THE IDOL CALLED MARRIAGE – The Church’s failure.
She looked at me with a strange expression on her face. She was an elderly respectable woman in church, her face awash, with questions.
She had seen me in church often, and I had spotted her too. I knew she was a deacon.
“Hey, how are you?” she asked, somehow patronizingly.
“Am well ma’am.” Smiling at her, aware of where those greetings were headed to.
Her conversation picked up, “Hope you have been blessed.”
“I sure am ma’am”, trying hard not to extend the pleasantries.
“Amen! The Lord will bless you! Give you a husband. You know, it’s a blessing to have a husband! They are rare you know. I know you would want a husband. Husbands…husbands…”
I practically zoned off. I wish I could tell her to stop. Not out of disrespect or anything of that sort but out the discomfort she put me in.
The truth is her voice was cluttering my new found peace.
Really, was God that short of men after His own heart that I had to plug into marriage since i seemed “late” to her?
Was God’s miraculous hand that short – if in any case there was a pandemic called “Husbands have run out”- that He would fail to create a new man for me, place him in the world and give him a whole life within the twinkling of an eye?
Was I going to be that myopic?
Was singleness that much of a sin?
See, the problem I had with our 2-minute conversation was in her inefficacy, in stirring out the wonder of the season I was in. She was not encouraging me to find peace and contentment in Christ and wait on Him, but chiding me on how late I was.
How I needed to “get married ASAP.” That husbands were rare to find and I should have been already hitched to a church guy.
No, I didn’t want a husband. I wasn’t looking for a husband. I wanted God. I wanted Him to fill me, flood me, saturate me, sanctify me, mold me, drown me…I wanted Christ. I had a deep thirst for His Word. A husband wasn’t on my list. So I found it quite anemic to term me as “incomplete” without marriage.
When did God label me as redeemed based on my marital status? Did I miss a memo?
As genuine as probably her intentions were, it did miss a mark then.
Of course it was not a thought that I had completely banished. I knew someday I may walk down the aisle, but even if I didn’t, probably gotten to 90 without having a date, God was still good to me.
I had reached a point of being completely at peace with whichever season the Lord deems fit for me for His glory.
I was done looking or grooming up to be seen. I was done joining ministry to be seen or going for overnight prayers where I could meet “potential husbands”, I was done. I was not ever going to peg my effectiveness in ministry based on any mortal man, for “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD “–Jeremiah 17:5.
So the ‘husband crusade’ was really irritating to say the least.
That is the dilemma plaguing most singles today especially in church. It’s a spiritual quandary you know. I have been in the church all my life to know that singleness is not celebrated, and more so if you get to your late 20s’ and 30s’ and all the signs of marriage read zero.
Marriage is exalted, singleness is shunned, because the church has made an idol out of marriage too.
The church is supposed grow gifts that the Lord has placed in each of us. It is to be a place where the world can see what a society would look like if Christ took His rightful place, devoid of all other idols in the world, but sadly, singleness is not considered as a gift. It’s more like a curse. A single person is put in either of the two categories, rejected or wasted beyond human acceptance.
To set the record straight, am not taking about the type of singleness that most of us a living out in aggravation.
Am not talking about the type of singleness that most singles are living out loud in pain, one that is filled with bitterness towards the married fellows, fearful about marriage or, cynical about marriage.
For clarity purposes, am talking about the season of singleness that that is filled with acceptance, contentment and gratitude – because God is still good and His goodness cannot be dented by our circumstances, foggy or otherwise.
The Church rarely heralds that season. Instead, the idol of marriage is curved out and all are required to bow down to it. Marriage is glorified more than the Lord of the marriage. Also, the Church has a tendency of despising the youth, contrary to what the Bible says.
The Singles have a great platform to be examples to the believers, “in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” – 1st Timothy 4:12. The word here is BELIEVERS- not the teenagers, Sunday school kids, youth alone, BELIEVERS. Believers is a word that encompasses all who believe in Christ, whether marriage, single, divorced or widowed.
But do we give the Singles that platform in Church save for occasional presentations over youth service?
So what births among the singles, discontentment, fear, jealousy, malice, cynicism and bitterness.
Paul in the Scriptures, reminds us that marriage is not the ultimate goal. It was never the ultimate goal.
All the while, his call was to take us back to our first love – Christ.
He says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:25-32).
Lest we forget – He says, AM TALKING ABOUT CHRIST AND THE CHURCH.
Marriage is simply a metaphor of the real thing. The earthy marriage, is not the real thing.
Marriage models to us the best fit of the Gospel of love, redemption, forgiveness, long suffering, grace, pain even betrayal. So it is inconceivable to expect ultimate “happily ever after fairy tale” in an earthly marriage. Yes we can be happy in marriage, i am happy in my marriage, but it doesn’t come wrapped up on a silver spoon. There has to be a cost.
Paul goes on to tell the singles that if he were to choose for them, he would rather they remain single for marriage has MANY TROUBLES and their attention will be divided.
A married man and woman are anxious about the cares of each other [not that they don’t know Christ – but a delicate balance has to be struck.] I cannot begin to tell you how intentional we have to get when the call of ministry beckons.
Marriage has been exalted in Church so much that our instant genuflection is patronizing them that in the season of singleness, rather than encouraging them to pursue Christ more than anything else in the world.
If the Church exalts marriage more than its Creator, how else can wife who finds her identity in her husband comfort one who is being abused?
How else can a husband who finds his identity in his wife have anything valuable to say to lonely divorced man?
How can the married who find their identity in ‘being married’ have anything important to say to single adults, young or old who are battling with that season? How can Christians who find their identity in their partner, and not Christ, have anything to say at all about the beauty and the glories that singleness carries and how high the Lord regards them?
It begins with you and I, the Church, changing the old narrative to the singles.
Instead of the inevitable, “Are you dating?”, “Why are you single?”, “So have you found anyone yet?” “You seem not to be attracting anyone?”, “When do you intend to have children?”, I beg you to instead ask, “Tell me about Christ”, “How are you doing in your Kingdom work”, “Do you think you can serve at a mission home?” “How about joining the ushering team?”, “You would do well in the protocol department.”
Every single person has a lot to say about Christ. Marriage aside, every single person has so much to do already in His vineyard.
The Church needs to stop idolizing marriage to a point that it makes the singles feel as if singleness is an inherent state of affairs. Its not a wonder that some even pray for marriage more than they pray for their personal walk with Christ.
We need to place marriage in its proper context, and speak unveiled truths that the season of marriage brings.
The truth is that marriage is good. It is God’s gift to us to mirror Christ. It gives us a place to serve another being, other than ourselves. Marriage does indeed grow one, but not through the painful crucifixion of ‘Self.’
Marriage teaches you on patience, but not through painfully serving your spouse even when you don’t feel like.
Marriage buds the fruits of long suffering and forbearance, but not without forgiving a spouse who cares less, who cheats, who abandons you and maybe who abuses you. Marriage teaches you to extend grace, but not without tears, travailing before the Lord to change your heart and attitude first.
Marriage has happiness too, but not without the fire of sanctification. Marriage has its glory, but not without the death of self-preservation.
We therefore cannot make marriage an idol. As long as we make marriage an idol and pursue it more than we pursue God, then our lives will be full of discontentment.
Marriage can’t save us, stir our deepest jollies, prevent us from being lonely, make us always feel loved, change us, or satisfy our deepest longings.
Marriage is a gift from God to be treasured. He does use it to make us holy. It is a good thing – when we marry for the right reasons and with godly motivations. But a wedding can’t meet all our spiritual needs! A beautiful wedding ceremony and a diamond ring won’t be enough to satisfy our deepest longings and the aching emptiness in our souls.
A wedding can’t replace God. Marriage can’t replace God. A husband or a wife, can’t fill the needs in your soul that only God can fill. Marriage should never be idolized. We need to live out in gospel-values. We should be careful not be too elated by the fact that we may be married, neither be down- cast by our wait. We should sit loose on everything.
It doesn’t mean that we should neglect our marriages in the name of the gospel, for that in itself blasphemes the Lord’s word, but our relationship to our spouses, fiancés, fiancées, them we are dating or prospecting should never supersede our love for Christ.
The Church should give more space to the singles to be examples to ALL BELIEVERS in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.