First Things

photo by Damiao commons The other night I had a conversation with a friend about Heaven. We were talking about Jesus’ words which say that we will not marry or be married in Heaven. She finds this to be a passage of struggle, which I understand.

We are both single, and it is hard to think that we might find and marry someone, only to have the privilege of finally being chosen stolen from us. Until recently, I might have thought similarly, but I couldn’t help thinking about all of the women and men who never experience marriage. My reading of Wesley Hill’s memoir Washed and Waiting, and my subsequent thinking, talking about and to, and praying for those dealing with same-sex attraction while still espousing an Orthodox view of human sexuality, made those brothers and sisters prominent in my mind. Aside from these, I’ve known many people who have wanted to marry (and some that have not) who have not married.

I’ve been challenged lately to surrender my desires for a spouse, to loose my hold on how my future looks and to press in to what God is doing with me now, as He invites me into a perspective so much greater than my own.

This is a hard thing, much more painful than a few lines in a blog post can do justice. Essentially, I have made peace with the idea that marriage is not guaranteed for me.

Suddenly, I got a picture of Heaven with marriage intact. I thought about the ways that I feel left out of “the club” sometimes now, within and without the church. This is not always about marriage, but sometimes it is.

I am not the only one who feels this way, I know. I have had conversations long into the night about these things. I have read words that made me cry with their poignancy. Whether I’m the only one not in the popular crowd at school, passed over for an intramural team or even just a little overdressed at a party, I know what it is to be not quite one with the group.

photo by commons

Far from being limited to single people, my married friends have weighed in on this topic as well. I’ve heard them talk about loneliness, not fitting in with friends, or their spouse’s friends. Either they have kids or they don’t, making further division within groups.

We are not one. 

In Heaven, we will be.

The day after this conversation, Katelyn Beaty wrote a piece for Christianity Today which nimbly and beautifully made a case for ways in which the church is promoting same-sex marriage unintentionally, and making singles feel incomplete. It’s a marvelous article, and she also references Wesley Hill, which makes her a friend in my book. Do yourself a favor and read it. I may have cried.

Ok, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Now, this isn’t all new. I’ve known for a long time that the church esteems marriage highly. Why shouldn’t it? Marriage is a wonderful gift from God, part of a glorious story that He is telling.

No wonder so many of us long for it.

photo by Scott commons

But what I didn’t realize, as I poured out my heart to God asking for a spouse, dreaming about a wedding, and a home and all such things, is that all of these things are for sure.

The wedding that I look forward to with certainty and expectation does not require a Pinterest board, or going into debt, or even planning.

I read these words, and wept:

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:2-5)

It’s not neat and tidy, and I don’t revel in it every day the way I’m reveling today. Sometimes, it seems that God opens the clouds so that I can get a peek, and stand in awe.

Even though I can’t turn off my desire for marriage here, I am certain with everything I have, that the pleasures that I give up on earth are nothing to be compared to those that await me in Heaven. I am not missing the purpose that God has for me as a single person (and will not be if God chooses marriage for me), and none of my tears, or pain, or mourning will remain, no matter what. We are in the first things, and they will pass away.

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.”

(Revelation 22:17a)

photo by jase™.flickr.creative commons