Saturday, September 02, 2006

Wanting marriage

Thank you to unfurgling flower for this lovely article.

With marriage being one of God’s great gifts, and so many longing for it ourselves, why are we ashamed or embarrassed sometimes to admit to wanting it? Maybe a friend or relative or stranger asks you, “What do you want to do in life?” and you rather bashfully reply, “Well, I want to get married.” Why is it we can get responses like, “Er, oh, that’s nice…”, “OK. But when you’re a bit older and have lived a bit and ready to settle down right?”, “Married? OK, but what do you really want to do with your life?”, or something similar like a rolling of the eyes at our childlike fantasy of being swept up off our feet.
It’s crazy how culture changes over time. Up until as late as the 1950’s, you were simply expected to marry – no question about it – and by the time you were in your twenties. But now, we have a culture that dismisses marriage and does not esteem it like it used to, and a lack of tools such as families to help facilitate the transition from boyhood and girlhood to adulthood and marriage. Nowadays, delaying marriage in order to stay single, ‘free’ and to ‘really live’, is looked upon and admired – even in the church.
But those of us who are single but are not called to celibacy (i.e. if we desire to get married and share our life with a spouse) get confused with the 1 Corinthians 7 passage, thinking that singleness is a gift just like marriage. The truth is that actually in that passage Paul is referring to the gift of celibacy, a rare gift at that, and so if we do not have that gift then we are to assume marriage. Marriage is a divine duty to all of us as we reach adulthood, where we are meant to use our teenage years for preparing the responsibilities of being a husband or wife and father or mother. But of course, we have this unhealthy extended adolescence going on amongst the young adult population – even Christians – and therefore people aren’t ready for marriage until later than they should be.
But why is it that, during our single years, if we’re not called to celibacy we feel some sort of embarrassment or less spiritual admitting to wanting to get married? I think one of the reasons is the myth that somehow we have to be perfectly content in our singleness – that is, being happy with that state and not feeling any need for marriage – otherwise we will seem less spiritually mature. This tends to stem from the whole ‘Jesus is my Husband and He fulfils me completely’ notion – which does of course have some truth, as in the book of Isaiah, God says to us that He is our Husband. But the point is that why would God create marriage and a desire for a spouse within us, when He could just satisfy that need anyway? For those of us called to marry, He’s not supposed to! God is not meant to be a substitute for a husband or wife if we are called to marry a human.
The thing is that many of us singles (and I have been as guilty of this as anyone) think that we are more spiritual if we cover up the desire for marriage by saying, “I am content in my singleness. Marriage can just happen when it happens. I’m not fussed – all I need is Jesus anyway,” even when deep down we know we want a spouse very much. We give off this impression of super-spirituality because all our time and affection is undivided and given to Jesus, and so therefore we must love Him more than married people do.
But hang on, what did Jesus define as truly loving Him? Did he say, “The one who loves Me the most is the single person who has exclusive affections for Me?” No, he said, “The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me” (John 14:21 AMP). And what is one of His commands, the first one He gave to the first humans? It was to take on the responsibility of marriage. We shouldn’t be ashamed about wanting marriage! We shouldn’t feel less spiritual about praying for a husband or wife for ourselves (or for other people – that’s a pretty good thing to do!), or about not feeling totally content in our singleness.
Now of course, on the flip side, we must keep in mind the realities about marriage. We must not let marriage become a fantasy or think of it in any selfish way; marriage is about sacrifice and giving of love, and the joy it brings is a by-product of that. We must also not be consumed by wanting or searching for a husband or wife – for our ultimate priority here on earth is not to get married but to become more like Christ. At the same time though, we can’t just expect a spouse to fall into our lap – as well as trusting in the Lord and being patient, we also need to be proactive (men especially) to the appropriate extent.
Another thing to remember is that our value certainly does not depend on being married or single – it comes from being made in the image of God and bought by the blood of Jesus Christ – and therefore we are not to see ourselves as less of a human being if we are single. At the end of the day, human love never provides the ultimate fulfilment – God does.
So what are we, as singles called to marriage, to do in the meantime? Well, firstly we need to stop being ashamed of desiring to get married and stop trying to make ourselves seem spiritual by just accepting our single state and trying to be content with it.
Secondly I believe we need to see that although God doesn’t (necessarily) will for us to be single when we should actually be getting married, we will have times of singleness because of the way our culture works and He can use those times for great purposes. Live in the present – serve God and the church, get to know Him better and depend your relationship with Him (which you will continue to do in marriage), cultivate friendships, develop talents and skills, practise love with others, channel your free time while you still have it into things that you are passionate about. Pretty much all of these things will have eternal significance and will also help train you for marriage.
And thirdly, I really feel that the whole church should be involved in helping marriages happen, by teaching on the biblical truths about marriage and singleness, providing opportunities and safe environments for singles to get to know each other, training boys and girls up to be husbands & fathers and wives & mothers, and the like.
Remember, the way we view marriage and singleness will determine our actions, and our actions will affect generations after us – so let’s think about it correctly and biblically, and let’s play our part in restoring marriage to our generation and generations beyond


Blogger Captain Sensible said...

You are so, so, so right!
Have you read Debbie Maken's Getting Serious About Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness.
If not, you really should! And please join the revolution!

3:18 PM  

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