I don’t know why I’ve sat down to write my second post about marriage. I would assume that I have this reserved fear/awe of it that causes me to dabble closely to the thought, while still remaining far enough to speak of it as a distant Cuban cousin (and by “Cuban cousin” I really just mean an obscure family friend). I like to hear the stories, but can’t imagine partaking in it…kinda like the same curiosity most people feel when it comes to the supernatural: we can all sit glued to the screen while watching Paranormal Activity, but if we’re asked to step foot into a demon-infested house, we laugh nervously and respond with a, “Nah, I’m good.” Marriage for the single and not yet dating can be a curiously terrifying thought.
The other day I sat and pondered on the idea of why I’m so deathly afraid of a life-long commitment. For me, it could be for a number of reasons. For one, I’ve been in my share of really crappy relationships (clearly, being that I’m still single). I’ve seemed to make marriage-prospect choices based on emotions and compatibility. But don’t we all? If someone looks good, makes you laugh, can hold a conversation, makes money, and cares about the things you care about (sort of), then we automatically label them “a catch.” Before long we are depositing golden coins into the piggy bank of emotion, hoping to cash it in for a marriage license. We begin planning a future filled with rainbows and butterflies (or in my case, cobble stone streets and antique book stores). That can very well be exciting, but we all know it isn’t reality. In fact, we tend to hear more horror stories than not about marriage, yet we still dive headfirst into romantic endeavors any chance we get.
This leads me to wonder one simple question: why? Why do people get married, anyways? Why are we so quick to commit to deal with someone’s (for lack of a better word) crap for the rest of their earthly lives? For Christians, is it for the physical perks that come with it? For non-Christians, is it because it’s what you’re supposed to do in your mid-to-late twenties? Is marriage some weird, cultural phenomena, or is it just embedded into our very nature?
Now, I am going to argue from a spiritual perspective, because well, I’m a spiritual person (yes, I have been reading way too much C. S. Lewis lately). If we, as followers of Jesus, live our lives on mission for Him, then why should marriage be any different? While we claim to pursue marriage in light of the gospel, truth be told, most (American) Christian marriages resemble the world rather than the Kingdom. We see this reality as we walk through the “Christian” section at bookstores—the shelves are jam-packed with self-help advice on “5 ways to be a Proverbs 31 wife.” Now, your cliché Proverbs 31 wife is a great thing, but as I search Scripture for “marriage advice”, I can’t help but notice that when Paul speaks of it, he does so with the ultimate purpose being that our undivided devotion be to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:35). Whether single or married, this is the point, even arguing to consider not marrying, because at times it can leave us with divided interests—worrying about things other than God, like working overtime to please your spouse. Reading Paul’s counsel leads me to question, “Where in the world did we get this glorified idea that marriage is the end-all, anyway?”
Let’s imagine for a second that instead of basing our marriages off emotion and compatibility, we based them off mission and purpose? Imagine if we chose our spouses based on life-goals and ministry interests?
I’m sure your initial thought upon hearing this is, “well, of course.” But is that usually the case, ever? I’ve had countless conversations with friends about potential future spouses (including myself, before getting into my last relationship) that went through imaginary checklists, “Job? Check. Good social skills? Check. Church involvement? Check. Humor? Check. Good looks? Check. Jesus? Check.”
While we claim that Jesus is our sole purpose of existence on the one hand, He becomes just a “Check” off the marriage list on the other. But what happens when marriage is in full swing, and the once checked “Job” box is scratched off due to the economic market crash? Or the “Humor” box that was once checked is scratched off due to the cancer that robs all your joy? Or what if an almost-fatal car accident, broken church relationship, or death of a child inevitably scratch off the “Good looks,” “Church involvement,” or “Social skills” boxes? What then? Will you just be left with Jesus at that point, trying desperately to hang on to the faint hope of faith? Will He then be your last thread left to cling to in marriage? What happens in marriage when the sex stops being great, the dates become fewer and far between, and life becomes, well life? Will the last checked “Jesus” box be your last resort?
Now, let us go back to my original proposition: imagine if we chose our spouses based off mission, life-goals, and ministry. How would we view marriage, then? If our spouses were relieved from the pressure of having to play the role of perfect husband or wife, would it liberate them to play the role of humble servant of God? If we stopped glorifying marriage as the end-all and started looking at it as a means for more effective ministry, would our marriages gain strength as we walk confidently in our calling?
What if those that were burdened for the unreached didn’t settle for anything less than marrying someone who also had a burden for the unreached? Their marriage mission-statement wouldn’t be each other, but Jesus’ Great Commission…leaving them free to enjoy the perks of marriage without making any of it an idol. Imagine if we stopped giving importance to the butterflies that swarm through our bellies, and started giving importance to Kingdom teamwork?
What if, as Christians, we actually pursued Kingdom-work with our whole hearts and only decided to marry those that, when engaging as a team, make this Kingdom-work more effective?
Dear saint, I invite you to take “feelings and romance” off the golden pedestal that culture has placed it on. I encourage you to seek God’s Kingdom as you pursue your calling, and if you just so happen to run into someone of the opposite sex who can be a life-long team player on your race towards the finish-line, then grab them by the hand and invite them to get to work alongside you. Don’t rob yourself the fullness of joy that can be found in that, for I believe that two, indeed, are better than one…but if and only if the two are working together for the ultimate One.