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God, Chance, or eHarmony

Is there a science to finding your soul mate? Can Destiny be boiled down to algorithms and formulas? Or is finding that Intimate Other flat-out luck?

When I pastored a church, one of the more frequent questions I faced, and one of the more difficult, was How does a single Christian man meet single Christian women? Of the eligible kind? It’s a dilemma us old married folks can easily lose sight of. Having found your sweetheart, it’s easy to forget the angst of the search.

I hate to admit it, but far too often, I surrendered to the clichéd “trust God.”

Trust God to bring the right person to you.

It sounds good — and of course it’s true — but there’s so much more to the equation. Does trusting God mean a person shouldn’t read the Singles pages or attend Singles groups? If a person trusts God, shouldn’t they wait for Him to bring someone their way, rather than go hunting? Or maybe that’s presumption. After all, if you’re gonna land a live one, you gotta have a hook in the water. So perhaps trusting God for a mate doesn’t mean sitting still and doing nothing… it means getting out there and looking.

The other day, I was reading Chris and Krystal’s blog (my son and daughter-in-law). They’ve been married for a year-and-a-half and make a terrific couple. But Chris’s “search” was anything but… Divine.

I recall a party we once had for Chris. Fifteen friends and relatives gathered to celebrate his 24th birthday. The fact that he was the only single guy in his group was a continued source of jabs and jest. His “search” had led to awkward blind dates and short-term flameouts. At the time, he’d sworn off girls to finish his degree. But he was always a good sport about being a bachelor, and the butt of his buddies’ jokes. Anyway, someone at the table had to go and suggest he try eHarmony, which drew the expected smirks, snickers and guffaws.

Until a couple at the table said it worked for them. A Christian couple. A married Christian couple.

Which seemed like an oxymoron. Doesn’t a “science of compatibility” rule out God?

I’ve been privileged to perform dozens of marriages. And the way people meet is as varied as the people themselves. But while some see relationships as nothing more than a social construct or a complex (sometimes volatile) chemical stew, most attribute their significant other to Sovereignty, or at least, Fate. Yet if real, long-lasting relationships are somehow Destined or Divine, should it matter HOW those people come together?

I mean, why CAN’T God use eHarmony?

I can already hear the naysayers: How can a person who wholeheartedly trusts God turn to a matchmaking service for a compatible partner? Doesn’t this take the issue out of God’s hands and put it into the hands of scientists, clinicians and shrinks? Doesn’t this make our relationships more a Formula than a Divine encounter? These are legitimate questions. Nevertheless, that Sunday afternoon we met a delightful Christian couple. One that has remained married and now has a son. They met through eHarmony and tied the knot.

So was it Science or Luck? If you ask them, they’d say their relationship is wholly Divine.

Chris and Krystal are happily married. They didn’t meet through eHarmony. Their relationship was far less science… and more chemistry. They got set-up through my daughter Melody. Melody worked for a friend of mine named Mike. Mike’s daughter, Krystal, also worked for him. I knew Mike because he and his wife had attended my church. They were invited by another couple who attended my church. That couple, the ones who invited Mike and his wife, lived across the street from another couple who attended.

And everything just kinda bleeds together after that.

So was Melody the hook-up? Or was it me and Mike? Then again, perhaps it was Mike’s next-door neighbor. But they had no idea Chris and Krystal would ever get married. Which proves it was Luck. Or not.

Okay, so I’m just thinking out loud. Three of my four kids are married. Only Alayna remains. I had prepared myself for the day that Alayna asked me, “Hey Dad, should I try eHarmony?” At that point, I would probably shrug, feign fatherly wisdom, and say with confidence, “Trust God.”

But, alas, Chance has stepped in.

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Morgan Busse June 2, 2011, 6:14 AM

    I don’t think it matters as much how you meet and marry but being the right person after you marry. Be a person who loves your spouse, forgives your spouse, respects your spouse and thinks best of your spouse.

    My husband and I have been married 11 year now (not that much, not yet :)) but we have been through 2 cancer scares, almost losing a child, moved across country and back, and 2 bouts of unemployment (we are currently unemployed again). But one thing I am grateful for: God giving me a man who I love and respect, a man who I can face life with by my side.

  • Ame June 2, 2011, 6:58 AM

    i met my new husband on eharmony, and he’s an amazing man. out paths would not have crossed otherwise. and i know quite a few other wonderful married couples who met on eharmony.

    i also know many ‘protracted singles’ from having been a single mom for four years, and meeting someone is becoming more and more difficult. church is hit-and-miss for meeting someone, and often families and friends are scattered. i know many godly men and women who are single and long to be married, but who also have a difficult time finding places to meet someone.

  • Valerie June 2, 2011, 7:00 AM

    And another question you didn’t mention…

    Do you believe there is such a thing as a soul mate – as in the concept of only ONE soul mate you are meant to be with? This idea can really mess with people’s minds as they cede their choices to fate or some sort of spiritual revelation. I’ve seen people have “revelations” repeatedly that someone is “the one” and if it turns out not to be true they’re left floundering and doubtful, but often still open to the next “revelation” when a pretty new girl walks into the college group.

    I am happily married for almost 10 years, but it took us awhile to get down the aisle because my husband was waiting for a lightning bolt revelation from God that he thought he was supposed to get that I was “the one”. He then did a lot of study before concluding who he married was a choice open to him rather than fate (or God) dumping a soul mate in his lap.

    I’m not claiming God played no part in bringing us together. Perhaps in his divine plan he did. But I think the idea that there is only ONE person out there in the universe to love can paralyze people.

  • Luther June 2, 2011, 7:20 AM

    God used a Christian chat room, pre-eHarmony, to bring my wife and I together. Almost nine years and three boys later we can look back and see the Diving throughout our relationship.

    Trusting God is not an excuse for inactivity

  • Matt June 2, 2011, 7:21 AM

    While my meeting Nancy was a love thing on first sight, I do totally understand the critical analysis eHamony uses to hook you up with the “right” partner. Compatibility is something that was certainly eyeballed in patristic times. Reading the old stories how Abraham, Isaak and Jacob got hitched were somewhat along the lines now scientifically packaged. The “match maker” syndrome that evolved throughout the OT reaches into the present in Jewish and other religious contexts, all for the same reasons. Not surprisingly, those arranged or matched marriages have on the average more endurance to succeed than those that just happen to us.
    Will you need me will you still feed me when…? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3HAJ4DjMhY
    When there was opportunity in the past to share on this, perhaps with younger people who were contemplating M A R R I A G E, I often said: “Life together as two (and three and four….) is like Boot-camp for God’s love. Matching aims at compatibility, NT aims at “like mindedness”. Mostly Nancy and I made it by grace. We are about as different as you can imagine and yet, our base faith in God has sustained our relationship over many years, we know that God can refresh love as Iced Tea does on a hot summer day.

  • Mike Duran June 2, 2011, 7:34 AM

    Valerie, on one level I agree with you. The “soul mate” concept tweaks how we approach our search for a mate, often causing us to look for “lightning bolts” at the expense of common sense. Conversely, my relationship with my wife of 30+ year feels, more and more, like something completely unrelated to Chance or Nature. Something more like… Lightning. Thanks for commenting.

  • xdpaul June 2, 2011, 8:11 AM

    Here’s my untrustworthy “pastoral” advice to a young man:

    Pre-step: Become the “right” person long before you meet the right person. Assume the captaincy of your own life before you are called to assume it for a household.

    Step 1. Turn 26. Don’t even think about it before then. Yes you can wait. That’s what Xbox is there for.

    Step 2. Make money. Manage it with others in mind.

    Step 3. Have a mission (hint: the mission is not “find a girlfriend.”)

    Step 4. Aim younger than you, by two years, at least.

    Step 5. It is a numbers game, so collect a lot of numbers.

    Step 6. Understand the special talents, proclivities, duties, responsibilities and honor of a ship’s “First Mate.” Seek one out.

    Step 7. If you can imagine a future with her not in it, get her out of the present, now.

    Now, I don’t intend this as a formula (I certainly didn’t follow it to the letter) – just manageable (and followable) guidelines.

    I find it interesting that our culture has cast off the “old ways” of doing things (courting, marriage by arrangement, community-driven pairing, etc.) but sort of has forgotten to replace them with any good “new ways” (outside of “do what’s right for you” advice) of accomplishing it.

    Yet, I guess people are still getting married…so my complaint is probably just that!

  • Katherine Coble June 2, 2011, 8:54 AM

    Oh boy. You and I seem to operate on similar wavelengths, in that you tend to post on topics I have a keen interest in. Sorry about that.

    I was never going to get married. I thought God had called me to be single. I dated several guys at the Christian college I attended (Taylor U.), hung out as buddies with several more. No one appealed to me as long-term prospect and the thought of marrying anybody was just excruciating. Locked in life forever with one person? No. Thank you.

    Meanwhile I was working in the dishroom on campus because I was flat broke. It was a gross job and I was too plodding to be very good at it. Everyone there hated me, no one more so than the dishroom boss. He had to bail me out several times a night when my lost-in-thought meandering slowed up the whole line. He was mean and rude and I hated him. I asked several people to pray for me every time I went to work because I could not get along with him.

    Three months later we were engaged.
    A year after that we were married.
    We’ve been married twenty years.
    We are soul mates.

    You never, ever know where God is going to take you in this life. My entire life has ended up much differently than I expected. Had I remained umarried (as I had planned to all those years ago) I would be in grave trouble now, as a disabled person who relies on my spouse for basic things on a daily basis. I think God knew where I’d be in twenty years better than I did and put me in the situation that would work best.

    Basically my advice in this is the same as in everything else. Pray to God, but row for shore. When searching for a mate, don’t “look for a mate”. Look to make yourself the best version of you possible. That means going to church, taking classes, working jobs, volunteering, joining groups with common interests, etc. That’s how most people find suitable mates. Not looking for a mate but looking for their best self and finding someone else who is on the same journey. In some cases eHarmony may help but it’s nice to have an interesting profile to put up on eHarmony in the first place.

    • Mike Duran June 2, 2011, 9:37 AM

      That’s a wonderful story, Katherine. And wise words. Thanks for sharing!

  • Tracy Krauss June 2, 2011, 3:44 PM

    My husband and I pastored for several years and we also had the privilege of meeting (and performing marriages) for people who met on line. God can certainly use online services (or any type of dating services). To say otherwise is like saying, never go to a doctor because God can heal you. Of course he can, but many times he uses practical ways. He uses Doctors, therapists, social workers … the list goes on and he can use eharmony, too! Why not?

  • Jill June 2, 2011, 9:01 PM

    God knows best how to get through to his people, how best to give them good gifts. For me, I think I had to marry the guy I met in high school and rashly marry him young, because if I’d had time to think it through, I’d have become a hermit instead. And now, 18 yrs (almost) and 4 children later, I feel blessed. Thank God!

  • Sally Apokedak June 3, 2011, 6:54 AM

    Who cares where you meet? If you are a good fit, you are a good fit.

    I don’t think it’s wrong to go looking for a spouse, but I do think that rather than putting in a lot of effort looking, people’s time might be better spent learning to know and love God better, so when they meet their spouses they will be better able to love them.

    The most important thing about marriage is not where you met but whether or not you are committed to God and to growing in grace.

    But I lean heavily toward the “trust God” side of things. I adopted children this way. (I never went through an agency, though I desperately wanted children. I trusted God and we ended up adopting two newborn babies in one year when their birth mothers came to us and asked us to take their babies.) I have gotten every job since I’ve been a Christian this way. I’ve sold and bought real estate this way. I’ve pursued publishing this way.

    I’m not saying I didn’t tell friends that I wanted to adopt and I didn’t tell people I needed a job. I have looked for the real estate I’ve bought and sold and I have sent stuff off to literary agents. But I’m pretty low-key. I basically believe that if I do each day what God gives me to do, and if I work at being the best Christian I can be in the circumstance I find myself, he will bring into my life the people he wants me to minister to and the people who are going to minister to me.

    Like Paul said to the slaves, if you can gain your freedom do so, but be happy where you are. I would say that to unmarried people or people looking for jobs or publishing contracts or children to adopt–if you can find those things, great, but keep doing the job of being happy and working hard right where you are. Your Father knows what you need and what you want and he won’t withhold one good gift from you. You can trust him. He won’t forget.

    • Matt Schuster June 3, 2011, 7:50 AM

      Hey Sally,
      Ya, you have the inside straight here. It is a faith that moves with the golden lining. Even in the darkest hours of my life it was this presence that helped me to the other side. The more you experience it throughout your life the more you remember it when the next shit load dumps on your front lawn. You realize its potential and you spread it thin enough to make the grasses grow. Was it not the lost shoe that brought Cindy to meet her prince? The greatness of life in a fallen world must resurrect which it can not less it deCompose. The dying part comes first in following the Prince of Life and so must we in all we invent or our machinations will merely dry out without heirloom.

      • Sally Apokedak June 3, 2011, 8:18 AM

        Wow! That’s well put. I wish I’d written it. 🙂

        I wrote to someone a few weeks ago, saying that out of the furnace of affliction, our faith grows. I wish I’d come up with the “shit load dumping on the front lawn and being used as fertilizer” metaphor. It’s arresting and effective and true.

  • Chris Duran June 3, 2011, 7:50 AM

    Thanks for the shout out, Dad!

    I think your main point is right on. Why should it matter how we meet? What happens after we meet is so much more important.

  • Rachel June 3, 2011, 7:16 PM

    How you meet a person isn’t as important was what you do after that. And soul mates may be real, but they are MADE, not met.

    My husband and I have been married 15yrs and every year I love him more. We have grown together because we chose to, not because of some magic force drawing us together. Love is work. It’s action and intent and doing away with you own selfish ambitions.

    It makes me sad how much we get this wrong. Even in The Body we’ve bought into this “magic” to keep us together, when it’s really much more about our desire to honor God by honoring each other.

    I think eHarmony is a great tool in this muddy world. Just because God says he can heal us doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go to the Dr. when we’re sick.

  • Nathan June 4, 2011, 7:58 AM

    I’m going to have to say I think it’s a little bit of both. In my case, I met my first fiancee (yes, you read that right 🙂 at my home church. To say that didn’t work out is a massive understatement. After we broke up, I felt the Lord put a burden on my heart to work on my fellowship with him, which I did. A while later, my dad jokingly suggested I join eHarmony. I let my membership expire after the first month, then decided to give it another try. Next thing I know, there’s a lovely young lady from the other end of the state who wants to get to know me better. We met in person Memorial Day weekend of that year, were engaged six months later, and now we’ve been married almost three years. The first year was really rough, but the Lord brought us through it; now our marriage couldn’t be better! It’s incredible. And my point is simply this: why can’t eHarmony be a part of God’s plan for us? I didn’t think of it that way back when my dad jokingly suggested it to me, but I see it to be so without a doubt now.

    Also, as an aside, whoever recommended reading “Art and the Bible” by Francis Schaeffer from a previous post, THANK YOU! I read it recently, and it showed me that to try to “stuff” our complete worldview into a single piece of art, be it story, painting, or whatever else, is nearly impossible and that we should free ourselves from this mentality and instead focus on producing a body of work that reflects our worldview. I have four different short stories in mind, none of which fully reflects my worldview individually but taken together would certainly start to do just that. So thank you again!!!

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