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Guest Blogger: Jordan Capps

July 20, 2010

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:

www.graffitoblasfemo.com

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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
And unceasingly,
And unceasingly
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.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 7:40 pm

    Great words and deep thoughts, Jordan. I did a LOT of reflecting on my singleness, and thought about the subject of lifelong singleness, especially. I think many Christians think on this, and it is very challenging to think, “What if God is my sole Love? What if my relationship with Him is the only ‘marriage’ I have in this life?”

    I think it is healthy to have to look at yourself this way and ask honest questions. SCARY…but healthy.

    God knows the desires of each of our hearts, and He knows the plans He has for us. Our love for Him SHOULD be our greatest love, in marriage or singleness. But you’re right…its hard. We must still remember that HE is faithful!!! Praise Him in all things and put His kingdom first, my friend. In terms of the Kingdom and the Christian life, I think you really get it. He has and will continue to bless you with Himself. And it is good.

  2. Chris permalink
    July 20, 2010 8:44 pm

    Dude, impressive post. You “get it”. What Kierkegaard book should I read? I am convinced he should be on my short list of “to read”.

  3. July 21, 2010 12:48 am

    Cassie, you’ve worried about this stuff too? That makes me feel better. Sometimes I think that just because I think about something I am destined to become that way, if that makes any sense. Perhaps that is just the natural out working of worry about and dwelling on things too long to the point that they actually become reality inside our heads, ha!

    Chris, thanks that means a lot. I pretty much constantly ask myself “am I a heretic yet?” while writing so it’s good to know I am at least pointing in the right direction!

    As for what to read…oh man. I just deleted a longer response trying to explain all about his writing method and I’m just going to say “Purity of the Heart is to Will One Thing” is probably the best place to start. It’s relatively small and accessible and will give you a good flavor for his deeply introspective style.

    Aside from that, though, before reading Kierkegaard the best thing to do might be to read about Kierkegaard. His work is voluminous and complex to navigate as much of it was written under various pseudonyms. http://sorenkierkegaard.org/index.html is a fantastic resource where you can read about his authorial method and motifs and get commentaries for most of his works. If you want books, I have a very, very small book outlining his entire authorship, as well as a very, very large biography. I also have an “essentials” compendium which is quite good and you can read a wide variety of his stuff.

  4. July 21, 2010 12:51 am

    Oh one more thing, I’ll go ahead and add some clarification to my Kierkegaard anecdote that I didn’t include for fear that it might distract (maybe even detract?) from my main point. Kierkegaard would not call what I am describing here faith. He would say that a truly faithful person would surrender, say, the prospect of marriage, like he did, in belief that they will get it back in this life, not mourning their loss for the rest of their life as they wait for repayment in the afterlife (“infinite resignation”). I think this is a bit of a false dilemma, to be honest, as I’m arguing that through worship it is possible live a joyful life regardless of the sacrifices we make (because of them, in fact!) or the gifts that God does or not give us. Either way, Kierkegaard did not receive back his fiancée, so I _think_ that means that either he was wrong or, according to his philosophy, did not possess true faith. I lean towards the former. Fear and Trembling is his seminal work on faith and morality and was rather transparently inspired by his broken engagement.

  5. Chris permalink
    July 21, 2010 12:04 pm

    Well, when you discuss his view on faith and with reference to Ps 37:4, I would add that two of the most important verses on responding to God’s will is Matt 6:33 and Rom 12:2. You must have a biblical worldview and know your place with God’s redemptive plans and you by faith follow him. The rest takes care of itself in the sense that it becomes clearer what you ought to do and how you ought to do it and maybe even when. There is no rule for everyone but to follow Jesus. The circumstances will depend on each person in their appropriate context.

  6. July 21, 2010 11:41 pm

    Yes! That is a very Kierkegaardian stance. Here’s one of his most famous journal entries:

    “What I really need is to be clear about what I am to do, not what I must know, except in the way knowledge must precede all action. It is a question of understanding my destiny, of seeing what the Deity really wants me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. And what use would it be if I were to discover a so-called objective truth, or if I worked my way through the philosophers’ systems and were able to call them all to account on request, point out inconsistencies in every single circle? And what use here would it be to be able to work out a theory of the state, and put all the pieces from so many places into one whole, construct a world which, again, I myself did not inhabit but merely held up for others to see? What use would it be to be able to propound the meaning of Christianity, to explain many separate facts, if it had no deeper meaning for me and for my life? Certainly I won’t deny that I still accept an imperative of knowledge, and that one can also be influenced by it, but then it must be taken up alive in me, and this is what I now see as the main point … But to find that idea, or more properly to find myself, it is no use my plunging still further into the world … That’s what I lacked for leading a completely human life and not just a life of knowledge, to avoid basing my mind’s development on – yes, on something that people call objective – something which at any rate isn’t my own, and base it instead on some­thing which is bound up with the deepest roots of my existence, through which I am as it were grown into the divine and cling fast to it even though the whole world falls apart. This, you see, is what I need, and This is what I strive for … It is this inward action of man, this God-side of man, that matters, not a mass or information …. Vainly have I sought an anchorage, not just in the depths of knowledge, but in the bot­tomless sea at pleasure … What did I find? Not my ‘I’, for that is what I was trying in that way to find … One must first learn to know oneself before knowing anything else (gnothi seauton) … In association with the ordinary run of men I have had but little to win or to lose … My companions have with few exceptions exerted no marked influence on me … So I am standing once more at the point where I must begin in another way. I shall now try to look calmly at myself and begin to act inwardly; for only in this way will I be able … to call myself ‘I’ in a profounder sense … So let the die be cast – I am crossing the Rubicon. This road no doubt leads me into battle, but I will not give up. ”

    He never purported to tell people what they should do, as that was a subjective truth that was found in their relationship to God. The goal of his entire published body of work was to strip away everything that stands between an individual and God, and then leave them there, naked and alone. He wanted to pull away all of the layers that we use to insulate ourselves from God: entertainment, media, popular opinion, philosophical systems, nominal Christianity, even theology (he called Christian scholarship “the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close.”).

    He went to great lengths to remove himself from his works as much as possible, which is why he published under pseudonyms. He disavowed any connection with and did not endorse the viewpoints espoused by his pseudonyms. Their purpose was to raise hypothetical arguments and the reader was forced to decide for themselves what was true. This is why the argument for what constitutes true faith in Fear and Trembling may or may represent what Kierkegaard believed, as it was not written by him but rather “Johannes de silentio.” In fact, it may have just been that he was only using these hypothetical arguments to expose the flaws in Hegelianism.

    All of this to simply say, yeah, I think he would very much agree that “There is no rule for everyone but to follow Jesus. The circumstances will depend on each person in their appropriate context.” That’s pretty much the heart of his philosophy.

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