On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray for men and women to be progressively more shaped into God’s image and for marriages to those who desire them.
I wanted to be happy for him. I really did. But his smiling face with a fiancée and an engagement ring in the middle of my social media feed stirred up the worst crags of my heart. Him? Are you kidding me? After he’s been unable to find anyone good enough in the last fifteen years, he magically finds someone in six months? I know what this is…he just decided it was Time to Get Married (TTGM) and picked the next girl. I wish I could say I was appalled by my heart’s vitriol, but I too busy rationalizing my behavior and hiding him from my news feed.
Why was I so upset? Was it envy? Was it anger that he was winning the mental “marriage marathon” I unconsciously run with every ex-boyfriend? Was it judging God’s actions with the lens of my own experience? Was it unforgiveness and general irritation with his being shown mercy when I wanted to see him suffer the consequences of his previous behavior?
Unfortunately yes to all of the above. Confession had to happen but later, with some more time, I realized the anger was deeper than him. There were so many lies wrapped into my visceral reaction to his good news; I didn’t want him to get married first because it felt like he was somehow getting to the finish line first. So many lies have gotten wrapped into that false understanding of marriage and of my own identity:
- I was waiting for marriage to prove that I was worthy of being chosen and to close the door on years of bad or nonexistent dating
- I was waiting for marriage to define me — to define my arrival in adulthood, my relational sphere, my geographic home, my vocational direction, my financial outlook, my travel plans, my emergency contact person.
- In essence, I was waiting for marriage for me – for reasons that would make me feel good about my life, cement what I wanted to be true about myself and give me excuses to use social media to overshare my life milestones (ok, maybe that’s just me).
Of course marriage can’t really do these things — marriage can’t fix my identity problems. Marriage and a spouse can’t neatly package up my life’s definition or relationships or calling and tell me who I am. And marriage can’t and won’t always make me feel good – especially in the midst of life’s storms. At those points, we need a deeper anchor than marriage. And scripture says marriage is bigger than the people in it. It’s about two sinners on a journey of imaging the selfless, other-centered love that Christ has for us as His church. Marriage is good, but it simply can’t live up to the mental demands I’d placed on it.
In contrast, Jesus can and already has. Jesus has already called us chosen. Almighty God has already set His love on us. At the cross, we have already been offered forgiveness and shown extravagant, ridiculous mercy in the face of much worse crimes than those of any ex-boyfriend. Jesus has defined the good life, our relational sphere, and our calling to love another as we have been loved in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.
I’m not trying to downplay the God-ordained good of marriage or the courage to unashamedly long for it and keep praying for it. I simply wonder if smaller expectations of marriage and greater expectations of Jesus are a good place to start this week. To pray boldly — asking Jesus to come into the crags where the lies have taken root — to expose our sin in order to heal us — a process that we need, no matter where our circumstances have us on this Monday at lunch.
Praying with you,