On Thursday I mentioned that sometimes Alayna is a saint for putting up with me, and this is absolutely and entirely true. As anyone who’s been reading for long has probably discerned, I can have a… difficult personality. Honestly, before Alayna came along I’d pretty much given up on the idea of finding someone and was on the path towards distinctly confirming my bachelorhood. I am stubborn, arrogant, uncouth, and generally disinterested in the opinions of others on my behavior or beliefs. Beyond that, I can be a perfectionist, have particular interests, and am not shy about telling people when they are boring, foolish, or just plain wrong. Actually… I’m generally not shy in telling people what I think about them at all. I may have been described as ‘overly honestly’ and ‘wanting in tact.’ It’s something that I’m working on. That’s just the beginning, and I’m guessing that you’re already picking up the fact that I can be a chore at times. So, needless to say that I am somewhat amazed that a woman of Alayna’s caliber would actually deign to pursue further acquaintance with me (not the least because I actually talk like this on a not infrequent basis). So, today I just want to tell you a little bit about Alayna that you might not have picked up yet from our posts.

Back when I was actively looking for someone to spend my life with, I developed a list of seven things that I wanted in a potential spouse: 1) A woman who is devoted to God. 2) A woman who is intelligent. 3) A woman who is compassionate and cares about people. 4) A woman who makes family a priority. 5) A woman who is strong. 6) A woman who is willing to follow me. 7) A woman who is personally and physically beautiful. Alayna fits all of these, and often in ways that I couldn’t have imagined when I made that list.

So, first of all Alayna is a devoted Christian woman who lives out her faith (often better than I do). I tend toward the contemplative side of Christianity. I want to know and understand God, the spiritual world, and how they relate to the Christian life. I am a theologian, a philosopher, and an academic at heart. Alayna is not. Often theological conversation and contemplation are fairly boring to her, but she is able to follow my conversations (more on this later), and she actively chooses to join me in them, even though they aren’t always her interest. Alayna is a doer at heart. She wants to take care of people, to advocate for victims, to take part in the world and live out her beliefs by actually helping me… I often forget to consider actually helping people. In this area she is not only a woman who is devoted to God, but she is a woman who lives out that devotion in areas and ways where I am at my weakest. Drop me into the middle of an argument about the objectivity of truth and the existence of God and I am at home. Drop me into a situation where someone needs to be rescued, healed, protected, or provided for and I struggle. In many ways, Alayna is the opposite. She not only highlights for me my weaknesses and the areas where I most need to improve (which I think is a good thing), but she also helps to fill in those areas.

Second, Alayna is a very intelligent woman. She is, actually, in many ways exactly what I needed and wanted (even if it sometimes drives me crazy). Where I am intelligent and very theoretically inclined, Alayna is intelligent and very practically inclined. Where I am bookish, she is prone to action. Alayna can absolutely follow along and contribute even in academically difficult conversations. She may sometimes need unfamiliar terminology explained, but once the tools are in place she has no trouble understanding and critiquing the underlying concepts. On top of that, she brings an orientation of thought that is not natural for me. This is true both because she is a woman and because she is much more concerned with practical applications than with theoretical structures. Where I want to systematize, organize, and understand, Alayna wants to put into practice, and this is something that is incredibly good for me and that I thoroughly appreciate.

Third, Alayna, loves to take care of people. It’s literally what she does for a living (and she makes significantly more money than I do without seeing that as in any way relating to my worth… …education does not pay well at the moment). Not only this, but she cares about people over caring about her job. Not so long ago Alayna was asked to leave a job because she did the right thing. I honestly cannot explain how proud of her I was when this happened. She put the interests of the person in her care above the request of a superior. I might add that the way she handled this situation is also a part of why she has the job she does now (which is actually a better job in, as far as I can tell, every way). Often, Alayna cares more than I think I really comprehend, and this is something that I find not only very attractive, but also very respectable. Even if we weren’t engaged I would be honored to have the chance to know her. She is, ultimately, a woman of high moral caliber.

Fourth, Alayna is thoroughly devoted to her friends and family. She is, without doubt, the most loyal person that I have ever met. Again, this is not only something that I value, but something that complements me well and pulls me back to center. I tend to be more generally universal, and often prone to universalizing love. Lest I be misunderstood in what I am about to say, I do not mean to say that Alayna only cares about her family and close friends. Obviously, from what I just said above, this is not true. However, she has a very strong sense of priorities and whenever I am prone to ‘love the neighbor’ to abstraction and attempt to say that Christians should love everyone equally and in the same way (which is neither theologically true nor practically possible) she pulls me back to center. She points out that God comes first, family comes second, friends third, community fourth, and strangers come after that in order of association; as opposed to God first, everyone else second on an equal footing. This means that I can and should prioritize the people nearest to me who I can and should love best rather than trying to fix poverty in Africa (which I know relatively little about and can have at best small impact upon) to the exclusion of my family.

Fifth, Alayna is an incredibly strong woman. She is as stubborn and willful as I am. This means that when we come to loggerheads it can go on for quite some time. However, it also means that I cannot simply run her over (which I have a bad habit of doing to people accidentally), and it means that I have to actually consider her perspective, which is often beneficial for me. Further, this means that I can trust her to handle things well. Already, I’ve seen Alayna handle some incredibly difficult situations. I’ve seen her struggle, I’ve seen her fight, and I’ve seen her break. We all break sometimes, but I tend to describe people as either hard or malleable. There are people who are easy to break and easy to fix, people who change easily. These people are often very easy to steer back to the right course when they get off it, but they are also very easy to steer off of it, and sometimes they can’t handle much. Then there are people that are hard. They don’t change direction easily. They struggle, fight, and trying to steer them onto a different course is generally like trying to fight a hurricane. It can be very hard or even impossible to get these people back onto the right course if they go astray. However, once on the right course its very difficult to get them off of it. Alayna is definitely the latter, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sixth, I know, and have seen several times now, that as strong as Alayna is, when it comes down to brass tacks she’ll follow me. She can see when I’ve come to the end of my rope, and inevitably when I am she stops fighting. I’m not going to say that this always has or always will be good for her. I am far from perfect, and my leadership isn’t always well-considered. However, ultimately I know that Alayna trusts me, and that’s what it comes down to. The more stringently she fights about something, the more important I know it is. Sometimes she’s right and sometimes she’s wrong, and the same is true for me. However, her willingness to submit consistently amazes me and sometimes confounds me. I am impressed by the strength she shows and her willingness to fight for what she thinks is best, and I am humbled by the way that she trusts me and is willing to follow my decisions even when she doesn’t agree with them. Further, I’m blessed by her willingness to be gracious when I am wrong and should have heeded her wisdom.

Seventh, I know you’ve never seen a picture of her, but Alayna is a very beautiful woman. She has a beautiful, engaging personality, and beyond that she has a very… let’s say culturally suitable physique. Honestly, I’m not going to try to describe her because I never do her justice, but if you follow this link she’s somewhere between the supermodel type (1980s) and the post-modern type (2000s). This is actually probably going to embarrass her, but my point is this: I thought I’d be alone… or at best wind up with a cutish woman. Alayna is a beautiful woman.

So, I’ve no doubt that you have a list of your own. This is the best advice that I can give you: keep it simple, keep it short, and keep it focused on qualities of character rather than on specifics. I know too many people whose lists include things like ‘big muscles’, ‘likes How I Met Your Mother (or insert similar interest)’, ‘has a porsche’, ‘thinks dead baby jokes are funny’, ‘blonde’, or ‘[blank] breast size’. These are stupid ways to pick someone to spend the rest of your life with. Over the next thirty years your interests will change, your appearance will change (probably drastically), you sense of humor will change, your social status will change, your possessions with change, etc, etc, etc. Pick someone with similar beliefs, similar goals, similar priorities, and a high quality of character. Further, pick someone who compliments you, who fills in your weaknesses, or who accentuates your strengths. Ultimately, pick someone who makes you a better person, and who you make a better person – and don’t settle for only one of the two.

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