Future Wives or Soldiers of God? (Jessalyn Hutto)
One great effect of the sixteenth-century Reformation was the way it elevated married life. While celibacy had previously been seen by the church as the epitome of penitence and devotion to the Lord, Martin Luther’s marriage to Katherine von Bora was a clear sign of a major shift in the church’s understanding of the institution. As the reformers emphasized the priesthood of every believer and the sole authority of the Word of God, they simultaneously brought dignity and honor to the ordinary stations of life such as marriage and parenthood. The divide between holy and secular was being torn down as former monks and nuns took on the “worldly” duties of husbands and wives.
In this great shadow the Protestant church rests today, taking great delight in the institution of marriage and the calling of parenthood. And while Albert Mohler has rightly warned of the dangerous trend among young people in extending adolescence, among most young Christian women, becoming a wife and mother is still seen as highly desirable.
In fact, in my experience the good and natural desire to become a wife can easily become an all-consuming pursuit for those who God has yet to bless with a spouse. Many young women live as though their lives are literally on hold until their future husbands appear and they are given the coveted position of wife. Marriage is lifted up as the epitome of spirituality for women, and women’s ministries focus much of their attention on the important topics of complimentarianism, submission, sexuality, and child-rearing. This focus can leave many single women wondering where they fit into the life of the church until that coveted day of matrimony arrives.
While the Bible certainly lifts up the institution of marriage as good and God-glorifying, and married life is obviously the norm among believers, it is not the only life-style a woman can find fulfillment in. In fact, Paul encouraged the unmarried and widows to remain single if they could exercise self-control. Why? Because they would be free to be more devoted to the Lord. Those who are married and have children must be devoted to their families in their service to the Lord, but those who are unmarried are able to put all that they have into their service without the anxieties inherent in providing for and caring for a family.
Now, obviously those who desire to be married would not claim to possess the “gift of singleness,” but the fact remains that through the Lord’s providence they are at this moment single. Whether they will find Mr. Right next week, next year, or in a decade God has ordained for the time until then to be free from the “worldly troubles” their married friends must serve through.
The problem is that rather than taking advantage of this time of singleness and acting like a single woman (“free to be anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit,” 1 Corinthians 7:8), many act as though they’re already married, anxiously awaiting Mr. Right and toiling to make their lives attractive to him. They are not able to be undivided in devotion because they are devoted to a future marriage that may or may not come to pass. They are living as though they are future wives rather than the soldiers of God that they are. Though they may or may not be wives some day, they are currently and will continue to be soldiers of God in the future. Therefore, the challenge for every single woman is to glorify God in her singleness by serving him to her utmost. She will be able to do this in very different ways than her married friends will and together as members of the same body they will further his kingdom.
Those who are consumed with the pursuit of marriage simply can’t be simultaneously consumed with the mission of their God. Their ministry to his kingdom will be diminished by their divided heart. As Jesus blatantly stated in regard to money: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). Every single woman must ask herself which master she will serve: God or her desire for marriage, for she cannot serve both.
The high view of marriage within the church is crucial to our witness for the gospel. After all, marriage itself is a picture of the covenant union between Christ and his church. Yet, just as crucial to the church’s witness are single women who value Christ’s kingdom more than earthly pleasures. As Paul said, “the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). Indeed, there is something much better than earthly marriage coming and all of us, no matter what circumstance of life we find ourselves in, are called to prepare for it. Those who are single are given a unique opportunity to serve with undivided affections in the service of Christ’s kingdom. While marriage is a wonderful thing and the desire to be a wife is a godly pursuit, women should not define their existence by the position of “wife” or “future-wife.” We are, each of us, soldiers of God, set apart to bring the good news of the gospel to every nation. And as women like Helen Roseveare, Amy Carmichael, Lilias Trotter, Nancy Leigh DeMoss and countless others have proven, God uses single women to do great things for his kingdom.
Ultimately, he is the only Groom any of us should seek to devote our lives to.
Jessalyn Hutto is a regular contributor to Credo Magazine. She is just an ordinary wife and mother who serves an extraordinary God. Her passion for theology led her to create the blog DesiringVirtue which encourages women to study, treasure, and apply the Word of God to their daily lives. She is blessed to be the wife of Richard Hutto and the mother of three little boys: Elliot, Hudson, and Owen. She is also a regular contributor to The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s women’s channel: Karis.