“Honey, it’s time to get married!”
For 18 years of my life, my parents have told me that school was my number one priority in life. Personally, I never had a problem with this since school and church were the only things I saw in my life. Relationships and so forth were never of importance to me, so my parents never had any problems where boyfriends were concerned.
However, that whole story changed when I passed 18. My parents are from a culture which starts to worry if their daughter/granddaughter/ sister…etc. does not have a boyfriend as soon as the girl is 18. They start asking the dreadful questions, “Honey, do you like someone, what about this guy, what about my friend’s son, etc. etc.” And, there you are, like I always am, yelling “No!” and telling them you aren’t getting married until you get your PhD. At least, this is what I do.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with relationships and marriage. Marriage is a sacrament in our church and a blessed life from and by God. However, today, in our society, and especially in my generation, relationships and marriage have become a joke. Wherever you turn, someone is dating someone, and then most likely in a few months they are dating someone else. This circle just keeps going and going. Finding two people who stay together for a long time and end up married is a rarity. So, in this crazy world where good things are becoming rare, what is a young Orthodox girl or Orthodox boy supposed to do?
I found my answer from a very unlikely source, a woman who did not choose the life of marriage to a man, but to God himself. I found my answer in the abbess of a Greek monastery that I visited with my church group. Someone had asked her why females and males stand on different sides of the church. She explained to us that this is to keep us focused on the kingdom of God, and not on the cute boy/girl next to us. She then went on to tell us that we look for the wrong things in the opposite sex. Girls want a handsome young man who will be able to take us to dinner and buy us flowers and so forth. Guys want a beautiful girl who dresses well and knows how to stand her ground. But, she told us, these are the wrong things to look for. We need to look to eternity, to family, and to God’s will for us. We need to look for a mate who will be there for us through thick and thin. We need to be very careful about who we are with. Being with too many people can drain us. In each relationship we give a little piece of ourselves, of our energy. We give, give, and give, and when that right one does come along, we are exhausted and all out of energy to give.
We give, give, and give because we feel empty. We want someone to complete us. But, truth be told, no one can complete us. The other day I was walking with my aunt and we were talking about marriage and relationships, and she told me everyone always wants someone to make them feel complete. But, in Orthodoxy, that significant other does not complete you. They complement you. Completeness is only found when we are joyous with ourselves. It is only found when we are on the right path with God. The significant other comes to walk with us on this path. A quote I found on an Orthodox page said:
“How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one f flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. Psalms and hymns they sing to one another, striving to see which one of them will chant more beautifully the praises of their Lord. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present; and where He is, there evil is not.” (Tertullian, Treatises on Marriage and Remarriage)
Basically, the two together are one, but only with God. They bring out the best and worst in each other. Their relationship is one of sacrifice. It is not a relationship of, well I bought him a gift and he did not buy me a simple bouquet of roses. That is not a relationship; that is a competition. A true relationship is one in which we ask what can I do for them, as much as I possibly can. It is a relationship of not changing the other person, but wanting to be better for them. A relationship is realizing your wrongs and asking your spouse for forgiveness. An Orthodox relationship is one in which you learn to love the person you choose, just like God loves all of us even though we do not deserve His love and mercy at all.
So, “Honey, it’s time for you to find a boyfriend” comments are still there. I still scream that I will not get married until I have a PhD in the title of my name. However, the deeper reason is that I want to wait for the right person who I will save all of myself for. I will wait for the person who I can argue about church songs with, who will fast with me, go to five-hour-long services in church without complaining or at least minimal complaining. I want to wait for the person who God will send my way, for the person who will urge me and who I can urge on upwards in our spiritual paths. Until then, I will just endure the comments from my family, because finding that rare relationship is possible, because with God anything truly is possible!
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