Taking a quick break from my Incredible Journey posts, I'd like to highlight a meditation that has recurred often for me recently...
Is marriage a distraction from whole-hearted devotion?
When I was single, I often struggled with a disturbing fear: that my future marriage would distract me from true, single-minded devotion to God. That was always very concerning to me, even though I vaguely understood that having a husband would likely consume much of my time and--let's face it--my affection.
Passages like 1 Corinthians 7:34-35 became discouragements:
There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
Was it wrong to desire marriage so much when it was actually listed in the Bible as a distraction? Would my ministries struggle because my marriage sucked away the time and attention I should be using for God? Would my husband slowly and inevitably replace my Savior?
"She who is married cares about the things of the world." I didn't want to care about the things of the world. I wanted to care about the kingdom of God.
"And this I say... that you may serve the Lord without distraction."
Were these the only choices: singleness with pure devotion or marriage with divided devotion?
Was there no way to satisfy my desire for a husband and a family without compromising my spiritual growth? It would be convenient if I could just desire to be single for life, but I still wanted to marry.
More concerning, my spiritual life as a single was not as undistracted as everyone made it sound. Many single women fall into this category; they struggle to support themselves financially, to develop their unique gifts and ministries, to care for themselves physically. They must do alone what married women have a husband to help with. All of it takes time and effort. All of it can distract.
As I recognized this, I wondered: If I couldn't handle the distractions of my every-day life as a single, how in the world could I be a Christ-minded wife?
It seemed like a set-up to fail no matter what I did.
Almost ten months into marriage, I look back on my questions as a single woman and I see clearly now what I did not see then.
Marriage is not opposed to whole-hearted devotion to the Lord, any more than singleness is opposed to deep and abiding joy. There is a fruitfulness to both that defies the distractions.
When Paul wrote of the single woman's devotion, he was pointing out that she could go straight to the source. She could see that the man she loved most in the world was Christ, and she could pour a wife's affection, desire, and priority into that relationship.
As a married woman, I see that source through the picture of my husband. I see how much I love Christ, because my husband models his Savior, through God's grace and empowering Spirit. All I most love in my husband is a pale reflection of the goodness first and best displayed in Christ. That earthly example makes me love and treasure my Christ even more.
There are ways in which I was uniquely fruitful as a single woman that I cannot take advantage of now. For example, my ministry to single women has changed because I am "on the other side." My voice for them is no less passionate, but I cannot speak as one of them anymore. I don't have that right. I can--and do--still seek to support, encourage, and value them as the special women of God that they are, and I still desire to bring awareness to all that they offer to the Lord's body.
I always thought married women exaggerated a single woman's freedom, but it's actually truer than I realized. As a single, I had the freedom to use my resources and finances without as much worry about how it will impact my household's well-being. It's astonishing how much time a marriage relationship requires; the time that I now pour into just one person, I used to use fruitfully to pour into many people around me. It is one of the treasures of my singleness that I am so grateful to have had.
There are ways in which I am uniquely fruitful now as a married woman. My husband's ministry has flourished in certain ways partially because I am now part of the picture. He cannot minister directly to the women of the caregroup that he leads, but I can. Where before he ministered out of the strength that the Lord gave him singly, now he and I can minister out of the strength we both share with one another.
If singleness and marriage are both fruitful, then what is the true nature of this "distraction" from whole-hearted devotion?
I remember the day I snapped: "I wish life wouldn't keep distracting me!" And it hit me like a thunderbolt:
Life is all about distractions.
Every single thing in the world, good or bad, will clamor for my attention until the day I die.
There will be interruptions to plans. Days of sickness. Moments when someone needs my attention more than my project needs finishing. Choices to savor the Lord or to do "just one more thing."
What if it isn't about the lack of distractions? What if it is simply about the choice to put the Lord first?
Sister, I confess: I am a distracted woman. I am distracted by all things, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. I am as distracted as you are. But we need our Savior. We need Him so badly.
I cannot use my marriage as an excuse to live a distracted life, anymore than another woman can use her loneliness as an excuse. We are called to more.
We are loved too much to linger in lesser things, as though were were not loved. His devotion does not cease, His attention does not waver, His commitment does not hold back. He chose us in Himself once, to save us from our own sin, but He also chooses us again and again and again, over all other possible distractions. If we truly comprehended this love, "the things of earth would grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."
Sister, whether married or single, it is my prayer "that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:17-19).
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.