You've heard the phrase before: "marriage is a gift, not a guarantee."
I've heard married folks say it to hopeful singles. I've heard singles say it with conviction and certainty.
Can I pose an observation? There is a bit of an underlying narrative here. It's almost as if we're saying that yes, marriage is so, so, good - and God may or may not allow you to enjoy it. You need to learn to be okay with that.
Or at least, I'm sure several of singles have interpreted it that way. Maybe you can related.
I... wonder if there is another perspective, here.
Marriage is work.
It is two people who look at one another and decide to enter a partnership - daily. They'll work together to share food, financial resources, space... they will work together to raise kind humans... they will take responsibility for one another and share companionship, fun, personal development.
When we frame marriage as a gift that we're waiting for, it suggest that God has a magical spouse who will bring you unique happiness locked up in a cabinet somewhere. If you earn it or if He feels like blessing you, then tah-dah! In walks a person that you've dreamed of and prayed for, and you get to tell your testimony about how God showered his favor on you. And if you don't come across a spouse, then... I guess God didn't want to bless you in that way.
And the singles who listen to the stories of miraculous matchmaking find themselves...confused. Frustrated. Betrayed, even. After all, they're praying, too! They're showing up to small groups or volunteering in the community. What made them more deserving? Why didn't they have to wait 5, 10, 15 years for their gifted spouse?
But here's what I believe: there is no such thing as a pre-existing spouse.
You are not a husband or a wife, waiting for activation. Neither is any other human on this planet. We are simply humans. We are people who are given the responsibility of caring for one another (yes, even the mailman that you see once a week). We are given the responsibility to care for this planet. And, while we're here, we are get to "play in the garden," so to speak: enjoy riding bikes or sculpting pottery or dancing or whatever floats your boat. The human experience.
And then, two of those humans will meet and decide... I like being around you. I feel safe around you. I enjoy life when I'm around you. And, I'd also like to join my journey to yours. Let's do this together. For...as long as we have time on this earth. You in?
Marriage is a gift in the sense that it can be and feel so good. We feel lucky to have found a person to share it with. And because a relationship with God means secure dependence on Him, knowing that our deepest and unknown needs will be met, it makes sense that a "gift" narrative is placed around the experience of meeting a compatible person to build a partnership with.
But make no mistake: neither marriage, nor a husband, nor a wife, is a pre-packaged entity that you have to either find or cross your fingers and hope that God lets you have it.
If marriage is a gift,
it is the kind of gift that has no guarantee for an amount of time.
it is the kind of gift that isn't earned based on you doing XYZ or "just stop wanting it, then it'll come."
It is like a plant.
You had nothing to do with breathing life into the plant or even orchestrating how seeds work... but in order for the plant to stay alive, you must nourish and care for it. It takes tender work.
It is like Ikea furniture.
You'll get a bunch of parts. And maybe the person you're building with will help you put the furniture together in alignment with its design. Maybe the person will walk away mid-build. Maybe they'll be reluctant to even pick up the instructions. Or maybe you'll put the pieces together in a way that will cause it to inevitable fall apart (at which point you get the choice to start again, or walk away).
It's a gift that you have to work to create.
So how should you date?
You'll need to be all of yourself, so that you can find the person that most aligns with your direction in life. You wouldn't want to compromise to "get someone to like you," because the bigger picture here isn't attraction, it is work. And work is good -- when you're with someone who you enjoy working with.
In this lens, you'll see that being a partner is a choice. You have the choice to commit to someone you know and/or are dating... and the choice to say, "nah. not for me." The people you date have the choice of whether or not they would like to go all in and work with you daily. If they choose not to... *whew* that' great to learn now!
For the single ladies and gents out there... I wonder if changing your perspective of marriage might also change your experience of singleness. If you'd like marriage...continue to pursue that path. Continue to explore relationships in order to connect with a great working partner. Continue knowing that you have a choice here... and every "failed" relationship is actually success of weeding out an unsuitable working partner (and there will be many more unsuitable ones than aligned ones).
You aren't missing out on a gift, and God isn't hiding a special experience from you.
Keep exploring this world. Find new hobbies. Find people to care for and support. Find a community to surround you and care for you, too. And, as you let go of words like "impossible" and "never" and "forever alone" in your vocabulary...you may find yourself open to many possibilities of new partnerships.
You may find that doing the same thing every day isn't helping you walk among new partners...so you may want to switch up your routine and habits.
Or perhaps you have unresolved trauma or unhelpful behaviors that are showing up and sabotaging your ability to choose a suitable partner.
Maybe the weight of your despair and discouragement is so heavy that what you really need right now, is to be in community with those who can remind you of truth (you are loved, you are more than your relationship status) rather than gathering with people who are just as discouraged as you are (misery loves company).
Marriage is work.
It's not just the intensity of sexual chemistry. It's daily choosing of the other person, and of the values you two share. It's companionship in the ups and downs of life (companionship that is protected by the daily work of mutual respect and communication).
It isn't a ready-made gift that arrives at the door of the "chosen ones." It is a plant in seed state. It is unassembled Ikea furniture.
Keep growing. And choose wisely. It's the everyday choices that determines if you and your chosen partner will build a home of blessings, or a perpetual prison.
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