Sunday, February 13, 2005

Charles and Camilla and Couplehood

Mature Woman's Fairy Tale
Many conversations turned to couplehood this weekend, ahead of the upcoming Valentine's Day, fuelled no doubt by the news that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles are to wed. A royal wedding. A mature woman's fairy tale?

All children's fairy tales promote youth and beauty: the young beautiful commoner (who doesn't know she's a princess) always has a good heart and the equally young handsome prince (usually rich) rightly loves her. Their perfect love is put to the test by an ugly old hag (who is mean and wicked and jealous of the young pretty couple), but they kill the evil old sow, the girl discovers she's got royal blood, the people rejoice and they live happily ever after.

In the mature woman's fairy tale, the perfect love is between 2 aging, wrinkly, saggy old friends, meant for each other from the beginning. But the plain jane is a commoner, and their perfect happiness is waylaid by his royal duty to marry a blue-blood. So she marries some military man and he reluctantly sets up camp with a flighty pretty young thing. But never does the ardent fire of their love die out. It burns strong through the horrors of being married to the wrong people. Several decades later, after unhappy marriages, a couple of progeny and one divorce each and a death of an ex-wife, they finally wed. She never discovers that any blue-blood running through her veins. And she is so well along in years the royal publicists are afraid she might be mistaken for the mother of the bride.

But true love conquers all: two souls triumph over all difficulty and hostility to be together. That's something we want to believe: somewhere out there, there's my true love, my life's partner, my soulmate, someone who will complete me. We want to sit on top a roof and sing longingly into the starry night,"Somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight, someone's thinking of me and loving me tonight. Somewhere out there, someone's saying a prayer; that we'll find one another in that big somewhere out thereā€¦"

Then the word of God comes along and smacks us over the head. And we suddenly realize we've been hoodwinked and tricked into teetering precariously on the edge of a dangerous illusion. Then the same good word takes us by the hand and leads us steadily to safety. There is no perfect partner for us: the person we marry is the person we were meant to marry. There is no human who can complete us: everyone is sinful, somewhat self-centred and will continue to hurt each other and not look out for the other's interests. Divorcing one's spouse to be with one's "soulmate" is disgustingly selfish, does irreparable damage to that spouse and the children and is ultimately deluded.

Vaughan Roberts did a useful workshop on singleness and ministry at this year's Ministry Matters, hinged on a right, biblical view of couplehood and marriage:
  • the urge to merge is set in creation and there is nothing to be ashamed about. But like the old testament sacrifices and Sabbath laws, marriage between man and woman is actually a pointer, a foreshadow, of a future true marriage between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32);
  • so no Christian will be single forever, because they, with the rest of the church will be wed with Christ on the day he comes again for his bride (Matthew 9:15; Revelation 19:7-8, 21:2, 21:9);
  • on the other hand, no Christian will be married forever, because human-to-human marriage is only for this life (Matthew 22:23-30);
  • what lasts for eternity is not even the closest relationship we normally think we can have in this life but the even closer than closest relationship we have with God.
If we are single, why do we hanker after a spouse as if our life, happiness and meaning depended on getting one and put our lives on hold until we get one?

If we are married, why are we obsessed with each other to the exclusion of all else, including God? Why do we not work for and obsess about things of eternal value?

I guess somehow we have both to acknowledge that (1) we were wired for couplehood and (2) true couplehood is not with another human but, together with the rest of the church, with Christ. Jesus is our soulmate; the one our hearts yearn for.

As a nasty hot-blooded, serial-dating teenager, I used to grimace at old nuns who, when asked if they ever regretted not marrying, said that they were married to Jesus. How embarrassingly deluded. What pathological wishful thinking. Old goats with withered wombs and highly-advanced eroticmatic delusions.

Now, God's word tells me that I am the one who was deluded.


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