For the first time since the time of covid when we were all allowed to go to church, I’m not because some of us have come down with the awful common cold which is truly a misery. So I’m wandering into a blog post late and trying to think my way out of a box of kleenex.
But I did read the lections yesterday, and I was sort of shocked to see that the church and Jesus and the Bible and such like are so brave as to assign passages to be read in public about what used to be called “Marriage”–that bygone union between a man and a woman, the thing where once God has joined them together they’re not supposed to be torn apart–and the embarrassing reality of children. This was, for those of you who were born only a few minutes ago, one of the foundational institutions of every culture through space and time, no matter what any modern-day intersectionalist might try to say about it.
Anyway, after reading all those bits from the Bible, I happened to see that Jen Hatmaker is getting a lot of questions about when she’s going to be ready to “date” again. Because, you know, her marriage tragically dissolved last year, along with so many others. In answer to the questions she’s getting, she made a list, which I feel must be a divine gift to me, what with the lections being what they are. You should probably go read them before scrolling through the rest of this. I thought it would be super fun to go through her requirements and see what kind of person she is willing to consider. Buckle up!
1. He must be my two favorite things: funny and smart. I need him to match me for wits. I want a guy everyone is so happy to see when he walks into a room because he is awesome.
This is a great start. As the Lord said when he contemplated Adam there in the garden, shuffling the animals along for his consideration, “Everyone needs someone awesome. I will make someone super awesome for you so that you can all be happy and stuff.” We continue:
2. I need receipts from his therapist. I will accept a written report. Must have already worked his shit out. We’re old.
This, my dears, must be the very heart of romance, and is a good indication that Jen, being herself very put together and fine merely a year on, is definitely ready for another “life-long” relationship.
All snarkiness aside, though, the problem of having too firmly fixed yourself to your own awesomeness is that you have no one to love you, as Jesus said, “to the end,” that is, fully and completely. And so, even though you can do a lot of work on yourself through therapy, you can’t ever cope with the deep, unquenchable well of sadness that comes with being human, that very lack that God brought to the attention of Adam before he gave him Eve. Therapy is a good idea, especially in this unsettling age. I am by no means bagging on therapy, as long as it’s good and doesn’t lead you ever further into yourself and away from the God who made you. But, well, it is no substitute for getting to know Jesus in the body of his faithful people, the Church. It is only, as she unwittingly acknowledges, one self-improving commodity among others, with receipts and everything.
3. It is very important to me that this mystery man is easy. I can’t do difficult. I can’t do moody. I can’t do hair-trigger. I can’t do always mad/persecuted/irritated/cranky. I am a glass half full Enneagram 3. Let’s be charming and hilarious together!
A yes, but that’s the rub, isn’t it. When you pledge yourself to another person in marriage, you’re agreeing in front of all your witnesses, including God himself, that you are taking that person no matter how irritated, cranky, uncharming, and not funny he is. For no one can be charming all the time. Else we would not have needed Jesus to die on the cross for all of our sins. People are difficult….all people are difficult. I have never met anyone who is easy. Some people are more difficult than others, but everyone has their little troubles that make them angular and prickly at certain points. And so, you can see, without too much squinting, that, for Jen, marriage is about her getting her needs met, it is not about pouring out herself for the good of the other no matter what happens.
4. Must love fun. I am fun, my people are fun, my family is fun, my besties are fun. We love funny movies. We love funny stories. We love fun trips. We love fun adventures.
So also the Pharisees said, when they trotted up to Jesus on this fine Sunday morning, “Isn’t it lawful, Jesus, for us to divorce our wives because they are such awful killjoys? Because they have griefs and needs? We wanted them to be fun and they didn’t love all our funny stories and fun trips. They wanted to do unfun things and we finally had enough and you had better let us get out of it because Moses totes said so…he totes said that we could divorce our wives whenever we thought they weren’t fun anymore.”
5. My people come with me. We are a package deal. You get me, you get a whole obnoxious family and a truly outrageous friend group that is for life. You’ll need to pass muster with my dad, brother and Brother Husbands. My friends will have you stalked within an inch of your life before we get to our appetizer.
Is this really a stunning and brave thing to demand? That the next person Jen marries will get all the people who come with her? I don’t think very many people would walk into such a ceremony and make an announcement that all the people the bride loved best had to get the heck out…and yet…I mean, she is clearly pushing back hard on Jesus who did literally also say this morning, “the man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall be one flesh,” which Western Civilization took to mean that the woman would leave her family–we don’t need to get into the weeds this morning. The point is that marriage, in order for it to actually work and actually last, does have a certain exclusivity to it. You do let everyone else go. You do put your spouse ahead of even your children and certainly your extended family. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have strong, necessary, essential ties to all those other people, but that if given a choice about who you wanted to be with every waking moment (a choice you don’t usually get to have) you would pick the person you’re married to every single time. My advice to any prospective suitors of Jen Hatmaker, based on number 5 alone, is to consider not dating her right now because your relationship with her will not last very long. There’s just too much competition.
6. I’m not going to your weird mega-church. I like Christian guys but don’t be weird.
I mean, I’m fine with this one. No disagreement here.
7. Please deeply love your work, your people, your kids, yourself. Please be a good tipper. Please be nice to strangers. Please have your own 401K.
Oh my word, the romance of it all…
8. Sorry, but can’t do little kids. I’ve done my time. My youngest is a sophomore and I am getting ready TO PARTY because I have earned it. I can’t go back to science fair projects.
This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.” What he was really saying is, it’s totally fine to age out of certain kinds of people. You deserve it! Every church and Christian should totally adopt this way of thinking about family and people and marriage and everything.
9. No one can need me to complete them. I will not complete you. I don’t want to complete you. And I don’t need you to complete me. I am already awesome. I need you to be already awesome.
And yet, we have to notice that the people sidling up to Jesus to get out of stuff that was annoying and difficult (like marriage, like paying attention to children) were not “complete” in themselves. They were vastly mistaken about who they were and what they should be doing and who they should worship and what the women they wanted to slough off even were–people, whom God had made. Only God can fill up the longing at the center of each one of us with himself. When he brought Eve to Adam he wasn’t saying, “She’ll give you everything you need.” That was still God’s own job. The two, joined back together, were supposed to clutch on to the Lord, walking the cool of the day, and together worship and glorify and know Him. But they immediately turned away and looked to themselves as the source of their own “awesome,” and so they ended up with neither God, nor each other, nor even themselves. It took God coming back himself and rejoining himself to humanity through the blood flowing out of his side to repair what was broken.
And this is wonderful because no matter how hurt you are today, how many divorces and relationships you’ve had, how many times your heart has been broken, he is still God, he is still faithful, he will never turn away from you no matter how difficult or uncharming you turn out to be. Since I can’t go to church, I hope you’ll go instead and pray for Jen and all those who are sorely wounded, sorely hindered by their sins.