When I first got saved, I made a random decision to break up with my boyfriend at the time, and go on a dating sabbatical.
I received mixed reviews regarding my decision. People either thought I was crazy or brave. It’s unconventional to take a season of intentional singleness. I also know that these kinds of things aren’t explicit in the Bible, but I felt it was the best decision for me at the time. Being newly saved and knowing very little about what sanctification was, I didn’t know what being a Christian would look like for me, but I knew it couldn’t possibly resemble the life I formerly lived…so I got rid of everything cold turkey.
The lessons gained from this experience would take upwards of a hundred different blog posts to fully express. But there are a few takeaways I am able to condense. This is part one of those takeaways.
Expectations suck, there is no formula, and God will do what he wants, when he wants, how he wants to do it.
I didn’t go on a sabbatical to earn the grand prize of marriage.
In fact, I actually ended my sabbatical with no desire to ever marry.
The only common denominator I have seen in Biblical marriage is the fact that it is a God ordained covenant, purposed to reflect and glorify him. Given that marriage encompasses a myriad of traditions, cultures, beliefs and processes, I conclude that there is no definitive formula for who gets married, the process by which it happens, or why some individuals marry and others do not. I’ve seen eighteen year-olds marry. I’ve seen thirty-year olds marry for the first time. Age, race, and socioeconomic status do not have any bearings on who marries. Being “wifey material” doesn’t even guarantee marriage (or in my case: not being wifey material doesn’t even guarantee singleness…because let me tell y’all about how much I am not the “wifey” type). God honors marriage as he is glorified.
The reason people get married is because God willed it for them. That’s it.
Recently, I was catching up with a Zimbabwean girlfriend who currently lives in London (the perks of traveling and living internationally is having cultured friends who have nothing in common with you). During this conversation she revealed to me that she is recently married. Obviously shocked, I inquired more of her situation. As it turns out, her now husband had to go through a whole entire process to even secure the marriage. His representatives had to approach her family to ask for her hand. Her and her family had to both agree, as well as negotiate the terms and he had to pay a bridal price in addition to other payments. Then, when both families finally agreed on the arrangements, they all blessed the two of them and joined them together in a ceremony. After this particular ceremony, they were finally allowed to live together as husband and wife. But that’s not the end of it. After this particular ceremony, in order to be welcomed into her husbands family, and vice versa, there had to be another ceremony.
This particular friend does not believe in getting the government involved in their process. There were no legal documents involved, and no government issued marriage license. Culturally, they are considered married, as she put it: “in the eyes of God and in the eyes of my family.” Understand also, that everyone involved are bible believing devout Christians.
Meanwhile in the west, Christian women in particular continuously devour Esther and Proverbs 31 formulas on marriage, and are held under a microscope by impossible standards of many westernized men and church culture (can we please finally end the the cycle of expecting eighteen to twenty-something year old women to have already arrived at this exhaustive list of requirements?). I admit to formerly subscribing to the same ideologies of “if only I did ‘this’ and ‘that,’ then I would attract the man God has for me (as if my behavior could win me a grand prize of male attention).
I asked my friend how she felt towards her marriage. In a nutshell, she is happy and excited. She is also a little nervous about the arrangement and adjusting to it. Overall, she is content.
This kind of process is foreign to our westernized minds (I would have given up during the negotiations) but I bring this up to make an important point: outside of the biblical non-negotiables, we cannot impose universal rules when it comes to dating, relationships and marriage. She didn’t do much to earn her marriage. Although she is content, her marriage was a business transaction. In fact, arranged marriages still remain the number one way marriages are carried out today.
Biblically speaking, dating did not exist and is a relatively new concept within the time we live in. This does not mean dating is sinful. It simply means we have to be careful of our standards and expectations. With that being said, it allows me to bring up an important point I may get some pushback on:
While Jesus Christ alone makes us whole, we need to carefully examine what we truly mean when we promote the “wait until you are whole to get married” mantra that is so heavily popular today.
Before the comments section of this post gets too crazy, allow me to explain. Without a doubt, our wholeness is found in Christ alone. We also have to understand, however, that for some individuals wholeness in Christ is not fully realized until it is lived out within the context of marriage, and that may be God’s will for them in a particular season of their life.
I’m trying to be very careful with my words. I understand it is a very dangerous thing to give an impression that a person should marry before they’ve discovered wholeness in Christ. This is not what I am saying. I simply understand that while wisdom errs on the side of wholeness in Christ, this is not the case for everyone. I also recognize that God does use singleness to demonstrate his wholeness as he did with me. But we cannot expect every single person to find wholeness in Christ as a secret formula towards marriage. Christian marriages are, in fact, made up of two individuals made whole in Christ. On the same token, it is also made up of two depraved sinners, who are in desperate need of the gospel every single day. On the eternal scheme of things, Christ has made us whole, completely healed of our transgression, and made new without spot or blemish. On an earthly level, however, we are far from it. We still have to walk out this reality through the painful process of sanctification, where our indwelling sin is being exposed and dealt with on an ongoing basis.
I can honestly say that a solid Christian walk in wholeness has saved me a great deal of heartache and hard lessons I’ve successfully been able to avoid in recognizing the pre-eminence of Christ in my life. What I cannot ignore, however, is that sometimes God uses alternative means to bring his children to him as well, including that is within the context of marriage. During my own conversion process, I have seen him use two married unbelievers to reconcile one spouse to Him, and then later use this person to bring the other spouse to Himself. There are even times where God will allow two broken people to enter a marriage covenant and sanctify them into wholeness in areas that were blind spots in singleness. This is most definitely not an endorsement of broken or immature marriages, but rather a recognition that we simply cannot put the sanctification tool of marriage into a rigidly defined box.
God does what he wants according to his will. Let’s also remember that God also allows all things, especially us depraved sinners, our shortcomings and our brokenness in singleness and in marriage, to work together for good, to those of us who are called according to his purpose.
Written By Siobhan Blot