Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thoughts On Marriage From A Single Guy

Years ago, I was asked to teach at our church's college group. As a young single guy I decided to teach on marriage, being the expert that I was. Really, it was just something I wanted to learn about. Years later, I am still learning a lot about marriage even though I'm unmarried. I feel that if I learn through other people's mistakes then maybe I won't make them when I'm married. But it's also a genuine curiosity that makes me want to take a closer look. I love watching older couples interact. What strikes me is their uninhibited honesty toward each other, nothing is hidden and flattery is insulting. I don't share that sort of naked honesty with anybody. It seems that honesty comes with trust, and that sort of trust comes with countless times of testing. It is a depth of contented love that I have yet to experience, but I see it in their eyes. It's not Hollywood's glamorous version of love, it's better. It's real.

When I think about marriage, I can't help but think about all the divorces going on around me. And all the couples who are talking about divorce, and all the couples who aren't talking about divorce, but wished they were divorced. It's very disturbing. It always ruins my fairytale daydreams about marriage. Something is terribly wrong. Why all the divorce? Sometimes, I think that if so many people are wanting out of marriage then maybe I'm better off avoiding it altogether. Honestly, sometimes I want to be married and sometimes I don't. I've had seasons where I really wanted a girlfriend, then I got a girlfriend, but then I didn't want to have a girlfriend. My fickle heart scares me. I don't trust myself. I know that marriage is for life and I take that very seriously. If I do anything right, I want to stay true to my wedding vows. I'm sure that if I get married then there will be times when I'd rather not be married, but I'm convinced that my love for God and my family will be my strength and inspiration to give it my all.

I think the high divorce rate reveals our fallacies about marriage. Our expectations and imaginations set the bar at an impossible height. We view love like we view the lottery. We want prosperity but we don't want to work for it. It's interesting that divorcing couples almost always blame the other person. If I know one thing, it is that marriage stands or falls based on the element of self-sacrifice, agape love. If we go into marriage with only selfish desires and an unwillingness to sacrifice then we will lose. It seems, we'd rather try to change someone else into the idea of the person we love rather than work at loving the real person. The seed of divorce starts with that seminal unfaithfulness. Consequently, if someone is bent on changing their spouse, and not willing to change for their spouse, then that is a form of self-love. And that marriage will fail.

I've noticed a growing aversion to marriage among young single guys especially (maybe some girls too, but not the ones I've talked to). That attitude actually makes sense in a culture of rampant sexual immorality. Sex is supposed to be reserved for marriage alone, but that hard line is being softened to the point of being obsolete. In our society, to be a virgin is as peculiar as being Amish. The misunderstanding of grace in the church is breeding compromise. The Devil's best pitch is "Just do it and God will forgive you later" and after the fact his tone changes to "God could never forgive you." Sufficed to say, sex is not the only reason for marriage but it is one of the reasons, according to its Designer.

I think young singles are also apprehensive toward marriage because from the outside it just looks hard. It seems so time-consuming and high-maintenance. And really it's not a commandment to be married, it really is optional. Sometimes, I joke that Jesus and Beethoven didn't marry so maybe I won't either. But seriously, there's a part of me that knows that if I never get married, then I will be missing out on a great adventure. It will be a facet of love that will remain a mystery. I believe we are here to explore love, and marriage seems like a locked corridor in my life. I know that if I get married then it will be scary at times and I will see parts of myself that I'd rather not see. But in the end, if I am willing to look hard enough then the truth will set me free. It is hard to lose my life and yet there is a part of me that wants to lose myself more than anything else. That is true freedom. With marriage, I look forward to completely investing myself in someone else, where her hardships become mine and vice versa. And knowing that if the whole world turns against me then at least one person will still be holding my hand.

Be that as it may, whenever I feel a strong yearning for marriage then I pray. I pray for my future wife and somewhere out there she is being kissed by blessings. I pray that if she is feeling forlorn that the Lord would wrap His loving arms around her and steady her heart. And maybe she is praying for me. Maybe, we aren't so far apart after all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

If The Devil Were God

Sometimes, you must ponder the antithesis of something in order to obtain a deeper appreciation. Sometimes, in order to recognize something we have to recognize its opposite. We often determine what we like by starting with what we dislike. Moreover, we savor life once we've tasted the bitterness of death. I cherish family and friends more and more as I realize that they will not always be in my life. We are living out moments that will soon be memories. I treasure relationships in light of inevitable separation.
Similarly, some of us can testify to the ecstasy of God's light only because we've recognized the miseries of outer darkness. And in order to appraise love we must imagine a world without it. A world turned upside down. What if the devil were God?

What if we had been born into a world where the highest authority burned with hatred toward mankind? That kind of God would delight in, not blessing, but cursing his creation, tormenting it. His agenda would not be salvation, but death and destruction. And we would be powerless against such cruelty. We would live in a hopelessly withered world, cowering under the demented whim of a sovereign tyrant. We would surely beg for death. If God were not good, who could dethrone Him? There were no guarantees that we would have a God of love. But we do. We were not entitled to love, but Jesus died and we were written into the will.

In our universe, water is the quintessential ingredient for life. We search for water on other planets to know if life is possible elsewhere. Some scientists propose that love is also vital to the survival of our species. They say we love only for the purpose of procreation and self-preservation. They argue that if people did not fall in love then mankind would soon die off. However, it leaves much to be accounted for when it comes to the complexities of love. That might account for a pseudo-love that seeks profit, and yet real love is so much more. What about the other kind of love that I witness each and every day? Love that goes beyond self interest? I believe that agape love is the greatest evidence against the theory of evolution. When I see agape love enter our atmosphere it appears as an alien beauty, a miraculous force, not scientific. Agape love stops me in my tracks, as if I have just witnessed a transmission from another world. When the rich feed the poor, when the strong carry the weak, those acts of self-sacrificial kindness defy the logic of evolution. Why do we stand in awe when we see people sacrifice for others? Why do we feel a deep sense of fulfillment when we make someone's day? It has nothing to do with self-preservation. Surely, the trail of charitable love leads back to a loving Creator. We are glimmers of unearthly love only because we all bear His image. We are like our Father.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am sincerely thankful to live in a world where love resides on Heaven's throne.