I am super-excited to introduce this week's What Marriage Means to Me blogger to you! Karen is a talented and funny writer, and she's also our first unmarried contributor to the series. Even though she's single, she seems to have a pretty good idea of what marriage is all about (in my opinion, anyway). She did some soul-searching to outline for us the reasons she's hoping to get married -- the good, the bad, and the silly.
Two people promising to be together forever is a simple idea, but in practice it yields an astounding and beautiful variety of results. Marriages are nearly as diverse as people, and likely only less so because there are fewer of them. With so many marriages ending in divorce, that raises the question for single folks like me, "What makes a lasting marriage?"
I would not want to be in most of the marriages I know. This is not an evaluation of their quality, but a symptom of the fact that (happily for everyone, I'm sure) I wouldn't marry most of the people I know. The marriages I find inspiring are those with character and function that fit its partners well and are forums for its partners to glorify God. That's what makes a good marriage, and a lasting marriage, from what I can tell. I am blessed to be witness to many such marriages, and they give me great hope.
I would very much like to be married, but I never have been, so it could be argued that I don't know what I'm talking about. Perhaps you would like even more background information to help color in my perspective a little bit.
I was born in 1986 to a very wise engineer and a Proverbs 31 woman who had been told for the first 9 years of their marriage that they would never bear children. My younger brother and I were born, in fact (woot!), and were raised in cities across the country until we settled in the San Diego area in 2001. I earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees from nearby universities and I'm still living in the area: I thought I'd try my hand at roots for a bit. I worship in Protestant churches of any of several flavors and I enjoy learning from my friends across the spectrum.
I do not think that God guarantees a marriage to anyone who wants one; I think that idea dilutes the meaning of marriages for those who find a partner and represents a focus on our earthly existence rather than our heavenly purpose. Looking at marriage from this side of the fence--keeping in mind that the quality of marriages isn't measured by my preference, but by fit and goals--probably the best way to explain "What marriage means to me" is to list the reasons I would marry.
There are lots of reasons that I would like to get married. Some of these I prefer to acknowledge, and others perhaps not. But this is the Internet. Let's start with the ones I don't talk about; it's more fun.
The Selfish Reasons
- First, in no particular order, is sex. It is created by God to be awesome and sanctioned by Paul to be a good reason to get married, but isn't all that culturally comfortable to talk about, and particularly frowned on in secular circles as a reason to get married. They have a point: it's perhaps not the best reason to choose a spouse. It's a reason to look forward to marriage generally, though, and eventually, it will be a reason to get married rather than date forever.
- Next, in less-than-noble reasons, it would be nice to have earthly help. Life is emotionally hard sometimes and so are, like, plumbing and cooking and stuff. I can run to google when my sink doesn't drain, or the cheese is past its expiration date, or I need to learn to do about anything around the house and do it (which I do) or I can call a capable friend, of which I have many (and I do), but being this uncertain can get exhausting. It would be nice to have a partner who could say, "Yeah, we can get that fixed," or "the juice is not supposed to be that color," "it's alright, we can eat out tonight," or "I think we should set it down and back away slowly," or whatever. It would be nice to have someone to supplement my somewhat lacking common sense and ground me when I go crazy. I acknowledge that God can and does provide strength and discernment and safety: that is why it's filed under "not great" reasons.
- Last, the only truly bad reason in this section of the list, is that I, like many women, sometimes think of marriage as an annuity of affirmation. When we say we want security, we don't often mean that we need financial stability or physical safety so much: these days, we mostly can provide that for ourselves. A romantic partner could provide affection and affirmation. If he were committed to be with me forever, I would get a steady stream of good feelings forever, right? I told you it was a bad reason.
Then, there are the less-bad reasons. There are some really great things that marriage can be that I would like to participate in.
- First, I would like a partner to work together for good with. If I could find someone with shared goals and I think we can glorify God more together than we can separately: sign me up!
- Next, a marriage partner can give me practice loving the way God loves in a way no one else can. If my friend makes me angry, I can stop being around them. I can sleep in instead of going to volunteer. I can opt out of active, godly love in all areas of my life right now with very little risk of being called on it or suffering any consequences. I can't be a jerk, but I can just not love the hard way. In marriage and in a family, that seems required. And I can speculate about how difficult and rewarding that could be, but I bet it wouldn't give me the full-color picture of how much God loves me without the successes and failures of my continued attempts to do so.
- In a marriage, I could raise children. I hesitate to put this in here because, right now, I'm not so sure about it, but I expect that if I get involved with the right guy, it won't be long before I get excited about the kind of family we could build together. I wouldn't choose to have kids without the reasonable expectation that there would be a good man beside us.
- Lastly, iron sharpens iron: that's simple and amazing. I have had a few deeply, spiritually productive friendships in my life; they are rare and amazing and life-changing. If I could persuade that kind of friend to stick around until one of us dies, that would be about the coolest thing ever.
It could be that, as a single person, my ideas about marriage are idealistic. I don't think so: I've seen some awesome marriages. I can't see into the future, but I do have at least veto power over what kind of marriage I will enter into. I would prefer to stay single than enter into a marriage that doesn't promise to be, overall, among my favorites.
~~~Karen is a freshly-minted MBA looking for work and enjoying the sunshine in San Diego, CA. She blogs about Christian singlehood with bursts of unbecoming rants, and tweets when she thinks she's funny.