Recently, during a women’s night of fellowship, a single friend of mine brought up an interesting confession. We were there to dive into Christine Caine’s home study DVD series “Unashamed” and during our sharing time, my sweet friend confessed something I found to be a little shocking but not so surprising.
She told our little group of women, which consisted of 5 married women, 2 divorcees and another unmarried woman, that single people just don’t take advice from married people.
My inward eyes were bulging and indignant (Insert horror face emoji or face-palm head slap).
“Why on earth would you ignore the advice of someone whose been where you want to go?” I managed to stammer back politely and with love.
“Simple. It’s easy for you tell us how to date and do relationship when you’re sitting on the other side with someone who loves you. You forget what it’s like to be single.” She answered honestly.
My heart ached. That gnawing, soul crunching, annihilating, stomach vomiting, pit of the stomach feeling one gets just before seeing an unimaginable horror manifest before you. This was that, and it felt like my whole world was crashing in. Not quite my worst fear imagined, but definitely top 10. Up there would be my only daughter saying those same words to her father and I just before she agrees to marry a psychopath.
There’s a reason why there’s a saying that “Wisdom is wasted on the youth.”
Likewise, God was pretty wise to insert as no. 5 in the Top 10 Commandments to “honor thy father and mother.” There’s a reason why experience breeds wisdom.
Can I get real with you? Lets be honest and completely transparent.
No body likes being told what to do.
Unfortunately, none of us our capable of living life without learning from another. Even a baby learns to eat, drink and be merry by watching his mother. We come into this world completely helpless to help ourselves, so why do we insist on going the breadth of it without receiving the same the whole way through.
Is there such thing as bad help? Sure. But if we never experience bad help, how much harder it might be to discern and appreciate the good. The Scriptures say better the wounds of a friend than the flattery of fools.
That said, let me tell you why you should listen to those who’ve gone before you. At worst, you’ll have the beginnings of a great story to share on “what NOT to do” and at best, it just might save your life.
There’s a viral sermon going around on YouTube right now by Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life. (I’ve posted the link at the end for you to view.) He’s addressing the over 30,000 single adults registered at his church on the biblical advice on how to choose friends, including the most important friend you’ll ever have – your spouse. With a sincere appeal as a “pastor who loves you,” he tells them there are 5 Must Haves that a friend should have before ever considering them as a person you could marry: Spiritual Unity (2 Corinthians 6:14-15, Romans 1:12), Life Purpose and Compatibility (Amos 3:3, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Peter 4:10), Emotional Health, Generosity and Kindness (Proverbs 11:17, 25), and they must be Truthful (Proverbs 20:7)
He then shares there are 5 Absolute Deal Breakers and under no circumstances should you consider marrying a person with any of them, not one: uncontrolled anger (Proverbs 22:24), addictions (Hebrews 12:15), dishonor for their parents (Proverbs 20:20), selfishness (Proverbs 28:25, Proverbs 18:1), greed (Proverbs 15:27, 23:6). If the interest of your heart has any of the above, Pastor Rick is pretty frank about what you need to do: RUN! (Proverbs 6:2-4).
So here’s my confession, if I had been wise or at least heard Pastor Rick’s sermon I never should have let my husband marry me. (I know, insert horror face emoji or face-palm head slap). Yes, I just confessed that.
Not only did I have uncontrolled outbursts of rage and anger at the parts of my life, and people, I could not control (a growing symptom of my lack of satisfaction with life), but I was addicted to spending money (believing purchases could heal the whole in my heart from lack of identity and purpose), eating gluttonously (when I ran out of money, there was always Ben & Jerry nearby or a reason to over indulge because life was short and money fleeting), and drinking alcohol (though I wouldn’t call myself an alcoholic, I certainly let alcohol become the spirit I preferred to find consolation with, rather than the Holy Spirit). While I had a great love for my mom and even friendship, and can confess no outward animosity toward my absent father, it was obvious to anyone from my deeply embedded sarcastic remarks about the opposite sex that I was still hurting from unhealed male relationships. My selfishness manifested as a need to control everything, friends, co-workers, neighbors, pastors, government and even my husband (the religious spirit at work sowing seeds of pride that thought the world would be better off if it would just do things my way). And then there was greed, oh what an ugly creature. Ambitions can be deceitful. Absent a Godly sense of identity and purpose, it was inevitable that I would chase after other men’s dreams. Even if they’re well-meaning, like the dreams of our parents for us to have a future with a forty-hour work week, health, dental and vision insurance, a spouse, kids, a house, a luxury automobile and a 401k, if they aren’t God’s purpose for your life they will quickly become what you chase after. I woke up 2 years into my marriage unable to even recognize myself, much less my spouse. I was so far from where God had hoped for me to be I thought for sure I was doomed. Add in the fact we were walking un-chastely and even co-habiting together before our wedding night, and the fact we failed the pre-marital compatibility test so miserably the pastor of my church actually told us it was unwise to get married and we ignored him, our marriage was the perfect time bomb of catastrophic proportions. Sadly, there are altogether too many young marriages that come together in this way and without any clue or consideration for the enormous weight of complications that will undoubtedly arise from it. This is not the wisest way to enter into marriage.
I can hear Pastor Rick on the video now, 1 out of every 2.5 marriages that don’t follow God’s advice on choosing friends wisely will not make it past their 10 year wedding anniversary. Will we? Only God knows. I say this not to condemn myself or my husband or others who have found themselves in this statistic, but rather to point out that even the wisely entered into marriages will ultimately come to the same answer. Not one of us can control the will of our spouse. Ultimately, the success of a marriage is in the hands of the Lord. It is the ultimate vocation of selfless surrender to each other, and to God. Truly, our lives are in His hands, and only God knows how it will all go.
I find it encouraging that our stubbornness and rebellion is not unparalleled. When later seeking would lead me to the teachings of Danny Silk and his Keep Your Love On wisdom, I discovered he and his wife failed their pre-marital tests also. He recounts the story in his book of how pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel church had been given the results of their test with a note back from the examiner written, “Do not under any circumstances let these two get married.” Bill never told Danny and his soon-to-be wife then. Call it pastor error or divine providence but obviously God worked it all out for the couple’s good. They’ve been married over 30 years now and not only does he have a vibrant marriage but he’s been using his experience of overcoming to encourage others in building healthy relationships. Don’t think for a minute that fulfillment of his calling did not come with an enormous price (and a whole lot of penance). It’s not the easiest road to marry someone that is completely incompatible with you but it’s also not impossible, with God, all things are possible.
So friend, why have I shared this confession with you. Simple. Because people (married or otherwise) forget that marriage isn’t about you, it’s about everyone watching you, and its all for God’s glory.
Jesus chose the metaphor of the church as his bride over every other metaphor possible, for one simple reason, it’s the best expression of love we can understand, outside of the passion on the cross. Where else does the world get to see continual sacrifice combine with constant transformation than two people learning to combine spiritual passions and physical living conditions to multiply forces and build an inheritance.
Where else does humanity witness unconditional love, mercy and forgiveness than when two people committed to God pursue His deepest desires for them together, as one.
Where else is God’s presence so essential to sustain the perfect balance of grace and works in action than when two people multiply and influence a family, a community, an entire nation, even the whole world.
Marriage is a calling and it is meant to be a blessing, Proverbs 18:22 tells us “he who finds a wife finds a good thing.” And to those the Lord calls he will equip. But to those who try and enter over the gate, they are thieves and robbers (John 10:1), depriving themselves of the grace of God by not entering in the way he designed for them to enter. Choosing your friends and spouse wisely, remaining chaste, keeping pure in your souls, rightly keeping God as the idol of your heart and not another, these are the ways to enter into His Grace in marriage.
“A bad marriage is a thousand times worse than staying single the rest of your life.” Says Pastor Rick. “So don’t settle for second best when you have the chance to choose the best.”
So maybe my story is the one you’ll keep in your file of what NOT to do under the title Do Not Enter this Way, and for that I’m eternally grateful that my life might somehow spare you some heartache and pain. But maybe you’re already too far past that. And, instead, my story is making you a little uncomfortable because it sounds a whole lot like yours. That’s okay too, because, I share my story in hope to encourage you too, dear friend, with lessons I’ve learned like this: God’s promise is to redeem the works of deceit at the hand of the devil and work all things for good for those who love Him. (Romans 8:28). You may not be able to go back and start over, but you can invite Grace to meet you where you are. You can still be found. You can still receive your identity and your calling from the Lord and He promises His grace will be sufficient for you to finish. Work on becoming the spouse that you would marry. Pray for your spouse. Pray that God will bring you both into spiritual unity. Trust Jesus to keep his promises and believe the scriptures. Fulfill the marital metaphor, become an example of Christ’s unconditional love to the world. Remember the Lord is in your marriage when you invite him. He’s part of your partnership, and with him you can do all things, even if it doesn’t look the way you hoped for. And before you do anything contrary to Scripture, seek wise counsel (even if they’re single).
Married, single, widowed, divorced or other, when Jesus left to go ahead and prepare a place for us, he sent us all the Holy Spirit as Counselor in his place. That alone should be a sign to us. From one who’s gone ahead, we still need wise counsel on how to follow. There’s still power in a testimony. We still need each other to encourage one another to keep walking along the right way. And even though Jesus was a single guy, this married woman is happy to hear all he has to say. Even if it hurts. Even if its not what I wanted to hear. It’s not about me anyway. And even though I might not have married me, I am grateful the Lord looked past my imperfections and on the cross, he said, “I do.”
“In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.” Proverbs 28:23