Sometimes it seems like no progress can be made in life until there is a wedding band on your finger. In the church we have tried to morph marriage into a fairytale cure for all ills. Are you self-centered, immature, discontent, lustful, lazy? Get married, that will change you and finally vanquish these formidable adversaries. We want to apply a circumstantial cure to problems of the heart.
When our story doesn’t seem to be working out on schedule much desperate advice is given,
“You should try online dating, I know someone who married a guy she met online.”
“There’s a single guy in my mom’s church, I’ve never met him, but you two should get together.”
“If you went to more conferences and stuff you’d probably meet someone.”
Thanks everyone, we know you want us to be happy and we appreciate your kind intent, but you’re throwing darts in the dark.
Sisters, a husband is not the solution to all your problems and won’t be able to slay all the dragons of sin lurking in your life. If you possess a discontented spirit now, a husband will not chase that discontent away, at least not for long. If you lack direction and purpose in your life, saying “I do” will not suddenly manufacture a satisfying reason for your existence. The sweep of the good life is far more expansive than merely supplying a prince Charming for your happy ending.
Christian people don’t always do the best job of communicating well about these things. We love marriage because it is a beautiful thing that God ordained for our good and for His own glory. We are caught up in the romance while downplaying the sometimes arduous work that is necessary to live a kingdom-seeking life whether married or single.
Look ladies, I’ve been there for a long time, I get it, I really do. I know sometimes you’ve sat in that church pew wondering, “Is any of this for me?” You don’t belong in any of the moms clubs or on the couples retreats—that’s pretty clear. The sermon illustrations are drawn from parenting foibles and marital misunderstandings, which you kind of get and kind of don’t. When you read your Bible you see directions for husbands, wives, children, young men, widows, older (married) women, and even slaves for Pete’s sake. When we seek instruction specifically for unmarried women we have very little to go on.
You Don’t Marry into Maturity
I’ll admit, it’s a little discouraging. Are singles perpetually locked into the child category while maturity is something reserved only for couples? Church friends will sometimes talk about life in this way as if married folks have cornered the market on sanctification because you’ll never understand selfishness until you get married and you’ll never be truly sanctified until you have kids.
They don’t really mean that the Christian life can only be lived faithfully by married couples with a certain number of kids, but they have experienced a great growth in their own maturity through these events and expect that the same circumstances would have a similar affect on you, which they probably would.
We all have trouble seeing outside our own set of circumstances. Those who married young often have a hard time understanding that maturity can exist outside the confines of marriage just like immaturity can remain inside it. In their experience the Lord used the refining fire of marriage to grow them up in the faith. Glory be to Him for His work in this way! It doesn’t really occur to them that living faithfully through extended years of singleness in the midst of a sex-saturated culture is a different kind of refining flame. Neither do they consider the fortitude required to rein in selfishness while the whole world (and sometimes the church) gives singles carte blanche to live entirely self-centered lives.
Singleness & Sanctification
Ladies, this is a low standard, please don’t live down to it. The lack of a husband in your life is not evidence of the absence of God’s work in your life. When or if you get married it will do you good to remember that your relationship to God is in no way dependent on your marital status on earth. Your responsibility to God to follow after Him and be obedient to His commands stands unchanged whether there is a man standing next to you or not. The work of sanctification in your life is a present reality, and His promise to complete the good work He started in you is not something you add to your bridal registry. These are rock-solid promises to God’s children, to His daughters as well as His sons, and He will accomplish them in whatever manner He deems best.
Lest my reader misunderstand me I wholeheartedly agree, marriage is a good thing, ordained by God, and a tremendous force for transforming the world and growing the kingdom of Christ. It does indeed encourage maturity (though many continue to shrug off this encouragement in marriage as they did in their singleness). Even so, God has not abandoned those who remain single, for a time or a lifetime, to eternal immaturity. His call to graduate from drinking only milk, and to grow up and partake of meat is for all Christians.
Though it may sound archaic, our Lord still commands, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16). That declaration is for us. We can’t pass it off to our parents or take a raincheck on it until our “I dos” may be said. Holiness is a pursuit for right now, not just someday.”Be ye holy” suggests some immediacy of action in doing what He commands. Jesus communicates a vivid expectation that we will be praying for the kingdom of Christ to come on earth as it is in heaven and then spending our time actually seeking it first. Sure it can be annoying when people treat you like a child simply because you are single. Instead of getting offended by it, maybe take the opportunity to ask yourself if you are acting like a child. Maturity is as maturity does. It may take some time, but most people will snap out of treating you like a child when they see you consistently acting like a grown up.
Calling All Grown Ups
Devote yourself to service. Do hard things no one is requiring you to do. Work in cooperation with those who are older and wiser than you so you can learn from them. When you see a task that needs to be done put your hand to the plow instead of waiting for someone else to come along and take care of it. Apply yourself to the work of growing Christ’s kingdom in this world with diligence. None of these things need wait until you’ve ordered a cake and mailed your invitations, and they should all carry on long after.
Seek first the kingdom is a Christian calling. You do not lack purpose, though you cannot see the future. Pursuit of this calling will undoubtedly mature your faith and quite possibly usher you into the kind of good life that fairytales don’t even dream of.
Other Posts in this Series: