CHICAGO - A friend recently asked me the question "What gives you hope?". It came up during a discussion about my outlook on marriage. I expressed that I don't have a pull to get married, and in fact I don't suspect that it is God's will for me to do so in the foreseeable future, and likely ever. It struck me that what my friend was really expressing through this question was his view that without a spouse I was facing a future of uncertainty, loneliness and incompleteness; that I was somehow falling short of God's plan for His children.
It has been my observation that the church in general does a rather poor job of expressing God's gift of singleness to people. Christians often make assumptions that singleness is a temporary condition. Temporary in that, under "normal" circumstances, it is only to be experienced while one seeks out that significant person to join with in marriage. This attitude implies that marriage is the highest of callings and leaves singleness as some sort of inferior state of existence. I also see the idea expressed, often subtly, that upon reaching a certain age, one who is still single must be in that situation because they are somehow damaged, are sinful, or otherwise "broken". Even those well intentioned phrases of referring to one's spouse as "my other half", or the statement that the marriage partner "completes me" further perpetuates this myth of single people being somehow only half a person or incomplete...
While singleness certainly has its own pitfalls, I have often found that the overwhelming pressure on people to marry as a way to find wholeness and maturity often borders on idolatry. By implying that the sign of a healthy and mature person is a happy marriage, or even just a marriage at all, we lead people into finding their own self-value and wholeness in a spouse and not in Christ:
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10 ESV)
Charles Spurgeon summarized Col 2:10 as "Ye are complete in Him!". It seems to me that it is only by realizing that it is by our union with Christ by grace through faith, (Eph 2:8) that we are able to truly offer ourselves to another in marriage. As long as one or both parties are seeking their own completeness in the other, the marriage is likely to be one filled with disappointments, struggle, and false hopes which arise out of a lack of trust and poor understanding of our position in Christ. He alone can (and will) satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. (Jn 4:13-14).
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