Relationship with God, No Matter Your “Status”
The ‘single’ life, then, is fulfilled by knowing, engaging, and enjoying God.
Singleness, in regards to romantic relationships, is a word that carries with it a lot of cultural baggage. On one end of the spectrum singleness serves as a sign of independence and freedom; it’s indicative of a life untethered to the obligations that accompany a relationship of intimacy. You are free to live as you please; free from the work of maintaining intimate commitments and free from the woes of heartbreak when those commitments fail. On the other end of the spectrum, it carries with it the stigma of isolation and incompleteness. It becomes a nagging insecurity of your worth and a symbol of your loneliness. Within both ends of this spectrum is a presupposition that the single life is characterized by the absence of relational affection and intimacy. The danger in this characterization is that it isn’t true of the human experience. Everyone needs and desires intimacy, and our satisfaction rests upon our ability to achieve it. So can singles be satisfied with their lives outside of a monogamous relationship? Absolutely. For both of those in relationships and out, the challenge scripture confronts us with (1 Cor. 7) is to focus our affections toward the only one who can fulfill them: Jesus. The ‘single’ life, then, is fulfilled by knowing, engaging, and enjoying God.
Knowing is the starting line for any relationship because through it a dialogue begins that engages both our minds and our hearts. It is important to recognize that before Jesus, we could only understand God from a distance. Our sin left us estranged from the holy God, and so our perception of him was incredibly foggy. It’s as if our communication was reduced to red solo cup walkie-talkies, bound by a string; the sounds we heard were only faint mutterings. Paul even states that Moses had to put a veil over his face when he encountered God on mount Sinai because his glory was so overwhelming that to gaze upon it would leave a man dead. Yet, he says that, “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed…and we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (1 Cor. 4). The reason we can now interact with God is because Jesus took on the crushing punishment of our sin. He became estranged as a sinner so that we could come near as a son. He was crushed by God’s glory so that we could be lavished by it. This action would finally allow us to know God so that we could engage in a relationship with him.
While knowing someone is the start of a relationship, engaging someone is the expression of it. As information is accumulated and processed it’s used to have meaningful interaction. As we begin to know who God is, we begin to understand how to participate in him. Without participation, our relationship would be extremely shallow and unfulfilling. If the only time I ever interacted with my wife was on a Sunday morning for an hour, I’ve got to believe it would be extremely unhealthy. Our relationship with God is no different. Our relationship with God should not be one that ends with knowing who he is and what he has done, but continues in fellowship with him on a daily basis. There are three main avenues our God invites us to engage him in: Scripture, prayer, and community. Therefore, we should seek these avenues throughout our lives if we want to have a fulfilling relationship with God, but knowing God and engaging him will be an empty pursuit if left to themselves; we must also enjoy him.
Enjoying a relationship is finding emotional satisfaction within it. It is probably the most challenging part of any relationship. You might assume that enjoying God would be an obvious result of knowing him and engaging him, but the reality is that we have other things in our life competing for our affections. The things competing for our affection can easily become idols in our lives because we gradually believe they will bring us the desires of our heart.
If you’ve ever seen the Harry Potter movies or read the books, there’s a scene where Harry stumbles upon this incredibly beautiful mirror called “The Mirror of Erised” (desire spelled backward). When he looks in, he sees his himself standing there with his parents and is completely overwhelmed with joy. If you know the story you know this is an incredible miracle because his parents were killed when he was a child. Harry was so moved by what he saw he went to grab his best friend Ron, but when Ron looks into the mirror, he sees himself as the Quidditch champion and the school valedictorian. Later on in the story, Professor Dumbledore explains that when someone looks into the mirror they saw the deepest desires of their heart. He explains that they had the mirror moved into hiding because men would waste away staring into it.
I would imagine that if we looked into the mirror we would see similar things. Our human nature is to believe that our desires can be fulfilled by earthly realities. The hope is that by knowing God, and engaging God, it would keep our affections in their right order, with God being at the top. Practically, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes we can feel like we are doing the right things, but feel detached from God. We must begin discerning where we are being tempted to direct our affections and consult the avenues God has given us in order to eradicate those temptations. When our affections are geared toward the only one who can fulfill them, it will bring a satisfaction that no other thing in this world can match.
Know God, engage him, and enjoy him.