God is not as serious as we have him pitched. He has a sense of humour and I am sure He enjoys a laugh and telling a good joke. One of His favourites comes at the expense of a now very happy 24-year-old bloke named Sam.
Less than a year ago I considered and claimed the status of a monk. Though rarely did I follow any form of strict obedience to a religious lifestyle officially categorising me as a monk, I was a proud preacher of, and faithful in upholding, a life of absolute celibacy.
My unusual status became cause for regular discussion among my peers. During which I would try hard to emphasise my respect for marriage, concluding always, "Marriage just isn't for me". I gave many reasons for my life-long intent, with God and 'His word' often central in my argument, but I would never address the founding and driving basis for my persistence at monk-hood.
Having struggled my way through the darkness of depression and anxiety in my pre and early 20s I grew toward a life of hope in Christ. Sadly though, I carried with me fears from the darkness which I refused to attempt to overcome. Having a committed relationship with another person was one of the greatest of those fears.
Despite never having had a relationship, I understood what it would mean to commit to loving a wife. It would mean allowing access to the scars on my heart. It would mean all defences must be shut down. It would mean potential hurt—for myself and from myself. It would mean allowing someone to support me and love me beyond what I feel I deserve. Through this fear my mantra grew: "marriage just isn't for me, I will NEVER get married".
From this a philosophy for my life grew. "... I think that it is better for (me) to remain as I am... and not seek a wife". I was not the first to announce this philosophy. In fact I was quoting one of the most famous philosophers in history, from a letter in one of the most famous books in history—the Apostle Paul speaking to the Corinthian Church, in the Bible (1 Corinthians chapter 7, verses 26–27). I convinced myself, with fear as my ever-lashing jockey, I could better follow Christ's call upon my life without a partner "holding me back".
And yet I fell
A fan of metaphors and the meanings behind them I wonder at the saying "falling in love". If it is supposed to be one of the greatest experiences in the world, why do we use a word ("falling") with such negative and frightening connotations? I now understand.
My fall began at a time when I felt the most sure-footed I ever had. Gallivanting around the exotic corners of our wondrous world, certain of my lonesome ways, I met her. The details behind my stumbling and subsequent falling are many. Suffice to say she is the most beautiful, most amazing person I have ever met.
As dreams of a life shared with such a woman began to consume my thoughts, so too did the love which slowly began to overcome my fears.
Falling in love is frightening indeed. At first, fear was all I felt. But as the dreams persisted, the fear started to transform into an unexplainable excitement. Thankfulness, I am certain, is our greatest weapon against fear and despair (Philippians chapter 4, verse 6). Now, whenever I recall the excitement of my serendipitous adventure of falling in love (in Burma!), I feel armed with never-ending ammunition.
"We", so much better than "me"
I must humbly emphasise here my utmost respect for singleness. It is admirable and courageous, and for some I am sure a noble and sacrificial pursuit. However, "singleness just isn't for me".
I have a new philosophy; a philosophy that no longer sees a partner "holding me back"; a philosophy no longer jockeyed by fear; a philosophy with Christ's call upon my life fulfilled by and through the love I have for my future wife.
'Me' has been flipped on its head and, symbolically so, has turned into 'We'. I have come to realise marriage is one of, if not the most, beautiful examples of complete servanthood and devotion. Marriage does not "hold us back". There isn't a set amount of love we can impart. Rather, through my love for her and her love for me I am strengthened and even better equipped to love and serve the poor and vulnerable as Christ has so commanded.
I should probably insert a (less-important) disclaimer here: I am not actually married... yet. These dreams of a life shared with such a woman still, and I believe always will, consume my thoughts. I'm thankful for a God with a sense of humour. I enjoy laughing alongside him, and I will be forever grateful it comes at my expense.
Sam has recently returned from travel overseas and is currently living in Auckland, New Zealand working as a carpenter.
Sam Rillstone's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-rillstone.html