23 February 2016

Pray AND Post a Guard (for Marriage)

In my first few years of fast.pray-ing, I rejoiced in seeing friend after friend meet wonderful men and disappear off my list. Why, I even had FIVE in ONE YEAR, even ones I didn’t know even WANTED to get married! God was truly, visibly at work. I was thankful; I praised His name.

And yet there I was, still alone, with no prospects. I believe in the power of prayer; I sincerely asked God to not only grant me a spouse but also to work on my heart. I felt I was at least as ready for marriage as the friends I’d prayed for. Was there more?

In all the conversations as to why not me, or at least not yet, I heard all the usual things: it would happen when I least expected it; I just need to follow Jesus wholeheartedly; I will “just happen” at the right time (like in my old age, it seemed). Implied in these and other statements, I’m sure you have heard, was the idea that we should not SEEK marriage, at least not in our actions.

But why not? Is that even scriptural? I think of what Nehemiah did when their adversaries plotted against them: “We prayed and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (Nehemiah 4:9, NIV). We all do this in various areas of our lives. We pray for a job AND send out resumes; we pray for help on a test AND study hard; we pray for God to comfort our friends AND we give them hugs and take them meals. And when we sense that God is calling us into something, we take steps to pursue it.

It struck me that we do this in every area of life, but for some reason we don’t put marriage in this category. Even childless couples are encouraged to pray AND to keep trying, seek fertility treatments, or begin the adoption process.

There is a scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Susan and Lucy are attacked by wolves. Peter hears Susan’s horn, which he knows means help will come to her. Rather than just waiting to see what “help” would come, he takes off running in her direction, to BE part of that help. As it turns out, Aslan does show up, but Peter is given his own role in rescuing his sisters.

I would like to advocate the dating/marriage version of praying AND posting a guard! Pray and fast for marriage? YES! Take actions that could lead towards meeting a few more potential mates? YES!
Over the last few years, I have made various attempts to move towards this calling of marriage: talking to random people and learning to be more open, per Henry Cloud’s advice (see How to Get a Date Worth Keeping); going to every mixed event I get invited to; putting myself out there online.

SIDE NOTE: My first boyfriend at age 39 was the result of my tirelessly reading through hundreds of profiles on Match.com after determining to get to the end of a particular search that resulted in 700+ hits. This would be the exact opposite of finding a guy “when I least expected it.” (I’m not saying God does not surprise us; just that there is not one magical way that we meet someone special. And that maybe it will take some work on our part.)

But even at this point, I felt like there was a further step: to involve my community in the process.

Most marriages in the Bible happened because someone brought the couple together, or at least brought the woman to the man. While traditional (arranged) marriage is not the norm in our culture, its most useful principles can apply to us today: shared connections, values, and backgrounds (see First Comes Marriage by Reva Seth), and the whole third-party character validation thing, which also help with accountability and safety during/after the courtship. We don’t have to go back in time, but I think it would be great if more “introductions” could happen in this day where the number of singles seeking marriage without finding it is unsurpassed.

All of us can help these connections happen. Host a dinner party with equal numbers of men and women, like the French do. Introduce your cousin to your friend’s co-worker. Talk to people about how THEY can help their single friends. The online dating thing is not as great as it sounds—perhaps the Church can start something that will transform how people get together, and we can all be a part of it!

In a culture not too far removed from ours today, Paul wrote, “Because sexual immorality is so rampant, every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). There is so much more going on here than just a few single Christians who have a hard time getting married. There is a war against humanity, and marriages are one of the greatest defenses. Aside from the few who choose a life of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, for “Two are better than one,” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) and “A cord of three strands [man + woman + the person who introduced them, perhaps?] is not quickly broken” (v. 12). We can do this!

This article was posted on the fast.pray blog on February 21, 2016

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