Written from Ambassador College Bricket Wood, England
May 22, 1963
Dear Students of GOD'S College:
A new trend, or fad, seems to be developing among Ambassador men. These men start shopping for a wife. After careful analysis of certain girls, they pick out one, tell her they are in love, propose, become engaged. Then after becoming engaged to be married—-after the girl's hopes and dreams have reached up to high heaven, after she has her wedding dress made, she finds the whole thing casually and coolly called off.
It begins to seem that some of our men, once engaged, then begin looking critically at their pledged fiance. Now she is scrutinized carefully, analyzed from every angle, to see whether she is, after all, good enough for His Exalted Highness—-whether she measures up to the superlative standards he is now setting for whoever shall become his wife. He then begins to look at OTHER GIRLS, compares his fiance with certain others, decides one or two of these others might, after all, be better qualified to become his wife. So then, without any sense of unfaithfulness on his part, in his own imagined self-righteousness, he coolly tells the one who is RELYING on his pledge of faithfulness that he is not in love with her, and he is calling off the engagement. THIS, after all his many amorous letters telling her how overwhelmingly he is in love with her. The girl who has been completely faithful to him is now dropped like a dirty dishrag.
THIS HAS HAPPENED TOO OFTEN! The two very recent cases are being severely dealt with. Men who are so careless about love and marriage, so unprincipled, so lacking in CHARACTER, are immediately dropped from all consideration of being ordained to the ministry of Jesus Christ! God's Work NEEDS ministers—-BUT NOT THAT KIND!
What's the matter with some of our students? After all this instruction and explaining, don't you know even yet, what it means to be IN LOVE? The real SIN—-and I do mean S I N in capital letters—-of this kind of jilting a fiance occurs when an immature young man TELLS a girl he is in love with her BEFORE HE IS SURE!
Can't I make our students understand what a SERIOUS matter marriage is? It is not for children. It is not for the immature adolescent, who imagines himself to be a man. It is not for college freshmen of normal age of 19 or under, as yet unprepared to SUPPORT a wife and family. That is why we put on the pressure for all such underclassmen—-until about the middle of the senior year—-to PUT MARRIAGE OUT OF MIND. Date different ones—- avoid "going steady" (a modern teen-age EVIL). Let dates be for cultural development, mental and spiritual stimulation, and real enjoyment—-but WITHOUT thoughts of marriage.
But, when a student nears the stage of being properly PREPARED for the responsibilities of home and family, just WHAT IS IT TO BE IN LOVE?
Let's see if I can make it plainer than before. One Ambassador senior, a few weeks before graduation, came to me with his problem. He was thinking real seriously of a certain girl in school—-an upper-class girl. He admired, respected her, found her altogether lovely—-liked being in her company above all others—- thought he was "in love" with her, but couldn't be sure because he could not get out of his mind another girl he had thought he was "in love" with previously. He had not seen this other girl for some time. She was not in college.
I tried to explain what true love really is. I happened to mention to him that once or twice in a lifetime, a man meets a woman who is so voluptuous and physically attractive that she makes him think of just one thing—-the desire to get her into his arms and press her close to him in sensuous embrace. She arouses instant SENSUOUS desire. The sight of her makes him want to POSSESS—-to have and to hold. No man should ever confuse that attraction with love. No man should ever marry a woman who affects him in that manner.
Then I went to the opposite extreme. A man can know a woman whom he admires, respects very highly. She may even be a beautiful woman. He may even enjoy her company—-at least occasionally. He dates her once in a while—-but he feels he would just as soon put his arms around a cold iron lamp post and try to embrace it. She is a very fine person—-he certainly holds her in highest respect and esteem—-but there is no physical attraction. That is the other extreme—-and that is NOT love, but merely respect.
True LOVE is an OUTGOING CONCERN. It is not, necessarily, wholly outgoing, devoid of a normal and right feeling of desire. She must be physically attractive—-but without being sensually arousing. She does not make him think of sex, physically. Even as God's GREAT and GENERAL command respecting humans is that we shall love our neighbors AS ourselves, so true love is that UNION of outgoing concern for the one loved and her desirability to him.
True love does not produce sex arousal at sight. Pure love involves respect, admiration, an unselfish concern for HER happiness and welfare, combined with complete compatibility mentally, socially, culturally, and complete physical desirability. The girl is attractive, altogether LOVELY and physically desirable in that normal way that is NOT sensuous, and does not bring on thought of sex as such. He CARES for her in a way he does not for any other. He wants to be with her—-in her company. She is the ONE he wants to talk things over with, to share his problems as well as his successes and triumphs with. And he is SO concerned for her welfare and happiness that he wants to protect her, provide for her, be always kind and gentle to her and considerate of her. He feels LOVE for her, not lust. He wants to share with her his struggles, his interests, his life. And SHE is the one he wants to be the mother of his children. THAT is the LOVE that ought to be marital love.
In the case of the Ambassador student who brought his problem to me shortly before he graduated, after I explained these two extremes, and the middle ground of true love, all became clear to him. The girl he had known formerly and could not forget was in the category of the first extreme. She had been physically attractive to the extent that he now realized for the first time all she aroused in him was pure physical desire—-which he had not recognized as lust. This realization removed her from his mind. He became engaged very quickly to the girl he truly loved, respected, was CONCERNED for, and wanted to be WITH. Now he realized how altogether sweet and lovely she was to him.
Often a young man or woman finds it hard to get out of mind some former romance. I had such a problem, myself. This was not a girl of any of the three categories I have described. I had dated her frequently over a period of two or three years. All the fellows regarded her as an unusual girl—-ambitious to excel in whatever she did. She was always the best dancer on the floor—- the most smartly dressed. She could carry on a scintillating conversation. An incident in a business deal between my father and her mother broke it off. I had never "necked" with her. In those years I was not thinking of marriage—-no thought of "love" or possible marriage had ever entered my mind. It was always just an exciting and interesting date. I think it appealed to my vanity that other fellows were jealous of me for dating her. I had not seen her for two years when I met the girl who became Mrs. Armstrong.
When I met her—-or some two or three months after we met, I was SURE I was, for the first time, in love. I had never thought of any other girl in that way before—-had never even thought I was in love. After I met Mrs. Armstrong (to be), but before I realized I was in love with her, I did begin to think again of this former girl friend. Now I wondered if I had been in love with her without realizing it. I tried to arrange to see her, but she refused it. Once I found myself really in love with my wife-to-be, however, there was no thought of ANY other girl. I certainly did not start cold-bloodedly ANALYZING her to decide whether she was good enough for me, or comparing her with others to see if one of them might be more worthy of me. From that moment she has been the only one.
Years later, however—-about 25 years later—-I received a letter from this former girl friend. She had heard me on the radio, and was coming to teach at a school in Washington and would pass through Portland, Oregon. I was to meet her. You may be SURE Mrs. Armstrong went with me to meet her. You should have seen pictures of "before and after." Now, 25 years later, she was—- well, hardly the same chic young lady I had once dated. It seems some women do not retain their maidenly charm as Mrs. Armstrong has. Anyway, the moral is, that if I had worried around about whether I was in love with the former girl friend, or begun comparing Mrs. Armstrong critically with others, wondering if she were the right one after all, I might have wound up with something I should never have married—-and ruined two lives.
BE SURE you know what love is. BE SURE you are mature, old enough, PREPARED for the responsibilities of marriage. DON'T ALLOW YOURSELF TO THINK OF MARRIAGE SOONER. Don't go "shopping" for a husband or wife, and just take the best of the lot. Wait until you know it is really LOVE. And then, once SURE, quit shopping around, analyzing, comparing. NEVER get engaged until you are SURE. Then BE FAITHFUL!
Jesus Christ is our REAL Example. He is ENGAGED TO MARRY HIS CHURCH. Look at the outgoing CONCERN He has for HER (Ephesians 5:23-27). Can she DEPEND on the Bridegroom to be faithful? Will Christ JILT her? Is He shopping for another? No He LOVES her—-with TRUE LOVE. God commands: "Husbands love your wives EVEN AS CHRIST ALSO LOVES THE CHURCH." That is, with the SAME KIND of love. We may BE SURE that if we are IN His Church, we may RELY on Him to take us as His BRIDE. He will never forsake us.
Men who fail to follow that example, but prove either to have SINNED by telling fiances they were in love with them when they were not, or to have been UNfaithful themselves, cannot qualify for Christ's ministry unless or until they fully repent.
MARRIAGE IS SERIOUS BUSINESS! It involves serious RESPONSIBILITIES. Let's not take it lightly, or get involved prematurely. It's SO MUCH MORE than the fluff-fluff of irresponsible romance.