Guest Blogger: Jordan Capps
Guest Blogger, Jordan Capps
Jordan is an member of Willow Glen Baptist Church in San Jose, CA. He has a savvy writing voice which highlights his keen sense for culture and of Jesus. Though his blog has just recently been launch, he will no doubt be a constant good read for you and an engaging personality that will not allow you to miss the big picture. Read this, then check out his blog:
This past Saturday I had the privilege of witnessing two of my best friends (Ken and Janine Tinsley) be joined together in a small foretaste of our eternal union with Christ in glory — marriage. As joyful an occasion as this was, I don’t think that I would be going too far out on the proverbial limb to posit that I was not the only single person in attendance who was given pause to reflect on that singlehood. This of course can be a rather sensitive issue to contemplate, let alone discuss openly, and not simply because of the immediate connotations it stirs up within us regarding our own worth and desirability. There is a very real sense, especially as Christians, that marriage is the goal in life; that marriage is before all things, and that in it all things hold together. That is to say, if we fail to get married we can never truly be happy, and perhaps in some sense have even failed as Christians. This mindset is deeply flawed.
Marriage is not an end unto itself. This way of thinking leads to Christ becoming simply the means by which we achieve our true goal of marriage, rather than Jesus being our goal and marriage our means of worshipping him. What’s more, we begin to assume that if marriage is a necessary part of a satisfying Christian life, it is assured to us. We curiously interpret Psalm 37:4 (“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”) to mean that our great genie God will give us whatever we desire most in life, while being blind to the implication that if the Lord is our delight, we will have that which satisfies our deepest desires: God himself — not marriage (or any other idol that we would elevate above him). Since we are being presumptuous of God in this way, we neglect the fact that he is not in the business of handing out idols, and then become bitter when we are not given the marriage that we “deserve” when we want it. But what if he never sends you a husband or wife? Would you still trust and follow him, or do you harbor secret demands from him in your heart? “God, I surrender all of myself to you to use in whatever way pleases you, just so long as I get married and have a family. If you don’t give me that, then we’re through.” Is there a limit to what you are willing sacrifice in the pursuit of God? Would you really believe that he has your happiness and what is best for you in mind if his plan for your life does not include marriage? Do you trust that Christ alone is sufficient for your joy or would you forsake him in order to pursue happiness on your own, apart from his will.
One of my greatest theological and literary loves is the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. There is no one I have ever read outside of the Bible to whom I relate more and whose words pierce me more deeply. This fact troubles me greatly. Why? When he was 28 years old he broke off his engagement to the woman he loved, believing that his depressive nature (or “melancholy” as he called it) made him unsuitable for marriage. He eventually came to terms with his depression by accepting that that was how God made him and thus it was from that nature that he should serve God. He spent the rest of his life single and celibate, unleashing a torrential volume of genius writing, devoting himself to his work in a way that he could not have had he been married, and writing with acute personal insight on topics like anxiety and despair which would have been impossible if God had not given him the sorrowful nature against which he battled his entire life. He died at the age of 42, alone. On his tombstone is a hymn he wrote:
“In a little while,
I shall have won,
The entire battle
Will at once be done.
Then I may rest
In halls of roses
Speak with my Jesus.”
I have no doubt that he died full of joy in Christ, and is now experiencing a joy unimaginable to you or I, but the thought of emulating his life is terrifying. Kierkegaard had faith enough to sacrifice a tremendous earthly pleasure in pursuit of an invisible eternal pleasure beyond this life. It is a breathtaking leap of faith, is it not? For if Jesus was not raised from the dead then our faith is futile and we should be pitied. Better to eat, drink, and marry, for tomorrow we die. Yet Kierkegaard was able to forego our great Evangelical idol, marriage, and still live a satisfying, yet suffering, life because his satisfaction came from placing Jesus as his only goal and source of joy. Do I have that kind of faith? Or do I only believe in what I can grasp in the here and now and pursue that instead of Jesus?
So the question remains, how can we truly live a satisfying life even if we never get married? In a sermon called “The Inner Ache of Loneliness,” the great apologist Ravi Zacharias articulates C.S. Lewis’ argument that the only way loneliness and the desire to be loved can be effectively dealt with is by living our lives in a posture of appreciative love that forever lives in gratitude to God, and that this appreciative love only comes through worship. The Bible teaches us that the reason we were created is to glorify God, and that by doing so we will enjoy him forever. Can you imagine a prospect more profoundly opposed to loneliness than fellowship with God himself? Yet, what would happen if we were to pursue that joy for ourselves, according to what we thought was best for us? Even if, and this is a big if, we were able to obtain some temporal happiness apart from God, we would then have no need to give him thanks, and, as Zacharias puts it, “when we have nobody to thank, there is no worship, and when there is no worship, there is a vacuum within the human heart.” Worship is the surrendering of the entirety of our life to God, even our deepest desires, be they marriage or any other good, created thing, out of appreciation that all of our life was given to us by him and for him. We were not created for the purpose of marriage; we were created to worship God, and nothing else will fill that vacuum.
To be honest, although I can clearly understand the words of this argument, much of it remains a mystery to me. The mechanics of how true joy comes only through the worship of God is quite simply impossible for me to wrap my head around by just reading about it on paper. It must be lived, and so even though I have only just begun to experience and understand this connection, it is in faith that I believe the Word of God and pursue the surrendering of myself in worship to God as my only source of joy; not marriage, not love, not even loving God, but the person of God himself.
As for where I stand in my life with regard to the desire to married, I suppose that I must continually rest upon Matthew 6:31-33:
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
I guess that’s the good Christian answer to give but make no mistake, many days I do not live out this reality faithfully. As if that was not trying enough, Genesis 22 paints an even more extreme illustration of the kind faith that is required of us:
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
You know how the story ends. Are you willing to sacrifice your marriage, your hopes and dreams, as a burnt offering in worship to God, trusting that a far greater prize is provided for you in the sacrificial death of Jesus? Again, knowing the biblical answer in our head and reconciling that with the emotional reality of our daily lives is a challenge that should not be trivialized, and one that cannot be conquered apart from the sanctifying work of God. Perhaps one day, in my seeking of the kingdom, and as the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ continues to obliterate me, remaking me in his own image, a young woman of God will take notice and be attracted to that light (God forbid to me, outside of Christ). If so, I will worship God with my marriage. If not, I will worship God with my singleness. For God himself is my goal and my reward. Do I really believe that? Do you really believe that? Do our lives reflect that faith? If so, it is only by the grace of God.