I have thought about this often over the past few months as my wife and I have endured extreme highs and lows. The following list is in no particular order, I just categorized these things as they came to my mind and wanted to answer as honestly as I know how.
1. I had a God-given desire to be married and God providentially bamboozled someone else into thinking it was a good idea.
Marriage isn’t something that only crossed my mind after I became a believer. I have wanted to be a husband for as long as I can remember. While all of the guys back in first grade were punching girls and pulling their hair saying they never wanted to get married, I hung out with the girls that were already planning weddings. I thought this would be a cake walk since my friends were no competition. I would surely be married by fifth grade, easy.
I can remember reading Genesis 2 shortly after becoming a believer, and longing for what I saw: a relationship in which two people could be “naked and unashamed.” I longed for a companion with whom I could be completely open and vulnerable, without any fear that she would exploit me. I wanted this good thing that the Bible talked about and held in such high regard. This desire only increased when I saw brothers in the faith get married and talk about experiences that I could only dream of. I wanted a best friend who would know everything about me.
God providentially fulfilled this desire by allowing me to marry my wife, Shawndra. How did I know Shawndra was the one? In some sense, I didn’t know she was the one until she said “yes” to my proposal, and “I do” at the altar. I realized then that my speculations were warranted, and she was the woman that God blessed me with. I’m grateful that God blinded her to enough of my deficiencies to convince her that I was marriage material.
In Genesis 24, as Abraham is giving instructions to his servant on how to choose a wife for Issac, the servant asks Abraham, “What if she says no and doesn't want to come back here?” Abraham, with amazing profundity, replies, “If she says no, then she’s not the one.” I knew Shawndra was the one and decided to marry her, partly because she said yes. If she turned me down 15 times, it would be safe to assume that providence wasn’t on my side.
2. I felt like marriage would be a springboard to honoring God further (Eph. 5)
It wasn't until I saw the ultimate purpose of marriage that I was really convinced to pursue marrying Shawndra. In Ephesians 5, after Paul gives his most extensive discourse on marriage (to both husbands and wives), he ends by saying, “This mystery is profound, but I am referring to Christ and the church.” What Paul was saying is this, “I know that I’ve been talking about marriage and have spent almost an entire chapter giving you the keys to have a successful one, but here’s what I want you to know—the purpose of marriage goes beyond you, this is really about Christ and the church.” It was at that point that I realized the nature of marriage.
Marriage is like a camera in its purpose. A camera takes pictures. The pictures offer a first hand experience of whatever lies captured in the image. That’s why wedding photography is such a huge industry. The better the camera, the better the picture; the better the picture, the easier it is for people who haven’t had a first-hand encounter with the event to experience it.
This is the purpose of marriage. To present a lifelike picture of God’s love, grace, forgiveness, endurance, friendship, and pleasure to a hurting and a fractured world that desperately seeks after all of those things. The better the marriage, the better the picture. The better the picture, the easier it is for onlookers to see God’s love made real to us through His Son.
My wife and I were blessed to have built a friendship almost entirely on serving the needs of others. I don’t say that as a precursor for finding “the one,” I say it to show that it really helped me understand the purpose of marriage. As a result of our relationship, I saw just how much she spurred me on to love others and good deeds (Hebrews 10). I also saw just how much she complemented me and my weaknesses. Being with her made me more of an effective witness of the truth of Jesus . So, marriage became a no-brainer when I saw that as a result of being together I could more effectively do the very thing that had been driving my life thus far.
3. Selfish motives – thinking marriage would be my savior
[pull_quote_left]But, I quickly discovered that marriage makes a terrible savior, and a horrible god.[/pull_quote_left]I wanted to fulfill and experience the God ordained purpose for marriage, but I got married for a lot of selfish reasons as well. (That dispels the myth that God only blesses you with marriage once you have effectively conquered all of your selfish desires. Not encouraging selfishness, just showing God’s grace.) To be honest, I hated being lonely growing up. I always wanted to be around people, and I needed people around me constantly to feel loved and valued. What better way to guarantee that I would never be lonely again than to be married to someone? Right? And, yes, I also wanted to have sex without fear of guilt or shame.
But, I quickly discovered that marriage makes a terrible savior, and a horrible god. What marriage did do, however, was expose the sin that was in my heart. I saw (and continue to see) that the majority of the unmet expectations and frustrations in my marriage had nothing to do with my spouse and her failures. They have everything to do with me and my sinful desires to have someone who would feed me grapes and fan me with oversized palm branches every time I had a rough day on the basketball court.
Truth be told, I think there are a lot of people out there who have a better understanding of what marriage is “supposed to be” than I had when I first got married. God allowing me to get married certainly wasn’t a reward for my faithfulness to him. Marriage was a gift to me to expose the sin and idolatry in my heart that keeps me from really experiencing intimacy with Him.
In this life, EVERY ONE of us will possess God-given desires that are unmet.
Please read this carefully: Just because a desire is “God-given” doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed to happen. Having desires that go unmet is a part of life. No one has ever received everything he wanted. If all of our desires were given to us, then this wouldn’t be earth, it would be heaven.
More often than not, we do not get what we deem as important or vital. I’ll never forget our struggle with infertility. My wife and I have been trying for four years and three months to have kids, with no luck. My thought had always been, “It is a good desire, of course it will happen for me one day.” God gives good gifts to his children, he would NEVER keep this from me. He would never hear my cry to impregnate my wife and say, no.” And I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed. It never happened. And everyone I talked to said, “Don’t worry, it’ll happen one day.”
I remember being in my room one day, reading Let The Nations Be Glad by John Piper. While reading this book, a thought came to my mind unrelated to the actual content. EVERYONE IS WRONG! What if it NEVER happened? What if I NEVER have kids of my own? What if I never go into a mall and have someone stop me to tell me that my daughter looks just like me? What if I never have a son to compare my baby pictures with? What if?
This is a God-given desire that I had before many of my friends, and that I prayed for longer and harder than any of my friends. I wanted to know God as Father by being a father. I’ve heard so many people talk about how much they’ve grown in their walk and learned about love because of fatherhood, and I want to learn that. I want to know God like that.
What I heard the Lord say to me was, “John, what if I don’t want you to know me that way? What if there is a unique way that I want to reveal myself to you and through you? Some people will know me that way, but other people will know me through another way. What if I want you to grow in your relationships, your fatherhood, your submission, and companionship, not through natural children of your own, but adopted children?” Here’s the question that provided the most comfort to me in my struggle and changed my heart. Lord, what would you have me to do with the time, money, energy and love that you’ve given me NOW, that I would like to use to parent the kids that I desire? Who in my life have you called me to extend these things to?
It was in this that I realized that EVERY ONE of us will have to learn this same lesson in life one way or another. If you’re single and you’ve been at Blueprint for the past few weeks, or heard the sermon, then you’re probably thinking about this lesson as it relates to your relationship status. When we come to the realization that all of our God-given desires in this life will not be met we can really begin to live. This is where life really takes off regardless of your circumstances. Life takes off when you leverage the life you already have, rather than lamenting the life you wish you had.