I am single.
There are moments when the longing for marriage rips through me like the worst pain. At other points I am grateful beyond words as I watch the struggle and the stretch of marriage until it often snaps and breaks a household in two. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in NYC, boldly claims how Americans have a deep rooted idol of romance. I think it’s true as I observe from the outside. As I have rethought marriage since my twenties, I am more aware that it is meant to be about the Kingdom of God, not the completion of an incomplete life. But over and over again, I have bought into the lie that a woman is not quite snapped in place until she is walking down the aisle on the way to “happy ever after.”
Picture perfect couples with polished, perfect kids hang as the backdrop for most Target advertisements, Verizon posters and the covers on the magazines at the checkout line at the food store. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I just notice these types of images everywhere since I’m single and childless. I am quite sure I’m not the only one. Those who are raising kids on their own, those whose marriages fell apart too early, those whose marriages survive, but only by a thread…these people probably notice the facade of these posters. Most of us were hoping for the flawless Shutterfly snapshot to crop for the Christmas card. It never came. Or maybe it did but it didn’t tell the truth. In the end, I’m guessing it never came for anyone. Now, I’m not trying to be a pessimist. Dreams do come true. People fall in love. The laughter of children chasing each other around outside does lift the soul. But marriage is a sign-post. It’s not the goal. It’s not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It can appear like it to most who peer in from the outside or subject themselves to the Pinterest Wedding Board, but God designed it for a larger purpose than our own self-satisfaction. Marriage was never meant to satisfy.
Some followers of Jesus asked Him pointedly if there would be marriage in Heaven. He told them “no.” Throughout Scripture it is clear that God values marriage, but like anything good, it can wrongfully take a primary place. Psychology Today ran an article on how Americans have false expectations about marriage, and these expectations are causing great harm to relationships (https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201003/the-expectations-trap). One comment early on in this article affirms Tim Keller’s insight:
”’Americans value marriage more than people do in any other culture, and it holds a central place in our dreams. Over 90 percent of young adults aspire to marriage—although fewer are actually choosing it, many opting instead for cohabitation. But no matter how you count it, Americans have the highest rate of romantic breakup in the world’, says Andrew J. Cherlin, professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins.”
Throughout the rest of the article, which I would encourage everyone to read, the 21st century American marriage is described. We have become a nation who seeks marriage primarily as a means of personal fulfillment. This becomes rather messy. Normal frustrations are considered a crisis. When a partner doesn’t meet his spouse’s needs they think it means there was a mismatch of people. Unfortunately most of us suffer from a fallacious view of marriage.
Life gets complicated when we substitute THE primary goal for any secondary goal. “But seek FIRST the Kingdom of God…” When marriage or singleness is about the Kingdom it takes its right place, and eternal things happen on earth as they do in heaven. When marriage is about personal satisfaction it is a set up for disappointment.
Now that I am older I can see the sacrifice, the selflessness, the endurance and the humility that are birthed out of the beauty of Kingdom-minded marriage. When I see that, I know I am staring at a sign-post directing me straight to Jesus who has withstood every attempt I have made to sabotage His love.
Dawn graduated from Messiah College with a degree in English and went on to get her master’s degree in Christian Counseling at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She presently works as a counselor and teacher in the high school at Covenant Day School in Matthews, NC and in her spare time likes to read, write and teach Bible studies. For the last 15 years her passion has been to mentor young women in life and Scripture. Dawn’s blog may be seen here: www.dawnfromphilly.blogspot.com.