Love and Marriage: The Horse and the Carriage

Excuse me while I rant about something that has intrigued me the past week.

In recent days, I have heard indirectly from a friend about a seminarian friend of his/her’s that they’re getting married. From what I have gathered through the wonders of social networking is that they have known each other since August 2007 at the earliest. The guy started his studies at Southern back in 2005 and is graduating this year; the girl just started this past Fall 2007. From what is evidenced by Facebook and the blogsphere, they are now engaged.

From “Hello” to “Will you marry me?” & “I will” within 6 months.

Imho that is… mightily fast.

I mean, would I even conceive of doing that if I were in the guy’s shoes? I mean, I certainly know that I am not gifted in singleness, and that when the time comes to be in a committed relationship that I will be in it with marriage in mind and in plan. I am sick and tired of the “dating” world (as a means to marriage), and have all intentions to abstain from it as much as possible. At the same time, I am willing to compromise on “dating” as a method if the girl needs it for her own marital discernment. I am just not sure how quickly or slowly I would want to jump in head first into marriage; it would really depend on the context and the girl and her family background; compromise and communication would be key in this.

Nevertheless, I am left wondering — what in the world is that engaged guy doing that I am not? What does he know that I don’t? How did he do it? And how did the two of them get to a place in their hearts where they would even be open to becoming engaged within 6months of meeting each other? Are they just burning in their loins for sex that they just need to get married quick, ASAP before they do anything stupid? This to me would sound like a bad excuse to rush into marriage so quickly, but still, according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 7) this is totally acceptable, biblical and even recommended by God through the Apostle Paul.

There is a popular saying that goes something like this:

“Love and marriage, goes together like horse and carriage.”

In the secular society, this may very well be true. Love is the horse which pulls the carriage of marriage along. However, is this also true for those of the Christian faith? Should even Christians think, feel or act in this way?

The Relationship between Love and Marriage

What I am trying to get at is the difference between what the secular, western, Hollywood “world” communicates to us as the standard and norm in the relationship between love and marriage. The world tells us to marry the one we love. However, all through the Bible, we have numerous references to just the opposite. God tells us to love the one we marry. Regardless of who it is that we have been united in the covenant of marriage.

If we believe that this is true, accurate to what the Scriptures teach, then we certainly should live by it right? We shouldn’t disobey, right?

And yet, from what I observe in the Christian circle that I live is that the secular worldview of “marry the one you love” is still very prevalent. In the weird setting of the South, in the extremely weird setting of the seminary campus, and in the supremely difficult singles environment of Southern Seminary, this mindset and attitude towards relationships is still very much prevalent. Girls will either be offended if a guy walks by her and does not say hello; if the guy does say hello and try to start up a personal conversation the girl will be offended by the guy’s pursuit. There thus seems to be absolutely no way to happily start and build friendships with singles of the opposite gender without there being preconceptions of “I want to talk to you because I am looking to get married”.

Why? There are inexorably more single seminarian men (I’d say, 10x more) than single seminarian women. Generally, this equates to about 10 single guys in the midst of 1 single seminarian girl. The odds are completely against the the guys. Literally, 9 of the 10 guys would need a Divine act of God for them to find a girl on campus — that is if they even believe in miracles, for it is a Southern Baptist seminary.

What can the single seminarian guy do? In all likelihood, he will graduate from seminary single. In the midst of his time at seminary, he can only pray and pray and pray that something might spark between him and that one single seminarian girl. And yet, the competition will be from his friends, brothers in Christ with whom he talks theology and watches football games with.

Games, Dates, and other Time Wasters

For what the worldly worldview of dating has us believing is that we need to got through a long process of “figuring out” if somebody is “compatible” with us. And if there is compatibility, then the process then moves onto the question of “suitability” for marriage. And once parties involved are found to have compatibility to each other and suitability for marriage, they then discern if they love each other enough (or if they are sex-crazed enough) to get married.

As noted already, this view has the world telling us that we are to marry the one we love. There is absolutely little degree of commitment at the onset of the relationship. The earlier the parties figure out that they are not compatible and/or suitable for each other, the quicker they can get out and move on. However, the longer this takes, the longer the whole process of “recovering” from the relationship will be, for parties will be more attached than if they had ended it earlier. In all likelihood, a Christ-like seminarian may go through this courting/dating process numerous times and encompassing many years until he finally settles down with the “two” of his life. He could be in his (gasp) mid-twenties already and still single, or God forbid, a young 30 year old single pastor. Once he graduates, the number of prospects goes from 1 to almost nil, for he certainly cannot look to his congregation for a wife. That would be… near apostasy. Unless, God does a miracle (like in the case of Pastor Joshua Harris) and the Spirit provides for him a wife from the congregation.

(This is where I feel for my former English Pastor of my home church in Toronto. He is in his early 30s, and ordained Reverend who is unfortunately still single. The idea of being in his position simply frightens me and scares me to death, motivating me to keep a huge open eye out continuously for prospects.)

The truth of the matter is, if us Christians and especially seminarians truly lived out “love the one you marry”, then the process should inevitably become easier and less difficult on everybody’s hearts. We don’t have to worry about compatibility and suitability all that much anymore, for we trust that through Christ we can be compatible and suitable for the one whom we have covenanted in marriage with. God will ultimately work through all our inadequacies and quirks, and enable us by His Spirit to love each other for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.

To go through a mental or written checklist of requirements in a mate would be quite frankly necessary, but not necessarily biblical. People usually asses and evaluate a mate by factors like physical attractiveness, intelligence, social standing and personality. All these things on a surface level are helpful in discerning a general group of potentials, but to disqualify somebody who misses the mark and qualify only those who meet a passing grade is simply uncalled for by the Scriptures. To even have this preconception and questions running through our minds as we fellowship with members of the opposite gender is sinful. The only qualities that I think are necessary for a potential mate are those which Scripture explicitly commands for all Christians, and that for the husband/wife accordingly. Anything more would be extra-biblical and thus unwarranted and unnecessary.

Maybe my view on this “checklist of qualities wanted” issue has changed over the year(s). If there has been any transformation or growth of my heart in the past 3 years, it is definitely I no longer believe that there is only one person out there for us. I believe there are numerous potentials whom God has created to be compatible and suitable for me (and further, those with the potentiality of being transformed by God to be compatible and suitable even if they are not yet). Where as Jesus should be our first love, our one, we thus must be open for the “two”, whoever that might be, however they match our sinful checklist of desired qualities or not.

Cliques and Cancer

I have observed that friendships ultimately are born out of mutual preferences, backgrounds or if you’re taking the same class. It is easily seen that people only hang out with similar people, and if they are of the similar “cool” factor then it they’ll hangout with them more. It’s not that others are not less cool, but just to a different kind of coolness. Ethnicity and skin color certainly comes into play here. To one degree or another, some Koreans are friendlier to me than others… because I am Chinese? because I am Canadian / westernized? Or how about the generalized single “Caucasian” girls who quietly refrain from actively developing a friendship with a yellow guy like me, because are not open to having a multicultural relationship/marriage. For a requirement on their list is tall, dark, buff, white male; and not short, skinny, Chinese.

We all have certain conscious and unconscious qualities of whom we individually find more attractive than other qualities. That is just the uniqueness of each individual, how we are uniquely made in the image of God. You know what I’m talking about… those kinds of people that just make your head turn when they walk by you. Maybe it’s a blond, or a red-head, maybe it’s somebody who has great posture, or has great manners and etiquette — all these visibly noticeable physical qualities. Or maybe, it’s behavioral qualities, maybe it’s somebody who is very organized, outspoken, well-spoken, dynamic, or calm, collected, or quiet and gentle in spirit. We all have various things we want in another person, but the question ultimately is whether or not we are flexible in these prerequisites to the degree that God desires of us. And I think God desires a lot of flexibility from us.

For He does not want us to be like the world, even though we are of the world. He wants us to be sanctified from the world, to be salt and light in this dark place. He wants us to love the one whom we marry… to the extent that even if we don’t love them before we marry. Regardless of the who they are, how they look or act quirkily, God calls us to love each other when we are joined by the covenant of marriage. With this in mind, love really is and should be the horse to the carriage of marriage.

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