Marriage Is Not Ultimate
I recently caught up with a college friend in town for a mutual friend's wedding. Now in our mid- to late-20s, we talked about love, significant others, and marriage. We expressed fears and anxieties, hopes and dreams. We asked the typical questions: Is this "the one"? Are we compatible? Will she accept me? Will I be happy forever with her? All of this got me thinking about how much the YOLO ideology has affected the minds of young Christian singles when it comes to marriage.
We live in interesting, strange times, especially in regard to marriage. Some of what I see is positive, but most is downright upsetting. Seeking to escape the enslaving small-mindedness of caveman traditions, our generation fights to redefine and delay marriage at the same time. While the LGBTQ community demands their so-called right to marry, heterosexuals devalue it by delaying marriage for as long as possible.
Though the sages of our age encourage heterosexuals not to marry early, most still want the benefits of marriage. There's an inescapable desire for love, commitment, sex, and deep intimacy. Carl Ellis exposes the irony:
A casual observer of today's Western culture would be hard-pressed to miss the prevailing trends toward marriage devaluation. As increasing numbers of heterosexual couples are opting to do "married people things" absent the marriage commitment (e.g., cohabitate, have and raise children, etc.), marriage itself is viewed with considerably less favor than a generation ago.
In the midst of all this comes the push for "marriage equality" in same-sex unions. Why is this community swimming against the prevailing marriage devaluation stream? They seem to appreciate what we no longer value—a legal, long-term commitment to one person. Do they know something that our society has forgotten? Are they wiser than those who see marriage and the nuclear family as "obsolete institutions"? If so, this is a just indictment against our civilization.
So our generation will fight for LGBTQs to marry, but they won't value marriage. It's like children throwing a tantrum for something only because they can't have it. They cannot comprehend the value of what they so desperately want; therefore, if allowed to have it, they make a mockery of it, treating it like a toy that can be discarded the moment it becomes boring.
Devalued by Christians
It's easy for Christians to point the finger at our neighbors and accuse them of misunderstanding and devaluing marriage. But we are also guilty. We often worship marriage and (therefore) devalue it, too.
Worshiping something not meant to be worshiped is the same as devaluing it. Since the NBA Finals are in full effect, humor me for a moment. Let's say San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich decided to put Tony Parker at center and Tim Duncan—arguably the greatest power forward of all time—at point guard. At their correct positions, they excel; if they swapped positions, however, their value to the team would plummet. Why? They've been put in positions they have neither the talent nor physique to fulfill. Popovich would be cruel and foolish to ask Parker and Duncan to fulfill these positions.
Our depraved natures want to make athletes, sex, money, possessions, family, education, and marriage ultimate. But creation only works when it plays its proper role. The fall testifies to the fact that when humanity attempts to replace and become "like" God (Gen. 3:5), the result is chaos.
Media, romance novels, and porn all place artificial and impossible expectations on manhood, womanhood, beauty, sex, and marriage. We either consider our lives a failure if we don't marry, delay marriage searching for the "right one," abandon multiple marriages convinced we keep marrying the "wrong one," or abandon marriage altogether—all because of misplaced expectations. We idolize creation because we misunderstand its original purpose: the glory of God (Ps. 19:1).
Proverbs 18:22 make it clear that marriage between man and woman is important—not only to us, but also to God. A man who finds a wife does well, the verse declares, and he "obtains favor from the Lord." Indeed, Genesis 1 tells us it isn't good for man to be alone; thus, God gave Adam a wife.
Moreover, Song of Solomon paints a beautiful picture of love and marriage. Marriage should be celebrated, enjoyed, and permanent until the death of one of the parties involved.
Marriage isn't ultimate, but it shouldn't be entered into halfheartedly, either. I don't think time prepares you for marriage so much as Jesus does. As we fixate supremely on him, our broken expectations begin to change. We no longer look for the prettiest, wealthiest, most impressive, spouse. We already have all we need in Jesus. A right view of the gospel can give eternal depth to the shallowest bachelor or bachelorette.
During a wedding reception I recently attended, I soaked in the joy that filled the room as we celebrated the marriage of two Christians, and I began to ponder heaven's celebration when we'll see Christ face to face. Wonderful as it is to be united with a few college friends to celebrate this occasion, it pales in comparison to the party on that great day as God's redeemed from every language and people will unite at the feet of our great Groom.
Ultimately, marriage "declares the glory of God" by reflecting the marriage between Jesus and his bride, the church. Only in him can I be "chained up to my master's throne" and freed to live, breathe, work, and marry for his glory.
As a single Christian man, I understand the urge to selfishly pursue a "trophy wife" to hide my insecurities and have my "best life now." In college, a dear friend introduced me to Elisabeth Elliot's writing. While reading her work, I learned that marriage is not the pinnacle of my existence. I'm simply called to pursue a woman who loves Jesus (a wonderful gift in and of itself) and to love her the way Jesus loves his bride—sacrificially.
We must all abandon the selfish temptation to only marry girls more dazzling than models and men more dashing than Prince Charming. That's an illusion, anyway. But Jesus is real and infinitely more satisfying. He is ours, and we are his. Rest in that truth.