By Cindy Koch –
Recently I’ve had one too many conversations about the virtues of being alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for my silent car rides, away from the constant chatter of the children, no radio or conversation to fill the quiet air. But I’m really getting at our relationships with one another, specifically man and woman. Our brilliant friend and musician, Joel Hess, brought to light the happiness heresy we teach in American Christianity, today. He again is right in assessing that it leads to the bastardization of Christian ideals in our present world. But being alone is part of the problem, not just another solution.
Aloneness is not a choice we make. Being alone is a state of being. It’s given to us as our station in life, sometimes. Whether it’s divorced, widowed, or unmarried for lack of interest these things happen to us and we are alone.
When man and woman were created, alone was not part of God’s vision. When sin, strife, disinterest, deviant sexual desire, and death entered into the picture, “aloneness” came alongside. But this is not the only beautiful gift of God’s creation that was mangled. Dependence and trust in the one and only God was destroyed. The unhindered bounty of good fruit and vegetation was twisted. So much, might I say all, of God’s world was unrecognizable from its created purpose. These all, including aloneness, were less than what God created.
But now, here we are. We are broken to each other, most especially broken to our God. That doesn’t mean we get to amend God’s order to excuse our brokenness. We don’t get to play the “what will make you happy” game, as Joel loves to remind us. But we also don’t have to run away scared from the good that God also gives us. It is still good that man and woman are not alone. And it is not good when we are alone.
Let me give you another example. God created two humans, beautifully. He made a man with man parts and man jobs in the garden. He then made woman with woman parts and woman jobs in relation to the man. This too was good, before there was ever sin in the world! However, when God explained the cursed world to His people AFTER the fall, He mentioned how these nicely created gifts would become agonizing. The woman would feel pain with her children, there would be power struggles between men and women, the man will fight to provide, and they will both end up dead in the dust. Super life. Sound familiar?
Something we know from experience in our very own bodies today, is that we continue to be a beautiful creation of man and woman. We both have our complimentary parts, given by God. We even still retain some of our created jobs, given by God, such as childbearing. These shadows of creation remind us that God made us – and He made us good!
What we also experience is a shattered world, as a result from sin. A man not able to stand up for his family. A woman who has no interest in sex. Couples who cannot have children. Men and women who seek comfort in their own gender, rather than in the complimentary relationship God created. Couples who are “happily” married but sincerely hate each other. Christians who end up alone. None of this is good.
The question arises most naturally, “what do we do to assure that we live as good creations, to follow God’s plan?” This, my friends, is the entirely wrong question to ask. You (and well-meaning Christian self-help societies) now assume that it is your decision and will that will fix what has gone wrong. We must marry “the one” God chose for me. We must faithfully abstain from sexual relations. We must, we should, do this… All the while we have pushed the burden back upon the one who cannot carry it. The only question is, “who will deliver me from this body of death?”
St. Paul. approaches the “alone” alternative to creation with much caution. His famous exhortation (1 Corinthians 7) on the single life is prefaced with this; “Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” And “Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” Paul admits that this is a judgment from his experience. He is dealing with a broken world that has been bludgeoned by the law, sin, and death. His answer of comfort points every person, married or alone, outside of themselves. He encourages them to NOT turn inward to try and fix themselves up; rather Paul shifts our focus to a trust outside of our own actions.
St. Paul also gives an important perspective from one who is alone, by his station in life. He trusts in the same Gospel: the same admission of sin, the same longing for a savior, the same answer that is true for all Christians – do not be anxious, look to Christ. It is not an issue of happiness. Alone people can be happy or miserable, the same is true for married people. But here, St. Paul does not lay out a new order of creation, he is dealing with his beloved, less than perfect, brothers and sisters.
I don’t care who you are- look at what is important here. Christ has amended our sinful state. Christ has fixed everything, from our broken world, to our sinful lives, even to our state of being alone. We know it by faith, but we also live it in part with those who believe the truth alongside us. When I sit in the pew and watch tap water poured over a little baby’s head, my 50 friends around me tear up a little, because we just “saw” God recuse that baby from death. When I breathe in the perfect California sunshine and am amazed that our creation still brings forth new life in baby birds, I experience the great and wonderful creation God still pieces together. When a man and woman walk together, forgive each other, and encourage each other to trust in Christ’s atonement above all other cares in the world, we might catch a glimmer of the beautiful creative work of God. We see more than just the fallen realities before our eyes; we look and experience life with the eyes of redeemed hope.
After the resurrection of the dead, our final happy ending to this long and weary story, we are told there will be a new creation. But the funny thing about that is we don’t have a whole lot of specific information about it. Jesus confounds the Sadducee law-dogs with a comment about marriage in the resurrection. We are also told there will be no sun; instead it will be Jesus in the midst of the holy city. I would gather there would be no baptisms, pastors, or even church, because Christ is present in the center of creation. Since we have only this spotty vision of the world to come, I am not a fan of encouragement about the fluid details. Do we tell people to forsake all of these things that will not be present in the world to come? Do we even really know much about that world? Recall a people who could not recognize the first coming of our Lord, because of the sketchy details of his arrival. How about we just focus on the important stuff?
Aloneness is a result of sin. It is less than God created for His people. Some struggle with this more than others. But the solution is NOT found in softening the fallen reality of our world and our desires. The solution, as always for everyone, is found in reconciliation by Christ.