Not Unredeemed

… living the beautiful tension between what is, and what will be …

Marriage – Not the Ultimate Purpose of Relationships

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“How are you not cynical? I don’t see that in you.” I paused from cutting up a tomato and looked over at my roommate. I didn’t know how to answer that. To my surprise, I realized that no, I wasn’t cynical – she was right.

But how? Because in the past I certainty have been cynical about singleness and relationships. And I’ve had a lot of good reasons to be. I walked away from our conversation with joy – the Lord can redeem and heal the pain and fear that cynicism masks.

I flashed back:

 I said goodbye and let the relief and peace of closure flood over me. Thank you Jesus I breathed. Five years. It was hard to believe it had been over four years since I had seen him. Since we had broken up. Marriage and maturity looked good on him. It was an honor to meet his wife. I’d prayed for her too. (Read the back story here)

Despite the thankfulness for unexpected closure, I drove away with a mixture of emotions. The Lord had answered my prayers for him! And yet, the human part of me grieved… One week before this my heart had been broken for the second time. I lamented ‘Father, why? When will I ever see fruit from the relationships I’ve sown into?’

I wanted to give up, to give in to the pain and cynicism. Both men in the relationships/journeys that had broken my heart had ridden off into the sunset with their brides and I was left holding a handful of crumpled dreams. As I continued to drive away I pondered seeds, and fruit, and the things I’d sown in faith and obedience into these guys. Why wasn’t I eating the fruit from the things I’d sown?

Just because you aren’t eating the fruit doesn’t mean there isn’t fruit.

The Holy Spirit’s whisper caught me off guard. I laughed at myself. Duh! Just because I wasn’t the one eating the fruit – i.e. – married to one of these guys, didn’t mean that what I had sowed into their life was in vain. In fact it was the opposite! He got connected to his wife, because of the Bible study I encouraged him to attend, and was now walking more fully with the Lord.

Friends, my story isn’t a simple one. And yet it is simple at the same time – The Father has never forsaken me.

I answered my roommate’s question by mumbling something about many tears shed before the Throne of Grace. I don’t understand His ways, ‘for His ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts than my thoughts’.

I grew up on “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and courtship was the new savior in the world of relationships. To not have a relationship end in marriage and yet clearly feel the Lord’s leading in that relationship was probably the most confusing thing I have ever been through. Why would the Lord lead me on a journey that didn’t end in marriage?

I could probably write a book with all the theories I have thought through in answer to that question, but one truth continues to rise to the surface:

The ultimate purpose of relationships is not marriage but the Kingdom of God.

All relationships – those that end in marriage and those that do not, have a purpose to glorify God and to reflect Him. We are made in His image and carry that image into every relationship we are in – romantic or otherwise.

‘Kingdom’ can be broken down into ‘the King and His domain’. A domain is an occupied territory or space, and it’s characterized by a certain culture.The Kingdom of God is about living out the culture of the Gospel in our lives. His domain is our hearts. So a relationship that has the Kingdom of God as its purpose focuses on sowing righteousness – treating the other person with love, respect, and selflessness, regardless of what you get in return. It’s loving one another and sowing lasting fruit.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another. John 15:16-17

Approaching relationships with the knowledge that their purpose is to further the Kingdom of God in the other persons life and in my own, has stripped away the cynicism, because it allowed me to see a glimpse out of the box I wanted to put the Lord and relationships into. It’s not all roses and we all make mistakes. Sometimes finding the purpose in a relationship is about what we have learned about the Kingdom of God in the process. And other times, it’s about realizing that the fruit is there – whether or not we are directly benefiting from it.

Ultimate purposePlease note that marriage is part of the purposes of relationships, and I believe in approaching relationships intentionally. Marriage is good, God given, and beautiful! The ultimate purpose in marriage is the same in dating relationships or singleness – the Glory of God, and pursing to have your life marked by the Gospel.

Living Single and Fully Alive today means recognizing that God’s purposes exceed my own.Today's the Day: Being Single and Fully Alive

“Marriage  – Not the Ultimate Purpose of Relationships is a part of the “Today’s The Day: Being Single and Fully Alive” a 31 Days Series. To read more from this series please click here.

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Author: notunredeemed

Jesus follower, people lover, truth scribbler. Addicted to pain (growth). Passionate about relationships, identity and the transforming power of Christ.

3 thoughts on “Marriage – Not the Ultimate Purpose of Relationships

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Katie – also the posts from 2010.

    Could you possibly extend on the second guy experience, who married also someone else? What lessons were in this second experience?

    In my life, I am afraid I am stuck in a “wrong pattern ” regarding relationships and that’s why I keep going through romantic failures.

    I have also learned to love sacrificially, unconditionally…However, I still have no explanation as why God would lead a woman into a relationship that does not end in marriage. After all, all these lessons about unconditional sacrificial love ARE learned on a daily basis in marriage. Why should she learn this also in a relationship that IS not marriage and does not end in marriage.

    • Helen,
      Thank you for your comment! I’m honestly not sure I can answer the question of “why” completely yet. But I do know this – what I learned about the Lord in the process was worth the journey. I have a friend who, like you said, learned the same lessons I did, but she learned them in the context of marriage. She needed the safe place a husband provided to begin showing her what the Kingdom of God looked like in a relationship. I’m afraid I would have used marriage as an idol and deflected those lessons had I been given the opportunity to learn them in a different context. The Lord knows the ways we can best learn about Him. IN the second heartbreak He provided that for me. Part of that lessons was this very blog post – His Kingdom is the purpose of every relationship. Why He chooses the context He does – I do not know. But I do know His faithfulness never fails us.
      Oswald chambers also says something interesting:
      “If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others. Because of this process, you will never be surprised by what comes your way. You say, “Oh, I can’t deal with that person.” Why can’t you? God gave you sufficient opportunities to learn from Him about that problem; but you turned away, not heeding the lesson, because it seemed foolish to spend your time that way….Are we partakers of Christ’s sufferings? Are we prepared for God to stamp out our personal ambitions? Are we prepared for God to destroy our individual decisions by supernaturally transforming them? It will mean not knowing why God is taking us that way, because knowing would make us spiritually proud. We never realize at the time what God is putting us through— we go through it more or less without understanding. Then suddenly we come to a place of enlightenment, and realize— “God has strengthened me and I didn’t even know it!”

      He says” God will take you through something that is not meant for you personally at all….” Often times the things we walk through are for us, and what the Lord is showing us. But sometimes they are also for others. It’s through having my heart broken that I can relate to others and as Corinthians says “Comfort them in the same way I have been comforted”.

      I’m sorry for your ‘romantic failures’ as you put it. Sometimes wrong patterns can definitely play into our relationships ending! I look at some of my thought patterns from my first relationship and think: ‘yikes’! Do you have some you trust that can help you discern if there are wrong patterns and if so, how to grow in those areas?

  2. Dear Katie,

    Thank you so much for your response. I know it is difficult to be vulnerable and personal with someone you never met, from another continent (Europe), so I appreciate the more your ministry.

    To answer your question, no, I do not have anyone to talk to and discern the will of God in this situation. My closest friend is walking through a similar suffering experience but in different specific terms (single and not dating and not even liking anyone) so we kind of are in the same “”boat of confusion”” regarding life, suffering, how God works. I tried to talk to some of the elders/pastors from my Baptist church but unfortunately they seem to be unable to “”think out of the box and discern this unique case of mine”” with the Principles of God, not prejudices, or personal experiences. They put God and His working and leading into a box: “If A then B” and that is the formula. If formula isn’t met, then you are wrong. That would have been their response also to Job, Joseph in prison, Sarah at 90, Abraham sacrificing his son, Virgin Mary conceiving as a virgin.

    To Chambers’ explanation, I do agree to some point: I believe in EVERY life experience we are partakers with others in universal human suffering and empathy and understanding – like illness, poverty, doubt and uncertainty, natural disasters. I think God puts all of us into similar suffering experiences, to taste the universal human condition and also to give comfort to those around us going through the same as we did. HOWEVER, I don’t think He purposely leads someone into a romantic relationship for the single purpose of them growing in character and faith for the Kingdom of God (the purpose being not marriage but the Kingdom). Yes, He does USE EVERYTHING to make us more like Him and prepare for Kingdom – even our failures, bad decisions, heartbreak, romantic attempts. But there is a difference, He does not purposely lead us into a disastrous heartbreaking romantic relationship for the sole purpose of making us grow and helping others with the broken heart. If that were true, it had been similar to Him saying: I want you to grow in holiness in your marriage, so I am going to give you a spouse that is the ugliest, most difficult person to be married to, so that you grow to your maximum spiritual potential. That doesn’t happen, isn’t it? Even though, in marriage both spouses do grow in holiness. I think something similar goes in all our experiences.
    And in the particular area of romantic relationship, I believe the responsibility for the failure of relationship relies completely on us. For if He led us into that relationship while we were praying for His will regarding marriage, then marriage would be the end of that relationship (with additional benefits of growing spiritually, stretching and becoming more like Him).

    So that leaves me to the same point as before: there is only One who can clarify and have the final word on my situation. Thankfully in a few days, there should be expected and end and verdict in circumstances. Your prayers for us would be much appreciated, Katie.

    Thank you, be blessed.

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