Are You Good Enough For Marriage?

When I was in high school and college, one of the things that I battled with constantly was the idea that I wasn’t “good enough”.  I battled this in almost every area of my life.  I saw myself as decent, but not great at pretty much everything.  The things that I did care about (sports for example) I worked my tail off to become great.  But I never saw myself as arriving at greatness.

Nowhere was this more true than with the opposite sex.  I was constantly in the friend zone with the girls that I liked.  I thought I was physically not attractive enough.  Later I thought I wasn’t making enough money.  The list goes on.  One of my go to thoughts was, “I’m just not good enough.”

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Charlize Theron, Tim Tebow, and The Single Christian

So recently Charlize Theron stated in an interview that she was shockingly single.  She said she was available and that someone just needed to grow a pair (Christian leaders would say “Man Up”) and ask her out.

As soon as I saw this story I started laughing.  I laughed for two reasons.  First, I knew that a bunch of people would ask her out through various means and second, that she was completely full of it.

And . . . that is exactly what happened.  A good looking man from Kansas City (shout out to my home town) sent in a video asking her out.  She signed a picture for him.  Uh yeah, not what he had in mind.  You can see both her original statement and the guy asking her out in this video here.  It’s great.

There is so much great material here it could probably be 5 posts but I’m going to break it down in one and look at what we can learn from it.

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Look For A One, Not The One

I want to continue today to respond to a message from Al Mohler.  I’m using several posts for this because I believe that a lot of what Mohler is saying is representative of the kind of things that church leaders believe and teach.  It’s not a Mohler problem.  It’s our problem. To his credit – at least he flat out says it.

We’ve talked previously of the idea that our walk with Jesus is seen through the lens of marriage mainly and how that makes the nuclear family an idol as well as how using young men as the scapegoat of our society is not right and obviously not working.

Today I want to address a smaller part of Mohler’s statement that leads to total confusion and frustration in the Church’s singles.

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A Good God And Singleness

In my last post I shared some thoughts in response to what Scott Sauls wrote at Relevant’s site about why we in the Church focus so much on the nuclear family.  The focus of that post was to point out that we need to focus on God’s family not the nuclear family.  Simply saying that the nuclear family is not the savior or necessary for salvation is not a good enough starting point.

Today, I want to talk about the idea that God is running every aspect of our dating lives.

I want to again say that I’m not trying to go after Scott but simply saying that what he writes, while better than what a lot of Church leaders are doing, is frankly not enough.  I believe he represents what many people in leadership are thinking.  There are assumptions here that I believe are at best short sighted.

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Spouse or Robot?

This last weekend I was leading a discussion that centered around the idea of that we are not to be OF the world.  In the world yes, but not of it.  We were discussing 1 John 2:15-17 which tells us not to love the world.  But if we are not to love the world, then we have to know what the world or “Spirit of the Age” is.  If we don’t name it, then it is very easy to get lulled to sleep and passively get sucked into being a part of it.  We came up with three Spirits of the Age: Busyness, Tolerance (which really means accepting anything as truth) and Consumerism.

As I’m sure you can figure out, these worldly trends have a huge impact on us when it comes to singleness, dating and marriage.  Now I’ll spend some time on each of these in different ways in the following weeks but for today, I just want to mess with us a little in case you think these things aren’t impacting where we are going.

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The Big Decision

A little while back I was leading a small group discussion about sex and dating as it relates to working with adolescents.  Various ages of people were in the group.  Let’s call it 19-30. None of them were married (which makes sense because 80% of people in that age range aren’t).

It’s always interesting to me in these type of conversations to see what people talk about. Two things almost always rise to the surface.  First is that everyone knows that sex outside of marriage is wrong.  That message in the church is pretty clear.

But the second thing that always comes out is that people are lost on most everything else. No one knows what to do as far as dating and marriage and the messages are so mixed that confusion reigns.

The church’s message and the worlds message has become completely entangled.  The church thinks it’s being different, but really they are mostly being confusing – except of course for the sex part.

We are ok at telling people what to do in marriage.  Not great, but ok.  But my goodness our message to the unmarried is crazy.

We leave celibacy out completely which creates a giant vacuum in the conversation.  Most protestants don’t even know what it means.  We then assign the gift of singleness to all the unmarried people.  This of course screws over both those who have the gift and those who don’t.

But today I want to tackle and maybe cut through a different point of confusion.

This starts with the idea that we can avoid divorce or marriage disfunction by choosing the perfect person to marry, otherwise known as the “one” God has for us.  This of course creates the fear of choosing wrong.  So the goal is to get married – but only to the right person.

I can remember being taught (and teaching) that the second biggest decision you will ever make is who you marry.  The biggest decision of course was what you do with Jesus.

I get the point of this platitude.  You can add in all the other things we get told along this line as singles.  “Better to be alone than marry the wrong person”, “God will bring you the right one at the right time.”  I could go on, but you get the idea.

The idea here is seek marriage but be really careful.  There is truth in that.  But taken even a little to far it moves from caution to fear and/or unfair standards.

Here’s what I mean.  If we are waiting for THE ONE then we start getting into our heads what that ONE should be like and anyone who doesn’t match that we dismiss.  That leads to this weird sort of consumer dating where people are really good for us, but they just aren’t the right one.

But maybe worse, I think we have created a false fear.  We end up creating this huge pressure situation.  I mean if the second biggest decision ever, for all time, is the person you marry – how can you be sure you are making the right decision?

Let me offer a different view.

First, there is not THE ONE – or any of her cousins (the right one, God’s one, the one for me, my soulmate, the perfect match, the one God has for me, etc…)

Second, marriage is a choice – a decision.  But who you marry is only a part of that choice. Here’s what I mean.  You make a decision that you are called to be married.  In other words you are not called to celibacy. Then there is a decision to pursue that.  Then there are the qualifiers that you are looking for – the type of person.

Now when you stand in front at your wedding you get to make another choice. That is you make vows before God to this other person.  Now this actually is the big decision, regardless of who is standing there.  Marriage is not a contract. There is a legal contract but that really is irrelevant in some ways.  Marriage is meant to be a covenant and sacrament before God.

When you say these vows you are choosing to make a promise.  You are deciding that you will love, honor and cherish this person no matter what and in all circumstances.  Once you make that decision now you get to make a series of decisions over the rest of your life – the choice of whether or not to honor those vows – regardless of what else happens.  And you get to make that BIG decision over and over again.

Love is a choice – a decision.  Feeling love isn’t.  Attraction isn’t.  But love is. Otherwise God wouldn’t be able to command it.  No where in the bible does God command a feeling.

The funny thing is that until recently in history, a lot of times people didn’t really get to choose who they married.  Most of them were teenagers.  And yet everything in the scripture about marriage was true for them.  They were called to the biblical principles of marriage.  They had to choose whether or not to follow them.  Same deal today.

We get to choose who we marry.  It is a big deal and it is a powerful picture of both choosing someone and being chosen.  But it’s only part of an endless series of decisions. It isn’t the final decision and when we make it that we are setting ourselves up for failure, both as singles and as marrieds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Marry Someone You “Need”

A few months ago while speaking at a church, someone asked the question, “Should you marry someone you can live with, or wait to marry someone you can’t live without?”

Here is the short answer to that question.  If you are single, you are living without that person now.  Therefore you have already proven that there is no one that you can’t live without.

This question is so key though because it gets at the heart of one of the reasons in our culture that our our marriage rate is falling.  It’s the idea that we must wait for our soulmate, this perfect person who God created just for us.  We are to wait for the “right” one.  The one who will not be perfect (of course we say, no one is perfect) but the perfect one for us.

I’ve written extensively about the idea of the ONE and the Christian soulmate.  These are false ideas to begin with.  But today I want to take a bit of a different angle.

I firmly believe that you should not go into marriage with the idea that you can’t live without that person.  Here are some reasons why.

First and foremost your identity has to be in Christ and not in another person.

One night when my wife and I were engaged we had a funny conversation kind of about this.  I was 40 and she was 34 and as we were discussing this very idea she said, “I could marry you today and you could be run over tomorrow.  What happens then?”  In other words she was saying if her whole identity was in me then she’d be done.  She was exactly right.

Now granted we had a little different perspective as we’d already lived a long time without each other (which presents its own challenges).  But I think this is extremely healthy.  When we put our identity in another person we are setting ourselves up.  In a sense, we end up making an idol out of the other person.

This is one of the big problems with the idea of The One.  The only ONE is God.  God is the one that we “need”.

When we set a person up as someone that we need, we can’t love them because we give them too much power over us.  It screws up our perspective.  We start looking to this person to fulfill needs they can’t.  We look to them to answer our core questions such as “am I lovable?” “Do I matter?” “Am I worth it?” “Am I valuable?” “Do I have what it takes?” These type of questions can’t be answered by a person, only by God.  And only when I have those questions answered by God am I actually free to love anyone the way God commands us to – in other words the way God loves us.

God doesn’t need us.  This is what makes His love trustworthy.  He doesn’t love us because of anything we do for Him.  Think about that.  To really love someone is to love them just because, not because of what they do for us.  Otherwise love is conditional.  The marriage vows are not conditional.  In fact, quite the opposite, they are vows that are supposed to stand regardless of the conditions.

Really if we marry someone with the attitude of not being able to live without them, we are sort of marrying under compulsion instead of making a choice.  I believe that marriage is a choice.

Ideally we would move into the marriage covenant out of love for the other person.  We know that we can indeed live without them, but we choose not to.  We choose instead to freely enter into a covenant with them.

If we enter into marriage with the idea that we can’t live without the other person, what happens if ten years in, we realize, “wait a minute, I can live without this person.”  What happens if all of a sudden I don’t feel like I “need” that person?

Really what it comes down to is that we should marry someone that we don’t need but that we want to marry.  This reflects God’s love for us.

To me, to be loved is to be chosen.  God doesn’t need us.  He isn’t sitting around thinking that He can’t live without us.  He lived without us forever in the past.  He could live without us forever in the future.  But He chose to create us.  Jesus chose to come after us.  He chose to die for us.  He doesn’t need us – He WANTS us.  He is 100% committed to us even though we aren’t always 100% committed to Him.  How amazing is that?

At it’s best, and at it’s core, marriage is meant to be a reflection of that.  I don’t need that person, but out of love I choose them regardless of what happens to them or what they do. And they don’t need me, but out of love they choose me, regardless of what happens to me or what I do.  That friends is marriage.