Have you noticed that anytime you are filling out a form these days you have to check tons of boxes? One particular set of boxes that seem to find their way onto most forms are the Single, Married, Divorced, Single Again, Widowed, etc. boxes. I understand that the persons who choose to put these boxes on the forms are merely collecting information; but for women, checking these boxes can bring about a great deal of emotion.
If you have just gotten married you might be looking forward to your first time to check that new box. But when you are single, you aren’t quite as elated with the chore of announcing to the world, “Yes, I’m still single.” And if you have recently separated or gone through a tough divorce, having to mark that new box for the first time can bring about its own set of emotions.
Why does checking these small boxes bring about such great emotion for us? I believe it is because we have a difficult time separating the box we check from who we are.
Whether you are single or married or divorced it can be difficult to separate your identity from your marital status. However, this is not a new struggle. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul addresses this same issue. In verse 17 he says this:
And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life.
I love this! Paul tells us here that no matter which box you check you can still live, love, obey and believe God right where you are. God had to teach me this fact when I was 23. At 23 I had accepted a marriage proposal because I was in love with idea of getting married, but not in love with the man who asked. Our five month engagement was one of the most difficult times in my life. God worked on my heart 24-7 during that time. I wanted to be married and I had a man who loved the Lord, loved me and could provide for me waiting to be my husband. But I knew in my heart that I was marrying him so that I could check a different box.
After five months of an intense emotional and spiritual battle in my soul, I finally called off my wedding, returned the ring, and fully embraced the “single” box. God taught me that I didn’t need to check a different box to be happy or to be fulfilled. Rather, he taught me what Paul says here, that I can live, love, obey and believe right where I am, regardless of the box I check.
I love how Paul ends this passage, “God, not your marital status, defines your life.”
Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Influence, addresses this same issue. He says,
“If you’re trying to find your primary refuge in your husband, if you’ve centered your hope on him, if your security depends on his approval, and if you will do almost anything to gain his acceptance — then you’ve just given to a man what rightfully belongs to God alone.
And that means you’ve turned marriage into idol worship.”
Later in the same chapter he says, “Your acceptance as a person became secure when God adopted you, not when your husband proposed to you.”
(Thomas, Gary: Sacred Influence: How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of Their Husbands. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006 pp27-28)
Women, I have lived in both worlds. I lived over 30 years as a single woman and just one as a married woman, and I can tell you this is true. I do not have a perfect marriage, but when God taught me at age 23 that all I needed in life came from Him and not from a man, He prepared me for a healthier marriage. I can enjoy my husband so much more because I don’t rely on him to tell me I am beautiful, to tell me I’m a great cook or to affirm my life. I can simply enjoy him for who God created him to be.
I know that it is God who defines me, and not my marital status. I know that this is a very real struggle that goes deep into a woman’s heart, but I want to challenge you today to let God examine your heart. Let Him reveal where you are on the path of this particular Identity Crisis. And I pray, that you will allow Him to work on your heart so that you too can truly believe that God, not your marital status, defines your life.