When talking to a group of singles, one woman took offense when I said that part of our response to the Bible’s affirmation of pursuing marriage (Prov. 31:10) is to work on making ourselves more “marriageable.” That might mean getting in shape, getting out of debt, growing deeper in the Lord, improving relational skills, etc.
She took offense to the “getting in shape” comment. In a strongly worded retort she suggested, “Why not ask a man to change his shallow expectations, instead of making a woman change her shape?” Now, please notice I didn’t tell women to change their shape. I said, to both genders, maybe you need to get in shape. If someone has read my book Every Body Matters, they know I believe there is a distinct difference in having a certain shape and being in shape.
But we have to be careful about adopting any attitude that if someone doesn’t marry us for whatever reason, they’re simply “shallow.” That notion will not help you find someone to marry.
Nobody “owes” it to us to marry us.
The commitment of marriage is so extensive and so long lasting, that I should be in awe anyone would even consider it; what a gift that my wife has made that choice. But I neither deserved it, nor did she ever owe it to me. I couldn’t be resentful of anyone who said, “No, I think I’ll pass on Gary.” Instead of thinking “why won’t someone marry me,” my attitude is rather that I can think of a hundred reasons why somebody wouldn’t want to marry me, and am amazed that one woman found a reason to say yes.
My concern is that if you have a resentful attitude that any man or woman should be interested in you just because you want them to be, because they somehow owe it to you, you might also become a spouse with equally high expectations: “Now that he’s my husband (or she’s my wife), he should do x and y and z…”
Marriage is about learning to love, learning to give. It is served by a shared humility. Wanting to grow into a more mature, godly, and attractive (in all ways) partner is a gift we can give to our future or current spouses.
You can rail at all men or all women for not choosing to marry you; or you can focus on growing in all areas of who you are: your love, your service, your friendship.
In order to love certain spouses, you might have to grow in your ability to love them according to their specific needs, and the same is true with kids. Some kids will require you to develop patience, some to take an interest in science or dancing or watch soccer games. If we have a disabled child and say, “We know nothing about how to care for that child; that child will have to love us just as we are, even if we don’t learn how to properly care for him,” well, that would be a rather sad statement, wouldn’t it? If you have a disabled child, you have to learn how to care for that child, regardless of where you are at now.
I guess what I’m saying is this: If you’re not willing to grow, if you don’t think you need to grow, if your attitude is that someone owes it to you to marry them because you want to be married, you’re setting yourself up for a very frustrating life—especially after you get married. It’s also, I believe, an unbiblical life. When Jesus tells me that I should be continually seeking righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and Peter tells me to make every effort to add godly qualities to my faith (2 Peter 1:5-6), I’m not offended, I’m inspired, because I know I’m not perfect, and these are words of love to remind me that God wants to keep taking me to newer and higher places.
The desire to marry should motivate you to become a more complete person, and that’s a good thing.
Even if you never do get married, the pursuit will have served a good purpose—hopefully, you’ll be more mature, more loving, less selfish, more like Christ. But if the pursuit simply makes you bitter and resentful, well, that doesn’t help anyone, and it certainly won’t draw anyone healthy toward you.
Fortunately, I don’t believe the woman who challenged my talk was either bitter or resentful—she just heard something I didn’t intend to say, and that likely faults me as a communicator more than it does her as a listener. But I know this attitude is out there, and I want to call it out, even at the risk of making even more people frustrated with me. Instead of asking, “why won’t somebody marry me?” I suggest asking, “how can I make myself more marriageable?”
[photo: Md saad andalib, Creative Commons]