June 9, 2010

On Marriage: A Single Perspective

The words were spoken during a moment of quiet confession. We were gathered together, just the women, during a church prayer retreat, and around the room, women would tentatively lift a hand or slip from their chair and confess areas of weakness and sin.

One woman had tried to start several times, but in the awkwardness of silent waiting, another would start at the same time, and she would retreat. The leader, having understood her effort, called to her.

"You've been trying to speak a few times now. Tell us what's on your heart," the leader urged.

"I want my husband to meet all my needs, and he doesn't and then I get frustrated with him," she said, through tears. She went on to explain that she has a great husband, a good marriage, wonderful children, but she still feels empty sometimes.

She was confessing that she had looked to a wedding ring to meet her needs instead of God.

I was stunned. Not at the confession, but that it came from the lips of a married woman. Having been single my whole life, I have often held marriage up to the same high standard. No matter what difficulty was happening, I would conclude that it would be easier if only I were married. This happily betrothed woman's confession made me reel.

Others in the room, both married and single, seemed to respond similarly. We all knew what she was talking about, though we experienced it on different sides of the fulcrum. And in that moment, I felt a barrier drop between the women with husbands and the women without.

Marriage is a beautiful union of two; it was established in Paradise before sin and precisely depicts our relationship with God and his Son Jesus like no other metaphor. But marriage isn't the goal of our lives. In fact, marriage ends with this world. Paul tells us that marriage vows hold only in this life, and Jesus said that there will be no marriage in heaven.

I want to get married. And though we've all heard that a woman over a certain age has a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than getting married, I'm still nurturing this God-given desire.

But I am also standing with my sisters, both married and unmarried, in resisting the urge to make an idol out of the institution or the man. Jesus needs to be enough for me. For all of us.

For your Maker is your husband—
the LORD Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
--Isaiah 54:5

holy experience

Today, I am writing in community with Ann Voskamp and friends, exploring the Spiritual Practice of Holy Matrimony. After hesitating a week or two on this four-week project, I decided to offer a single's perspective on the revered institution. I pray that it has been an encouragement. To see other's thoughts, click on the button above.

You might also be interested in an earlier post: "A Marriage-less Wife."


renae said...

thanks, Charity for your honest words and encouragement. I did a study last year that I loved and wanted to share it with your readers: Attending the Bride of Christ by Martha Lawley. You can find more info on the study and the author here - http://www.attendingthebride.com/

Whether you're married or single, this 6 week study will take you on a journey to embrace our roles as bride, attendant and friend.


Jenny said...

I'm so glad you joined the discussion! You have much to offer.

Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said...

What a great perspective..and you are so right. Marriage is a metaphor for our relationship with Jesus..whether we experience marriage on this earth or not. Beautifully put!

Ann Kroeker said...


You're such a great storyteller, Charity. I feel like I was in the room with you and your sisters--my sisters, too--feeling the hesitation of the woman trying to speak of her emptiness...and then sensing unity in the room, or solidarity, in Christ alone.

Thank you for this.

Dianna said...

Thank you for sharing this perspective with us, Charity. Thirty-eight years of marriage and we haven't even touched the hem of the garment when it comes to living out our marriage as Christ loves His Bride.

Thank you for stopping by today and leaving me your kind note. It is good to meet you. I've enjoyed looking around your blog. I will be back!

Craver Vii said...

Though an earthly husband might feel overwhelmed by the expectations, I hope to be faithful to the high calling I have received. It is a challenge to ask a person to change their expectations without letting them down. Thankfully, I have a very understanding wife.

L.L. Barkat said...

Yes, marriage can be lonely. I guess life itself can be lonely. And we are always thinking that if just this, if just that, the loneliness will be gone. But I am beginning to think it is part of the human condition--this sense of being unmoored, this wish for home.

Charity Singleton said...

Renae -- Thanks for the recommendation.

Jenny -- Thanks for stopping by. Ann always provides great discussion starters. I like visiting around myself on WEdnesdays.

Melissa -- I am big into metaphors. I guess that's the writer in me. I probably understand this particular one less as a single person, but I rely on my married friends and family members to help me fill in the blanks.

Charity Singleton said...

Ann -- Thank you. A great compliment from a great story teller herself!

Dianna -- It's great to meet you too. I plan to visit you again as well. I have a lot to learn from you.

Craver -- There really is a lot of pressure for both the wife AND husband in scripture. As well as a lot of grace. I pray I will be up to the task as well, if I am ever married.

Charity Singleton said...

LL -- You know, that's just it. After my realization at the retreat, I understood that marriage really changes very little about the the human condition. It just provides a different context to live out all the realities of sin and grace than singleness. Always love your input.

Llama Momma said...

So true!! And, somehow, in embracing our true poverty of soul, we find connection. With God. With others.

Thank you for sharing.

Charity Singleton said...

LM -- Yes, it's good to confess our sins to one another. But it's so hard. In those seconds BEFORE confession, we somehow believe we are the only ones. In those moments after is when it becomes apparent we are not. Thanks for your insight.

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