Saturday, 14 December 2013


Post = After
Paradoxi = Paradoxes

These two words signify for me that a certain period of my life has ended. 
Last year was my greatest battle yet (being a Westerner it probably wasn't that much of a struggle compared to a lot of people's suffering, but it was still excruciating for me). 
I was, as I have been for years, waiting in expectation for "the one" to come along. The woman who the Lord would give to me and who would match me in every possible way, the one who is destined to be my wife. 

To cut a long story short, I met the one. Or I thought I did. I was 99% convinced and even though I don't remember saying that I can't imagine any alternatives (I thought things like that before), I was not willing to let it go even when the answer from her was a definite no.
I was devastated. I remember being in my room one day and I felt physically sick. It felt like there was poison in my veins and I couldn't get it out. I know this all sounds a bit ridiculous, but for a person who has always had this longing to getting married, this was rather hard to take in. I felt confused. I described this whole situation as a paradox, because I couldn't understand why God would put this girl in my path who seemed perfect for me and yet nothing was going to happen.
But thank the Lord that I had to go through this! For however painful it may have been, it produced good fruit! I think it definitely made me grow closer to God, but I believe He also used this time to transform my ideas concerning marriage. This is what I'd like to share with you.

James 1: 2-7

See, I now believe that the idea of "the one" is actually a rather unhelpful one. Biblically there is no real evidence that God determines everyone's romantic future and so if you are to get married there will be this one person He has appointed. After hearing a sermon on 1 Corinthians 7 and having a few personal experiences myself I eventually realized that this whole concept is slightly absurd. 
As Tim Keller has pointed out, our Western culture is obsessed with the idea of 'apocalyptic love'. This manifests in all the romantic comedies where a couple meets in a perfect way, falls in love and after a few troubles everything works out and they live happily ever after. This is the message of every single Disney film. I'm not having a go at these movies (I do like romantic comedies and I did have a crush on Rapunzel in Tangled), but what I'm suggesting is that part of their underlying message is unhelpful to us as Christians.
If we read 1 Corinthians 7 and indeed all the other passages in the New Testament concerning marriage, none of them ever mention anything about someone being "chosen" for you by God. In fact, Paul says to the widows "A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord." 1 Corinthians 7:39 
The only story I can think of in the entire Bible about God choosing someone specific to be given in marriage is the story of Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24). But I would advise anyone against thinking that this is the usual pattern for marriage, because there is nothing to back up that claim. Just as there are many events in Acts which are descriptive, not prescriptive, this could be the same here. In the case of Isaac and Rebekah it was the history of Israel in question and  it makes sense that God would decide to interfere directly. Since the pinnacle of Israel's history is Christ and His work on the cross has been accomplished, I think it is safe to say that nowadays God would not normally act in such a way when it comes to marriage.
The idea of "the one" also causes some serious issues. Very simply put, if a widow remarries three times then she's had three husbands. Did she then meet 'the three'? Or if there are serious troubles in a marriage does that mean they should have married someone else?
Instead of this ambiguous term, I think it is much more sane and much more Biblical to believe that God gives us the freedom of choice in who we marry or indeed if we marry at all. This is not to say that you should not take care as to who to marry (as Paul says "he must belong to the Lord") , but I believe it is less about right and wrong and much more about making wise decisions. God will not normally chose who we marry. Don't get me wrong, I also believe that God is absolutely in control of the universe and He has already planned everything. But I think when it comes to our marital status, for most of us He includes our choices in His plan and doesn't necessarily determine them.

What does this all mean for me as a single man? It means I'm free. Paradox resolved. Ever since I started thinking this way my emotions seem to be lighter. Before, every time I was rejected I felt like my whole world has been destroyed. Now, I'm not saying that I don't struggle with my feelings anymore and that I wouldn't get sad if I'm rejected (though thankfully that hasn't happened for a year!). But perhaps I'm less prone to fall into a deep depression like I did in the past. 
This world will pass very soon and so will marriage. Ultimately it doesn't matter if you end up marrying someone or you stay single for the rest of your life, because if you trust in Christ for your forgiveness of sins and therefore have eternal life in the here and now and in the world to come, then you have everything you need. As a Christian, both marriage and singleness are good gifts from God and can be used for His glory. Yes, Paul says that it is better to stay single but from what I've learned from the pulpit, I think he means it is better for spreading the gospel, simply because you have more time and you do not have to commit to your family. But I don't think this means that singleness is more holy or that marriage is second best.
I think the most important thing to grasp is that marriage should not be an ultimate thing in your life. "Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this." 1 Cor 7:25-28

This is why I think the idea of "the one" is unhelpful. It creates the impression that you have to wait for this person God will give who will satisfy and complete you. You start thinking that when this person comes along your life will be so much better and you will feel more loved. Suddenly all those failed romantic experiences you had will be gone and you will live in the sun with a smile on your face until you die. I know what that idea feels like, I've been there. But you know what? It's rubbish. The One is Jesus Christ. No one else. No one else can make you feel content. No one else can satisfy you. So what's the point of waiting around for a wife or a husband?

I must mention something here because I do not want to be hypocritical. I believe all of the above but I still very much struggle with being single. I think this is partly because I have a massive desire for romance and to be with a woman. I look for people. All the time. I'm always debating whether a certain person is suitable for me. I have a new celebrity crush every month. So, it's not like 'I have arrived' or anything (the gift of singleness is not a superpower over emotion, it's the blessing of receiving God's grace in that state). But the point is that now I no longer fear the idea of being single. It would be painful. But it's not the end of the world.

So in the end, if a woman comes along who I fall in love with and its mutual then let's go for it! But if not, then I'm still a child of God, still just as valuable. I don't have to wait in expectation for anyone, I only wait for Christ's return. Yes, Father I really really really want a wife. But the point is, I want one, I don't NEED one. There is a huge difference.
Indeed, true freedom is only found in Jesus Christ! May He be praised forever! Amen.


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