Weekly dates. Flowers. Candlelit dinners. Holding hands while walking. Holding hands while biking. Holding hands while reading. That tingly feeling that no English word can accurately describe when your loved one is near.
Who doesn’t want that? I mean, why else would we cry and sigh over fast food commercials that tug our hearts?
Enter your married friends. Or just the statistics on marriage. They tell you how married life is challenging. And how you wake up after honeymoon period is over and realize just how idealistic you were when you were single. And how surreal that you just used to appreciate the cinematography on films showing expectations versus reality… and now you’re living in it.
You hear about couples fighting over small things like leaving the lights on at night when you go to sleep, leaving the toilet seat up, squeezing the toothpaste tube in different parts, etc. That’s not even the worst of it. How can you submit to your husband when you think he’s making the wrong decision? How can you deal with the aftermath of a wrong decision? And personally, that makes me hesitant about tying the knot.
Because the reality is that, yes… Marriage is GREAT and all, but let’s face it…
… BEING SINGLE IS MORE COMFORTABLE.
I get to decide on anything without consulting anyone. I’m free to squeeze my toothpaste tube anywhere. I can sleep in the dark in peace. I can decide on my weekly menu at a snap of the finger. I don’t have to work my schedule around anyone.
So, why in the world should I want to get married?
I want to get married because only in marriage can my selfishness come to the surface. And when it does, then I can deal with it by the grace of God. I realize that even the fact that I want to get married to someone who I have a lot of things in common with shows how selfish I can be. It shows my unwillingness to adjust. Marriage is not comfortable because I have to face the fact that I’m not as mature as I thought I was and that I’m not even close to being like Christ. But I cannot change what I am ignorant of. When I get married, I’m afraid to know how evil I can be and yet I look forward to rooting it out of me. I want to get married not because I want someone to make me happy. I want him to be committed to make me like Christ. I want him to look forward to God telling me in heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant” and know that he has been a big part of that commendation. I love how Tim Keller stated it in The Meaning of Marriage.
The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.
In marriage, you get to experience a reflection of God’s love. The kilig, the romance, the intimacy you get to enjoy, the milestones you accomplish together, the children you get to raise, the blessings you enjoy… those are just bonuses. And that’s really AWESOME.
So yes, I want to get married because marriage is great, but…
… IT IS NOT THE GREATEST.
The love of God that is shown in Jesus dying on the cross still is the greatest love one can experience. It is God who first knows the worst of us and yet still chose to die a painful death on the cross for us. It says in the Bible:
7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, ESV)
It is only in knowing the depth of God’s love do we desire to be selfless in a relationship. Another quote from The Meaning of Marriage articulates this experience so well.
When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
So, for the single people, be excited as you wait, but for the right reasons and with less idealistic expectations. Wait on someone who is committed to become more like Christ because then, you are both sure of your desire to choose truth and love in the relationship. For the married ones, my hope is that your spouse is as committed to be selfless in your relationship as you are. But if he/she is not, there is always hope in Christ.
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1Corinthians 13:7, ESV)