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God as matchmaker?
on 20 July 2008
As a single girl in her 20s I was heartened to find a book about waiting for love instead of another book on 'How To Date The Right Way.' Although I knew I was doing the right thing in waiting, I had some misgivings about it and I was confused about certain things. I purchased a copy of 'When God Writes Your Love Story' hoping that the authors would set my mind at rest, so I probably had unrealistic expectations. I started reading it expecting Eric and Leslie to share an amazing account of how they got together, and I was slightly disappointed in the end, because I didn't think their story was all that incredible, it was just a story of 2 friends who fell in love without the angst a lot of people experience. But that is a minor detail.
Many people have praised this book, but I have a few criticisms, first of all, (and this is minor) the over-use of several phrases such as 'the beautiful side of love' (the Ludys don't actually define or describe what the 'beautiful side of love' really is,) and 'precious pearl of purity' and 'princess of purity'. Sometimes the language used by the authors is in danger of slipping into cliches: 'Just as a lover desires to show his adoration to his bride by tenderly presenting her with a delicate and fragrant rose...' etc.
On a more serious note however, not every Christian will agree with what the Ludys are saying. Matthew Paul Turner argues in 'How To Ruin Your Dating Life' that 'God doesn't usually play matchmaker...Feel more than free to ask God for wisdom in helping you discover what might be his plan for your life, but if you sit back and just wait for God to magically give you a spouse, it's not likely going to happen.' In the face of such pragmatism, perhaps the Ludys case for 'letting God write your love story' falters slightly. It would be great if God dropped someone into our laps once we decided to wait, but the truth is, no-one can guarantee that they'll get married some day. Not because God has 'called' them to be single, not because they still have to 'mature spiritually' or because they have lots to learn, but simply because the right person never came along. I think Christian authors on this kind of subject are afraid of admitting that, and Leslie's statement 'In truth, most of us will be married in our lifetime' is rather disingenious. She backs her statement up by writing that even if we don't get married on earth, we will in heaven when 'Christ our true bridegroom appears in all His glory' but I feel this is insensitive, and will not bring any comfort to someone who longs for marriage and children of their own. Unfortunately, this answer is typical of the kind of books aimed at Christian singles written by people who think they understand, but really don't. I'm sure Leslie and Eric mean well, and I can see that they try to be kind, but unfortunately, their attempts fail to be convincing.
In the chapter entitled 'Can The Sweeter Song Be A Solo?' Leslie writes about purposeful singleness and lists all the reasons why being single can be a good thing. She cites her 31 year old sister-in-law Krissy as 'the best example of purposeful singleness', even raving that she is 'radiant in her singleness...She is joyful, fun-loving and excited about living.' I am not quite sure why, but authors writing about singleness tend to give 2 examples of the Christian single: the first like Krissy, is described as incredibly godly, even angelic, in their day to day life. In short, they are perfect. Although they would make an excellent spouse, they are totally satisfied with being single. They trek through uninhabitable terrains preaching the gospel. They sit under mudhuts singing songs to children in the pouring rain, and they do it all with a smile on their face. They are never sad, never lonely and they rarely sigh over their single status because life is so fulfilling as it is. The second example is described as miserable, even depressed, someone who sits around and mopes because they feel their real life can't begin until they're married. Personally, I don't know any single Christians who fit into either of the categories illustrated above. I feel both examples which Leslie writes about are stereotypes of 'the Christian single' and she doesn't do single people any favours by writing about, and therefore perpetuating those stereotypes. I also can't help wondering why singles are constantly given the message that they must try to justify their singleness by attempting to 'better themselves' or learn how to be more worthy, as if God would reward them with a spouse if they got their act together and became more 'perfect'. After I'd read this chapter, I felt a bit upset, because I knew that I would never be as good as the 'radiant' Krissy, and if she can't get married by 31, what hope do I have? I wish books on singleness and relationships would talk about Christian singles in a way that makes it easy to empathise with them and their journey, not in such a voice as to alienate readers and induce guilt because they wish they weren't still single.
'When God Writes Your Love Story' talks a great deal about purity, and argues that it goes beyond the physical. Leslie writes 'How could I offer my whole heart to my husband someday if it was nothing but a used, battered, and broken mess?' She urges readers to guard their heart against casual relationships which so often result in pain. What she says is true for so many people - how often we fall for someone only for it to end in heartbreak. Again, she gives a college student called Ann as an extreme example of what guarding your heart might mean - saving yourself for marriage (no dating or kissing) until your future husband comes along. ('Until God brings my future husband along and I know it's him, I'm not available'.) But this is not an easy thing to do. Unless your future spouse comes with a label attached, how will you know? The Ludys aren't claiming to give readers a magic formula for meeting the one - or at least, so they say. But the message which comes across each time is clear: '...the kind of standard we all should strive for...' 'This is God's design for you! This is the 'sweeter song'! And it's something we can begin to work toward right now!' Although they say that their book is not about rules or 'relationship how-to's', I think they very much desire the reader to see the error of their ways and to follow their example. However, it may not be to everyone's taste. Waiting may be what you need to do. But waiting is confusing, painful and lonely, and I don't think this book really addresses how hard it can be sometimes. Nor does it begin to approach the emotional minefield of angst single people so often face: falling for someone who doesn't appear to notice you, being 'droppped' by a friend you've had for years as soon as she catches sight of great guy, guy/girl friendships and so on. People who wait don't sit on the fence and have it easy. Dating can be complicated but believe me, waiting for the right person to come along can be too.