Soul mates

Does everyone on earth have a soul mate? By that I mean a person of your approximate age of the opposite sex who is the perfect match, the perfect life partner for you.

The Bible does not speak about such a thing, so you can’t expect God to guarantee it. Your answer will have to be drawn from literature, movies, your friends, or your personal experiences. I just found some very thoughtful and helpful writing on the subject of soul mates completely by chance in an unlikely spot—the New York Times. Ada Calhoun is a frequent contributor to the Times and just authored a new book, Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give. She writes that the search for a soul mate is completely futile and in fact tricks people into dating holding patterns with perfectly decent companions while they are still peering around for that perfect match. She blames the illusion of romantic soul mates for creating impossible-to-meet expectations that leave everybody unhappy and unfulfilled. In our insanely consumerist age, we think we should be able to acquire absolutely anything we want, perfect spouses included, and that satisfaction should be guaranteed. Even rapidly advancing dating technology and its avalanche of personal data do not guarantee finding a soul mate.

My friend Mike tells me that a man gets married to a woman hoping that she will never change. But she always does, and so they get frustrated. He says a woman gets married to a man with huge expectations of all the ways in which he will change, and he never does, and so they get frustrated. Ms. Calhoun agrees. She says that over the years she has changed so much that she is a one-woman harem for her husband. She says the key to marital happiness is the ability to flex and change around your life changes. The magic comes over time as two people decide to learn to adapt to each other. St. Paul would have called that an example of the mutual submission that he recommends in Ephesians 5:21.

I suspect that some men marry a sexual fantasy and discover that real women aren’t quite like that. I suspect that some women marry a fantasy in which they get financial security and get to have the house and children they want, but the male in that fantasy picture stays an accessory, like a Ken doll in a Barbie world. When the actual man she married doesn’t play the role that she imagined in her fantasy marriage, she feels cheated.

Ms. Calhoun appreciatively quotes J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings, as condemning falling in love with a fantasy instead of committing to a real person, just as he or she is. He says the truth is that successful marriage partners treat each other as companions in a shipwreck. The real soul mate is the one you are actually married to. Ms. Calhoun adds, “True soul mates are made, not born.”

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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