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February 16, 2010

A single girl’s celebration of love and marriage

CLAREMORE, OK — I’ll admit it — I love weddings.

I love seeing the bride’s dress, hearing the vows, and let’s not forget, eating the cake.

But most of all, I love what weddings represent — the union of two individuals who are committing themselves to each other and beginning a new, lifelong journey together.

As a Christian, a wedding has an even more profound meaning. More than a cultural ritual, it symbolizes two becoming “one flesh,” as described in the Bible in Genesis 3 — a sacred covenant between a couple and their Creator for the purpose of their good and his glory.

Throughout my life, I have been blessed to be surrounded by many good marriages, from my parents and other family members, to friends and couples in my church. Marriages in which husbands love their wives and wives respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Perfect marriages? Of course not, but God-honoring and fulfilling all the same.

During my years at the Progress I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting and telling the stories of many more couples — both Christian and not — who despite the inevitable challenges, big and small, that marriage brings, remain devoted to each other and committed to idea of marriage.

With all the negative depictions of marriage we are bombarded with on TV and in the movies, seeing a strong, happy marriage is like a breath of fresh air. I’ve heard our current culture described as “post marriage” as people are waiting later and longer to get married and others are choosing to forgo it altogether. Whether or not that’s the case I’ll leave to the sociologists to decide. I do believe, however, our society is becoming increasingly hostile to marriage or at least indifferent to its significance and permanence.

Too often it’s devalued, criticized and joked about by those married and not. It is rare to hear someone say anything positive, much less encourage a couple toward marriage. Usually it’s something like “why would you want to do that? Don’t you know your life will be over?”

You might ask why a single woman would care about honoring marriage when I could easily say who needs it. After all, it seems freedom and independence are prized most by those in my generation.

It’s simple — I believe in marriage. I believe it’s good and right and God’s primary means for the long-term fulfillment of our basic human relational needs of love, companionship and intimacy. It’s also his original design for the establishment of a home in order to provide a stable and secure environment in which to raise children.

And for Christians, God uses marriage to help both partners grow in godliness. In her book “Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother,” Carolyn Mahaney writes, “... our husbands’ particular sins, unique weaknesses, and even their idiosyncrasies are tailor-made for us. Likewise, our sins and weaknesses are custom-designed for them. Both husbands and wives will become more Christlike by having to deal with each other’s sins and deficiencies.”

I also hope to be married someday and am choosing to live with that goal in mind. I placed the who, when and how in God’s hands long ago. Yes, there have been times when my lack of patience and trust has caused me to temporarily take back control in pursuit of my own selfish desires and dreams. In the end, though, I’ve always returned to the unchanging truth that he knows the plans he has for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future (my life verse, Jeremiah 29:11).

But whether or not God’s plan for me or you includes marriage now or in the future, let’s never forget that our ability to give and receive love is a gift from God himself who is Love (I John 4:16), and who created us in his own image.

First Corinthians 13:4-8, a passage of Scripture often read at weddings, beautifully describes what this God-given love looks like lived out: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

And that’s something worth celebrating — married or single.

 

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