thoughts on the journey of choosing a life partner, by an anonymous daughter of God
(this article was originally publishd in the Mar/Apr 2016 issue)
There’s an Irish folk song which portrays marriage as a voyage. The author depicts himself as a sailor and his lady, the first mate. They signed on together – coupling their fate on the ocean of life. Most of us unmarried girls long for that day when everything is settled, when we sign on with a Sailor and do life with him.
But reality has us all still on the water front. As we reach adulthood we are thrown into a somewhat chaotic scene of young sailors choosing first mates. There are first mates scurrying here and there in search of a strong, brawny sailor. Sailors are ignoring cute first mates waving desperate red flags looking for someone to captain their ship. Sometimes relationships are working out beautifully and first mates are signing on with the sailor of their dreams. But more often than not there is frustration, misunderstanding, and discord as sailors and first mates choose partners.
It would be easier if God as Head of the shipyard and ocean would call out partners over the microphone and that would be that. But God is letting us choose. Our culture’s freedom of choice is leaving us a bit confused. In our confusion, we often end up acting on selfish reasoning instead of our commitment to bring glory to God through marriage.
SOCIETY’S IDEA OF MARRIAGE
In secular society, marriage means someone had a wedding and promised to live together until they got tired of each other. In many cases marriage is too much of a commitment, and so couples choose an easy romantic fling. Society’s idea of marriage is a natural response to our own sinful way: my idea is what rules me.
Our American lifestyle is highly independent. Women can educate themselves, hold down high paying jobs, and live as they wish. We are only an instant message or a plane ride away from almost any man in the world. We are no longer limited to the ten men in the pews beside us or the twenty seniors at our hometown high school. Postmodernism and Feminism have pounded their thought patterns into society. It is now socially acceptable for a lady to think only of herself.
GOD’S IDEA OF MARRIAGE
Genesis 2 records how God created marriage at the foundation of human existence. He knew it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, so he made Eve. Women were created to glorify God through being a helper to men. After the fall, God knew there would be difficult times in marriage, but He told them to stick together because they needed each other. Jesus reinforced His Father’s plan when He told the Pharisees that a man and his wife should stay together until death.
God clearly defines woman’s role in relation to man. We are to submit to their leadership as they submit to His leadership. God’s idea is that a sinful male and female who live out a Christian marriage will give the world a picture of His Glory like few other things can.
OUR CHOICE: GOD’S IDEA OR MY IDEA?
We get to choose. We can adopt American cultural rules on romance and embrace our selfish pursuit of happiness, or turn to God’s idea of marriage and live out our lives for His Glory.
How do we choose to let God’s idea work out practically in everyday situations? Successful relationships are lived out in community with evaluation, accountability, and encouragement from those looking on. We must look to Jesus as the ultimate daily guide. We must set a course of obedience to God’s idea that pulls us away from ourselves and towards Him.
There are many choices we make in regards to marriage, and frankly, I see thought patterns in Anabaptist communities that “allow” us to live selfishly rather than in surrender to God’s idea.
Here are some fallacies I have observed.
1. I SHOULD PRETEND I DON’T FEEL ANYTHING UNTIL I’M DATING SOMEONE.
Attraction is inevitable. But we choose what to do with attraction and longing. As much as we are able, we should focus on Jesus and serving people. Jim Elliot wrote to Elizabeth during their “waiting years”: “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.” He was right. If we are wishing for someone or something so much we cannot embrace day to day living we are most likely worshipping that longing. We must lay our wants at the feet of Jesus and move from there. They are still present, but they are surrendered. Sometimes in our effort not to be flirtatious or obvious, we act like we don’t like a guy when we do. Pretending is rude and confusing. If he’s friendly to you, and you are interested, respond in kind. Guys know the difference between friendly response and desperate chasing.
2. WHEN I SAY “YES” TO DATING I’M STEPPING INTO A SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP.
Marriage is serious. First dates, however, should not be serious. Saying yes to a man for a date is only a commitment to getting to know this man. The ultimate goal is marriage, but that’s not what you are committing to by saying yes to a guy. I’d like to suggest that we say “yes” to more men, and do it more often. Become friends with the guy you date and don’t get yourself tied into a knot by being too serious too soon. Keep communicating as a couple on where you are and what you see this relationship becoming.
When couples start dating, friends congratulate them. Why congratulate someone for having several dates? It becomes such a big deal that people lose sight of what the real focus should be: learning to know each other. Save the congratulations for engagements and weddings.
3. I SHOULD MARRY MR. PERFECT.
Many of us believed in Prince Charming while growing up. Then reality came. How many people do we really know who declare that lightning struck and the man of their dreams appeared in a miraculous way? In real life, Prince Charming doesn’t walk out of the woods and sweep us away. Prince Charming is made up. Real men actually exist.
Most of us have an idea of how we want the man we marry to be. Too often we let movies, books, and music paint an unrealistic picture of masculinity in our minds. Reality is that no guy is completely selfless. They will do things that hurt you. Most guys aren’t the perfect shape and do not have the perfect hair. Even if they are cute and sweet, guys are still not your average suave movie actor. Recently I travelled with two cool cousins. By the end of the trip, I realized again that real, cool guys can be uncouth at times. Men in books know when their girl is tired and thirsty and needs some love. Surprise! Men in real life do not know unless you tell them. Most guys aren’t super spiritual leaders. They are humble followers of Jesus.
We live in a generation demanding performance and perfection for personal gain and entertainment. Let’s step away and embrace what Jesus said is important and truthful. This will open our eyes to the amazing character and image of God displayed in real life masculinity.
4. SINGLENESS IS HOLINESS.
God’s Will is not narrowed to a marital status, or a particular man in your life. If God is calling you to a life of singleness as Paul suggests in 1 Corinthians 7…live it! But don’t take Paul’s words as an excuse to live out of your own selfish ambitions or past pain. My sister was about to begin nursing school when a guy asked her out. She refused, somewhat on the premise of 1 Corinthians 7. After nursing school he asked again and although she still wanted to pursue nursing she realized her motives had changed into selfish ones. She is now happily married.
5. MARRIAGE SHOULD BE BLISS.
Because we are eternal bearers of the Image of God, we desire bliss. True bliss will only come at our marriage with the Bridegroom of our dreams, King Jesus. All of life on earth is “less than”, but we have a Jesus who enables us to live out His idea. Wherever you are is where Jesus can use you. Don’t wait on bliss.
AT THE WATERFRONT
We are on the water front. Tomorrow you will meet up with the Sailors again. They are going to ask you to sign on with them. They are going to flirt with you and hurt you. They will bring you more happiness and security than you thought possible. I wish you grace and peace as you choose well. I pray each of your journeys will always lead you to death to self and a life of abundant joy in King Jesus. Bon Voyage!