Happily never after. The idol of a spouse.

About a month ago, I shared my heart a little bit with you all in my post Honest Words From A Single. In that post, I wanted to both encourage singles and the Church. Single-hood is valid. It is part of what helped launch the Early Church. But at the same time, marriage- Gospel centered marriage, is just as valid. When we begin to think one is greater than the other, we miss out on a large group of people that God has invited to be a part of his story. So today, I wanted to write another post, focused on spouses, whether you’re a single person in search of a spouse, or someone married who already has a spouse, this blog is for you.

For so many of us single people, we long for spouses. I can’t honestly speak for everyone, however, I know how I feel. I know that for as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be married. Maybe that came from the Disney fairytales…you know the ones about the princess or damsel in distress who captivates the heart of some prince charming. We have Ariel who charms the human and gives up life in the sea to be happily ever after. We have Belle who falls in love with a mysterious man… more like a case of Stockholm syndrome. We have Snow White, Mulan, Rapunzel. Aurora, and so many other Disney fairytales that share with young kids- primarily young girls- about falling in love (usually at first site and at creepy young ages) with some “prince” who will fulfill them, meet all their needs, rescue them, or give them a castle. I mean, on one side of it, who doesn’t want to be treated like royalty, live in a castle, and have a handsome man/beautiful maiden by their side? However, what these stories do, though cute and enjoyable, is show such an unrealistic expectation of a spouse: that a spouse can fulfill and complete you.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney and love the classics. But I want a real love story, not a fairytale. I don’t want a story that has me falling in love at 15 (I’m well past that!) and being taken away to a castle by some man I hardly know. I don’t want a story that has me relying on my worth and value and beauty through the opinion of someone else. I want a real love. A true love. A love that is for life.

It is a such a myth…or dare I say lie…that we will be fulfilled, completed and made whole by getting married. Marriage is not about being made whole at all. Single person reading this: if you’re searching for love- for a spouse- because you think your life will be made perfect, think again. If you think that person will complete you because it is “so right” or “perfect”, you might want to think about being single a little while longer. Without a doubt, if you go and ask married people if their spouse is still completing them after 15 years of marriage, 30 years of marriage, or to their deathbed, they would tell you that marriage is more than being with the right person, more than being completed and more than a fairytale. Marriage is hard. Those vows actually mean something. When a spouse gets diagnosed with cancer, its hard on both of them. When a spouse cheats, its hard on both of them. When a spouse has an addiction, becomes distant, or wants something new….I guarantee you that marriage is not about completing anyone at all.

Fairytales don’t exist. Covenant marriages do.

As Christians, when we live our lives to honor God, he becomes our priority. He becomes the thing that we should love most. He should be your priority and your number one. If he isn’t, something needs to change. In my years of being single, I have learned that when I place the idea of a husband on a pedestal- like a Prince Charming- that idea, that man, becomes an idol and starts to replace God. Instead of letting the Creator, my God, fulfill my life and heal my brokenness, instead of letting the redemption that I received through Christ be my priority in everything, I allow for a man, a person, another failed individual, to take the lead. And that, dear friends, is a dangerous place to find yourself. If you are single, be in a place where God fulfills you, where he heals your wounds, strengthens you in your weaknesses, and gives you passion. I am not saying don’t desire marriage or a spouse. I am just asking that you keep things in the right place of priority. God first, always. Anything that comes before God is an idol, and that definitely can include a spouse.

Married friends (and friends who want to be married), whether you’ve been married for a day or 60 years, keep God at the center. Keep Jesus as the thing your life fuels on. You will always blame your spouse for everything, whether right or wrong, when your life is solely centered on them instead of God. You’ll praise them for the good, and hate them for the bad. But when Christ becomes your center- your focus- where you both find fulfillment in and completion, then and only then, will your marriage be one that reflects a Gospel-Centered love. It is when you have this kind of completion and living out the Gospel in your marriage, that the world will want to see because it’ll be rare. Its hard, don’t get me wrong, but it is completely possible when Christ is the lead and center focus of your story.

Don’t desire the fairytale, for it will only be a tale and not a truth. Desire a love that is so deep and so pure, that in spite of the failings and mistakes and heartaches that will come in a marriage, you can overcome. Desire a love that is made whole and redeemed through Jesus instead of each other. Desire a marriage that reflects the heart of the Creator, instead of Man. Find your wholeness, fulfillment, completion in a God who loves you more than your spouse ever possibly could. Isn’t that a story worth telling, far more than some child’s fairytale?

 

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“So as we stand here today and as God joins you together in marriage, there is something bigger going on. Its not just a special night but its a sacred night. And its a sacred night because its not just any ceremony- your heart, my heart, our hearts collectively is that the Lord Jesus Christ would be honored. And I can promise you this: that the world will marvel at what it looks like when two people live out a Gospel centered marriage. Its one of sacrifice, its one of love, its one of honor, its one of respect and its one that the world longs to know more about.”
[taken from a wedding video sermon I saw a few years ago]

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Honest words from a Single…

I’m 27 and somewhere along the way, dating sort of missed me, or at least serious dating. I am not one of those twenty-somethings that enjoyed dating throughout college and early career. No bars. No clubs. No coffee shop dates. No wedding dates. A few pursuits, but that’s all.

And you know what…that’s perfectly okay.

But somewhere along the way, as a single, I have still somehow become that person people come to for advice and counseling regarding relationships, dating, and marriage.

What I have found in my many years of being single, is that, my singleness is not only valid, but I have some things to share with those of you who will listen. I hope you’re okay with my honesty and openness to things I will share in this post. I think we could all use some honesty and vulnerability and willingness to listen…and I’m preaching to the choir here. All I ask, is that you hear me out, and some of the things I have learned along the way in my near lifetime of singleness. Prepare yourself, because this blog is a bit lengthy.

I went to a Christian college. Everyone wanted to date and get married before graduating. And believe me, plenty of my peers did just that- date, get engaged, and married all within the 4 years of college. I learned quickly that so many (not all) of these couples were rushing the process because they had waited (sexually) until marriage, and now that they had found the one whom their heart loved, they would just get married. What we really had, in many of those cases, 20 year olds that couldn’t control their hormones anymore with the person they loved, yet at the same time, was terrified of having sex before marriage and being tainted goods. In other cases, there were friends that dated and didn’t rush. They took their time and they got to know the person. Some of those people got married before graduation and some did not quite get their “Mrs. Degree” (only you Christian college kids might get that reference). And still others, got married after graduation to someone they met along the journey of their life.  None of these paths were wrong. But none of these paths have been mine.

I dated one guy very briefly right before graduation of high school. That relationship didn’t last long…But what do you expect of silly high school relationships? In my early years of college, like really all college students, I had my crushes. Of course I had my hopes of falling in love and starting my married life by my early 20s. Also…not my story. I wasn’t even asked out in my entire 5 years of college and graduate studies. There was a chapter in the middle of my college years where I dated a childhood friend. It didn’t work out and that’s okay…he’s happily married now. That was six years ago, and I have remained single since.

I have a point in all of this commentary of my history.

I have not been without near failures, indiscretions, and mistakes. Most people who know me, know there is a shadow of darkness upon my story. I was a porn addict for my years of high school.  I am human and have those natural desires like anyone else. Let’s be adult and not need an explanation. But the beauty of grace is that He redeemed me from that addiction my first year of college, and now, I get to counsel people with addiction, tell porn stars and strippers they matter, and show people that regardless of their story, Jesus can redeem them.  Somewhere in the midst of my desires for marriage, minimal dating life, my earlier years of addiction, and many years of singleness….I have found some wisdom to which I’d like to share with you.

As I said, I am 27 years old and haven’t been on a date in over 6 years. I am actually one of those unicorns- you know…the ones who are waiting for marriage to have sex. As I have gotten older, my desire for marriage and intimacy has only grown stronger. And my struggle to remain pure has only gotten harder. Please listen to me when I say this: I understand a sense of waiting and patience that few really can understand. Myself, and those who are likewise waiting, can offer something tremendous to the Church and Body. We can show what waiting through desires, controlling our flesh, and loving Jesus more than an idol of a longing for a spouse can really look like. We can show you what it looks like to serve the Church and Jesus Christ utmost the way Paul encouraged, without distraction of a spouse or children. We can show what it looks like to serve those who are broken when we might also be broken.

I have invested so much time into the Gospel and serving others, like so many others, but I do it without the pleasure of having my spouse on the journey with me. For 4 years I was a youth pastor and, honestly, those were some of my loneliest years of my life. There’s something so lonely (sometimes) about doing ministry without getting to share joy, heartache, loss, excitement, passion, and vision with a spouse. I don’t get the privilege of going home after church or work and sharing my day with someone. I don’t get to plan a wedding (yet!). I don’t get to prepare for pregnancy. I don’t get to plan my kids’ birthday parties. I don’t get a lot of things that my married friends have been able to experience. What I do get, is an opportunity to find my strength in Jesus through my absolute greatest longing. To turn my longing toward Him instead of him. I don’t know if or when God will allow for me to be married. I do believe that God has a man out there in the world for me. I have believed that since as far as I can remember. But I also believe that God has me waiting, for whatever reason, for His timing.

So here’s my wisdom and words to you, whoever you are:

  • waiting is painful
  • serving Jesus has been the greatest joy in my entire life
  • Churches and pastors need to stop being so scared of talking about sex
  • God created sex and marriage and said it was good!
  • its okay to long to be married
  • its okay to be sad about being single
  • its okay to want certain things in life…but it can’t become an idol
  • even a desire for a spouse can become an idol
  • the more you give your heart away, the more broken or fragile it will be
  • for those of you in ministry…I get you and I’m here if you need a support system
  • whether you’re married or single, don’t forget to have adventures
  • porn is never good for you
  • honor your spouse now while you’re single
  • honor other people as they are not your spouse
  • avoid compromising situations
  • it is possible to wait for sex
  • it is worth it to wait for sex
  • if you’re single, work on your struggles and weaknesses now
  • let your patience in the waiting become a virtue, not a burden
  • let your self-control be an encouragement to others
  • being single doesn’t mean you’re broken
  • being single isn’t bad
  • if you’re married, invest in the singles around you and in your churches
  • if you’re single, find friends and invest in them
  • if you’re single, find married couples you can learn from
  • if you’re married, love your spouse in spite of their failings
  • if you’re single, love your spouse now- it doesn’t start at the altar
  • mistakes happen
  • redemption is possible
  • your story isn’t over until your last breath- don’t give up
  • love Jesus more than you could ever love your spouse, your kids, or anything else

I am sure there are plenty of other things I could share with you. I am sure I missed a few thoughts tonight. But I hope you understand that for people like me, the single (who doesn’t always feel so young anymore), that single-hood is both awesome and annoying, painful and beautiful.  A lot of the Early Church was advanced by single people dedicated to telling the world about Jesus Christ. A lot of people in the Early Church were married. The point: we all have a part in the bigger story that God has for us if we are willing to be obedient in the journey. Whatever your story- single or married- God loves you and He is not done with you yet.

Why so many weddings….

As many of you might have seen on either Facebook or Instagram, or even on here….weddings have become a huge part of my life, especially in recent years. In fact, in the past five years, I have been to 24 weddings and almost 30 overall. That’s not an exaggeration. I was curious one day and decided to write the weddings I have been to since 2009. Among friends and now even my parents, I have been compared to Katherine Heigl in the movie 27 Dresses. In case you are unfamiliar, her character is one that loves her friends dearly and is the seemingly eternal bridesmaid. Though somedays I do feel like the eternal bridesmaid or guest of weddings, I wonder when my day will come and when I’ll be able to have my day

Then I remember…its not really my day in the first place. 

The wedding (and marriage) is part of a bigger story, one that shows Jesus’ love to the world. 

My reason is pretty simple as to why I have traveled to weddings thousands of miles away and why I go to so many weddings every year. Yes, its a celebration of a couple that loves one another. Yes, its, for many, a religious symbol of their marriage. And yes, it may be for some, a way to get the legal rights of a spouse. But let me be clear about something: marriage is sacred. Marriage is a beautiful example of a love worth sacrificing for and one that represents and reflects the love of God. It is for that reason, that I have gone to so many weddings. 

There is something absolutely beautiful about seeing a man and woman stand together vowing to love one another in spite of [fill in the blank]. There is something even more beautiful when that couple has a Gospel-centered marriage that reflects the enduring love of Jesus Christ. When that couple vows before one another and God, in purity and in honor, my heart is overwhelmed again and again.

I had the privilege of being a bridesmaid for a dear friend of mine as she married her Beloved, another friend of mine, each I have known for years. The two of them had their awkward youth years, college years, and the years post-college trying to figure out God’s plan for their lives, including the question of marriage. During that time, despite personal struggles, other relationships, and at times frustration with their lives, they pursued purity, honor, integrity, and a life centered on the redemptive and beautiful love of Jesus. It was in that love, that their marriage was possible. It was in their love and foundation of Jesus Christ, that they shared their vows on Saturday. 

Knowing that I can go to a wedding and see the covenantal love vowed at an altar and seeing friends embark on the journey and adventure of a Gospel-centered marriage, gives me such joy and excitement. Not every wedding I have been to has had this foundation. My heart is saddened when I know not everyone has Jesus at the center of their marriage. However, when people ask me why I invest the time and money into all of these weddings, I cannot deny the fact that I genuinely love them and love being able to witness such love be celebrated. It gives me excitement for the day when I can say “I Do” to some man; a man who loves Jesus more than he could ever love me, yet because of his love for Jesus, his love for me pours over. 

I challenge you, whoever you are, that if you go to a wedding, or maybe you’re getting married, to not take it lightly. Not just the wedding, but the marriage. Please consider the significance of your decision. Those vows, the symbolism of the commitment, the sanctity of that which is before you…

Like I said, I intentionally make an effort to go weddings because I believe in what is being represented: the unconditional, steadfast, enduring love of Jesus Christ for the world represented in a commitment between a man and a woman. 

More than a moment…

I fear that many people in this day and age take dating and relationships for granted, make it something of leisure and meaningless activity. In reality, at least for me, I just cannot simply date someone to date them. It is not meaningless and it is not for leisure. I have dated two guys officially and had a few other guys, in short, that I had been talking to but ended up not dating. Looking back, I learned so much from my previous dating experiences, however, to me dating is so much more than what we have made it to be. I simply want to be with my husband. I do not want any more dates with guys that are, bluntly put, not my husband. I know it is “catch 22” …I want to be with my husband but I do not want to date. I do not want to date but I want to end up with my husband. Yes, I am quite aware of this not making that much sense. I am just so sick of this concept that we have to be discontent with singlehood and that we have to be in pursuit of relationships instead of pursuit of a lifetime of memories with one person. I honestly do not want to add to the [brief] roster of guys I have dated before my husband. 

My whole reasoning for bringing up this topic is because, frankly, it has been coming up all week. I want to be pursued. I want to date…to marriage. What 20-something does not want to have the dating experience? Honestly, I know it would be fun. I am not discrediting that, yet I cannot convince myself to just date. For me to date a guy now, after the past experiences I have had, I want to know that our futures can actually work together. We have similar or the same passions and desires for the things of God. We have an agreement on the important things of scripture and faith. And more than anything, we feel this is what God has for us. For me, that means sacrificing the dates that I may be offered. It means that I have to be careful of my interactions with guys for sake of knowing that one day it will all be worth it

I want so much more than a date. I want more than a faded memory of an okay date. I want more. So in turn, I am patiently waiting on God’s direction and where he leads me. Again, I know that probably sounds crazy to take dating off the market yet still hope to meet and date the man I will marry. That is faith. It is a hope that there is something better than mediocre, mundane, meaningless dates that will probably hurt me in the end, knowing it will not work out. It is faith in God, trusting that he will direct my steps and my heart to something that will be more than a moment in my memory but a lifetime of creating new ones.