Cold, hard stone presses against your face as you desperately try to capture a few moments of rest, but between the randomized pitter-patter of water dripping in the distant darkness of the dungeon, and the occasional clickity-clack of rodent feet scurrying between shadows, sleep proves to be far more tricksy than you anticipated. Then, out of nowhere, you hear it. It starts out softly, but as it slowly grows louder, you recognize the distinct sound of horse’s hooves galloping across the cobblestones. Surely it’s not... you think to yourself. But maybe, just maybe the time has finally come. Scrambling to the dungeon window, you search the outskirts of the castle wall for some sign...anything that could tell you that he has arrived. It is hope that has kept you going; hope for this moment. A dream of one day seeing that golden armor glint against the sunset as your knight rides in to sweep you off of your feet. So now, encouraged by the sound of hooves against the pavement, you resume your search...
Dear women waiting to meet your future spouses, what if I were to tell you that your knight in shining armor doesn’t exist? That perfect, or perhaps nearly perfect (if you happen to be among the more reasonable group of women), knight in shining, golden armor will likely never come riding in on that pure, white horse you have always imagined...because he doesn’t exist. Such things are a thing of legend, a myth, and you will never find him.
At this point, I’m sure you have labeled me as a cynical, single male who is bitter because he has been turned down by one too many girls who were waiting for “the right guy(s)” to come along, of which he was not one. Yes, I am single, and perhaps I would be a cynic if I could bring myself to believe that they exist (just kidding; fear not, cynicism has no hold on me). But when it comes down to it, even I have to admit that part of the reason I am single is because I too, hold a set of standards that I am not willing to sacrifice on. As for the cynicism? Bear with me to the end, and I think you will find that it is significantly less cynical than you may currently think.
Before I go on, I want to make a distinction for you. When searching for a girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, everyone has a set of standards and ideals. In terms of relationships, a standard is a quality that is required as a bare minimum to even consider dating someone. Ideals, on the other hand, are merely preferences that would be nice qualities to find in someone, but do not make or break your attraction toward that person. For example, it is my standard that I find a Christian woman, whereas it is my ideal to date a woman who is shorter than me. (Seeing as I am 6’1”, if I were to date anyone my height, or taller, we would look like a couple of giraffes wandering around the Serengeti every time we went out to buy some eggs from the grocery store.) However, if a girl did one day come along who was perfect in every way, except for the fact that she is 6’3”, then the ideal is free to be disposed of, so long as my standards were met.
That all being said, it is not wrong at all to shoot for high ideals in a spouse. In fact I probably would even encourage it. There is nothing wrong with wanting the best you can get, but we have to be incredibly careful that we don’t allow our ideals to become our standards. It is one thing for me to want someone shorter than myself, it is another thing entirely to require it. It is this blurring of ideals and standards that I would argue is exactly what happens when you wait for that knight in shining armor to come along. A knight in shining armor connotes a perfect man, impervious to whatever attacks may come his way, who rides in on his white horse of purity, ready to sweep you off your feet. While each and every one of those qualities are remarkable qualities, and should indeed be sought after, I’m afraid that the complete package simply does not exist.
In the past few months, I have started to see a number of articles and blog-posts by young women, written to their future husbands. A few have been remarkably good, and all have been innocent, but something about their mentality has me a little worried. One common thread between the articles is a list of desires/prayers for their future spouse, of which the most common is purity. They pray that, in spite of all of the pressures of the world, their man would be pure and blameless. I mean it when I say, what an excellent prayer that is! BUT, I am afraid it is an increasingly common example of women blurring the lines between ideals and standards. As sad as it is, you will not find a man who does not or has not struggled sexually in some way, shape, or form. You. Will. Not. It is the greatest war against sin that men have to fight. Thus, while it is definitely possible for you to find a man who has maintained his virginity, it is impossible to find one who has maintained his purity. Unfortunately, in praying for a pure man, most women allow that prayer to change from an ideal to a standard; unfortunately a standard that will never be fulfilled.
Let me give you two contrasting examples of men and let you decide which you think is the better man to pursue. The first example is a man who holds a great deal of authority and power in society, but abuses his power to get what it is that he wants. Once, he even killed someone because he was afraid of being caught in something he did wrong. He has a great weakness for the physical attractiveness of women and has slept with more women than you ever would have guessed was possible, including a woman who is already married. The second man I want to introduce you to is quite the opposite of the first. While he too is in a position of great authority, he does not abuse it, but rather uses it to further the work of the Lord. He has a reputation for being someone who desperately pursues God’s heart, and the worship songs that he writes, are well loved by everyone who hears them. You never have to feel at danger around him because he is a warrior to be feared, but yet, at the same time, who can find a friend so faithful as this second man?
Now if I were a betting man, I would place my money on the second guy as the better of the two men. But what if I confessed to you that I have deceived you a little bit. They are not two separate men at all, but rather one and the same man. Not only is it just one man, but he actually existed. His name is David, and you can read about him in the Bible. 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22 both call David “a man after [God’s] heart” (NIV). The same man that committed sins that we now consider the most heinous of them all (adultery and murder) is praised for his heart for the Lord.
You see, what I’ve told a few people recently is that what differentiates a good guy from a bad one is not that the bad guy struggles and the good guy doesn’t, but rather that the good guy does not allow himself to be defined by the sins he struggles with; a bad guy does. A good guy understands that he is fighting a war, and in war, battles are won and lost, but thanks to Christ on the cross, the outcome has already been determined and good has triumphed over evil. When a man sins and gets thrown down into the muck, a good man doesn’t wallow in it as a bad one does, but rather picks himself up, cleans off, and jumps back in the fight.
So ladies, regardless of if he has already, or if he will in the future, your man will struggle sexually. Let me encourage you to not pray that your man would come to you pure and blameless, but rather that when the temptation arises, that God would give him strength to fight and have victory over it. Pray that you can love him in spite of the fact that he is a fallen human being, doomed to screw up. I can guarantee that he will appreciate that far more.
Usually falling right alongside of the prayer for a pure man, I hear the promise that you ladies will guard your hearts and give them to no one but the Lord until you meet your future spouse. I thank you for that desire, but I must say it begs the question, “how do you know when you’ve met your future spouse?” The very nature of that question implies that you will just know by the shine in his armor that he is that “magical one” you have always looked for. So what happens when we have no armor? Say the man the Lord has for you doesn’t look anything like you pictured. Would you let him in? Or have your ideals so morphed into your standards that you cannot bring yourself to open the gates of your heart for him? Please don’t get me wrong and hear that you should allow every guy who knocks into your heart. By no means! However, as men, what are we supposed to do to crack open your shell that you’ve reserved for only Jesus. Take heed, if this is you and something doesn’t change, then you very well might miss your knight because you were searching for him by his armor.
...Your search out of the dungeon window continues as you scan the outer reaches of your captor’s domain for the glint of armor which represents your freedom. The hooves continue to ring out against the stone, but it seems that your eyesight is just not good enough to see your rescuer. Then, just as you had given up hope, you see a horse crest the hill. But the horse is not white, rather it is a weary looking, ugly brown horse, and upon it rides no knight, but rather an ordinary man. As he draws closer, you see that where once armor rested on his body, it has been replaced with scars and open wounds, chain mail has been replaced with mud and blood, and where once a golden helmet crowned his head, only matted hair can be seen. But somehow instead of disappointment you find that a great peace has fallen over you. For you know that the while the armor may be missing, it has been replaced with an experience which needs no armor. His exhausted horse is just an indicator of the great distance he has traveled, and the scars which mar the face you once dreamed to be blemishless, merely indicate victories of times past. It is clear that he is no stranger to battle, yet battle has not succeeded in destroying him. As he draws near the gate, this bedraggled warrior shouts out in a voice kinder than even your dreams could imagine, “I have fought long and hard for many years to find you, and several times along the way I thought I had found you, but now you are here. Many battles yet lie ahead of us, but it is for love I fought, and for it, I shall continue to fight. Will you go with me?”