A Single's Thoughts on Pursuing Marriage
By Kevin Burzynski
I’ve ministered to hyphen age individuals for a while now; in fact, I’ve been a hyphen age individual in need of being ministered to for a while longer than that. One of the hyphen age struggles is singleness. And not just singleness, but singleness in light of growing older, singleness in light what seems to be no apparent reason. I’ve seen it, I’ve been it. I’ve gotten advice, I’ve given advice. I’ve seen people cry, and I’ve cried.
What I’ve compiled below isn’t a quick and tidy guide for getting hitched and living happily ever after. It’s a compilation of thoughts and conclusions I wish I’d come to earlier. Some are from Pastors, mentors, Bible reading, book reading, and my own experience, the latter primarily made up of repeated failure. Pain is the best teacher.
A Bit of Personal History
One of my favorite people is Brother James Sleeva, former foreign missionary, present urban missionary, and highly involved at Indiana Bible College and Calvary Tabernacle in Indianapolis. When I was first in church he gave me the triangle talk. You’ve probably heard it. Your future spouse is at the bottom of the triangle on that side, you are the bottom of the triangle on this side, and God is at the top of the triangle. As you pursue God and your future spouse pursues God, you will meet together at the top.
In other words, pursue God and you’ll meet your spouse, simple. So I went about pursuing God, sometimes taking detours in the direction of a lady, often failing and repenting for being distracted, and pursuing God again. In my experience, for about a decade, the triangle wasn’t working out. I thought to myself, does Brother Sleeva really know what he’s talking about? He is single after all. If he knew so much about marriage … I can say now, the triangle talk is true. It doesn’t guarantee a spouse, but the principle is biblical and it’s true. But seek ye first the kingdom of God … (Matthew 6:33) Everything below could be summed up in that simple principle. However, if you like color commentary and examples of personal failure, keep reading.
1. Let Go of the Idea They Will Complete You
For a long time I really thought finding “the one” would complete me. Maybe I didn’t say that, but emotionally, subconsciously, are we not conditioned through movies and media to think that at the conclusion: the good guy beats the bad guy, gets the girl, and lives happily ever after? Finding love is setup to be a shorthand for fulfillment and completeness. The reality is, two broken people finding one another doesn’t make a happy whole. The idea that another broken person will complete you is false. The idea that they could do that if they were the mystic “one” is also false.
The two shall become one. That is, two whole people will become one. Two God-sufficient, God-centered, God-dependent individuals who are healthy in and of themselves are the best ingredients for a healthy marriage. Wholeness without the emotional crutches like alcohol or unhealthy relationships requires WORK. The difficult part about wholeness or completeness is that it forces us to confront our faults. In their new book, They Said Yes: A Life in Missions, Brother Robert Rodenbush gives some of his life principles, one of which is: Brokenness is the pathway to wholeness.
The lonely brokenness that can accompany singleness is not meaningless pain, but an opportunity and pathway to reach out to what will make us whole.
Finding “the one” won’t complete you and fix your emotional and spiritual mess. Jesus completes us and that often through being broken from every attempted substitute to replace Him.
Embrace the brokenness and become whole in Jesus. It’s the best thing you can do for your future spouse, possibly even your dating success.
2. Pray Them In
I’ve read some good books on dating. Dr. Henry Cloud is one of my favorite authors on relationships. He has a book called, “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping.” It’s not a bad book, it’s a good book with many good points. But one of the mantras of the book is to “get your numbers up.” The idea is, go on dates; many, many dates. The idea is, you’ll meet new people, shake off social awkwardness, and if you’ll not be so picky, you’re probably get better at dating, improve yourself, and eventually get married.
The idea isn’t bad, it’s good and activity is certainly part of the equation. I’ve heard many Apostolic Pentecostal friends and mentors advocating activity, activity, activity. I get that. But the reality is, that has mixed results depending on who it is we’re dealing with. I put a lot of pressure on myself to “get out there”, but it wasn’t me. I have better dating advise for Spirit filled people: pray them in. Pray your spouse in. Pray over second dates. Pray over going official. Pray them in and if necessary, pray them out.
Think about it, if marriage is about you and your personal contentment then you’re probably able to do this yourself. Get your activity up, work harder at this, etc. But we who are eternally minded and God fearing know that God has a bigger plan for marriage than our happiness in this life. This is your partner in ministry, your partner in child rearing. This partnership has eternal implications.
One can put a thousand to flight and two can put 10,000 to flight. That synergy between good partners has incredible potential. God knows who you’re compatible with and who you will have spiritual / ministry synergy with. Although I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of “the one”, God has definitely has someone in mind for you, because God knows who you’re going to have the best eternal impact with.
I remember the day my prayers shifted from everything else they were to, “God you choose her for me. I’m not getting anywhere trying to pick her out. You please choose her for me.” It wasn’t long after I let go of my activity and work that God stepped in and helped me.
Will it happen that way for you? I hope so, except for the decade of frustration and failure. Once they are in, pray over them again: “God, let this fly or let it die” (Brother Sleeva). More often than not, God will graciously let it die. This too is dating success.
3. A Thought on Rejection
Who of us hasn’t gone out on a date because we thought they were cute, funny, handsome, beautiful, whatever; only to come to that moment where we realize, they’re just not that into us.
If you have thick skin and roll with the punches, God bless you, but there are those among us with more sensitive and introspective temperaments who are tempted to take this really, really hard (me). And that isn’t all bad, introspection and pain is in the vein of godly sorrow which leads to repentance. But that introspection has to stop at some point. You can’t allow your thinking to move into terms of better than and less than. It’s easy to view rejection in terms of "they were better than me", "more popular", "more attractive", more this and more that. Those could be true, but that is carnal comparison.
Rejection could simply be a matter of compatibility; not better than or less than but different than. God may well see it as non-complementary.
Rejection isn’t a time to lose all notion of self worth. It may be a time to reevaluate where you derive your self worth. Those are two very different things. Do your best to channel rejection to work on you, not against you. Note: you will need to pray to do this.
4. On a Happier Note, How You’ll Know It Is or Isn't
First, you’ll be more you when you’re with them.
I don’t know how to explain this one, but when you find the person who sets you at ease, the person that frees you to be yourself, that’s a good indicator you’ve got someone to hang on to. If you’re free to be a lazy jerk, there probably isn’t enough tension there. If you’re exhausted by being with them because you’re stretching yourself to be something you’re not, there is way too much tension there. You should easily be yourself with them.
Second, spiritual authority, family, and friends will approve.
When everyone around you, most especially your spiritual authority approve, it’s a very good sign that it’s right. There will be exceptions to every rule, but in general, everyone who you respect will be on board. If your friends are hesitant, if your family sees warning signs, and your spiritual authority is cool to the idea, think twice. In fact, just end it. Don’t even think about it.
Last but not least, the best advice I ever heard on the topic came from Brother Tim Pedigo and this advice came from his Mother (I believe). She told him, “When you know you’ll know, and until you know, don’t get married.” That’s great advice. You don’t want to settle, you want to know. Not only that you think you know, but that you know God approves. Until you’re there, wait and work on you.
5. For You Who Have Promises
If God has given you a promise, don’t give it up for the world. Hang onto it, remind God of it, and believe it. God is faithful.