I officiated a wonderful wedding last week. There was talk, as there always is, of whether these two would be right for each other. I told the guests why I was there and why I was confident to pronounce them “husband and wife.”
Many people today feel like two people should get married if they are soul mates. I hear, as people deliberate whether to marry, that term, soul mate, pop up a lot. It reminds me of how, back in 2009, South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, disappeared. The then-presidential hopeful was supposed to have been hiking the Appalachian Trail but turned out instead to have been having an adulterous affair with the Argentine Maria Belen Chapur.
In a tearful interview, Sanford didn’t seem all that apologetic. He confessed, “Though we both know how impossible our distances are, how different our lives are, all those different things we know in my professional work, my family, all those different things. I will be able to die knowing [here he sobbed] that I had met my soul mate.”
He went by “my family” pretty dern quick if you ask me, as if, that he already had a wife and family was just one of a long list of details that separated him from his soul mate. But, it seemed, it was all right for Sanford to break up his family if he had at last found his soul mate.
It seemed it was all right with South Carolinans too, as they elected him as their congressman a few years later.
In my pastoral experience, finding someone who seems be your soul mate is not what makes a marriage work. And it is definitely not what makes a great marriage over time.
The Bible celebrates romantic love (with, for one, a whole book about it, called Song of Solomon) but mostly, when it speaks about marriage, it calls us to duty. Ephesians 5:22-33 shows us God’s way. It is to make you soul mates, whether you start out feeling that way all the time or not. But you don’t find out God’s way if you think that finding your soul mate is what makes a marriage a marriage.
In some big ways, even if we have certain affinities, we are incompatible with our spouses. This couple I was marrying had a lot in common, even in how they looked at the world. I would send them off to read and mark up chapters in a book and, over and over, they independently marked the same passages. But that wasn’t why I married them.
For I knew that there will come those moments when one would be looking across at the other and not feeling the soul thing at all. If one feels like it is all about having found your soul mate, those moments will shock. This does not bode well for Sanford and Chapur. But this couple knew that God’s plan is to make us soul mates through the crucible of marriage.
His design is for us to treat each other a certain way when the last thing we feel is soul matishness. Then, after many years of that, we will wake up next to someone and say: I cannot imagine facing life w/o you. Because I have been changed by loving you.
Jesus Christ did the same for us. His love was manifest in going to the cross for His bride. It didn’t feel at the time like he had much connection to us. We were cheering on His tormenters. But it did something in us. This is what it is to be a Christian, actually, to realize that He married Himself to me regardless of how it felt. That changes us. In life. And in marriage.
I saw the seeds of Ephesians 5 in how this couple were handling conflict in their relationship. A beautiful thing was happening between them: They were becoming the living embodiment of that passage. So I came confident to celebrate their union.
I’ll say more about this next time.
Is God making you a soul-mate with someone?