OK, this is a post that I have been thinking about for quite a while. I have found myself getting into discussions with people about it, and I think it tends to come up a lot when I’m discussing marriage, especially with people who also attend Black Pentecostal churches.
The question is: “Is there only one person that God has planned for you to marry?”
Once again, I believe my viewpoint is quite radical. The unspoken assumption I tend to pick up from things people say, as well as things left unsaid, is that many people, at least in the Black African Pentecostal churches I have attended, believe that there IS one particular person that God has planned for you to marry, and if you miss this person, then your marriage is set on a faulty foundation from the outset.
I disagree strongly with this mindset, and I will set out my reasons in this blog post.
Now, before I start, let me make it clear that this is one area in which I concede that I could be wrong, even as I disagree with the majority view. Some issues in the Bible like Tithing (how did you guess?!) are frankly “black and white”, because they involve a simple examination of the Bible to see what it says. In fact, the question of Tithing as a Biblical Commandment (that is, it is NOT a biblical commandment) is as clear cut and as irrefutable as the issue of wives submitting to their husbands, and I have found few people who ever want to disagree with that one.
Some other issues, like knowing God’s will in marriage are not so clear cut, because they do not involve passages in the Bible where principles are explicitly laid out. In the first case, where issues are clear cut, it is “an Appeal to Reading”- that is, if you read the Bible, then you will see what it says. In the second case, where principles are not explicitly laid out, it becomes “an Appeal to Reason” where you consider the weight of an argument, or layers of arguments piled one on top of the other, to convince you either one way, or the other. Where I put forward a viewpoint, it is because I think the weight of the argument overwhelmingly falls on one side. However, I concede that I could be wrong, because after all, God is greater than human reasoning; His power exceeds what I could think of as being rational or logical. Moreover, someone could come along and demonstrate that “No, actually, the weight of the argument actually falls on the opposing side…”
So with those thoughts in place, these are the reasons why I disagree that God only has one person in mind for you that you should marry.
To be honest, the real reason why I disagree with this is because I find the thought too complicated. In fact, I should make it clear that I do not believe that “God’s will” means that He has one specific plan for your life, and that missing it will limit the effectiveness of your life. What I believe is that God’s will is for us to walk in holiness and righteousness and a restored relationship with Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that within that there is great freedom for us to make personal choices; that we have a genuine “Free Will” as to life decisions. When some Christians refer to “Free Will”, they seem to mean that we have the will to decide whether or not we will obey God’s specific plan. That is, that God tells us what to do, and we choose whether to obey or to disobey. I believe that we have a genuine free will, where we can legitimately choose between a number of options, and they will all glorify God.
Now, there are definitely times that God will give specific instructions to us, and have very specific plans for how we are to behave in certain situations. Within that, I am sure that there have been times, and there will continue to be times when God will tell specific people to marry specific individuals. What I disagree with is the idea that the Bible teaches that this is definitely the way God always works. I do believe that in any one situation that you find yourself in, when you get to a marriageable age, and you are still single, and you want to get married, there will be a best person (or a selection of excellent people), that you could marry; or maybe God would lead you to hold off from getting committed to any of the individuals available. And yet, this is different from saying that there is one person that God has specifically planned for you to marry from eternity.
This is why I find the thought complicated: At any one point that you get to in life, you will already have made so many choices, and taken so many turns. If God’s will for us is a specific plan of action with every part of our lives mapped out, then would it not be true that most of us would have gone astray right from the time we could make our own decisions? And since then, disobedience could have been piled on disobedience – leading at any one time to a course in life that would be very different from the one that God planned. So then, does that mean then that no matter what I do, I have definitively missed The Will of God for My Life – and what is left of my life cannot be redeemed – or can never be said to be in the will of God? That does not sound right to me. So now, if we were to consider it in terms of marriage – if God’s will for me was to do X then Y then Z, then maybe He planned that my husband should be waiting at point Y. If however, I have gone off to do my own thing, and completely bypassed Y altogether, and the husband patiently waiting there, does that then mean that once again, I have totally missed the will of God for my marriage; that any marriage I could enter into is already doomed because it does not correspond to that perfect will of God; that I have already catastrophically failed in my marriage, dating back to many years before I even started noticing boys – all because I took the wrong choices in life that led me against God’s will?
This is why I reject the idea of God’s perfect will being a specific plan: because I think that for most of us we’ve already gone our own way so far, and it seems so graceless to suggest that we could never be redeemed. This is why I reject the idea of God’s specific will in marriage being one person: because the nagging worry is that I would already have missed this one person, from decisions I have taken a while ago. Now, it is not as if these decisions were sinful or in any way unholy. However, sometimes they were my decisions. For instance, I decided quite spontaneously to move up to Edinburgh from London a few years ago. I can’t honestly say that I “prayed and fasted”; I thought about it one day and I was up in Edinburgh less than a week later. So what, if it was not actually “God’s will” for me to leave London for Edinburgh, is it then the case that any potential marriage I enter into with any potential husband I find in Edinburgh is necessarily doomed to failure because God’s will for my life was actually that I should remain in London? OK, now what if we consider that I was in London in the first place for similar reasons -that is because I just decided to go – what if it was never His will that I should be there in the first place? How far in my life am I going to have to unravel my decisions to bring them into line with God’s will? OK, now let’s say that I were to go ahead and marry one of the guys I find in Edinburgh, and we happily continue with our lives….and have children. When one of these children grows up, will it then be fair to say that we already know that they should never get married, because frankly it is not God’s will for them to even exist, as it was not His will for their parents to get married? (And of course, I have examined this from the perspective of only one person making decisions – because in all likelihood (of course) hubby has not been patiently waiting at Y – because he has already made his own decisions that have taken him right to the opposite side of the world….)
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
Photo of sunlight on path from Pixabay