‘The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why.’ (Unknown but often attributed to Mark Twain)
The funny thing about having a dream or an unfulfilled longing is that we can become so fixed on obtaining this that we can lose sight of almost everything else. It may be a longing for a spouse, for a child, to own our own home, for our children to be successful, to finally find a meaningful job or perhaps to be financially independent. Whatever it is though when it is something outside of ourselves, something that is not in our control, there is the danger that it becomes an end in itself rather than just one part of our story. We can forget that God has placed a special and unique calling on each of our lives. Included in that may be getting married, perhaps raising a family, owning a home and having close family and Christian friends. However when getting married and raising a family, being a wife or a mother or a husband or a father, become more important than pursuing the unique calling that God has placed on our lives, we might just be missing the big picture.
You see my purpose, like yours, is to bring people into the Kingdom, to welcome them home. Regardless of whether or not I get married I can and will fulfill this calling on my life, as can you. The real tragedy would be if we got married and then just kicked back and enjoyed a comfortable life that stopped being focused on God and others and started being focused on ourselves. If my dream of marriage became the enemy of my God given purpose. I realized that at the end of the day when I go home to be with Jesus the most important thing will not be if I was married or not but did I bring as many people as I possibly could with me.
Obviously this is far from limited to single people, in fact married people may be even more at risk of missing their calling as their marriage and family can easily become the focus of their lives, rather than what the Lord has for them as individuals. Ultimately the Lord’s purpose for all of us is to share with as many people as possible the love of Christ and to bring them into the Kingdom of Heaven. In the last two verses of Matthew, verses 19-20, Jesus says ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’. We are not called therefore to live lives focused only on ourselves or our nuclear family or close friends. We are called to live in community, to reach out to those we do not know, to invite them into our lives. We are to be the love of God to those around us, especially to those who we do not know and perhaps with whom we would not normally associate. However while this is God’s general purpose for all of us each of us has a special and individual assignment or calling regarding how we do this.
In my case I began to think about my calling once I started considering what would married life be like after the wedding. I realized that while my desire to get married is perfectly normal, I also saw that being married would not fulfill the calling that God has placed on my life, in and of itself. My calling in life is not to be married, rather it is to use my unique gifts and abilities to share the love of Jesus with as many people as possible. I realized that I don’t just want a husband I want someone who shares the same, or at least a similar vision, as me. In my case this is a vision of reaching out to single people and creating a community of believers from all walks of life. I want a husband who puts Jesus first in his life, who sees and cares for other people but who is still loving and kind and honoring of me. Not a man who is looking for a cosy, married life that is inward looking, exclusive and revolves around the two of us, but rather someone who wants a life that looks outward and seeks to bring others in. Someone whose definition of family is not limited to biological members but extends to our spiritual brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters.
In the church today we so often lose sight of our calling and purpose because so much of the focus is on fulfilling our own needs or praying for things for our family and friends. While this is fine it really isn’t sufficient and it is far from what Jesus had in mind when he told us to go and make disciples of all men. Jesus himself disrupted the concept of only being focused on our biological family many times throughout His ministry. In Luke 14:26 Jesus says ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple‘ and in Mark 3:32 when told that His mother and brothers are looking for Him ‘he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!’ and finally in John 19 when hanging on the cross he tells Mary regarding the apostle John that ‘Here is your son‘ and to John ‘Here is your mother‘ He didn’t just say these things as metaphors, He said them deliberately in a time and place where family was everything. It was a time in which the Romans worshipped the gods of their family, their ancestors. While the Jews did not worship actual family idols, the family unit was also central to their society. So when Jesus says that the people sitting around him who are unrelated to Him, are His mother and brothers, He was really saying something very outrageous and potentially offensive to His biological family. But Jesus was making a point, He was telling His listeners that the way in which they understood family had to radically change. That now for them the word family should refer to every other believer and as such they needed to care for them in the way they would care and provide for their biological family.
In the early church we can see that they fully embraced this idea of the believers being one community, one family. They shared everything they had as if they were in fact one. Further to that Paul calls Timothy his son and other believers brothers and sisters. In the New Testament we are called sons and daughters and of God over 14 times. Paul expounds on the theme of adoption into our heavenly family over 6 times, including in the book of Ephesians, 1:5, where he says ‘God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ‘. Thus reaffirming a central tenant of the Christian faith that when we give our lives to Christ we become His sons and daughters and a part of His family. No longer isolated in our own biological family we are now part of the family of God which transcends biology and everything else earthly.
Sadly today while we do not literally worship family gods, the nuclear family can still become an idol, an end in itself, rather than a means by which to bring more people into the kingdom of God. Our main purpose in life is not to be good husbands or wives, our main purpose, as followers of Christ, is in the words of Jesus when he calls his disciples, is come and I will make you fishers of men. Included in that, but not limited to it, is being a good husband, wife, son daughter, mother or father. We are to treasure and value our relationships but not to the extent that we become so caught up in our own lives that we forget about the great commission and our larger purpose.
While we all have the same purpose, to bring people in, how we go about that is different for every person because each of us has been given unique gifts and abilities and a part to play that only we can do. It is this that it is so vital for every Christian to discover. What is your part to play? What is the best use of your gifts that can draw people in? Is it through your business? Is it through volunteer work? Is it through the creative arts such as writing, drawing or music? Are you gifted at building things? Or great with technology? Whatever your unique gifts are God has given you those for a reason and it is not so that you can live a comfortable life untouched by others outside your immediate circle.
I recently heard a sermon in which the pastor said that each of us reflects a unique part of the character of God. That is that God made us so that none of us are the same, but together we represent him fully. Without each other we cannot fully know God, in fact the more people we know and welcome into the Kingdom the more we will see and learn about the character of God Himself. But the converse is also true, the more limited our circle is, the more we only socialize with our existing friends and family and make little effort to bring others in, the less we learn about the fullness of God.
Jesus told us to look up and see that the harvest is ready. He saw people in need of a savior, many of them without close family, many of them suffering from diseases and mental illness that placed them on the margins of society and He particularly welcomed these people in. He also welcomed in a Roman centurion, a tax collector and a Samaritan woman, people who were considered to be the enemies of the Jewish people. He made a point of continually stepping outside of existing social norms and kinship circles to draw the most unlikely people to Himself.
In Luke 14 (15-24) Jesus tells the parable of the banquet where a rich man prepares a lavish feast and sends invitations out to the people he knows. But the people he invited made excuses, the first one said he had bought some land and wanted to go see it, the second had bought some oxen and he wanted to try them out and third said that he couldn’t come because he had just gotten married. So the rich man says to his servant ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ When there is still room at the feast he sends his servants to bring in everyone from the country roads and lanes so that the banquet is full. It is interesting to note that the third reason for not coming to the feast was that the man had just gotten married, that this relationship was more important than attending the grand banquet, more important than the man’s friend who had invited him. It is important that we do not allow our earthly relationships to take the place of our relationship with the One who made us and whose love for us is greater than any earthly love we will ever know.
It is important for us to remember that in heaven our relationships with each other will dramatically change. Jesus said that we will be like the angels and neither marry nor be given in marriage. Heaven is not one big biological family reunion, no it is a massive spiritual family reunion in the truest sense of the word. Heaven is a reunion of the family of God, a reunion of all believers, through all the ages, gathering together as brothers and sisters under Jesus, the Holy Spirit and our beloved Heavenly Father. For that reunion to be complete we need to make sure that all our family members are there and that is everyone we can reach on planet earth. Only through living out our calling to help fulfill God’s purposes by sharing His love with as many people as we can will our lives truly achieve eternal significance. Everything else on this earth, even the most amazing spouse in the world, is just a lovely bonus.
This week if you start feeling down about not being married yet take time to ask God about your calling. Think about what you could be doing to welcome more people into the Kingdom. I believe wholeheartedly that God will answer our prayers for a spouse or a child or whatever he has placed on our hearts, but not in order for us to create a cosy, inward looking life. No he gives us these gifts so that we can be even more empowered to fulfill our calling, so we can expand our influence and reach for the Kingdom. God wants us to trust Him that He will grant us the desires of our hearts, but He also wants us our lives to be so much more. He wants us to lead lives that see and care for the poor, the brokenhearted, the crushed in spirit, lives that are focused on the eternal even more than the temporal.
God bless you richly this week and if you are in need of prayer or encouragement please let me know. x