“What’s the purpose of marriage?” I asked a murmuration of teenage starlings. “Why would anyone want to get married these days?”
Predicting where a conversation might go with a flock of high-school women usually looks and feels like this to me:
“What’s the main goal of marriage, in your opinion?” I repeated as they settled into their formations.
“You might marry one day, or you might not, but despite what happens to you personally, is there any substantial benefit to the world because marriage exists?
“Maybe people get married so that they won’t die alone?” said one of the brave little Starlings from her current position in the back.
Ah, yes. A few weeks prior I’d asked these same teenage girls to anonymously fill-in-the-blank to the following statement: “The thing I most fear today is ______________.” How would you answer that question right now?
90% of the young women answered this way: “The thing I most fear today is being alone.”
Interesting fact: Did you know that being alone in the dark is the #1 fear of most Americans, according to this survey? It’s not so surprising then, that we would hope to find a person to walk with us in all the dark parts of life. None of us wants to be alone, especially in the shadows of suffering and death.
“I like the way you’re thinking, but is that the very highest benefit of marriage? So that we won’t be alone in the end? Could there possibly be something more?” Sixty women were rendered speechless for several moments. It was as surreal an experience as you might imagine it would be.
“Maybe marriage is important because it shows a love and a commitment that is much bigger and better than even the people themselves.” she said, a little less-than-confidently.
I’m telling you, teenage girls are some of the smartest people on the planet.
“Maybe marriage is important because it shows a love and a commitment that is much bigger and better than even the people themselves.”
I mean. I’m certain that my sixteen-year-old self could never have articulated that answer if a million dollars had been on the line.
“Excellent. That is exceptionally thoughtful and insightful, thank you for being brave and speaking up. So, how does knowing that there is actually something bigger and better than our own selves shape us as people in the mean-time? Do we need to be married to reflect a love and a commitment like this? How can we practice being women that will bless and benefit the world now, whether we are married or not?”
These are fair questions to consider if we are sixteen or sixty, married or single.
What is it that we are most consistently reflecting in our current relationships?
Are we steadfast and trustworthy, even when others are not? Are others assured of our good intentions towards them, even when we can’t be sure of their intentions towards us?
Can we be counted on to be faithful to our word and commitments, even when others are less so? Are we brave enough to walk with others through their dark, even though they don’t walk with us in ours?
Are we generally warm with all our people, not just the ones that return our affection? Is it possible to warm and enliven the lives of others, even if we presently feel alone?
Can we be women that reflect a bigger and better kind of love and faithfulness to the world? Even if we’re only in high-school? Or our husbands are distant? Or we’ve been left alone, again?
We are made to warmly bless the world, even though it doesn’t bless us back.
We are created to shine a bigger and better love into all the places, though they may be dark and unreceptive.
We are meant to radiate – not because we generate our own warm light – but because we are reflecting a kind of Love and Faithfulness and Commitment that is bigger and better than all the goodness we could muster up in a lifetime.
This kind of love doesn’t grasp. It doesn’t dishonor, or guilt-trip, or pressure others. It speaks truth in a gentle spirit, is patient, and listens with compassion. It holds people with open hands and high-esteem. This kind of love routinely suffers, because it routinely forgives.
May you never be afraid to love in this way.
You are not simply reflecting an abstract idea or a beautiful concept, you are reflecting the love and commitment of God himself, shown through the person of Jesus. His Spirit will be with you wherever you go in this world, no matter how dark.
Peace to you as you love your people well, because you are not alone.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13)
*starling images from theguardian.com and bbc.com