Word count: 4454
- NOT EVERYONE WHO FINDS SOUGHT
- THE PROBLEM OF REAL MEN
- THE CAUSE
- INITIATING /= PURSUING /= LEADING
- LADIES TO PURSUE
- The Context
- How can it happen?
- PURSUING, LEADING, AND SUBMISSION
- LOVE STORY AN ORCHESTRA
First thing I want to clarify that I am no preacher nor a pastor. I am simply a 22 year-old lady who has a lot of questions. You might find some statements here to be pure conjecture so I try to back them up with all the facts that I can find and can think of. Another thing is that, I have never tried to pursue a man, and in no situation to pursue a man soon, nor do I find myself being in a relationship soon. I think this is an advantage because there will be less bias. I hope and pray so.
Second, if you’re a woman/man who answers YES the moment you’ve read the title, and in no way you’d change that, if you’re strictly against for a woman to pursue, then I suggest you to stop here and not read this entire thing. If you’re a woman/man who is very confused as to why you should or should not pursue, I hope this will help you in some ways, and will not cause you to be confused all the more.
Third, I have used Ruth and Boaz’s story here more often to serve as a Biblical illustration, so you might wanna read the Book of Ruth first. While I have read a lot of commentaries, I might still be far from close to what the real situation was like. This here is how I pondered upon it, after praying for wisdom, and talking to some people (thank you if you’re reading this, you know who you are.). If a pastor or someone who had gone to Bible school or have taken Theology courses would read this, they might know how little have I known. Thus, ideas opposite to mine are very much welcome, if ever some points in the Bible are misinterpreted, or that readers might be mislead.
Lastly, I wanna clarify that dating was never mentioned in the Bible. Although we can see Jacob as an example of a man who pursued Rachel, the Bible did not label such thing as “dating”. In their times, marriage is immediate after confirmation of both parties. In our times, pursuing can be viewed as seeking a person’s confirmation, with a clarified intention, to be in a relationship called dating, a prerequisite of marriage.
NOT EVERYONE WHO FINDS SOUGHT
It’s February, and quotes, statements and stories about romantic relationships and singlehood has been flooding my walls. Yet there’s this one phrase that really caught my attention:
“Ladies should wait for the man to initiate and pursue.”
I’ve heard from a lot of people that women should sit and wait, while guys should man up, and that real man should pursue, despite the threat of women’s high standards. I personally was a believer of this part of the debris which I think left by the culture and tradition of the Christian Church, and our history, just like the idea of wearing long skirts and sleeves for girls. To the ladies who received a letter from me saying you’re a treasure that needs to be hidden unless a man finds you from God, I want to apologise. I don’t want to make you believe wholly in something that I’m partly believing now. I guess I was so grounded in that assumption before without no strong foundation at all; I was only going with the flow of what’s in trend. Although I am not really saying that those who believe otherwise are in the wrong side and are believing a false truth, what I am trying to show is that different people have different cases in this matter.
After hearing the statement above again and again this month, I was beginning to think that there’s something wrong about the claim, which lead me to a series of questions that have been building up and filling up my jar. Thus, this article was made.
Provers 18:22 says ‘he who finds a wife has found happiness’. Does it mean ladies really are treasures meant to be hidden unless God wants a man to find her?
The first thing I want to point out here is that, this verse didn’t mean the man was seeking. Consider the verse He who finds Me [God] finds life (Proverbs 8:35). Not everyone who found Jesus, were intentional, at least, in their part. Some just accidentally/randomly met a person who shared them Jesus, without them having this as a personal goal. An example of this is when we had an evangelical mission where we went to places and talk to some strangers about the gospel. Yet we know it’s not merely an accident because God wills it to happen. Well, this doesn’t explain the totally of this verse, but this is just a result of pondering about it in a while, in relation to pursuing and dating.
The story of Boaz is a Biblical example of this. He did not seek, nor intended to find, but he accidentally found Ruth on the field and took notice of her. (We’ll talk more about their story later.) This reminds me of when I was looking for a certain thing around the house, and I ended up finding some random picture that was taken 10 years ago. It doesn’t mean I was seeking for it but I found it! (I wanna thank my brother for this illustration.) A thing can be caused by a factor of an external force, just like how we experience things daily that’s not merely a consequence of our own actions, but also because of some actions made by people around us, plus the integration of how this world and the universe works.
Now you might think that the verse seek and you will find (Matthew 7:7) contradicts but it doesn’t. If you seek, you will find. But it doesn’t mean that if you have found it, you have sought it. More over, this is also not equivalent to saying that if you did not seek, then you will not find. We have just discussed earlier that you can accidentally find something without trying to look for it. (You can look up the equivalence of an if-then statement.)
THE PROBLEM OF REAL MEN
What does really “man up” mean? Are all who pursued considered the “real” guys?
I clearly do not know if we can box up the properties and personalities of which we call real guys. If we look at some couples today, I doubt all wives could even say their husband has been a real guy during the pursuit and courtship.
For example, you can say a guy who mans up is the one who pursued a lady who has achieved more (let’s say in a certain career) and wants a guy of her level, or a guy who has no talent at all but braved himself to seek a woman’s heart who desired to have a guy with a full package, and a pretty face too. Yeah they may look like what we see as real men since they’re pursuing who they believe they love (following their heart’s desires); they’re brave men after all. Yet in some situations like this, others consider those as absurdity and that not all of the guys are being real at all. There are situations that some guys already know that they don’t even stand a chance, so what’s the point of the pursuit? If they just did it because they wanna be seen as brave, and/or they’re acting by impulse, then some can say they aren’t being ‘real’ at all. Some also might think, maybe God would change that woman’s heart. I personally do not know for sure, but that’s a possibility. Lastly, for some, which includes me, a real man would seek wisdom and the right timing from the Lord when should he pursue and when he should still wait.
Well, those are only for the sake of having an illustration that we cannot fix such definition to a real guy. And those appearances and physical aspects mentioned above are only small things that we should look the least into someone we want to be with in marriage.
Besides, we all know that not all relationship we can find in this world, even in the smaller set of Christian couples, are initiated by the man and not by the woman. So can we say then that those men who did not initiate the relationship aren’t real men? I, personally, don’t think so.
Given the absence of an absolute definition, we cannot fully trust and expect all men, who are bound to get married, to man up (whatever that means) and pursue.
It may be a deviant thing for us (as I am living in the Philippines, and that ladies here are really meant to just wait to be pursued, as this country seems to be “conservative”), and I guess this is brought by our culture and tradition. Even in Biblical times, the man is meant to seek a woman who should be coming from their own tribe, and a woman should only wait, since the man is the one who would provide in the household, and women are meant to stay inside the house. Thus, the guy gets to have the privilege to choose who to marry.
Moreover, the feeling to be pursued, which most of the girls cannot deny, is really pleasing. It’s something that’s innate in us, like our biological sex. We wanted to have a man who would serve us and our family, who would make us feel special, and surprise us in special occasions. Maybe this picture has been inherited even from the when Abraham sought Rebecca for his son Isaac, or when Jacob served Rachel’s family to have her his wife. What a dreamy love story for mostly of the ladies.
We also cannot deny the fact that women really has different temperaments compared to the guys (if we could only find an expected value to measure the degree of our personalities in general). Nowadays, guys have to guess what ladies are feeling, and ladies are very (or sometimes, acting to be) unpredictable, and would even make the guys pursue and wait for months or years before they would decide to be in a relationship. As for the men on the other hand, I cannot tell. Personalities and temperaments should choose no gender but because of the influence of the olden time’s patriarchal society, men are seen to be, or expected to be the one who should always initiate, and be straightforward. Even though this doesn’t always happen, this is what we commonly see, be it in reality or in movies, which are sometimes based on realities.
It is the norm. And should ladies pursue, that would be like rowing against the current.
INITIATING /= PURSUING /= LEADING
Since dating wasn’t mentioned in the Bible, can we set our own rules today?
From tradition, and taking into account the conservative-ness of our church, Christians seem to have a common rule. Guys should initiate and pursue, ladies should wait and respond. This sort of rule, I think, comes from the fact that the Bible says that men should lead and wives should submit. (But this doesn’t mean that women should just stay passive, and should follow everything what the man says. Well this would cover another topic, so let’s go back to pursuing.)
Yes, we are encouraged to date to marry. (Let us just accept this as our assumption because again, as to why this is important covers another topic). And so in dating, we should already be exercising the leadership of a man as preparation for marriage. Yet we commonly have a misconception, which we sometimes do not realize: the one who initiates should pursue, and gets to lead in the relationship.
This concept is being overly used, or being overly applied in dating. Just because men are the leaders (specifically in marriage and household), they should be the one who does the initiative and work, all the time, and ladies are only expected to wait and then respond. Yet, this is does not apply to every relationship.
The problem is we equate initiating, and pursuing with leading. Think about a group with members who wholly submit to their leader, but also gives great suggestions that even surpasses the leader’s, and could rebuke the leader when they think what he’s doing for the group is wrong, or lesser than what they’re capable of doing. This could show us that not all the time, his [the leader] is the pursuit and initiation. To pursue is to seek to attain something you desire. To lead is to guide, and in marriage, with a goal that your relationship would be God-centered and God-honoring, and that both of you and everyone in your household will draw closer to God.
If God would move only a man’s heart to initiate in a relationship, then should He have instilled in Boaz’s mind His plans for them, and made Boaz be bold and brave to go and ask Ruth to make her his wife? I do not know how that would have happened, but if He really designed every man to be the pursuer and initiator, then we could imagine it to be somewhere near to that situation. However, it was clearly not what the history tells us.
Pursuing, dating, and marriage are not a universal experience, and don’t have a general guidelines. For one, each person has different personalities. Some women are braver (which depends as to how you perceive and define bravery; let us consider the personalities like women who are not afraid to speak up) than some men. Another factors are we all have different types of upbringing, we’ve undergone different situations that shaped us to who we are today, and we also live in different environments that has a huge effect to our being, personalities, and temperaments.
There can be a situation where the lady waited for a guy she wanted. However that guy never considered going into a relationship. Well, if she continues on waiting, nothing would happen, unless God would move the guy’s heart and let him notice, say for example, in a dream, about her, so that he could pursue her, or God would use another person to let them meet. Now if that lady’s major temperament is sanguine, then there is a greater probability (than the guy’s possibility to speak) to confess and pursue. Another situation is if that guy can really really be shy for some reasons.
God gives us the freedom to choose and the free will to act. But so if none of them will act, should God make a way such that external force then will bring them together? This here is what we sometimes call God-intervention. In the end, either that will happen, or there should be a change with their personalities, if ever God wills them to be together.
We cannot be sure but this here is sure: God is sovereign. We cannot know all His ways. His thoughts are higher than ours. We cannot limit, define, and describe all of who He is and what He has in store for us. If it would be the best situation that God will be glorified, then it will happen.
Therefore, we cannot expect every man and woman to follow a general and common rule, or how you would call them, an unspoken guidelines in dating and/or marriage.
LADIES TO PURSUE
When a girl pursues, does it mean it is already out of God’s will? Is it even a sin?
This question leads us to the ultimate question that most of us are asking: Is it wrong for the lady to pursue?
To tell you straightforwardly, No, in a sense when it is in the center of the will of God. This has been partly explained in the previous discussion.
This mind-boggling topic would always lead one to the story of Ruth and Boaz in the book of Ruth. We can see in chapter 3 that Ruth is the one who initiated and in chapter 4, they got married.
Well, their story is not as simple as the above paragraph has narrated it. We can describe Ruth as a woman who is a bit aggressive, and strong. She’s a woman with boldness and principle, and of a noble character (as Boaz had spoke honorably to her (Ruth 3:10)). She persuaded Naomi to let her stay, even when Naomi tried to release her as they were both widowed. She went with Naomi to a land that she’s a foreigner of, and she humbled herself to glean on the fields to honor and serve her mother-in-law, and provide themselves food. To give you little bit of a background, in their culture, field owners let the poor people glean over the leftovers (Leviticus 10:9-10). In Ruth’s case, this is solely my opinion, we can think that she might have felt a self degradation with regards to the kind of a person she is. A strong woman with pride and dignity, chooses to do a poor man/woman’s job: to glean on fields, much more on a land where she’s foreign into. Yet she humbled herself for the sake of her mother-in-law.
It might be a question as to why Ruth needed to glean. In the olden days, the widows are regarded as really poor women (Deuteronomy 4:19-21). As men are the ones who should provide for the household, and for wives being left behind by their husbands, God has instructed his people to take care for them [the widows]. This is a concept we need to know why Ruth went to Boaz (Ruth 3:6-13).
Ruth and Naomi, after losing their husbands, are trying to look for someone who could “redeem” Ruth. During their times, it is a rule for them to marry a person in the same tribe, and that the widow should be re-married to the nearest kinship, commonly to the brother of her husband. Since both Ruth’s husband and his brother died, there’s no one else to accept (or redeem) her. The “redeeming” part is necessary for both of these women because they’re seeking for provision, or else they would remain consuming leftovers from the field, and soon starve.
How can it happen?
It’s okay for the ladies to pursue then!
If you’re a woman and you’ve become excited now that it is okay for you to pursue, I think you should reconsider your emotions because maybe that’s not God telling you to pursue right now. Maybe, just maybe, it is your impatience.
From Ruth’s story, it might be acceptable. But what about today? We also need to understand our situation and know the concept before we decide. Yes, it is okay for the ladies to pursue, but just like how guys should pursue, it should be done in the center of God’s will. Besides, Ruth did not pursue Boaz in the same manner that people today pursues, which we will talk about in the next paragraphs.
Ok, so ladies can pursue, but does it apply to every lady?
Ruth did not confess to Boaz like “Hey Boaz. I like you. Let’s get married.” She did not invite Boaz to some fancy dinner and paid for it, nor bought him his favorite shoes to let him see her pure intention and win his heart for marriage. She plainly unfold her reasons why she was there on the threshing floor that night.
Ruth pursued Boaz because first, he is the one nearest to their family that could redeem her from poverty and lack. Second, she did this out of obedience to God, in the form of Naomi’s instruction to her. Naomi sees Ruth as someone worthy to be a wife again, so that she should not suffer any longer. Lastly, she did it because her being redeemed will also bless Naomi. Ruth did not leave Naomi, rather honored her by serving and helping her, and at the same time, God honored Ruth’s choice. God blessed her as a consequence of her obedience and compassion to Naomi.
Actually, even before Ruth went to Boaz, he already treated Ruth differently but better than his servants on the field, even when she’s a foreigner in the land. She found favor in his sight (Ruth 2:13) and he even served her food (Ruth 2:14). He told his servants to let her glean, help her, not reprimand and rebuke her, and he did not even allowed his young men to go near her (Ruth 2:15-16). It’s evident that he has treated her like she is someone special and with kindness. You would say he liked her, as to how we interpret it these days.
Boaz might look like he’s passive and timid because even when he cared for her, and was also competitive, not letting any man near her, he did not lay down his intention to be her husband. He plainly served and cared for her. Although, those gestures are a manifestation of God’s plan, that Boaz is whom He prepared to redeem Ruth.
Considering these traits of Boaz, Ruth was not pursuing (chasing could also be the word) a random man who ignored her, or didn’t even cared for her. She did not chase a man who will break her heart, her dignity, and her principles. She did not pursue a man who is outside of the will of God, outside of Naomi’s instruction. She pursued a man who treated her good, with care, respected her, and even protected her. She pursued a man who would follow the protocol (when he waited for the other persons who could be her nearest kinship-Ruth 4) and do not do shortcuts, to honor God and their marriage. Thus, in chapter 3, she went to the threshing floor where Boaz was taking rest, and directly asked him for her to be redeemed.
We’re not supposed to pursue people whom we did not asked from God, and this could also go for the guys. There are times where the ladies should initiate, and times where men should. This here is situational which we cannot completely bound up, and it remains to be personal about what God’s plan for each of us is, which He could only reveal to us personally and to our partner. Either the man or the woman should pursue, their pursuit would be God-glorifying if they do it under God’s blessing. Simply put everything in this: Our chief goal is to glorify God.
PURSUING, LEADING, AND SUBMISSION
Didn’t their story meant that Ruth was the one leading in the kind of relationship they had?
Her intention was to be redeemed and the redeemer is always superior over the one being redeemed, just like a leader to its members. She asked Boaz to take her under his wings (Ruth 3:9), just like how we take shelter, refuge, covering and protection under God’s wings (Psalm 91:4). This is Ruth telling him “Take me under your provision, protection, and guidance. Lead over me and make me you wife.” As she pursued him, she clearly stated her submission, under the leadership of Boaz. (We can connect this to how wives should submit to their husbands but I’m not (yet) entitled to talk about that.)
Ladies can pursue someone just like guys do. But pursuing in general doesn’t only account for such feelings that are fleeting. It is not merely seeking that person because you feel lonely and you think you might be attached to that person in some ways that you refer to as, something we poorly describe, love.
The Book of Ruth is not solely a love story but a story of redemption. Not only in Ruth’s point of view as a widow and as a provider to her mother-in-law, but also to Naomi who experienced a bitter life (Ruth 1:20). Later in the book (Ruth 4:20), Naomi found joy as she was redeemed by God. The women told her “the Lord has never left you”, which made her realized that having Ruth in her side is better than having “seven sons” (Ruth 4:14-15). Naomi was redeemed just as Ruth was.
In pursuing, God must be the center in that decision, such that it will honor Him the most, and the people around us. The ultimate goal for us is to completely submit our lives to God, to be able to execute what the Lord has planned in our lives. A God-centered pursuit will always lead to blessings being received, because every decision made in the center of God’s will will always be honored.
Ruth’s son in the name of Obed is the father of Jesse, and Jesse is the father of David, who is the lineage of Jesus Christ. That sowing of obedience reap in the form of the Messiah being born in her lineage. What a privilege could it be.
LOVE STORY—AN ORCHESTRA
With all those being written above, the bottom line is, we cannot truly know how God would execute His plans for us, and we cannot limit His ways just based on our experiences and history. We might get some clues about what He wants us to do but He is a God full of surprises. One thing is certain, God orchestrates the best love stories that we could ever have, regardless of who shall pursue.
In our pursuit to marriage, there are four things that we can do today. First is to pray. I know that beyond this confusion of who should be the one to pursue and initiate, most of us desire a beautiful marriage in the future. Pray and pray fervently about it. Ask God to guard your heart and make you feel secure during the waiting, or even when marriage might not come for you at all.
Second is to wait. I would like to clarify that this waiting is not specifically addressed to women to just sit and wait for the guy to come. Ladies and gentlemen are to wait for God’s command if when you should start moving towards marriage. Wait for what God will reveal in you; if He wants you to patiently wait for a certain guy, or if He wants you to seek a man that He prepared, or if He wants you to remain as a single man/woman of God.
Third is to make every present time honorable to God. While we may be waiting for that season to come, where we are right now is as significant as the future. Let the present be offered to God that He is glorified the most in whatever we do. (You can read more about this on my blog post Season.)
The last thing is, do not take the pen from God’s hands and rewrite what He has written. Learn the beauty of honoring God’s will and command, and He will surely honor and bless your choice out of obedience. You’ll see that even the most brilliant story that you could imagine could never even come close to how pleasing the harmony of His heavenly orchestration of your love story can be.
Either it be like Boaz and Ruth, or Jacob and Rachel, or maybe we’d be like the Apostle Paul who spent his whole Christian life to do the work of the Lord firsthand. Whatever it is, God will always have the best life story for each of us.
I hope that this has helped you in some ways, and brought calm in your soul. I know you have a lot on your mind right now and I would very much likely to read it in the comments below.
Thank you and God bless!! 💜