I’ve walked down the aisle eight times. There was the the lime green 50s sheath, the navy blue Jane Austen gown and the princess red number with sleeves puffy as parachutes. Each time I waved the happy couple off with confetti and cake and kisses. Each time I farewelled a best friend, having been supplanted in their heart by another.
Which is of course how it should be. Marriage was God’s design – his solution to the problem of loneliness. “It’s not good to be alone,” God declared at the beginning (Genesis 2:18). Everything else in creation was good, but even in a perfect world, aloneness was the one thing that was not. So he provided a profoundly beautiful relationship designed to meet humanity’s deepest needs. A connection bound by love and held by promise; a pairing that reflected his very essence as a relational being.
But what do we do when this profoundly beautiful solution of God’s hasn’t materialised for some of us? What do we do if we’re single and waiting or when we’re the divorcee who struggles with remarriage? What if we’re the gay person who opts for celibacy or the widower who’s been left behind? What if in an imperfect world, God’s perfect solution isn’t possible?
The Ideal and the Real
We Christians often have a hard time with this. We know the ideal, but we have trouble accommodating the real. Our sermons are focused on marriage and our goals oriented to the dream, while the single gets the charity Christmas invite and endures endless jokes about why they’re left on the shelf. More often than not, society and particularly, Christendom, caters for the married and the single is left flapping out in the breeze.
While it’s healthy to promote God’s ideal, it’s also healthy to confront the real. God’s perfect plan may be marriage for each one, but life isn’t perfect and we don’t always get what we want. Today, even with the pairing power of online dating, there are more singles than ever. Not everyone is of course are unhappy about this, but a significant proportion of us would choose to be in a relationship if we could.
In the face of such statistics, it’s not enough for the church to say to singles; use your time to do more for God or, be content because God is enough. God is spirit. He doesn’t suddenly manifest himself with a hug when you’ve just received news that breaks your heart. He doesn’t greet you at the door after work to ask; How was your day? We receive God’s love primarily through other people. His love has to take flesh at some point.
The good news is that God works to accommodate the imperfections of a fallen world. He is able to meet our needs in ways that extend beyond traditional structures. At least that is what I’ve discovered.
By Tania Harris
Tania Harris is a pastor, speaker, author and the founder of GodConversations.com, a global ministry that equips people to recognise and respond to God’s voice. With a diverse history as church planter, pastor and Bible College lecturer, her ministry is known for its biblical depth, practical wisdom and ‘God-stories.’ She speaks to groups of all ages and denominations and is a popular voice on radio in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Currently Tania is completing her Doctorate in Ministry researching peoples’ experiences hearing God’s voice. Tania is an ordained minister with the Australian Christian Churches. Hillsong is her church home in Sydney, Australia.