I was planning to go a different route with this next part; however, I read two articles about dating/marriage this week that made me think about a few things. The first article was about a young lady who talked about her and her fiancé’s “dating” experience, which happened to not be dating at all. Yes, they were friends and then one day he proposed. I liked the idea of the article on high level and I’m sure this can work for some folks but I’m not sure if that would be the way I would go about it (I’m not saying never, though). And I had questions about how it played out. The second article addressed the age-old Church wisdom of “the one”. This author talks about some of her personal experiences, being raised in the Church and being taught to believe that there is this one person out there that God wants you to marry and it’s your responsibility to look for that person (or in women’s cases, wait around for him to find you). Her experiences led her to think more deeply on this common belief within Christendom and ultimately, she came to question the idea of “the One”, opting instead to believe that God cares more about the position of our hearts than who we marry.
So after posting both articles on Facebook and reading some of the responses, I’ve decided to come out.
I no longer fully subscribe to the idea of “the one”. *wipes sweaty palms on jeans*. Yes, I still believe marriage is a commitment between two individuals “til death do us part” and no, I am not polyamorous so I better not get any phone calls from my Dad about this *side eyes the saints*. I just don’t think I can actively believe in the idea of there being one person that God created just for me or that God “wants” for me to marry. Could I be wrong? Sure…but this is me and what I think. And this is in no way to shade those who believe in “the one.” Bless y’all…peace and blessings…U-N-I-T-Y…alla dat.
Ok. So. This is something that has been churning in my heart for years, especially now that I am in “average age of first marriage” category. Though the Church should definitely be implicated, the idea of “the one” is not restricted to Christendom. We see it everywhere – in our families, in songs, in movies, on Facebook, on Instagram, etc. We live in a society that is saturated with messages surrounding love and marriage…and the one. You’re supposed to find “the one” that you’re supposed to be with and live happily ever after. I mean…isn’t that what the best Disney movies are made of? (The answer is yes.)
Now, my approach to this tends to be super practical because…well…that’s my personality. So if this is not deep enough for some, that’s perfectly OK. I’m just trying to find my way honestly.
In the Church, as I established in Part One, marriage is like an exclusive country club to which everyone is trying obtain membership. It’s in the forefront of a lot of what happens in the Church and, in some places, people are even looked down upon if they are in certain positions in the Church and are not married (i.e. – pastors). So I get that marriage is a goal and we teach that everywhere and in everything. BUT I hesitate when we start saying things like “there’s someone out there that God has created just for you.” But why Ash? Doesn’t that sound nice? Yes…nice. But what happens to the folks who never marry? Were they just not created for someone? Did God predestine some for marriage and others not for marriage? And how do you know? Then that leads me to a whole ‘nother level of “But why God?”s and another round of Ashley versus the sovereignty of God. Our great God. I really do love Him y’all, I promise. But I find myself asking Him a lot of questions these days and He’s gracious toward me in that regard.
All of creation was created for God and for His glory. Soli Deo gloria. Beyond that, there are destinies that we all have that ultimately lead back to God and His glory. Marriage may or may not be in those plans. Dating…ehh. The Bible doesn’t speak much on dating…well…because dating is a rather new phenomenon. Betrothal and arranged marriages were the order of the day in Biblical times. We have certain examples where God brought people to people (i.e. – God gave Eve to Adam (Genesis 2); God instructed Hosea to marry Gomer (Hosea 1), the angel Gabriel instructs Joseph to marry Mary anyway (Matthew 1)), but many of the marriages in the Bible we know little about and even less about the process before the marriage. So is that why we seem to have so much to say on the topic? Sometimes I really wished that God had given specific instructions about how this should go because then I wouldn’t be pulling my hair out trying to figure out what’s going on. Rachel Held Evans put it like this in her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood , “Now, we evangelicals have a nasty habit of throwing the word biblical around like it’s Martin Luther’s middle name. We especially like to stick it in front of loaded words, like economics, sexuality, politics, and marriage to create the impression that God has definitive opinions about such things, opinions that just so happen to correspond with our own.” (p. xx).
Maybe we tell people about “the one” to make them feel better. Or maybe this is one of the few areas of our lives that we feel somewhat comfortable with knowing that God has it in control. I know every time I express frustration or anger or some other negative feeling about my love life (or lack thereof), my Mom is quick to hit me with the “wait on the Lord”s or “God has someone in store for you”s. Does He? What if the Lord’s Perfect Will concerning my life is for me to remain single? What about people who remarry after a death of a spouse? What about nonbelievers who marry and their marriages last – did they marry “the one” God had for them or were they just really compatible? Is there a difference? What does it all mean? HOW MUCH OF THIS IS LEFT UP TO US?
I have asked myself all of these questions and more numerous times. I have read books on dating, courtship, and marriage and something in me still doesn’t feel quite satisfied with the answers. I guess that’s the tricky thing about revelation – it can look one way to you and another way to me, and another way to him over there. And perhaps I hesitate because I know how easy it is for me personally to make God’s voice sound eerily like my own. So when I ask people like my parents, who will be celebrating thirty years of marriage next year how they knew and they prayed on it and had a sense of peace, I kinda shutter at the thought. Do you know how many things in my life I felt sure that God had cosigned that He hadn’t at all? Fairytales turned to nightmares when I played God’s role.
My other qualm is regarding the practicality of choosing a mate. The Church, in general, does not do a great job at helping us make solid decisions regarding choosing a mate because we’re told to only be concerned about certain things. Overall, men are taught to be concerned about her ability to be submissive; women should be concerned about his ability to lead. What about communication? Or reliability? Or finances? Or family, social, and medical history? Or responsibility? Or….[the list goes on and on]. I realize some of the things I think about are not high on everyone’s list but we’re talking about completely integrating your life with someone else’s. I believe I need to get a good picture of what that addition to my life is going to look like and I need time to see things for what they are. Keep these things in front of my face as well as encouraging me to look for someone who can “lead”. Maybe as my faith continues to grow my perspective will change but this is where I am today.
So I say all of that to make this point – I believe it is an obligation for us to consider that there may be multiple ways to do life, even within Christendom. The importance of our decisions for our lives as Believers is in our decisions not trumping what the Bible DOES say. I think there is room at the table for discussion and understanding. Let’s reason together.
I read this quote yesterday and I plan to keep it before me when considering where my life is going in every respect:
Let nothing upset you, let nothing startle you. All things pass; God does not change. Patience wins all it seeks. Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone is enough.” – St. Teresa of Avila