What you believe about marriage and what you believe about God and how He operates are intimately connected. The intersection where they meet is one of the most significant crossroads you will ever find yourself standing. It is that place where belief and love merge into life.
Growing up, I was taught that since God was sovereign and all-powerful and all-knowing and in control of everything, He certainly had a plan laid out for my future marriage. My era was dominated by a church slogan, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” It sounded so good. It sounded biblical. It was never explained. It was simply accepted.
God had a woman set aside for me. I just needed to make sure I found her.
And God forbid I was given the gift of celibacy!
I was taught that if God wanted me to be married, he would provide the woman. He would do it. It was up to me to sort through all the possibilities and narrow down the field, so I could be certain I was marrying the “right one”. But it was still up to Him. And I didn’t want to miss His will for my life.
Soon after I got married, I began abandoning this theology. And even though the current version of this theology is pretty popular today, I have never looked back.
The idea that God is behind everything, both good and bad…that He is orchestrating all the events of life as He sovereignly sees fit…is not a theology I subscribe to. (I suppose it’s time to roll up our sleeves over a taco at Fuzzy’s, Sean. Hah!) To think that if something simply happens, it is by God’s omnipotent design, is an affront to my sensibilities and wholly disrespectful to the Holy God I see revealed in Scripture and in my life, as well.
And marriage has a lot to do with it.
The other night I officiated (I hate that word) a wedding ceremony. I repeated a version of the words I have repeated in every wedding ceremony I have ever officiated (did I say I hated that word?) I reminded the couple that the only thing they bring to the moment is their word. I believe, with my whole heart, that love (and the whole marriage commitment, as well) is a choice. A decision of the will.
I believe in choice. I don’t believe in the “fake” choice being tossed around by popular theologians today. I believe in the real thing. I believe in the freedom of the will. I believe that any love…any commitment…any promise… that is not freely given, is not love at all. And boy have I loved the giving and receiving of love freely in my marriage for the past 38 years!
Marriage is a word of promise that two people make to each other. No one is holding a gun to their heads. No one is making the decision for them. They are completely free to walk away at any point in the process. Even after the vows are exchanged and the promises are made and the papers are signed and the blessing is given.
Is the dissolving of a marriage God’s will? Is the end of a marriage dream part of God’s master plan? Of course not. But that’s the risk and the potential outcome of the Creator giving the created freedom.
In marriage, as in all of life, choice matters.