Some of you have wondered if I do not speak so much of God’s part in this affair that I remove human responsibility. This is not the case. It is not that we can do nothing, but if you are like me you have done an awful lot and seen little fruit. This is why, for me, the well-meaning phrases only open old wounds. This is why the many books that promise several steps, or worse, several easy steps to finding a mate—bother me. This is what I call the myth of simplicity.
The myth of simplicity suggests that relationships—getting married—should be simple. But simple is what you expect when you see the words “plug and play,” and no relationship is plug and play. Simple is what you expect when you pick up a guide for “dummies,” and the beauty of Christian marriage was never meant for dummies.
The myth of simplicity suggests that relationships should be simple. The very question, “Why aren’t you married yet?” seems to demand an easy answer, a simple answer—an answer that doesn’t require long moments of soul searching and prayer. Nobody can accept the simplest of all answers, “I don’t know.” So we stutter, shuffle our feet, and answer, “Well because…” And whatever we might say is simply designed to appease the simple question—to bring a moment’s reprieve from the questioner.
Those who ask seem to presume that it is possible to boil all of life down into a few simple phrases. They ask because they are not comfortable with our singleness. And to be honest, we are not always comfortable with our singleness. This is why we seek the easy answers—any way out.
The myth of simplicity suggests that coming to understand the “why” of singleness would mean the end of singleness. It is the scientific approach to relationships, the natural approach to relationships. I am not suggesting that we cannot improve ourselves. I am not suggesting that there aren’t perfectly good things we can do to be more “fit” for marriage. But I deny that these things, as good as they are, work with mathematical precision.
If you become mature you do not automatically find a husband or wife but please—mature.
If you give up that sin you may not immediately find a husband or wife but please—give up that sin.
The myth of simplicity suggests that relationships should be simple and in a perfect world they would be. I suppose in a perfect world all things would be simple; the ground would not resist us, childbirth would be less painful, and we would be naked without shame. But the answer to the question “Why am I not married?” is a little difficult to give. I could sooner understand the goings and coming of the Spirit of God or catch and hold the wind in my frail hands.
No woman has ever called me ugly and all have considered me a man of faith. Still some have thought me too radical in my faith. Some have balked because I did not make enough money or lacked power while others were intimidated by my erudition (look it up). I have been too much of something and too little of some other thing to the point that I have little faith in the changes I can make to win a wife.
I have lost faith that things are as easy as some suggest.
Which is good, because that was a bad place to rest faith.
I have had people tell me they have to wash their hair, that they would be free in a “couple of months,” while others—just “don’t know.” The ones who “just don’t know” have been the most numerous and the most painful for the very reason that the provide no answers as to “why?” For all these reasons and many that I either do not know or cannot articulate—I am still single. Which is perhaps why I have grown a bit cynical in regard to the easy answers or the simple steps. What has grown over time is my faith in His love for me and His regard for my desires.
The myth of simplicity suggests that relationships should be simple but it has not been simple for me—perhaps not for you. I have taken each failed relationship with varying maturity but they have all hurt. All these relational collisions have led in the same direction—to the search for a simple answer. They have all led to the search for that one thing, or several things if need be, that will gain me the object of my desire. This is what Peter Gabriel calls “the fruitless searches.”
The “fruitless searches” lead us to the varied counselors who speak of the “10 Steps to Finding the Perfect Mate,” or the “Seven Steps to Being the Perfect Mate,” or the “Four Steps to Contentment in Singleness.” All these books and every page in them infers that all we need is to do this or do that. All we need are the right answers and the right methods, the proper steps and the full application and all will be well with our souls. It all sounds so simple.
The truth is that they make it seem so easy that after reading I wonder even more what is wrong with me and why love tarries. If it is so simple why has it been so difficult for me? If it is so simple then what is the complication. And if I am not careful the carousel of reason will eventually return all blame to the one constant in the equation—me.
Oh I know no one writes these books with the intention of pouring salt in open wounds or ripping bandages from a healing cut. They are well meaning people who care and hope to help singles. But they unwittingly offer spoiled meat to starving souls and must not see the sickness they leave.
Relationships should not be as complicated as sin has made them but they should not be as simple as 1-2-3. It is a monumental decision that does not come about from two minutes in the microwave or a few properly administered methods. At the core of each Christians life is a belief, a confident faith that God is working on our behalf. So we try and try and try knowing that we want only what is of Him. This is the simplicity I embrace.
This article was first published, Wednesday, July 15, 2009.