This is the second attempt at writing this post. My mind is like jelly right now, perhaps because I have been eating too much ice-cream! What makes this post a little harder to write is that while I have been typing it, fresh ideas have occurred to me and it has diverged into two distinct posts.
The Original Post:
The Original post that I intended to write was this: that as people who hope to get married, we have to build a foundation for our single years to enable us to thrive in singleness without prematurely throwing ourselves into marriage.
The secondary post that occurred to me even as I was trying to express the ideas for the first post, is that I have to embrace my singleness as a valid entity and stage in its own right; not just as an interim period before I get married.
Because this secondary idea impacts so greatly on the original post that I was going to write, I don’t know whether it is still appropriate to go ahead to write that first post, or whether I should just jump straight into the second. Perhaps the best thing would be to write out the thoughts that occurred to me for the original post, then use that to build an argument for the secondary post idea.
So then this is what originally occurred to me:
I have spoken for a long time about the need to deliberately build a foundation for your marriage. The idea is that you don’t just enter marriage and expect everything to go swimmingly. Rather you deliberately anticipate issues that are likely to happen in marriage; you deliberately work on communication, you learn how to be friends; it is essentially about everything I have written on this blog! It is targeted, it is intentional. All this is good and necessary.
However, a few weeks ago, it (finally!) occurred to me that this exact same thing is also necessary; that is, building an excellent foundation – even for singleness – that is, the period before you get married. The “single” reason why this would be necessary would be to enable you to wait for as long as necessary, without throwing yourself into a possibly premature marriage, or a marriage where you have not taken time to build an excellent foundation.
This is why it finally occurred to me that this is necessary: I was thinking about emotional loneliness, specifically – specifically my own loneliness. I was acknowledging to myself this possibility, that even with everything I have written on this blog, even with all the time I have invested to seriously consider this thing – that through loneliness I might let myself enter hastily into a marriage without taking the time to build a truly excellent foundation. And then I thought about other people who have quickly entered into marriage, and I thought, perhaps this is the one issue more than anything else that might prompt that: being impatient for some of the things that marriage promises. If someone was in that situation, would it be unrealistic to expect them to listen to the need to build a great foundation for their marriage? And then it occurred to me that for many people, even where they acknowledge the need for a great marital foundation, there is a trade-off that they make between taking the time to establish that foundation, and the strong desire to get married as soon as possible.
And that is when it finally struck home. Even for singleness, there needs to be an excellent foundation to enable you to persevere in singleness as long as necessary. If this is not there, then it almost makes no sense to talk about establishing an excellent foundation for marriage, because many people, myself included, will simply not be able to wait to build that excellent foundation, but will throw themselves into the first available opportunity for marriage.
A Marathon, not a sprint:
This is an analogy that struck me: everyone knows that marriage itself is a marathon, not a sprint. However, to a certain extent, that period of pre-marital singleness could equally be considered a marathon, not a sprint. This is especially true for me because of the decisions I have made for myself regarding my marriage, and the hopes I cultivate. In practice, this is what this means. If there was a route or course for a marathon laid out, and everyone started running along that route, even the least physically fit person would be able to run at least some distance along that route. However, because of the incessant physical demands of running a marathon, there would come a point for each person where they would have to drop out of the race, and where they would be unable to carry on any longer. Each person would have a different stage where they would have to drop out. This would be true of almost everyone except those people who had been specifically and adequately trained for the marathon. They would be the ones who would be able to keep going as long as it takes.
Thinking of it in terms of the marathon of singleness, in the same way I believe that unless we specifically and deliberately train ourselves for the race we are running, there will come a time when we are forced to drop out, whether we like it or not. This would be the point where our yearnings etc well up in us to such an extent that they essentially force us to throw ourselves into a relationship. If though, a suitable spouse comes along while you are still comfortably “running along”, before you’ve been pushed to the end of your emotional tether, then you might have a bit of extra leeway to take the time to invest in building a great foundation for the marriage itself. Because I appreciate how rare compatible spouses are for me especially, for me I have no choice. I have to invest in developing and training myself so that I can keep running this marathon of singleness as long as necessary without letting my emotions drag me into desperation.
So then, these are the kinds of things that I think that I will have to build into my own “foundation for singleness”. Namely, I will have to deliberately protect myself, my mind and my emotions, from anything that would make me yearn to enter marriage. I will have to find other pure, wise and sensible ways to satisfy my emotional needs that I have been waiting for Mr Huggie-Wuggie to deal with. I’ve got to stop fixating on my yearning for hugs!
Here is a list of things that might make people including myself want to rush into marriage. Here are a few ways that each thing could be dealt with.
Emotional loneliness: I’ve already mentioned this above. For me, the challenge is to feel emotionally whole, so I don’t feel as if I am going around with a huge Huggie-Wuggie-shaped hole in my heart. If I am honest, I sincerely don’t know how to deal with this. I guess that I and other people could always pray, that God would grant strength and wholeness. Perhaps it would also be wise to find ways of cultivating deep, meaningful and emotionally-satisfying non-romantic friendships, ideally not with attractive members of the opposite sex! In fact, not with any members of the opposite sex whatsoever! (But how to do that though?! Just where can I find people who are more than happy to sit around pouring out their hearts?! )
Sex: This is quite a funny story: just about a week ago I was sitting around with a few other single Christian friends, (including one guy!) and we got talking about marriage, and whether it was acceptable or wise to rush into marriage because of sex. While acknowledging that the Bible allows for this, one of my friends was quite insistent that this should be avoided for the sake of developing sexual self-control which will also likely be necessary in marriage for instance after childbirth or during fasting.
Looking back on this I find it quite humorous because we managed to discuss this matter-of-factly without any awkwardness or embarrassment whatsoever, even despite the presence of the male friend. But the fact remains that this is one big reason why many people, and especially many Christians rush into marriage. Because many Christians experience normal sexual urges like everyone else, and because Western society in particular is saturated with provocative sexual imagery, and because many Christians rightly want to obey Biblical laws by not having sex before marriage, these Christians will quickly go ahead to get married so that they could legitimately satisfy their sexual desires. (People who have grown up in other parts of the world tell me that these yearnings are not as insistent in other non-Western parts of the world, because sexual desires are not constantly being stimulated by music and adverts etc.) For someone who is in this position, once again I don’t know what to suggest: prayer?
For me personally, I have found it helpful to not watch TV and to not read magazines and generally to limit my exposure to these stimuli as much as I can. That said it is so pervasive. Even when you are walking down the road there are adverts everywhere. Life online is known to be a minefield, but for me it is actually quite safe because I tend to read the same reputable blogs etc everyday. Perhaps someone could fit their computer with special filtering software? It is quite tricky for me to come up with suggestions and I am only just thinking through the options and possibilities now. However, I know that the effort will definitely be worth it for the sake of being able to plan towards a healthy marriage and also to enjoy a healthy and pure single life.
There are possibly a few other aspects that someone would have to consider in building a strong foundation for their single years, while hoping to get married. However, I am going to end this post here while I try to think of some other aspects. Hopeful I will also soon be able to write about the secondary post idea mentioned above.
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