Looking Towards Marriage
We live in a world constantly tempting us to believe instant gratification as the norm. Our coffee and food is expedient, transactions happen at the click of a button, and it seems I get what I want whenever I want no matter what it is. This being true, we might fall prey to approaching marriage primarily influenced by this mentality. It might be seen both as something I can get because I want it, and something I get to have when/how I want it. I find these problematic, while also at the same time being guilty of believing both.
Having been single for 26 years and growing up in the church, I confess I’ve put marriage on a pedestal many times, expecting those previous presuppositions to be fulfilled. During my college years, the phrase when I get married … evolved to if I get married … to the question will I get married? and I began to realize the trophy it had become in my life. Not relieved by friends and family, it was usually quite the opposite – especially with the phrase ‘do you have a boyfriend yet?’ chiming in my ears, or the tag line at the bottom of my mother’s e-mails saying ‘keep your eye out for that special someone.’ These left a bitter taste in my mouth. Often the church was no better, heralding marriage as a goal for all to seek, and seemed almost to be a promise as the result of good behavior and self-control. As one after another of my friends met their spouses, I thought, sure – I could be happy for them to be married, but when was it my turn?
Whoah. My turn? Since when did God make promises of marriage in exchange for being Christian? Since when was I entitled to a relationship? Since when was I looking to God for some form of fulfillment to be presented to me in another human being (for clarity, not Jesus)? This. Was. A. Problem.
Thus began a season of repentance in my life. Perhaps timely following after Jill’s lenten post, I needed to release some ideas I had about marriage, and put on the altar the idol I’d made of relationship. My eyes were opened to the reality of singleness in everyone’s lives at one time or another (many are widowed, divorced, or never marry). My heart was humbled by the truth that I need to seek wholeness in God, and not in someone else’s love for me. This has been a process, and something I still need to keep in check.
After coming to those conclusions, and now being engaged preparing for marriage in T minus 5 months, I feel my approach to relationship is less idolatrous and a bit more … thankful. This opportunity to share my life with someone is a gift. I would argue Adam probably felt the same way about Eve, surprised by his good fortune. And now as my fiancé and I look toward marriage together, our attitudes can be a little less ‘what’s in it for me’ and a little more ‘how can I bless you?’
Paul shares some advice, helpful on this topic. His words in the letter to the Philippians read,
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Phil 2:1-4)
While he speaks to a crowd of faithful individuals pursuing the spread of the gospel in Philippi, he speaks to all of us who look to be in relationship with one another. Our posture should not be about gain, but about blessing. Not about a reward that is deserved, but about a grace that is received without earning. He goes on to urge us to have the ‘mind of Christ’, which among other things is wildly sacrificial in the most inconvenient of circumstances (a difficult concept in relationships, if you’ve ever tried winning an argument).
As I look towards marriage, it is a daunting and exciting prospect which bodes to be full of vulnerability, risk, discovery, and joy (among other things). And when I sacrifice my selfish desires and ambitions before God, I’m much more open to see what he has before me. The reality is much better than all my culturally formed expectations could conceive.
Whether you are looking towards marriage with a ring on your finger, someone in your heart, or no prospects at all, I hope you have first given the idea up to God. It’s easier said than done, I know that for sure, and in all honestly continues to be a daily practice. But moving forward in thankfulness for what God has given tastes much better than the bitter root of entitlement.
|Becca Niemeyer (formerly Arrowsmith) grew up in Seattle, WA, under the pretense that she would become a dentist, only to find out God made her to be a pastor. Now she lives in Bellingham, WA working with The INN University Ministries. She invites college students to think about God while also trying to help them integrate faith into their daily lives.|
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