Out of all my historical prayers that fall into the “take pain away” category, I suspect I have most begged God to remove the desire for marriage. It just seems to me like the single life would be easier without it. It’s interesting, because I have lots of desires that I don’t even think about praying away or consider being mad at God over. For example, I’d love to fly first class someday, but it doesn’t prevent me from travelling on a budget. I can’t think of a time where, in passing the spaciousness of first class, I asked God to remove my jealousy in order to make economy feel more luxurious.
But with wanting to be married, I often feel deprived, and grumble at God for putting me in this position.
In this area I don’t like desiring, I don’t like wanting, I don’t like hoping, and I resonate strongly with the heart-sickness of a deferred hope (Proverbs 13:12).
I think we sometimes seek fulfilled desire for the closure and control of it all. Sometimes in our hurry to conclude, we inadvertently stifle. We are not very good at holding space for longing. Either we rush to fulfill it or we actively try to kill it. Sometimes we even find death more comfortable than life. We’d rather let a dream die, an idea fade, a plan tarnish and crust over, than hold the suspension of a hope that is yet to be fulfilled. It is often easier to grow accustomed to mourning, than to steward the faith of anticipation. We may call this maturity, or realism, or pragmatism, when in actuality it is cynicism.
But what if some desires are meant to be experienced rather than attained?
Our human perspective of desire is often about driving it to a finish line, but what if fulfilment is more a continuous process than a static, stable end, more a water fountain, or overflowing cup (Psalm 23:5) than a completed checklist? While we are busy pursuing happy endings, God is inviting us into a life that will never end. While we want a destination to fulfill us, he offers a journey to inspire us. There is a flux nature to desire and fulfillment, and, at some point, to enter the abundant and eternal life God promises will require getting acquainted with the concept of longing.
The psalmist commends us to, “delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Aligning with God both shapes what we want and fulfills what we want. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, he both plants seeds of desire, and harvests the fruit of desire in us. But we are in error when we assume that this is a cause and effect or linear relationship.
We set ourselves up for disappointment when we presume that all desire can, will, and should be fulfilled this side of heaven.
And we mock the throne of grace when we delight in God only for what he can do for us.
Experiencing the desire for marriage may not mean I am fulfilled by marriage, but lining up with God means that I do not have to resent the desire for marriage, as it is a holy thing, and that I can expect to be fulfilled, even if I never marry. God has way of digging deeper to the want under the want anyway. Is it marriage I seek, or is it a deeper wanting of relationship and intimacy? Is it children I want, or to love and be loved and to influence the next generation?