The other day in church, we prayed for a couple that is getting married soon. The pastor said something that really struck me – he prayed for the couple “as they are answering a calling to marriage.”
A calling. A calling.
Somehow, in these two simple words, I found two important reminders that I needed to hear:
1) Marriage is a calling. It is a calling by God for two lives to become one. Marriage is not simply a choice by two people who are “in love”; as Christians we believe that marriage is a covenant between two people, a covenant that exists to model for the world the covenantal love that God has for us. In marriage Christians show the world a different narrative: one of steadfast love in spite of sinfulness and faithfulness in the face of hardship. In the words of one of my professors, “Marriage is a mission.” (Holla at me, Dr. K’s Book Group!)
2) Marriage is not the calling. God does not call everyone to marriage; sometimes it is “not yet,” and sometimes it is “not ever.” Only time will tell which of the two it is in each person’s life, but regardless of the answer, singleness is a calling too. Let me say that again. Singleness – for now or for ever – is a calling too. In singleness and celibacy Christians show the world a different narrative: that sex and love are not what this world says they are, that the love of God and the Church is more than enough, that singleness is a calling both to radically serve the Church and to radically be served by the Church. I preach here what I have to preach to myself, sometimes: singleness is a calling.
Much of this reflection comes from a wonderful little book by Stanley Hauerwas that I had the chance to study in a small group with one of my (favorite) professors in college, so I will leave you with a quote that I loved:
“Both singleness and marriage are necessary symbolic institutions for the constitution of the church’s life… that witnesses to God’s kingdom. Neither can be valid without the other. If singleness is a symbol of the church’s confidence in God’s power to effect lives for the growth of the church, marriage and procreation is the symbol of the church’s understanding that the struggle will be long and arduous. For Christians do not place their hope in their children, but rather their children are a sign of their hope… that God has not abandoned this world.”
– Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character (p. 191)