I hear that question a lot.
Whenever I’m around a married woman trying to break singles of their delusions of marriage by emphasizing the burdens, I hear the single women mumble and whisper to one another: if marriage is so miserable why would we want it?
The past month or so I have been kind of crazy about Jesus. (Like deeply satisfying-ly in love with Him.) A fear has crept into my heart that I’ve voiced aloud to a few friends: does this new-found joy and peace mean that I’m ‘called’ to singleness?
This recent contentment has me praying and processing a lot. Without the nagging neediness and discontentment of nudging me toward marriage, what is the incentive?
I’m noticing that if the ‘compelling’ part of marriage is date nights or sleepovers with your best friend, then your desire for marriage will ebb and flow based on how much you want those things or how likely marriage seems to be to provide.
But, what does God say makes marriage compelling in the first place?
Our culture has sort of messed up the ‘compelling’ thing.
We make the delight of marriage a person who you can love and adore and who can love and adore you; the opportunity to make little versions of yourself and be a soccer (or hipster) mom.
We make the ‘joy’ of singleness about the freedom we have to go to a movie at any time, or pick up and move across the country or make decisions without anyone else directing what we do.
But what if instead of looking at what the world tells us is compelling about singleness or marriage we looked at what God says.
Piper explains that marriage is compelling because it is an opportunity:
- To display his covenant keeping love between Christ and the church
- To sanctify the couple with the peculiar pains and pleasures of marriage
- To beget and rear a generation of white-hot worshippers
- And to channel good sexual desire into holy paths and transpose it into worshipful foretaste of heaven’s pleasures.
Singleness is compelling because it is an opportunity:
- To display the spiritual nature of God’s family that grows from regeneration and faith, not procreation and sex,
- To sanctify the single with the peculiar pains and pleasures of singleness,
- To capture more of the single’s life for non-domestic ministry that is so desperately needed in the world,
- And to magnify the all-satisfying worth of Christ that sustains life-long chastity.
Here’s what I suggest: table all the clutchy parts of your hearts that are compelled towards marriage or singleness because of what you think it will provide for you.
Get on your knees and beg God for truth and honesty in your heart. Pray through these lists and beg Him to (a) reveal to you what you already find deeply compelling on those lists and (b) pray toward those things.
When I pray through these lists of what makes these things compelling, I begin to understand the gift of singleness.
I am discouraged by how compelling those things are to my soul. Discouraged because I’m scared that if I’m compelled towards them it might mean I’m ‘called’ to singleness. And I want a relationship. I want sex. I want to do life and ministry with a partner who is linked to me through a covenant.
But at the same time it’s kind of sort of the most encouraging thing in the world.
Because giving up all those things I want out of marriage for the freedom to see a movie whenever I want? That makes me want to throw up.
But, missing out on the chance to have biological children for the opportunity to reflect that I believe true children of God are made by Spirit and not blood – that seems okay.
Giving up a honeymoon for the chance to learn in deep places of my heart that God is sufficient seems a trade I would make any day of the week.
Missing out on ministering to a family that I can call ‘mine’ – is painful, but that loss brings with it the opportunity to spend myself on ministering to the women in my city, this country and around the world.
To get to be a display to the angels and saints and anyone watching that Jesus is better than any pleasure this world has to offer – well now – that sounds like the greatest thing in the world.
Singleness and marriage are equally high callings. They are both gloriously compelling.
Surely none of us could find a bullet point on either list that is not worth great sacrifice. Surely none of us could find a bullet point on either list that could be considered a disappointing calling.