Tuesday, December 13, 2005

More on Marriage

A few of my friends read my post below on girls, and we ended up having a little discussion on the topic. One friend asked the other two of us what we thought was the most important reason why people should get married. We each answered that we thought that it was to enable us to better serve God through ministry. There are some things which can best, or even only, be done while single, and there are some things which are best or only done when married. It's important to keep in mind what Josh Harris calls "seasons;" you should be single when it best enables you to minister and you should pursue marriage once it becomes apparent that your and her (we're guys) ministries would be strengthened. The friend who asked the question had a different view. He thought that the primary reason should be to help us grow closer to God. By getting to know another human being as intimately husband and wife know each other, we gain a clearer picture of God's relationship with us, the bride of Christ.

What we all quickly realized was that both of these reasons were very good and important. I think it's actually a chicken-and-egg situation: you can't minister effectively without growing closer to God, and you can't grow closer to God if your faith lacks works. What these answers more likely reveal is the mindset of the person answering. For me, I sometimes worry too much about what can be done, rather than drawing closer to God. Some people face the opposite problem.

What this also did was mean that I could add to my thinking below. Before, I'd talked about how I would want my wife to be pretty, intelligent, and Godly (once again, resisting acronymization). Basically, these are physical, mental, and spiritual measurements of whether I find a girl attractive (recognizing that I may be head-over-heels over someone whom another guy else finds utterly unremarkable). I think that "chemistry" also plays a role, though I'm not sure whether it fits into attraction, into the category I'm about to discuss, both, or neither (very Zen, I know).

Yesterday's discussion revealed that my talking about finding a "fellow-traveller" was only half of another category. This category, which perhaps I'll call holiness, centers around the pursuit of God. It can focus outward, on helping other people, whether they be neighbors, children, or each other, or focus inward, on you personally growing closer to God. Growing in holiness through service is probably understood pretty well, but personal growth may not be so obvious. The best example I can think of is how I've heard so many people tell me that they've learned so much about God's love for them by raising children. I don't have kids, but I've worked as a teacher and a camp counselor, and I've experienced at least a glimpse of this. When I was responsible for children, I thought about what I'd do to protect them, how I could best help them learn, how to show them that I didn't hate them no matter how bad they were, and many other things. Through knowing your husband or wife, you learn about someone very different who nonetheless has similarities, too. The Bible calls God's relationship to His people that of a husband to a wife; I find it impossible to believe that married couples don't gain a greater understanding of this relationship through their own with each other.

Are these two broad ideas, of attraction and holiness, the only factors that should be considered when pursuing someone? Should issues such as timing, material concerns such as finances, or the rest of the person's family come into play, and if so, where do they fit? I've got a project due in a few hours which I need to finish, but I'll be thinking.

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