc.

    So, just recently, I switched from a small community church to a large church with more single people. Guess what? When I’ve talked to them, the majority of the ones I’ve spoken to actually attend other small community churches for Sunday worship, but go to this church specifically for the weekly young adult fellowship with other singles because their churches didn’t have many singles, either.

  • http://www.christiandatingexpert.com ChristianDatingExpert.com

    The bible is very clear about fellowshipping with someone who is unequally yoked. (2 Corinthians 6:14) While this scripture does not specifically elude to be only speaking about married people, it certainly can and should be applied to marriage. The problem that I found is many Christians have either no understanding of the true meaning of “equally yoked” or either only a have a vague understanding at best.

    Check out the video on this topic:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JK_3P_zLgn8


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