Why?

There is nothing like the big V-Day to get you thinking about candy, flowers, and, of course, love. Each week we connect through this blog post, joining each other in prayer for love to fill the air and hearts to be joined together in marriage. We believe and hope that God will hear our prayers, for ourselves and others to find love and be united in holy matrimony. Do you ever wonder what it is that we are actually praying for? Is the culmination of our prayers for all of us to find spouses, ride off into the sunset and live blissfully ever after, the end?

Love is wonderful, marriage is good, but we know that wonderful and good do not always translate into ever after. Have you noticed that there are few stories in the Bible detailing how someone moved from singleness to marriage? Ruth found Boaz in a wheat field and their music-filled, “you’re the one” moment involved a threshing floor. Maybe this would work in Iowa, running through the wheat fields flagging down combines for eligible men, not sure, but it does make for a good mental video. Rebecca wed Isaac because she watered some camels. Perhaps the equivalent is putting gas in some man’s car? The Bible doesn’t really speak to how we are to go about finding a spouse. I’d also venture a guess that if you polled your married friends you would find just as many stories on how they met and married their spouses.

See, I believe God is much more concerned with why we do something than how.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2

But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve. Jeremiah 17:10

Imagine how boring life would be if God gave us step-by-step instructions for how He wanted us to do stuff. We each get to live out our own creative stories of how God is at work in our lives, doesn’t that just get you all excited? There is a connecting thread of purpose in the stories of Ruth and Rebecca that lead to the importance of “why” they married. God was completing His promise to Abraham that his descendants would be greater than the stars and out of them would come the Savior of the world. These couples and their offspring are in the lineage of Jesus; their unions fulfilled a greater purpose.

A few weeks ago, I devoured Tim Keller’s book “The Meaning of Marriage.” For those unfamiliar with Tim Keller, he is a pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City. He wrote this book based on a sermon series he preached several years ago to a congregation of 80% singles. I know what some of you are thinking, get me to NYC, with those odds I’ve got to find a spouse! He writes the book with a single audience in mind and really dissects the “why” of marriage.

Dominant western culture says that the purpose and meaning of marriage is self-fulfillment. Chemistry and sexual compatibility are paramount in forming a relationship with someone, and we can look no further than the top-rated box office hits for how this plays out in our culture. However, God desires for us to live outside of self and our desires, wants, and needs and look to the needs of others.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

As we explore the “why” of marriage, let’s delve into excerpts from Tim’s book:

What if, however, you began your marriage understanding its purpose as spiritual friendship for the journey to the new creation? What if you expected marriage to be about helping each other grow out of your sins and flaws into the new self God is creating? (page 149)

And the main message of this chapter is that the key to giving marriage that kind of priority is spiritual friendship. So many marriages are begun with the journey of God only as an afterthought. Many Christians congratulate themselves that they have married another believer, but they look at their prospective spouse’s faith as simply one more factor that makes him or her compatible, like common interests and hobbies. But that is not what spiritual friendship is. It is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways. (pages 144-145)

This Monday, let’s not just pray for marriages, let’s pray that God develops spiritual friendships that challenge us to grow more Christ-like, flourish in love, and expand the kingdom of God!

Happily ever after,

Michelle

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15 Responses to Why?

  1. fast. pray. says:

    Wow ladies, I never thought there’d be a discussion about geriatric sex on here ;-). Thanks for bringing your thoughts and encouragement to the table. I appreciate hearing from readers and getting feedback.

    First, let me address the comment about Tim Keller not being able to speak to or understand the unfulfilled longing for a spouse for those passing the decades as a single adult. While Tim, or any other person that marries at a young age, may not be able to identify with the feelings of those of us still single beyond 40, that doesn’t mean there isn’t empathy. There is hope though, I participated in a church leader’s conference a few weeks ago, and the pastors there desired to connect with single members enough to participate in a workshop on the subject. I know we have a long way to go to be recognized and understood in many churches, but there is an attempt being made in some churches. One thing that came out of the discussion with the pastors was our (singles) responsibility to engage the church in healthy understanding, while being open to understanding the struggles of our married counterparts. Mutual understanding goes a long way to fostering an environment of acceptance.

    Secondly, in regards to the whole geriatric sex discussion. Yes, those of us over 40 and single, with a desire to hold to a Biblical view of sex being for marriage, will have to wrestle with unmet sexual desires. To deny we have them is not natural, but I also believe there is a tendency in our culture, especially, to worship sex and see it as life’s ultimate experience. We have to work hard to keep a proper perspective on sexual desire, definitely not easy. This may sound strange, but I believe the answer is found in serving others. See, if like Tim Keller says, marriage is ultimately meant to be a reflection of Christ and the church, then learning to serve one another is paramount. If we hold to an understanding that sexual desire is only fulfilled in serving our spouse, then we realize it’s not about our unmet desire as singles but about learning to serve one another in love without sexual expression. Here are a few good posts from Anna that talk about this further:

    https://fastpray.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/purity-culture-fallout/

    https://fastpray.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/abstinence-total-freedom/

    May hope live in your heart,
    Michelle

    • Daniela says:

      Amen Michelle!

    • T says:

      I think the conference is great and I too have seen some desire to connect with singles on a level that didn’t exist even a year ago. I also agree that it’s empathy we should all be after. Most of us have never been mothers, but I think many of us strive to understand their struggles, and I value my friendships with those who strive to understand mine.

      I have to say, though, that I’m bothered by this summary of what singles are expected to do to be more equally included and regarded in our churches. First of all, they are asking singles who do not have the same social status or clout to engage them as if we do, and we are expected to do it alone, no less. For example, I can ask a couple over for dinner (in my tiny apartment) and develop a relationship with them, but if I am not invited to that same couple’s group dinners, parties with only married couples, etc., my relationship is limited to that one couple, rather than with their circle of friends, and ultimately I still find myself on the social margins. I think that those who have the higher social status have to reach out to, and be inclusive of, those with lower social status in order for the mutual relationships to take.

      And Christians, in particular, are infamous for going on about how difficult marriage is, so I fail to see why that needs to be an issue at all. They should be saying, marriage is difficult, childhood is difficult, but so is being single. Being human is difficult. We can all be there for each other, and I think that’s part of the brilliance of the kingdom. We shouldn’t have to experience to understand and we should all learn from each other’s experiences. However, I think it’s a little disingenious to act like we haven’t been hearing the Marriage is Difficult message our entire adult lives.

      Sorry, I picked apart one sentence, but it struck a nerve. I’m sure overall, the discussions were positive, and I’m hopeful that these conversations will continue. Thanks for posting this update.

  2. Lyn says:

    I did read this book last year and understand that Keller is trying to address the growing issue of so many singles that have unreal expectations. The only area I felt the book was lacking in was in understanding the pain a single goes through as the years mount up.

    No ‘smugly married’ has any concept of the fear some of us have that we will never know that type of love, and in my case I have begun to give up. My prayer has switched from finding a husband (at 40) to ‘please God, just remove this sense of mourning and let me get on with it’.

    Keller and other happily married couples have never faced down what it feels like to be alone year in and year out and as a woman I feel that I have begun to rot on the vine. I try not to be bitter, and months can pass where I’m content. But then it hits again.

    Is there no one that will just understand that many of us are basically grieving?

    Sure, I know marriage isn’t what Western culture movies have made it out to be. But what gnaws at me as a single woman is that I will probably never be given even the chance to try. Tim Keller got married and stayed married for 30 years plus. What does he know?

    • M says:

      I tend to agree with you on this one. If you’ve been single past your thirties there’s not much delusion about what marriage is like anymore – we’re not teenagers or in our early twenties anymore, thinking that marriage is perfect.

      We desire marriage in spite of its realities and difficulties. And I think that’s something only those who’ve experienced being single past a certain age can truly understand. And for a married person to brush off the pains of singleness or the joys of marriage, is being plain insensitive.

      My pastor has so much empathy for homosexuals and people who desire to have children but can’t, and yet he is almost dismissive about a single person’s struggle with wanting to have a spouse. Just because marriage is connected with romantic love doesn’t mean it’s all shallow and immature or that our desire for it is based off romantic movies with no basis in reality.

    • Daniela says:

      Lyn, I can understand 100% what you are going through. I’m almost 43 and have been waiting on the Lord for 20 years to fulfill my God-given desire for a spouse (since I got baptized into my church). But there is definitely no reason to “rot on the vine”! A man (or any other human being for that matter) will not give you the ultimate fulfillment in life! I have learned that the only thing that’s really helpful in this time of unwanted singleness, is to immerse myself in ministry. I don’t know where your specific talents are, but there is certainly something you can do to bless others. And this is the only way to be happy in life: In service for mankind. There have been times when I was utterly depressed (the last episode is actually not too long ago), because I sensed, like you, that I may never experience this wonderful gift of marriage (which is a cognitive distortion by the way – I’m not a fortune-teller after all). But again, you cannot base your happiness on marriage. I may get married tomorrow, and might be a widow the day after. No, there is something else we need to base our happiness on, and this is Jesus. I know it’s easier said than done, but I pray that He may show you how to live a fulfilled life in Him – whether single or married!

      • Lyn says:

        Thanks Daniela, I agree. I have recently found a church that has great opportunities for service. I hope to find a niche where they can use me. I don’t want my whole life and relationship with the Lord to be ruined by this one disappointment. I know that in the eternal scheme of things, it won’t matter if we all ever had that kind of romantic love or not.
        What makes it harder is feeling like an outsider when 95% of the people my age are married (or divorced) with kids . . . and even grand kids! And how many times have I met a nice guy and then see the wedding ring . . . It gets very discouraging.
        When I say ‘rot on the vine’ I’m talking about the aging process, this feeling that my currency is vanishing with each year. Some of this has to do with our culture’s view of women, how our value is so wrapped up in how desirable we are. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the pain involves the aging process and the feeling that the season for marriage is passing me by. I can’t say I really ever looked forward to geriatric sex. Sorry. Having waited for marriage all these years, I don’t want my first time to be with the aid of viagra. That’s just the truth.
        So I’m mourning the loss, saying goodbye and frankly, wrestling in my walk with the Lord over this issue.
        The reality is that it would take a miracle of God for me to find a husband, there is just no one on the horizon. I live in a small town, go to a small church. And there is no way to change that due to finances and having to care for my Mom. And really, I don’t deserve God to give me a miracle, it’s just not that important. Too many other people need miracles for more important things. But it still hurts.
        I know I’m not alone, and reading the posts on this site over the years, I have wondered why it’s so hard for many of us to do something simple like marry and have a family? So many men seem to want to avoid family like the plague.
        Anyway, thanks for the encouragement. God Bless!

        • SH says:

          Lyn, ever considered online dating?

        • Daniela says:

          Lyn, I understand you. But I must admit that your statement about geriatric sex gave me a good laugh :-). You know, I’ve been concerned too, given the fact that I’m approaching my 50’s (slowly, but surely). I used to think that after menopause, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the pleasures of sex anymore; and given a fact that I’ve already experienced a taste of how it is to have sexual relations (before I got baptized), it was very hard for me to realize that I may never be able to fully enjoy the bliss of marital sex. So I asked a gynecologist (on an anonymous forum) whether after menopause a woman would still be able to enjoy sex. He answered that women that age tend to enjoy it even MORE than pre-menopausal women, because the pressure with regards to getting pregnant respectively not getting pregnant wasn’t there anymore. This made perfect sense to me! Of course, I’m still hoping that it’s going to happen in the medium term, and I even do have a prospect right now (unexpectedly!), but I think there is one thing that we have to realize – and this is the fact that God thinks differently about age than we do. There are quite a few people who got married for the first time when they were more advanced in age. In fact, the oldest I have heard was a 63-year old woman. Of course, I pray that this won’t be me, but my times are in His hands. HE knows what’s best for me and when! I pray that He may give you peace over this matter.

    • Gina says:

      ^I could have written this.

      • Lyn says:

        Hmm, thanks for the input. At this point, it feels (emotionally) like waiting until I’m 60+ to have sex is like finally getting a long promised Thanksgiving dinner only to find out someone else has thrown up Turkey and gravy onto a plate and that’s supposed to be it. Sure, it’s nutritious, but . . .
        I have a feeling I just missed the boat and that’s that. The hard part is not to feel bitter at having been cheated. We can’t control all situations in life, but some of us out here fell through the cracks even though we have tried and prayed and hoped. It’s just wears you down and before long I think will just cut bait, realistically and start trying to concentrate on God’s promises for the eternal state.

        • Daniela says:

          Hi Lyn, I understand you completely. This waiting game would wear me out as well. Very much so. Of course it’s easy for me to advise and encourage, since I do have a prospect right now. However, I realize that it may not work out with this young man, and I may have to start at zero again. Nevertheless, I do realize that, even in this time of uncertainty, the Lord is blessing me tremendously and I’m sooo thankful to be a tool in His hand. It’s just so rewarding and fulfilling if we can be the Lord’s disciples in this dying world. So again, I encourage you to get involved in ministry. Don’t wait until Mr Right comes along! He may actually come when and where you least expect it. I can testify to this!

  3. Daniela says:

    Thank you for this insightful post Michelle! This book by Tim Keller sounds intriguing to me. I just found it on Amazon – will certainly get a copy!

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