Thank you for all your comments and follow-up on this blog series. It has been overwhelming to have folks message and call me about the idea of Marriage as an Idol. Clearly something is resonating with folks, and I appreciate your honesty and questioning. Today I wanted to wrap up by answering the question several people have posed in some form: “Isn’t God meant to be our everything?” Well yes… and no.
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’” Genesis 2:18
Adam was closer to God that any human has ever been. According to the story, they walked side by side. According to some people’s understanding of faith, that kind of closeness with God should exclude our need for human intimacy. God showered his undivided love upon Adam, but there was still something missing. We were created for community and to be in relationship with other people. Even God says that being alone is “not good.” Now we all know that being in relationship does not mean that all of us are to be married. But there is something about us being in intimate, close relationship to other humans that we are designed for and that God has declared “Good.” We know this because when someone doesn’t have that type of relationship, we see great pain, and often brokenness, that harms not just the person but those around them. There have been many horrible crimes lately, and as you hear the background of the perpetrator, you often here them described as a ‘loner.’ “it is not good that man should be alone.”
Whether married or single, we are meant to risk intimacy with others in the same way that God risked intimacy in the story of Adam and Eve. What do I mean, ‘risk intimacy?’ While we have to be willing to risk someone walking away from us, God cared enough to allow choice. In the same way, we must loosely hold and surrender all of our relationships, not just to God, but also to the other. Real relationship, whether friend or spouse, is risky and requires us to open ourselves to the possibility of rejection. To avoid that, many build walls.
So what are us singletons meant to do if we can’t seem to find that one relationship or other person willing to risk vulnerability with us? Where are we to look? Well I think looking to God is part of the answer. We are to lean into our faith and spend time getting to know God. And we are to begin to do the hard work of creating a story uniquely ours in partnership with God. There is something about our life and the way we live it that God is inviting us to. There is a deep mystery surrounding the very meaning of each of our lives. We must find our meaning. We cannot simply look forward to a time when we will have all our ducks in a row and hopefully be in the dream relationship or dream job or whatever it is that you are looking forward to. When we do that we allow even good things like marriage to become an idol. Nor can we spend our time staring backwards.
It is really about trying to live the life that God has for me now and not miss out because I am so focused on what isn’t a part of my life. This isn’t something that happens naturally for me. The temptation to mourn and sit too long in the mourning stage is huge. Even for me as a pastor, I struggle with the faith that is required to walk forward with boldness and stop from turning around to look at the past with disappointment.
The biblical story of Lot’s wife highlights what can happen when we turn around and stare at our pasts for too long. God commanded Lot and his wife not to turn around as they fled a city that was being destroyed. Lot’s wife turned around to look back at the city she once called home and turns into a pillar of salt. There are lots of commentaries as to why she turned into a pillar of salt, and even reasons why she turned around in the first place, but I think the important thing to note is that she was looking in the direction that she had come from. She was focusing on the past.
I don’t want to be a pillar of salt. I don’t want people to look at my life as a cautionary tale. I have known far too many people who have been waiting for their life situations to change before they feel like they can begin to live the life they were hoping for. The secret to life is that God is not a God of the past but of the present. If I am walking with God, my movement is forward. I can’t stay stuck looking backwards asking “why?” But I also must not look too forward into the future that I miss what is happening right here and now. I cannot let marriage or even singleness become an idol. I have to see where God has me right here and now and soak it in, for all of life is but a second.
I love the beach. I love to hike. I love to spend the day reading. I love entertaining people. All of these things exist for me right now, right in the present. Would it be more fun to do all of these things with an amazing partner beside me? Yes; but that shouldn’t stop me from doing them now. So what do I do when my heart feels like it can’t take any more and I start to idolize the future? I take my dog to the beach, I get my toes sandy and I watch the sunset. If I forget the things that bring me joy, I call a friend and say it is time for an adventure. I can’t walk this walk alone – I need a community that reminds me to see the possibility of tomorrow. I don’t always know how to keep moving but I will trust that God does… so one foot in front of the other; I continue to be hopeful no matter what is on the other side of tomorrow, because God is there.