Not long after I got engaged, I had a particularly peculiar encounter that’s stayed with me.
It was my third year at Durham University, and I was on a (rare) morning run by the river, bouncing through autumn leaves in time to music that made me feel much cooler than I was. I was picking up speed, ready for my final sprint towards the bridge, when someone leapt in front of me and we collided head-on.
Brushing the leaves off my legs, amused by the awkwardness of the situation, I realised it was a girl from college.
She was frantic: “Georgia, what are you doing with your life?! You can’t get married! You’re too young! What about a career? What if you meet someone else? How do you know he’s ‘the one’ when you haven’t even lived together?”
She proceeded to try to convince me that I was making a terrible mistake. Her concerns were nothing new, and I welcomed the bombardment that morning.
How odd it is to think you need to live with a partner before you get married, as if a good marriage is built purely on the practical logistics of sharing space.
Listening to her, it struck me how odd it is to think that you need to live with a partner before you get married, as if a good marriage is built purely on the practical logistics of sharing space. If that’s what love is all about then, realistically, there are times I shared a house far better with my girls at university than I do with my husband now! A friend recently said, “if we’re still dating after 3 months of travelling together, then that’s a sure sign for a future.” Well yes… and no. It’s a sure sign of good logistical compatibility with another person, but it woefully misses the heart of God’s design for love and marriage.
As we wandered back to college together, I was able to share some of my faith with this girl, what marriage meant to me, and why love was about commitment – a reflection of God’s covenant with us through Jesus, not an emotional hunger that catapults us from one relationship to the next.
Our orientation for decision-making has become inward looking, rather than upward and outward looking.
It strikes me that our culture has been hit by a pandemic of commitment phobia: we’re paralysingly afraid of making the wrong decision. Our orientation for decision-making has become inward looking, rather than upward and outward looking. We strive for self-certainty, self-security and self-satisfaction, but our expectations are rarely met by another human, or if they are met then they’re rarely sustained. Our tendency to be self-centred fundamentally limits our relationships to mere co-existence.
In making decisions about relationships based on security, independence, or endurance, we are missing something beautiful about the nature of love, as modelled in Jesus.
When that girl quite literally leapt into my life, I was touched by her concern, but ultimately saddened that she was victim to a culture of fear that struggles to embrace love as commitment – deeply meaningful and life-giving commitment. Underlying her concerns was an assumption that love was not fulfilling, that love was not secure, that love might fail.
What a joy it was to share with her that I knew a love that was fulfilling, that was secure, that was never going to fail!
What a joy it was to share with her that I knew a love that was fulfilling, that was secure, that was never going to fail! And even better (and surprising to her) was explaining that I wasn’t talking about the love of my husband-to-be. I was talking about the love of Jesus – a love that was for her too.
As Christians, we have full certainty, full security and full satisfaction in our relationship with God because of the commitment He has already made with us through Jesus. We don’t have to be afraid that His love might fail. It never will.
So what does this liberate us for?
Psalm 34:3 declares: “Oh, magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together!”
Our ability to magnify God though our relationships is perhaps the most pertinent way we can share Jesus with others.
Inspired by God’s faithful commitment through Jesus, we are liberated to magnify Him by committing to one another without fear. We are living examples of a life lived in full commitment. Our ability to magnify God though our relationships is perhaps the most pertinent way we can share Jesus with others: modelling counter-cultural commitment that fearlessly looks upwards to God and outwards to others.
So let’s make sure that – whether family, friendship or romantic relationships – our faithfulness to one another reveals to our world the true faithfulness and commitment that God makes to us through Jesus.