TLimS Week 9: Mark 10
I think, if I am not mistaken, this will be my last post of this series. It's really just because, well, I am out of things to say :). I wanted to investigate the idea of God as our shepherd and how He has provided for me in my life. I wanted to share my experience with my awesome shepherd, and I know, for me, this has been reflective and useful in my life, as well as a great reminder of how great God is, has been, and promises to be.
I want to end by talking about our special relationships--our significant others. The last two weeks, I've been discussing the way God provides for our emotional needs. People all need to be loved in a sacrificial way, in a way that knows our deepest souls and secrets, a way that only God can love us. And last week, I was sharing about how if we don't fill ourselves first with God's love, then our community and our friendships often (unknowingly and unintentionally) suffer.
Of course, with those who are closest to us, our boy/girlfriends and wives/husbands, the same is true.
To be honest, there's not much to add or say that I haven't already said last week (hence why this is the last post of the series). I could definitely say a lot more about relationships in general, but I want to focus in on specifically why God is so important when it comes to marriage.
My own experience with this came at some point in my dating life. I heard of this idea through the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. They are Christian psychiatrists/counselors who write about relationships and how to have healthy ones. One simple idea I remember from them is taken from Mark 10, that marriage is about two becoming one, and in order for that to happen, you have to have two independent, distinct people first.
In context, they did not mean that each person needs to be perfect before having a healthy marriage or getting married, but instead, they meant that each person has to be complete. In other words, marriage was not created as a way to complete two people through a relationship.
Maybe that sounds obvious, I mean, if I asked anyone if that is what marriage is about, I bet close to no one would say yes. But I think nowadays, we have some ways of talking and thinking that actually embodies this idea of two people being complete through marriage/dating without saying it so obviously.
The whole compatibility idea seems fraught with this idea of completion. People talk about how you should be "compatible" with your spouse. Whenever I ask what that means, the examples I get usually imply something about being incomplete without the other person. For example, I heard at a Christian seminar once that compatibility is like where whenever one person is tired or cranky, the other person is there to help cheer them up or be really positive. Other common examples of "compatibility" are where opposites attract, like one person is anti-social while the other is super social so together they have good balance. Or one person tends to over-react to things, while the other is really calm, so they together compliment each other.
I'm not arguing or saying that compatibility is necessarily wrong--I'm just saying it's not biblical :). I mean, compatibility is no where in the Bible. Trust me. Again, that doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong, after all, if it's not in the Bible, then the Bible doesn't say it's wrong! But I think somewhere inside the idea hides this notion that the other person completes you. Somehow, your spouse and partner in life makes you a more whole person, and if that is happening, then you should get married, implying that the foundation of a good solid marriage is that two people are completed (or more complete) in the union.
Another example of a common belief about marriage/dating that seems to hide within it the idea that two people are completed through the relationships is "finding your soul mate." I'm not actually sure if this is still a commonly held idea, but I certainly have heard this in movies, where someone believes in finding their ONE true love, aka soul mate. I honestly have no idea what a soul mate is... I think Elanor is my soul mate... but I also think she became my soul mate once we got married!
Anyway, I think the soul mate idea could be (in some cases) about completing oneself. Usually, people describe the soul mate as someone who just gets you--who you have some supernatural connection with and it just seems like it was all destined and meant to be because of the electric connection. I really do get the image in my head of two puzzle pieces in a 1 billion piece puzzle finding each other and realizing the connect.
Well, clearly this idea might imply that indeed two people somehow complete each other in the process of finding one another, especially the embedded idea that your soul mate just gets you or knows your inner soul unlike anyone else in the world. This really seems to suggest that they provide a deep, intimate love that perhaps you need... that marriage is about feeling loved and known by someone in this deep, intimate way, and that this somehow completes you.
Indeed, one could easily interpret the Mark 10, "two become one" idea as being about completion, right? Two becoming one... that definitely sounds like making a complete whole, no? But it is important to note that the metaphor is not about two puzzle pieces joining as one, or two halves making a whole. Instead, it's about two people, already whole and complete, meeting each other in a joining union.
If we come to our relationships and our attitudes about marriage with the idea that some how, this person is going to fulfill something in me that I could not otherwise obtain on my own, those relationships are going to let us down.
As I talked about last week, only God can know us fully, intimately, and without fail. No boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, or husband will ever be able to know our every thought, desire, and need. No relationship, no matter how perfect, can ever fulfill us, provide meaning in our lives, and love us the way we don't even realize we need to be loved. Only God can.
Marriage (and by extension, dating) is about two people coming together because, put quite simply, that's where God led each person. Marriage is about attraction, commitment, and learning to love. Marriage is two people, already whole, completed because of Christ in their lives, coming together to become one--living their lives together, and seeking out to become of one mind and one heart--with each other, and with the God that lives inside of them.
It's true, then, that the best thing you can do for yourself in preparing yourself for marriage or dating is to become a whole person. I don't mean working hard to become perfect, or becoming super independent and self-reliant. In fact, I mean the opposite--become a person that relies fully on God to fulfill our every need. Even more importantly, become someone who understands and knows that you are loved by God in a way that no one and no thing, anywhere in this world could ever provide.
If we cannot accept God's love, we cannot learn to show love to others, and therefore we cannot become people who have healthy relationships. It starts with God loving us first, providing for us as an eternally loving shepherd who deeply loves His sheep.
Be a sheep. Learn to become one. Sheep are stupid. They follow anything blindly. They are crazy cute too :)! And they place their entire lives (every part of it) in the hands of their shepherd. Food, water, rest, protection, direction, companionship, and love. Sheep rely on their shepherd for all these things. Become a sheep, because we want God to become our amazing shepherd.