Marriage – Not the Ultimate Purpose of Relationships
“How are you not cynical? I don’t see that in you.” I paused from cutting up a tomato and looked over at my roommate. I didn’t know how to answer that. To my surprise, I realized that no, I wasn’t cynical - she was right. But how? Because in the past I certainty have been cynical about singleness and relationships. And I’ve had a lot of good reasons to be. I walked away from our conversation with joy – the Lord can redeem and heal the pain and fear that cynicism masks.
I flashed back:
I said goodbye and let the relief and peace of closure flood over me. Thank you Jesus I breathed. Five years. It was hard to believe it had been over four years since I had seen him. Since we had broken up. Marriage and maturity looked good on him. It was an honor to meet his wife. I’d prayed for her too.
Despite the thankfulness for unexpected closure, I drove away with a mixture of emotions. The Lord had answered my prayers for him! And yet, the human part of me grieved… One week before this my heart had been broken for the second time. I lamented ‘Father, why? When will I ever see fruit from the relationships I’ve sown into?’
I wanted to give up, to give in to the pain and cynicism. Both men in the relationships/journeys that had broken my heart had ridden off into the sunset with their brides and I was left holding a handful of crumpled dreams. As I continued to drive away I pondered seeds, and fruit, and the things I’d sown in faith and obedience into these guys. Why wasn’t I eating the fruit from the things I’d sown?
Just because you aren’t eating the fruit doesn’t mean there isn’t fruit.
The Holy Spirit’s whisper caught me off guard. I laughed at myself. Duh! Just because I wasn’t the one eating the fruit – i.e. – married to one of these guys, didn’t mean that what I had sowed into their life was in vain. In fact it was the opposite! He got connected to his wife, because of the Bible study I encouraged him to attend while we were dating, and was now walking more fully with the Lord.
Friends, my story isn’t a simple one. And yet it is simple at the same time – The Father has never forsaken me.
I answered my roommate’s question by mumbling something about many tears shed before the Throne of Grace. I don’t understand His ways, ‘for His ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts than my thoughts’.
I grew up on “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and courtship was the new savior in the world of relationships. To not have a relationship end in marriage and yet clearly feel the Lord’s leading in that relationship was probably the most confusing thing I have ever been through. Why would the Lord lead me on a journey that didn’t end in marriage?
I could probably write a book with all the theories I have thought through in answer to that question, but one truth continues to rise to the surface:
The ultimate purpose of relationships is not marriage but the Kingdom of God.
All relationships - those that end in marriage and those that do not, have a purpose to glorify God and to reflect Him. We are made in His image and carry that image into every relationship we are in – romantic or otherwise.
‘Kingdom’ can be broken down into ‘the King and His domain’. A domain is an occupied territory or space, and it’s characterized by a certain culture.The Kingdom of God is about living out the culture of the Gospel in our lives and His domain is our hearts.So a relationship that has the Kingdom of God as its purpose focuses on sowing righteousness – treating the other person with love, respect, and selflessness, regardless of what you get in return. It’s loving one another and sowing lasting fruit.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. John 15:16-17
Approaching relationships with the knowledge that their purpose is to further the Kingdom of God in the other persons life and in my own, has stripped away the cynicism, because it allowed me to see a glimpse out of the box I wanted to put the Lord and relationships into. It’s not all roses and we all make mistakes. Sometimes finding the purpose in a relationship is about what we have learned about the Kingdom of God in the process. And other times, it’s about realizing that the fruit is there – whether or not we are directly benefiting from it.
Please note that marriage is part of the purposes of relationships, and I believe in approaching relationships intentionally. Marriage is good, God given, and beautiful! The ultimate purpose in marriage is the same in dating relationships or singleness - the Glory of God, and pursing to have your life marked by the Gospel.
Living single and fully alive today means recognizing that God's purposes exceed my own.