Several months ago. while talking about my upcoming marriage, an encouraging friend said, “It’s amazing. You’ve had to wait all this time. And this whole time God had this plan and person for you.” I just kind of grinned. After 20 years of singleness in the Church, I’ve heard it all.
You know he might be right, but if he is then we’ve got a God who has changed his mind about marriage.
Here’s what I mean. If we play out that there is one person for you from the beginning and that God has a plan to bring you a perfect Christian soulmate, then God has changed His mind about how to deliver it.
It seems that early on God wanted us to grow up and get married at about 14. Now this makes some sense. I mean we hit puberty in our early teens (or earlier) so let’s do this deal. Besides, you might only live to 40 so all the more reason.
But it gets better. God also decided that for centuries he would deliver this soulmate through arranged marriages. Now before you get in your head the perfect scenario for this where all parents are believers and they only hook you up with the hot chick, think again and ask yourself if you’d like your parents to pick your spouse for you when you were about 10. As the song goes, “At 3 I started Hebrew school, at 10 I learned a trade. I hear they’ve picked a bride for me, I hope, she’s pretty. . . Tradition.”
Not only that, but this was only done within your caste. God didn’t want anyone to marry up or down economically or socially. He just wanted the deal done.
But then God decided that in the “New World” things would be different. Each person should now go and find their own spouse and everyone would have full right of refusal. (Unless you were a woman who kind of had to say yes to someone because you couldn’t get a job).
But God wasn’t done. Not by a long shot. He decided that even though he had this perfect person “planned” for you, that he wouldn’t be revealing that right away. Now early on, he only made you wait until you were 18-23 (after all, He had already pushed back adulthood by 4 years – he was just getting started).
God enjoyed holding out on us so much that He decided to keep pushing the limit. In fact over the last 40 years He has been dropping the amount of people to receive the “great reveal” before the age of 29 by about a percentage point per year so that now in 2013 only 20% of those people currently receive this revelation.
To sum up God’s “plan”, if you were born 500 years ago He revealed your “one” to your parents when you were a kid. If you were born 100 years ago He revealed to you by 20. And now, He’ll reveal it to 1 in 5 of us by 29.
Is that the message we want to send single people? Because essentially when we drop the “God has someone for you, just wait on it”, that is what we are saying.
Here’s the truth, this whole idea is way more about western culture affecting theology than the other way around. But worse, when we combine it with our culture, it sets up to fail, both in finding a spouse and in staying married.
I believe that marriage was meant to be a calling and a choice. So is staying married. Like any other calling you can of course walk away from it.
But this idea of having to find God’s one person that is perfect for me is a crazy way to go about singleness, even if it were to be true.
Among a myriad of other problems, it helps turn us into consumer daters. We end up looking for this person that fits whatever we think God would have for us. Right away we are in trouble. I mean find the person who says, “God has this person planned for me who doesn’t meet all my needs and has all these personal issues”. At the very least, if you are going to believe that God has one person for you to marry, flip the script. In other words ask who you are perfect for instead of who is perfect for you. That will get you a step closer to truth – Heck, that’d I’d maybe buy.
Look, I’m not suggesting that we go back to having our parents marry us off at 14. We don’t live in that culture. We live in this one. I’m also not saying God doesn’t bring people into our lives because I know for sure that He does. What I am saying is that we need to quit treating our singleness as if God is the Great Witholder and I just need to be good, and wait out this person He currently refuses to reveal to me.
God’s main plan is for us to know and walk with Him. That is our first calling and vow. After that we need to ask, are we called to celibacy or marriage? Then we need to pursue that calling with God, figuring out stuff that gets in the way. We in the Church to stop giving out sleep at night theology and help people do those three things.
I think some of the problem lies with our western Christian society’s theology of Glory. The erroneous concept that good things are supposed to happen to good people. Marriage and Singleness are just two more areas where our consumer theology demands instant gratification our an acceptable explanation for why we needed to wait. “Delivery time was extended because the product was so unique…..” Thanks for writing this blog….
I think American culture, in particular, but maybe Christian culture, too, refuses the idea of tragedy. The Greeks and Romans knew and understood tragedy. There was as much tragedy as there was comedy, if not more. But Christian culture never seemed to grapple with tragedy – if bad things happen, it’s your fault, not the fault of the Fates, etc. The Christian God is never supposed to deal out tragedy.
The American tendency to assume that everything *should* be happy and perfect, and that if it’s not something is wrong with you, is very tiring. I think that being single is wrapped up with this idea that you’ve done something wrong to be at that point.
And yes, the platitudes are the worst. “Everything happens for a reason.” “Just wait and it will be fine.”
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