Saturday, February 17, 2007

Wesleyan, and Still Not Married

"I married my brother [Charles] and Sarah Gwynne. It was a solemn day, such as becomes the dignity of a Christian marriage."
(John Wesley, Journal, April 8, 1749)

This blog entry is a very personal one for me; I rarely comment on myself because this blog is about classic Wesleyanism, not me. However, it's a timely topic that I will discuss. It's impossible not to be autobiographical in this post. Hopefully others will find comfort through reading it.

I am a minister of the gospel--and I am a single man, never married. I've never felt the call to lifelong celibacy. I don't desire to remain single. Yet singleness has chased me through my mid-thirties and it brings loneliness. I want a gold ring to adorn my left hand but, to this point, I am ringless.

I want a wife, children and the family pet; however, for whatever reason (be it my fault, her fault or nobody's fault) none of my relationships has led to the altar. I truly wonder if I ever will marry.

To be blunt, as I age further I don't want people to wonder, "Is Larry gay or something?" I certainly am not!

It can be difficult to be a minister and be single; it may actually hold you back because people want to see a pastor with a happy family. (I'm not suggesting I want to marry for strategic reasons; I'm just facing the ugly truth of reality and exposing what I guess to be a secret fear among single ministers.)

Singleness is a perplexing problem for the Christian. A Christian believes that his life is guided by the Holy Spirit; this would include something as important as marriage. Scripture teaches us:

"He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD."
(Pro 18.22 ESV)

However, what is he to say if such marriage appears never to come? He asks himself (or herself):

1. Am I not spiritual and mature enough for marriage, whatever that means?

If this is true then I'm confused because I'm sure plenty of rather unspiritual and immature people found righteous mates. I've seen plenty of married women sitting alone in the pews because their spiritually deadbeat husbands don't come to church. (Was that out loud? lol)

2. Is God keeping me single for ministry?

If he is then I think he'd give me peace about the single state; also, I haven't found such ministry that keeps me so busy to this point!

3. Is God preparing my perfect mate for me as we speak?

I don't mean to take lightly the Lord's timing; however, a little heads up from the Father would be nice!

I just don't find these answers to be satisfying. Perhaps they are all true but this list doesn't give me peace in my singleness.

Since my college days I've lived with the conviction that God doesn't select one person for another to marry. Now, I realize this is EXTREMELY touchy with singles--probably because it's so scary to consider--so I'd better lay out my argument.

The Apostle Paul is addressing widows in Corinth. He is speaking to the issue of remarriage for them and says, "A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord" (1Co 7.39 ESV).

Notice Paul's single qualifier; he says, "She can marry anyone but he has to be a Christian." [We must take into account what the New Testament teaches about marrying a divorced person, of course, but that's assumed.]

A single Christian can marry any other single Christian. We are free...and that's the problem! God doesn't guarantee a spouse.

What if we don't find her (or, in the case of ladies, him)? What if the other person doesn't agree? What if the feeling isn't mutual?!

I have no problem in a Christian praying for a spouse; I'm sure God honors such prayer with his divine wisdom and providence. However, the decision is a two-way street. Both people must agree to the proposition!

Perhaps it's my fault, my hang-ups, my failure to act during opportune times. Perhaps it's just life. God promised us joy in the Spirit but not happiness.

There's a difference.