Can Marriage Be an Idol?
With all the debate around marriage equality (this isn’t my response – that is coming soon I promise!), I wanted to share some thoughts I wrote awhile back on marriage and ask an important question: can marriage be an idol?
To get to know me, you should know that I am achievement driven. When I want something bad enough, I will chart a course, work toward it and by gosh achieve it (can you say “by gosh” with a straight face?). By outside standards, I guess you would say I am a success. I went to college, joined a popular sorority and even have a Master’s Degree from a prestigious school. Now as an adult, I have a great job, the world’s best dog and I get to live by the ocean in Southern California (okay I can drive to the ocean in maybe fifteen minutes with no traffic). But still, I live in a place that doesn’t require shoveling; and as a person who grew up in Northern Ontario, Canada, that alone can be seen as achieving success. I believe the real measure of my success, however, is that I have always had a great number of supportive and amazing friends. So I am a success…
Success? Well kind of. But not success in the way that I believe I was taught to measure success. Not success if you compare my life to many societal, and especially ‘Christian,’ standards of success. For alas… I am a spinster. I am in my thirties, and as of yet, I am not married and I never had the 2.5 kids. I hope someone can one day explain to me how you can have 2.5 kids; but I digress. Somewhere deep within me is a narrative saying I haven’t lived up to expectations. Through all of my various romances, I realize that the break up has not just left me sad for the demise of the relationship and loss of the person, but I have also felt like I have failed somehow. I am as liberated of a woman as you will find. I believe independence is important, and we aren’t defined solely by the relationships in our life, yet I perceive myself as a failure. I feel as if I have failed and missed out on the moment when I was supposed to meet my ‘soulmate’ and be chosen.
I think after our family relocated from Canada to Mississippi, I began to want to be a ‘good Christian.’ People said that term a lot in Mississippi, and I am not sure I know what it means now, let alone then. I don’t know when I first heard the idea that part of the requirement of being a ‘good Christian’ was getting married and having kids or how it got deeply rooted in my consciousness.
From youth group to college group, what you were doing was getting closer to God and trying to find that special someone to have devotional time with (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). It was a strange kind of incestual situation. You have to be careful using the word ‘incestual’ when referring to things in Mississippi. By incestual, I mean you dated people who were part of your small groups and Bible studies. Somehow, getting close to people spiritually seemed to have the side effect of making you want to make out with them. It does make some sense: we had shared affinities, we had shared stories and some shared world views. Admittedly, the very fact that I was Canadian by birth and fairly liberal meant that not all of my world views were similar; but in general, we tried to view the world through the same lens. That lens was one of faith and trust in God, or at least our understanding of God and our faith.
I began dating at what I would say was a young age, but not an uncomfortably young age. I was old enough to look for good qualities in a boyfriend, but young enough to believe that when it didn’t work out I would end up with Christian Bale’s character from Newsies. My first boyfriend, who I dated for a total of 3 ½ years, was truly an amazing man. I met him in youth group at the tender age of 15. He really was dreamy. He was an ‘all American’ type: starter on the football team, popular enough to always be on the homecoming court, one of the kindest men I have ever known and a strong Christian to boot. By strong Christian, I mean he literally used to do push-ups while I sat on his back. I will never forgive him for giving me the unrealistic belief that all men have ‘six-packs’ and a ‘heart of gold.’ But he was more than just my arm candy – he was my best friend and intellectual equal. What I realized was that, although he was and still is someone I deeply respect, I was getting a lot more than just love and affection out of our relationship. I was trying to align myself with someone who was seen as upstanding and even important. I realized that his identity somehow gave me identity, as if value is transferable. Sometimes when I am honest, one of the reasons I have felt like a failure for not being married is that I feel as though I haven’t been chosen, and that somehow my value is diminished. But this creates a false narrative where marriage is value giving. Has marriage become an idol for people?
Such a great post, Sarah! Is there ever such a thing as a perfect match..perfect abs and a great heart… swoon……is the cost of freedom too high (expensive-dom?), does not being married change ones’ perceived status as to have achieved success in our culture. Can, or better, does one need to, have it all? Less a sell in our culture, it seems, since there is no romantic comedy on Netflix that addresses this subject to the tune of ..and they lived happily ever after…apart. Or is there?
Not chosen? A failure? Sarah – allign yourself with the Word of our Lord, not some unworthy servant of His you spent time with at OG. For Christians, Christ IS our identity, married or not. “for to me, to live if Christ…” Ours is not to ask Jesus why, but to be content in all things and serve Him where, how, and when He places us. These are lessons the married and single must deal with in thier own way, but the bottom line is the same. We don’t matter. Our dreams don’t matter. Our things don’t matter. What matters is the glory of the Lord and laying all those things, with a joyful heart, at His feet in full submissive (“s” word!) service. This starts, or course, with repentance and faith unto salvation – and after that it requires everything…even our “right” to be anything but thankful for what He has given. I know a better guy than the one you speak of in your blog. If your heart is not at peace over what He has done in your life, go to Him and lay your burden there in repentance and faith – He is stronger than a bodywieght pushup and His word will never fail you! I hope you’re doing ok…