It’s strange. When I was younger, the thought of marriage was something that gave me joy. I remember being a teenager and wishing that I had found someone who wanted to understand me and spend their life with me. I wanted someone who would be my best friend; someone with whom I could have adventures with and with whom I could do life with. But now, as I get older, I have this creeping fear that maybe I’m not cut out for marriage. You start to wonder, the further along you go in your 20’s, if whether something is wrong with you. What’s that one unattractive thing about me that I could fix to help rid me of this “problem” of staying single? Is it my crooked smile? My strange sense of humor? The way I often stare into space in a way that expresses poor listening skills? Maybe if I listened to different kinds of music, or studied up on different issues, I’d be more “eligible”? Who knows.
Other fears creep their way in: I’m not finished with school yet, which means I can’t get a $50k a year job right now. I don’t have a retirement account or much in savings. If I don’t have those things in order, then how am I supposed to care for someone else? I can barely take care of myself! Actually, do I even do that correctly?
What if I become vulnerable to another person and that person rejects me? I’m not quite sure I want my weaknesses exposed to another human being. To be so vulnerable and to think so much outside myself would mean I’m risking nearly everything for this one relationship. On top of this, I am constantly aware of my areas of immaturity. I’m consistently meditating on my weaknesses and how best to fix them, or at least cover them up temporarily. There are so many standards and ideals to uphold, I’m not quite sure I’ll ever measure up to being spouse-worthy. Then again, I am talking about being with someone who doesn’t love perfectly. Am I prepared for the conflict? For the miscommunication? For the disasters in the making? What about children. How many? What if some have medical defects? Am I ready for whatever comes my way?
With all of these issues that lay dormant inside of me, how on earth could God trust me with someone else? I feel as if I need this company, this companionship and depth of relationship. But, I just don’t know where to begin, or how to steward this gift once I receive it. Then again, I’m sounding selfish. Isn’t the point of marriage to demonstrate God’s love towards another person, in a way that is self-sacrificing not just beneficial to myself? Isn’t marriage supposed to be painting a portrait of something bigger than the both of us?
When I was younger I strongly wanted the affirmation marriage would provide. To be assured that I really was doing the right thing, and to have the encouragement to keep pressing on. As I get older, I want the security and friendship a marriage can provide. However, even though there are many good things I’ve hoped and longed for in marriage over the years, the one truth I can’t wrap my head around is that I can’t start a marriage or even make it work. I may be on a ship headed for eternal life, but I am not the Captain. I don’t need to worry myself into oblivion over how inadequate I am. It’s by the grace of God that I am what I am (1 Cor. 15), and will be what I will be (1 Jn. 3). Marriage is a gift, not a reward.
The irony is that none of my life as it now stands is based on how adequate I felt or thought I was. Everything in my life is a gift of God’s grace. Everything- this includes being born into a Christian family. This includes the skills He’s given me, and the amazing friendships I’ve had over the years- ultimately salvation is the greatest gift. The blanket of my assurance, the very thing (and only thing) that can keep me warm is the covering of the grace of God. How on earth could anyone survive any other way? Yet, this is how I’ve been interpreting my singleness all along: I’ve been interpreting it in a framework of a rewards system- of a give and take. But, even though God blesses obedience, obedience is not the key to sanctification. The gospel is the groundwork and thruster for a sanctified life. The Holy Spirit enabling you to change and progress is what will make every aspect of the Christian life work (Rom. 12; 1 Cor, 12; Eph. 4). According to the Apostle Paul and the prophet Habakkuk, the Christian is saved (declared righteous) and lives only by faith. This kind of faith daily trusts God for food on the table, for forgiveness of sins, for help in times of temptation and struggle. This faith ultimately produces obedience (James 2), but these actions do not save anybody. Only Christ’s sacrificial work can.
The point I’m getting at is that marriage is a gift (1 Cor. 7). If it’s a gift, then why worry so much- why focus on your flaws and failures and wonder what the opposite sex thinks about you? Of course it’s important to learn and grow as a believer, but you are not the master over your sanctification: The Holy Spirit is. You shouldn’t micro-manage your personality to fit a standard of society or change to get a certain person’s attention. Look to Christ, find your affirmation and friendship in Christ, and pray for that earthly companion to come, but don’t bank your happiness on it. Ultimately you will always have Christ, and He is the gift that is inexpressibly perfect and the highest treasure anyone can have (Rom. 8:32).
Don’t get so caught up in the whirlwind known as the single life. Trust me, over-thinking doesn’t make you more attractive, trusting Christ is.