Why We Should Change How We Talk About Desiring Marriage
by Tasha Levi
One of the reasons people feel alienated by the church is our inability to address complicated issues without assigning religious clichés as simple solutions. This is especially true with singlehood.
"Lay it down."
"Don't be desperate."
"Don't make it an idol."
"God should be enough."
"Stop waiting for someone to complete you."
Every singles ministry leader, young adult ministry pastor, and a married couple who "sealed the deal" before 30 will dole out these responses like a broken record.
I dislike every single one of them. I understand that, at times, they may be necessary. However, we're failing to address the growing epidemic in America, in black communities and the church: fewer people than ever before are getting married.
They are healthy, whole, God-fearing, kind, educated, working women all across America who are 25, 30, 35, 40 and beyond. They have patiently waited and expect only to receive the same canned responses to their situation. Many of whom want to have children and are celibate while their biological clocks are ticking and their bodies are asking for the sexual satisfaction it was made for. I emphasize "made for" because sex is another topic that Christians can be impractical, shameful, and dismissive about.
But my biggest problem with the list of clichés is that it's not biblical. The modern western church has made desiring anything but God alone sinful: a truly monastic approach to Christian living not exactly found in the scriptures.
From Genesis to Revelation, we see the contrary. We see stories of restored dreams, renewed hope, and fulfilled promises.
Of course, Christianity doesn't guarantee every selfish ambition will come to pass, nor am I promoting that. However, marriage is a noble pursuit that we shouldn't treat as a right of passage designed only for those who are "called."
There is nothing wrong with desiring a healthy marriage and family, and we should stop making singles feel guilty for it.
In the beginning, when God made Adam, He said, "It's not good for man to be alone." He said this as Adam was walking with Him in the cool of the garden, before the fall. Still, God said, "Wait a minute," puts him to sleep and forms a woman out of his own body, and then says, "It is good!"
So, where did we get this other reasoning about marriage?
"Isn't God enough?"
Yes, but he also offers his children companionship with each other in Genesis 2.
Abraham and Sarah's story might be the most broadly shared story of a long awaited promise fulfilled. The book of Hebrews tells us that Abraham and Sarah were people of great faith, but many of us only see a man and his wife begrudgingly waiting year after year for that fulfillment. Sarah even laughs when God tells her that she'll have a son. She laughs because she's heard this promise before, has already waited years, and still sees no sign of it in her near future.
The same Sarah who arranges for her husband to impregnate her servant.
Still, over and over, God keeps returning to them in the midst of self-inflicted disappointment, hurt, delay, and continues to reaffirm His promise.
Hannah is no different. You can't sugarcoat her story. She all but tumbles into the temple one day, bearing her naked soul before God. The priest, Eli, watches her pray and thinks, "She must be drunk. I have never seen a woman pray like that." She says to Eli, "Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” (1 Samuel 1: 16).
Listen, if a modern day woman were to say these exact words, she'd get clobbered over the head with, "God needs to be enough!" and "You're making this an idol!"
Instead, Eli says, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant your petition."
I often wonder why people are so turned off by women who want to be married. If a woman repeatedly says, "I'm praying for a new job" and says so persistently for three years, no one bats an eyelash. If she says, "I'm desperate for a job," still no one thinks anything of it. However, there is a stigma attached to women who openly desire marriage. If a woman says, "I really want to be married," then and only then is she called "desperate."
Even so, God could have chosen to accuse the "desperate," but Luke 18:1-8 shows us the nature of God's heart to those who persistently ask.
“In a particular city, there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.' For a while he refused, but afterward, he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?"
By now, you're probably thinking, "hold up ... what about when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?" I'm glad that you brought that up. In Hebrews 11:17-19 it says, "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back."
So, even though Abraham went up to sacrifice his son, he did so in faith, knowing God cannot lie and would, therefore, have to raise his son from the dead. God was testing Abraham's faith, not accusing him of idolatry.
I know, it's not easy to hold on to something you don't see happening. It's hard to stick it through, believing, hoping. Our knee-jerk response is to self-protect by doubting or letting it go.
We see this with the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4: 7-18. When Elisha asks the woman if there's anything, she wants in the world, and she says no. He says, "By this time next year, you'll embrace a son." She responds, "No, my lord. Do not lie to your servant." I mean, she gave up a long time ago.
But again, no matter how long, no matter how hard, God will still do it.
No, never flush that thing. Never bottle it up or brush it under the rug. Give that Godly desire to the Lord. There's only one person who comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and his name doesn't rhyme with Jesus so let's not confuse the two. If God says He's going to do a thing, He's going to do it!
That's the kind of God He is according to His word.