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ENGAGED: How to Know That You’re Ready



This is an excerpt from Ben Stuart’s book Single, Dating, Engaged, Married.

How do you know you are ready to marry someone? An initial indicator is excitement! In the beginning of Song of Solomon, the two lovers’ excitement leaps from the page.

The book begins with her provocative exclamation, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” (1:2).

When we meet this girl, we already know she desires this man. She essentially shouts to the world, “I want his mouth on my mouth!” Is it wrong to desire someone? NO! God designed attraction and this woman is unashamedly infatuated. She declares that his love is better than wine (v. 2). Wine was the drink of celebration. In the ancient world it was one of the most enjoyable things they could taste. It could make your insides feel warm and your head feel light. The way this man treats her elicits a similar response. Now a natural question to ask at this point would be: What has this man done to get this girl so dialed up?

She declares in the next verse, “Your anointing oils are fragrant” (v. 3). She could just be saying that his cologne game is working for her. The Middle East is hot. People get sweaty. And back then they did not have frequent showers. So men would wear aromatic oils. But as the verse continues, you realize there is more going on here than his scent. She explains, “Your name is oil poured out” (v. 3). What does that mean?

The poetry of the statement is brilliant. Scent is our sense most tied to memory. It also provokes a response. If you love the scent of something, you move closer. You breathe out, “Mmm.” You respond. Likewise, if something stinks, you pull away. You might even wrinkle up your nose as an attempt to retreat from the odor. You don’t map out these responses. They are just instinctive and undeniable.

The names of people are the same way. When someone’s name is spoken, you have an instinctual response. What are you responding to? What instantly comes to mind for you is not even so much the memory of that person, but a feeling you get as you consider that person’s attributes. When I say, “Hitler,” you are very likely to recoil. Do you think about any of his speeches? No. You are just reacting to a general impression you have based on his character.

When the Shulammite hears this man’s name, she thinks of his reputation; she sees his character. Images flash into her mind of his kindness. His presence is pleasant. Ladies, what should draw you to a man? His character. His looks will fade. His hairline will recede. His nose and earlobes will continue to grow. His rear will oddly shrivel up. Don’t base your romantic relationships on looks. That is the area that will the most assuredly fade. Is the guy you are attracted to impatient? Is he a bad listener? Is he selfish with his money? Do you think he will suddenly become a scent of sweetness when you get older? That is unlikely.

Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (NIV). Marry character. Let that be what turns you on.

Are you unsure of how to identify character? Then get some quality voices around you. In the Song of Solomon, four voices speak: God, the man, the woman, and the woman’s friends. Why? Because that is how it always is, boys. If you want to win the girl, you’ve got to win the stamp of approval from her squad. The first time I asked my future wife, Donna, on a date, she asked me to pick her up at her church. When I arrived, I was greeted by no less than one hundred people. She worked with the youth and they had been leading an event for high school students. Over the next hour I met every man and woman, young and old, that worked on staff or as a volunteer at that church. I discovered later this was by design. Before she ever got in a car with me, even though we had talked several times before, she wanted her community to have an opportunity to evaluate me. Wise woman. The Shulammite from Song of Solomon does the same. She wants her friends to evaluate this man.

They concur with her assessment of him in the following verse: “We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you” (1:4). What they are essentially saying to their friend is, “He is a worthy person upon which to set your affections. Your affections are rightly placed.” Godly love has excitement, but it is excitement stirred by character.

Thank God Donna did not just marry me because she thought I was attractive. A few years into our marriage I injured my back. During recovery from surgery I gained more than thirty pounds, and not a single pound of it was muscle! Later, when I reinjured my back, I lost fifty pounds and became sickly thin. If she was only into looks, I would have been in trouble. We are happily married because she was drawn to character, and because she possesses character as well. Don’t settle for less. But character alone is not enough. The couple in Song of Solomon is also stirred by one another’s kindness.

In chapter 2 we see the man’s excitement. The Shulammite​ declares, “Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, there he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, looking through the lattice” (Song of Solomon 2: 8–9). Notice: he is not walking to her house. He is bounding like a gazelle and radiating masculinity like a young stag. No mountain can obstruct him. Nothing will deter him from reaching his beloved! And when he arrives he searches anxiously to get a glimpse of her. Why is he so fired up?

In verse 10 he speaks, saying to her, “Arise, my love, my beautiful one.” The Hebrew word we translate “love” from here is the word rayahti. Used throughout the Old Testament, the word is variously translated, “neighbor”, “companion,” or “friend.” Yes, he is attracted to her physically, referring to her as a beautiful one. But nine times throughout this short book he chooses to call her “friend.” She refers to him throughout the text as dodi, translated here as “beloved.” It carries a similar idea of someone cherished. What this means is that they are drawn to one another’s character, but they are also knit closer and closer together by their continued kindness and friendship. They simply enjoy being with one another.

I have sat through several meals with couples where both the man and woman were physically attractive, and at least one of them wealthy. But within minutes it became painfully apparent they did not seem to connect at a relational level very well. They talked over one another, misunderstood each other, or annoyed and simply tolerated one another. I have even sat with couples who outwardly criticize each other. I can’t imagine continuing down the road toward marriage with someone I did not feel a sense of kinship and goodwill. Putting on a ring will not suddenly make a person kind, sensitive, or interesting. But the years will take his or her looks. How do you know you’re meant to be with an engagement case study someone? There is an ease to it, you want to be together, and communication does not feel like an obligation. The other person is your friend. But it is not only about enjoying your beloved’s company, it is also about being improved by his or her company.

This is an excerpt from Ben Stuart’s book, Single, Dating, Engaged, Married. Click here to grab a copy of this special resource.


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Scripture References

  • Song of Solomon 1:2-4
  • Proverbs 22:1
  • Song of Solomon 2:8-10
Ben Stuart Ben Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries on the campus of Texas A&M. He also earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime.