Here’s a true story for a marriage minister to contemplate. What would you say if this happened to you?
It was my good fortune to win a “deluxe” pedi/manicure at a local spa in my area. When I arrived, a woman met me at the door. She was young, inviting and ready to get started. As we sat on either sides of the narrow table, she began asking me questions (clearly, this spa experience was going to include engaging conversation). I gave the basics before asking her about herself. The story of her life flowed out of her with ease.
She was single, but had been living with a man for several years. He had already been married and was a father of a young child who stayed with them every other weekend. She described her partner as an empathetic, hard working man. She talked about his gentle nature and how it radiated when he was with his child. She went on to recall how they had shared interests and ideas about life.
Changing course, I asked her about the salon business. Again, she was happy to chat away about her training and her plans to co-own or open her own place in the future. By the time my nails were done, she had convinced me that she had given considerable thought to her career path.
We moved to the foot bath station
She asked me to move to the foot bath station for the pedi portion of the experience. When I was settled in, she asked me about my work. I shared a bit about the work of a director for a Catholic diocese interested in marriage and family life.
She picked up on the family reference and enthusiastically described her upbringing; the great joy of being part of a family; the love shared between her Mom and Dad, the fun she had with her siblings.
Reflecting, she shared her sadness that her partner’s child was shuffled back and forth between two homes where discipline wasn’t consistent. This concerned her and she stated that a nuclear family was what she wanted for her kids.Do not ignore your urges to speak up/ask questions. These are often promptings of the Holy Spirit!Click To Tweet
I felt a prompt to ask her why she wasn’t married to the man she lived with. Was she single because her man had been so wounded by his first marriage that he didn’t want to go round for a second try? Was she single because marriage was not valued? Did it have something to do with wanting a spouse who didn’t have kids already?
The curiosity was killing me
It took several minutes to formulate the right question about marriage in my mind. Finally, I asked, “It sounds like you come from a great family and that your parents gave you a wonderful witness of marriage. I’m wondering, why aren’t you married?”
“I haven’t accomplished my life goals yet,” she said in a matter of fact tone. “He wants to get married but I’m afraid that if I marry, I won’t get to do what I want to do. Plus, I don’t know what the future holds.”I am afraid that if I get married, I will not be able to do what I want to do. #MarriageMyths Click To Tweet
She worked away on my toes, totally oblivious to how outlandish that sounded to me. She had told me that she loved this guy and had painted him as a really good man and father. She enjoyed being with him. She wanted kids and desired to raise them in a traditional home. She also wanted a career. Yet, she wasn’t going to commit to anything because she couldn’t gaze into a crystal ball and see the future.
Stop and contemplate this situation
Would you have the fortitude to speak up? Do you have the confidence to respond in a way that would help her rethink her current relationship? Would you know how to guide her towards God’s beautiful plan for marriage?
There are a multitude of ways that one could respond to this woman. Let me provide a few possible approaches.
Affirm her basic desires—her heart is leading her in the right direction. This woman’s heart has been stirred by the beauty of God’s plan for husband and wife. It is something she wants affirmed.
Help her see that marriage is not about getting what you want. It is about receiving what God wants to give the couple.Marriage is not black and white, it is a mystery from God that unfolds slowly and wondrously.Click To Tweet
Introduce marriage as a mystery from God rather than a black and white reality. It is meant to unfold little by little to the amazement of the spouses.
Remind her that a happy marriage is not meant to be perfect; it is designed to perfect the spouses.
How did our conversation end?
With God’s help, it was relatively easy to ask the question, “Would you ever read a mystery if you already knew the ending?” to which she answered, “of course not.” Next question, “So help me understand. You don’t want to know the end of a written mystery but you want to know the end of your life’s story?”
Her jaw literally dropped open when the light bulb in her brain ignited.
The rest of the spa experience was bathed in genuine conversation about the mystery of God and how we need him in all of our relationships.