Written By Chia Poh Fang
Poh Fang never dreamed of being in a language-related profession; chemistry was her first love. The turning point came when she received Jesus as her Savior as a 15-year-old and expressed to Him that she would like to create books that touch lives. She serves with Our Daily Bread Ministries in the Singapore office as Managing Editor.
With the ongoing ubiquitous discussion on birth rate and marriage, I’ve wondered to myself: What will “incentivize” me to want to change my current comfortable bachelorette lifestyle, and get myself tied into wedlock with someone? Well, let’s be realistic here. Assuming that a typical courtship is about three years and meeting once a week to really get to know someone is already a luxury in this fast paced society, the couple has barely known each other for 156 days! And I have been living as a solitary being in the last 13,870 days.
Secondly, I think about the merging of two histories, two cultures, two lives. In short, two becomes one. The dynamism of change and adjustments needed are mind-boggling. It calls for a giant leap of faith.
So, yes, perhaps, I’m commitment phobic. Or, perhaps, as my friends said, I haven’t met the right guy yet. But whatever it is, I know God has to do a deep work in my life if marriage is a part of God’s “[working] for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose . . . to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:28-29). For the more I think about such matters, the more I feel that marriage is made in heaven.
Sometimes, I feel that marriage seems easier to understand for what it cuts out of our lives than for what it makes possible within our lives. Something about the closure seems constricting, not enabling.
This is exactly how I feel with all the guys whom have shown an interest in me. I feel that by entering into courtship with them, my life would funnel from the great ocean of possibilities and reduced to mere droplets of existence.
Well aware that we all have unchangeable parts of our hearts that we will not betray and private commitments to a vision of life that we will not deny, I intend to choose my life partner carefully. I wouldn’t want to be found with someone who cannot nourish the inviolable parts of me, or if I cannot nourish them in him. Nor do I want to be caught in a predicament where my partner and I live in separate worlds where we share the business of life, but we never touch each other where the heart lives and dreams.
But I also believe there is a miracle in marriage. It is called transformation.
In marriage, two separate histories intermingle. Two separate beings, two separate presence, two separate consciousness come together and share a view of life that passes before them. They remain separate, but they also become one. There is an expansion of awareness, not a closure and a constriction.
Only marriage allows life to deepen and expand and be leavened by the knowledge that two have chosen, against all odds, to become one. There is a specific gravity in the marriage commitment that deepens life into something richer with all its beautiful complexities. And there is a selflessness in marriage which one can never reach apart from it. There is no other relationship in which living for another person’s interest is most put to the test, and yet at the same time, most rewarding.
The mathematics of marriage is illogical. It’s two become one. Yet at the same time, the sum of the parts could be greater than the whole.
So, in my friend’s words:
Marriage is magic.
Like magic, a human couple, known as man and woman, transforms into a hallowed entity known as man and wife.
For a long time, the teachings in 1 Corinthians 7 have shaped my opinion on marriage and singleness.
Based on 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, Paul’s general advice is that it’s better to stay unmarried because of the opportunities it provides to serve Christ without distraction (7:32-35). But even with its distractions, an honorable marriage is much better than living a life dominated by unsatisfied sexual desire.
Paul gives three reasons why it is generally preferable for single people to remain unmarried.
First, single people have fewer everyday problems than married people (1 Corinthians 7:25-28).
Second, because the end is near, Christians ought not let marriage and the things of the world be their dominant concerns. Their primary concern should be Christ and eternity (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).
Third, because marriage brings earthly responsibilities and divided interests, those who choose to remain single can devote their lives more fully to serving Christ (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).
With these in view, I asked myself: Why does God design marriage when there seem to be so many apparent disadvantages to it?
I realized that 1 Corinthians 7 was spoken in the context of the fallen man and fallen world. Hence, I conclude that a Christian marriage, that is a marriage in accordance to God’s blueprint is a strong witness to this world of the gospel of Christ—a witness of God’s love for the world.
A marriage doesn’t naturally become a Christian marriage because it’s the union of two Christians. Nor does marrying in a church with a clergy person officiating it make it a Christian marriage. Something more than the fact that the “potential life-partner” is a Christian has to click.
My renewed understanding of 1 Corinthians 7 is thus as follows:
Yes, a single person has fewer everyday problems than a married person. But it is also true that two could be better than one. Together, they could better overcome the everyday problems that assail the human race.
Yes, because the end is near, Christians ought not let marriage and the things of the world be their dominant concerns. Their primary concern should be Christ and eternity. Whether single or married, this truth applies to both.
Yes, because marriage brings earthly responsibilities and divided interests, those who choose to remain single can devote their lives more fully to serving Christ. But it is also true, that when two persons who share in a common mission come together, the sum of two persons could be greater than the whole. Both should and continue to devote their lives to serving Christ. This calls for a broader view of the “mission field.” The home is as important a mission field as the world is.
There are still much I need to learn and unlearn about marriage, singleness, and relationship.
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