I’m glad I didn’t get married at 25.
At 25, I was unconsciously looking for a guy to glance my way and sing Brad Paisley’s line from under a wide white brim, “Now you’re my whole life. Now you’re my whole world. I just can’t believe the way I feel about you girl.”
This mystery man also needed to go full Bryan Adams by declaring “Everything I do, I do it for you.” Really, a step beyond that would have been even better. While whisking me away to the moon, I wanted Frank Sinatra, fedora in hand, to croon that I was all he longed for, worshiped and adored.
Totally reasonable. Not setting myself up for disappointment at all. Clearly, that’s what solid relationships are built on.
Thank God that never happened.
If I’d gotten a poor unsuspecting man to join me at the altar of worshiping me (to quote an unnamed friend), it would have been cringe worthy. Maybe I’m wiser now or maybe I just eventually realized that if a gent actually came up and said, “Baby — you’re my whole world,” I’d probably respond with, “Dude, we need to get you some hobbies. Golf, tennis, computer games, poker night. Take your pick because I can’t be your whole life.”
Although I hate to admit it, I had built “the One” into an idol. I was looking for this grand relationship that would fulfill all of my emotional and companionship desires. If I wasn’t married to this elusive being, I was missing out on having a purpose in work, a pinpoint for my love and affection, and building a life.
Whether it’s due to our social media-induced isolation, the dissolution of the natural family, or not knowing our neighbors, the 20-30-somethings (both in and out of church) looking for love have put so much pressure on romantic relationships to be this end-all-be-all relationship. These relationships are the only place where much-needed, non-sexual intimacy is allowed to happen. As Brad, Brian, Frank, and so many others have said it, the focus of our work, the sole channel of our adoration, and in fact, the whole world are bound up in one romantic relationship.
As Margaret and Dwight Peterson put it in their book Are You Waiting for the One?
Once you meet and marry ‘the One,’ your problems are solved. You are perfect, your partner is perfect, your relationship is perfect — all the two of you need from one another is ‘intimacy,’ and the two of you together stand in no need of anything from anything else. Romance has saved you both out of your single loneliness and launched you into a future in which you have no needs that are not already fulfilled by one another.
No one person is capable of being that for another — even in an otherwise godly, Christ-centered marriage. Husbands and wives are supposed to be a primary relationship and the foundation of new families; but when God designed marriage, He didn’t intend for it to be a soul-mate, dual-navel-gazing mystery. Instead, it’s meant to be a starting place for a community-faced relationship that edifies the Body of Christ and ministers to the lost. The Psalmist says that God “sets the lonely in families,” and marriages are meant to be havens — for the two covenanting people — but also for the disconnected and isolated.
The Lord was gracious to break me of this idol. Through ordinary and yet sanctifying moments, God showed me just how rickety, full of fissures, and burdensome this idol was. In my pain and confusion over being unmarried, I had chipped off pieces of the good gift of marriage and remade it into something I could carry around in my heart and worship quietly. Instead, our kind God asked me to put down my little pet idea and allow Him to carry me. (Isaiah 44:4)
So when I hear a twangy lyric or jitterbug songster singing back to me lies I used to believe, they come through sounding hollow and tinny. Being married would meet some of my needs, but I’m no longer looking for an all-consuming fire of a relationship, because the Lord Himself is the only one worthy. His presence is the only place where true and uniting intimacy happens, and everything from wedding vows to sex to building a new family, points back to that true Source.