Mike and Michelle (“M and M”) fell into a whirlwind romance soon after college; within just a few months they started dating, got engaged, and then Michelle died in a tragic car accident before the wedding could take place. Mike was devastated. He was convinced and had told others that Michelle was “the one,” the woman God meant for him to spend the rest of his life with.
What do you do when “the one” is gone? Is there any marital happiness left to be found?
Of all the modern myths that I could slay in popular Christian think, this notion of “the one” would be in the top three. Somewhere along the way, we have accepted a curiously baptized Hollywood line (one of the few places where religion and Hollywood happily mix) that there is one true soul mate out there for each one of us, one ideal partner it is both our duty and our destiny to find.
The problem is, the Bible contains no such teaching. You have to go to Plato’s Symposium to find the philosophical basis for why two people become so desperate for each other (it’s bizarre and weird—Zeus splits an androgynous being into two halves to keep them weak and preoccupied and from becoming too powerful and threatening to the gods).
The Bible is much more pragmatic, and Christian singles would be wise to adopt this pragmatism.
Paul tells single widows, for instance, to consider that singleness has some benefits, but if a single woman wants to get married “she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:39) Paul is explicitly and directly saying that the choice whether to get married and who to marry is up to us.
This isn’t to say there aren’t good and bad choices, just to say there isn’t one right choice. Proverbs 31 urges men not to put too much emphasis on beauty and charm or too little emphasis on a woman’s faith and character, for instance. It never says “Find your missing half.” It never says, “Search for your destined partner.” Quite literally it says, “Go for the godly ones! Find a woman who loves the Lord and you’ll choose well.”
The lazy and overly mystical might resent this teaching. They might say, “That’s not fair, God! Just tell me who to marry and I’ll marry them.” But that takes the responsibility off of you. Marriage is a breath-taking commitment. I am agreeing to stay loyal and true and supportive and loving of my wife for the rest of my life. I am agreeing to never have sex or emotionally laden conversations with any other woman. I am agreeing that I will not abandon her if she gets cancer or Alzheimer’s or can’t have babies or becomes paralyzed.
God doesn’t force anyone into that kind of commitment; that’s not his way.
That’s not love, and marriage is defined by love, not coercion. God doesn’t demand that anyone get married, but once we do get married, the commands come in full force and astonishing power: “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church.” Which means (as is often said) I can abandon my wife when Christ abandons His church.
I’ve received very sad emails from repentant spouses who married someone they had serious doubts about because they believed it was “God’s will” for them to marry this one person. All have regretted it (admittedly, it’s not a fair sampling; happy people don’t usually write to me about those kinds of problems!). If you make a bad financial investment, you can work hard and rebuild your financial base with another job. If you choose the wrong major in college, you can get another degree. If you buy a house you don’t like, you can sell it and look for another one. Marriage is far, far different.
Biblically speaking, marriage is a one-shot deal for most of us. We need to use our full mental and spiritual capacity to make the best choice possible—without any sentimental notions, bizarre philosophy, or sloppy thoughts regarding a misunderstanding of “providence” and “sovereignty” on God’s part leading us astray.
That’s why I’m about to make a shameless plug. I’ll say it right upfront:
I’ve just written a book that has been burning in me for some time, trying to help singles make the best choice possible in a life partner. This notion of rejecting a philosophy of a predestined soul mate is just one of many myths and oversights that lead singles astray. The main force of the book is that until you know why you’re getting married you can’t possibly know who you should marry. It’s everything I’d tell my own kids about how to be set up for the best marriage choice possible.
I know this sounds like a line: “Gary doesn’t know me; why should he care? He’s just another author trying to sell some books.” So I’ll prove it is about more than that to me. My publisher has agreed to give away 50 copies of the book the first 50 people who e-mail Darrell today (Please e-mail your name and mailing address). (We have already given away these 50 copies)
I will also put my own money on the line. If you honestly can’t afford this paperback copy and you write to Prodigal today (sorry, we have already reached our limit. To purchase your copy of The Sacred Search visit Amazon)—within the next 24 hours (until January 4th at 5am EST)—I’ll get you one for whatever you can afford, even if that’s nothing. (If you can afford it and think this is just a good deal, remember, God is watching.)
This is a cause to me, and I’m not going to let something like money get in the way. The consequences of a bad marriage can be so severe I don’t want you to have to face them for the rest of your life. The blessings of a wise choice can be so enriching, I don’t want you to miss them. That’s the honest truth about why I wrote The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not About Who You Marry, but Why?
[photo: Rodger McCutcheon, Creative Commons]