If you asked your family and friends what the most significant moments in their lives had been, you’d probably hear these answers:
- The day I met my wife.
- The moment I watched my bride walk down the aisle.
- The moment I held my newborn.
But what happens if you never meet your wife? Never walk down the aisle? Never have children?
What if I never marry?
Culturally, we know that marriage, romance, sex and babies matter and are a significant part of most human stories. This is evident whether going back two minutes to the latest rom-com release or more than two thousand (or two hundred) years to the dozens of archetypal, romantic dyads like Jacob and Rachel, Romeo and Juliet, Elizabeth and Darcy. Telling and retelling romantic tales is as old as mankind, and it frequently leaves me—as one of the unintentionally single—feeling left out, left behind and missing a significant piece of my own story.
When I feel like I’m missing out, it’s because I’ve bought into the idea of eternally romantic love—high on endorphins and low on life-giving hope. And even though the Christian “cop-out” alarm is going off all around me, the only hope, the only life raft that I have is the hope of heaven.
One of my all-time favorite books is a book simply titled Heaven. Randy Alcorn, Christian thinker and author, writes extensively on the New Heaven and the New Earth and its impact on our view of earthly life. And I think it has a particularly poignant message for those who may never experience intimate married life or have the opportunity to build a family.
Heaven and Romance
If you are single and you’re attempting to live a chaste life, hearing that there’s no sex in heaven may sound like the worst news ever. Also, it never helps that the wider culture thinks you’re hilarious or insane.
Alcorn quotes C.S. Lewis on the topic of no sex in heaven:
I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time … In vain would you tell him that … lovers … don’t bother about chocolates [because] they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.
I find this perspective extremely encouraging. On the one hand, Alcorn and Lewis don’t denigrate the goodness of God’s creation, but they create mental space for the reality that while we’ve been created for sex and procreation now, God has greater, more fulfilling tasks, plans and dreams for us in Heaven. To play out Lewis’ analogy, just because we can’t imagine a higher pleasure doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
Heaven and Family
God has created in us a desire for family and even to build families. In the post-fall world, that desire has been twisted and mangled, caught up in politics, big business, culture and personal struggles with infertility. Christian singles often walk that road between wanting children, having controversial options open to them, and choosing a path without biological children.
Into this vulnerable place in our hearts, Alcorn writes:
Heaven won’t be without families but will be one big family … If you weren’t able to have children on Earth or if you’ve been separated from your children, both now and later God will give you relationships that will meet your needs to guide, help, serve, and invest in others. Your parental longings will be fulfilled.
If you are single and have a desire for children, God knows your desire and has a great plan for your future, whether it’s here on earth or on the New Earth.
Heaven and the Best
TLC, one of the most-watched reality TV channels in the U.S., features so many different wedding-themed shows that it’s impossible to keep up with them all. But nearly every episode of Say Yes to the Dress features some bride or groom saying that their wedding day is “the best day of my life.” And if you’re like me at all, it’s easy to start believing that, but the promise of Heaven offers us so much more.
Without an eternal perspective, without understanding the reality that the best is yet to come, we assume that people who die young, who are handicapped, who aren’t healthy, who don’t get married, or who don’t _____ [fill in the blank] will inevitably miss out on the best life has to offer. But the theology underlying those assumptions is fatally flawed. We’re presuming that our present Earth, bodies, culture, relationships, and lives are superior to those of the New Earth.
Regardless of whether you are married or not, we all experience that moment, that season, that decade where the present romantic reality isn’t meeting our Instagram-snapping, Rocky-stair-climbing, best-day-ever expectations. In those times, it becomes even more important to remember that for those of us who are in Christ, we’ve been given a hope and a future. Your best day isn’t your elusive wedding day. The best is yet to come.