Author’s Note: This is the fifth part in a series on mankind’s search for the ideal — the perfect, the mature, the right. I m convinced that every human being, Christian or not, has at some depth a desire for things to “be right” in the world. This longing drives us to seek answers. Some look internally, some look to religion, and others look to a higher power. Lately, I’ve been deeply craving for certain areas of life to be perfect, complete and ideal. This series explores some of my longings. Maybe you can relate!
Perhaps the most personal ideal that I long for is the desire to never again be alone. This alone-ness (loneliness) is not a matter of finding a small group or playing softball or thinking that God isn’t around. No, it’s deeper than social and not a spiritual matter. It is the deep desire for human companionship. Finding your spouse. Being there with them as you both walk through life (and faith).
I’m thinking spousal companionship is not a future-heaven ideal, especially since Jesus said no one will be married in heaven (Matt 22:30). But it IS an ideal of Eden. On this same planet, before the sin of mankind, Creation was good and right and perfect. Adam was created before Eve and lived alone for some time (how long is completely unknown). God noticed Adam’s loneliness, though, and spoke these famous words: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement (Genesis 2:18).” And so Eve was created, a helpmate, companion, partner, lover and wife for Adam.
If the Garden of Eden is the ideal environment for humans, then companionship and love are there. Ideal. Perfect. Right.
I’ve found that loneliness is usually handled differently by different people. Some individuals cannot bear to be without a boyfriend or girlfriend, so they move from one relationship to another. Others go years between meaningful relationships, if they even have more than one. Some individuals try their best to never actually be alone, throwing themselves into activities and dinners and sports leagues and… whatever else they find. Some people have roommates or housemates, and many purposely live in areas with other singles.
For my 38 years I have experienced the dichotomy that many singles live. I can do fine on my own. I vacation on my own. I live by myself. I have to clean out my truck before another person can sit down. I eat meals alone. And so on and so forth and… But I also deeply long for human love and company. I cannot stand to be alone and yet I’m so used to it. I’m looking for my partner, my wife, but I cannot seem to find her. So I march on, getting older and doing the mundane things of life alone.
This is no pity party for me! I just want to explore the longing for human love and companionship. Humans were not made to be alone, a lesson learned from Eden. We need other people. For Christians, this need is double. We not only need the social fellowship but we need the spiritual support. Humans partner up for a reason, and this reason is support.
Look closer at God’s word choice in Genesis 2: “I will make a helper as a complement.” The Hebrew word used here is ‘ezer, which does not denote a suboordinate relationship role for Eve but instead a companionship one. Eve was to be Adam’s “indispensable companion” and her role would be to “match” or “complement” him. Men and women were created to complement each other! Therefore, the longing for a spouse is a godly one, an ideal one.
Now, I’ve been told by many a marriage teaching series that a single person should not look for a partner to “complete them,” and I understand where the teachers are coming from. Asking another human to fill all your blind spots and weak areas is unfair to the other human. It’s also quite unrealistic. But “completion” and “complimentary” are not synonyms! There is something fundamental in God’s “helpmate” design for human love and companionship. We exist for each other and not for ourselves alone.
Perhaps the worst marriages are the ones where one partner gives more than takes. Such a lopsided relationship will always bend and crack and damage emotions and, eventually, lives. A marriage that is constantly evaluating its health, however, will be able to spot lopsided dependencies and, hopefully, fix them.
I know that some people believe that they were created to remain single and, for those people, I thank God and hope they are able to serve the Church fully. Jesus (who stayed single) said that some have chosen singleness for the good of the kingdom of heaven (Matt 19:10-12). Paul (again, single) said that he wished all people to be single. That way they could serve the Church fully and not have divided attentions. Singleness is elevated in Scripture!
I’ve taught this for years. I’ve written extensively about it. And it’s true! But not everyone desires to be single. Not everyone finds something with which to fill that human-sized longing of their heart. While they are single, they should serve the Lord and His Church. This I believe fully. But to long for a mate — a spouse — is as fundamental to human existence as eating and drinking and it goes all the way back to the ideal of Eden.
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On a side note…. One thing I’ve noticed is that as singles age, their “criteria list” for a potential spouse shrinks. When you’re 21, the list is huge. They must have this and this and this and can absolutely not have that. He must look like McDreamy and be self-confident and she must look like Kate Upton and like to have lots of fun. But as we get older, and not find that perfect person, stuff starts getting knocked off the list! By age 29, the pressure gets ramped up to find someone before turning 30. Because, everyone knows, 30 is, like, close to death or something. So the man can now have glasses, but stylish ones, and the woman can now have a little weight, but only a little.
By 35, the list gets even smaller (kind of like the dating pool). Any good man will do, just as long as he isn’t still playing video games, living at home, or making late night runs to Taco Bell. For guys (and I’ve been there), the list is probably still the same as it was at 29. But reality no longer matches the list.
By 39, which I will get to far too soon, I think most still-singles are looking for a companion more than a lover. Someone to eat with, sleep with, shop with, and have at home with you. We really feel that turning 40 signals our “last chance” to be part of a couple.
Personally, I’m really just looking for a God-fearing woman who loves me. That’s it. My criteria list now fits in my wallet!
Maybe these observations are true, maybe not. But my primary ministry has been to singles in recent years, so…