We’ve heard it a thousand times.
As couples talk about their love and gratefulness for each other, they talk about how much they have grown and changed since they said their vows. They stress how much they have learned from each other or how much God has taught them through marriage.
I have no doubt that marriage stretches and changes people, maturing them in ways they hadn’t expected. But sometimes I wonder: Is there some kind of maturity that I will never know because I’m single?
What matures us?
I once read an article that said it’s not necessarily marriage that matures people, but the act of putting someone else’s needs before our own.
It makes sense. The Bible affirms selflessness. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” Paul wrote to the Philippians, reminding them of Jesus’ example.
A few months ago I made a meal to take to a family from church. I had good intentions, but as the meal prep took longer than I had expected, I grew more and more annoyed at how long it was taking and how it was changing my plans for the evening. Then I was annoyed because I was annoyed. I was supposed to be thinking about others — not frustrated that I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do that night.
Selflessness doesn’t come naturally to us. Learning to set aside our immediate wants to focus on someone else’s need takes time. Some of us learn this through marriage. Some of us learn this through changing our plans for a friend or stopping what we’re doing to listen to someone else’s struggles.
Last night my dad checked the brake lights on my van. I wouldn’t have known this except my little brother mentioned it. I never asked my dad to check the lights — honestly, I didn’t even know they needed to be checked. But he did it without looking for my gratitude.
Is that the kind of selflessness we show others? Are we willing to put others’ needs so far ahead of our own that we don’t mind if we don’t get the credit? I know I’m not there yet. I don’t have that kind of selflessness.
But it turns out that true maturity goes even deeper.
Seeking Jesus’ interests
Paul went on to tell the Philippians about his friend Timothy, who genuinely cared about others. Most people aren’t like that, Paul said, but instead they “seek their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.”
Selflessness is about more than putting others’ interests before our own. More importantly, we are called to seek Christ’s interests first.
Sometimes this is even harder to do than helping someone with a meal or their brake lights. Do we seek our interests or Christ’s when we hit snooze on our alarm instead of reading our Bible in the morning? Do we seek our interests or Christ’s when we talk about a coworker behind their back? Or when we ignore an opportunity to share the gospel?
Seeking Christ’s interests is a 24/7 assignment. We can’t do this on our own. Neither could Paul.
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect,” Paul admitted, “but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.” We don’t earn our way into heaven, but Paul reminds us that we are working for an eternal reward. “Let those of us who are mature think this way,” he wrote.
True maturity is found in seeking Jesus above all else. Whether single or married, none of us will ever be perfectly mature. But we can all seek a deeper maturity every day through the thousands of little decisions to choose Christ’s interests — and others’ — over ours.
No single left behind
It may be true that marriage breeds maturity — I’m sure it’s true in many cases. That’s what God has used in many people’s lives to make them more like Him. But marriage is not His only tool to accomplish our sanctification and maturity.
Am I less mature than some of my married friends? It’s possible. But if so, I can’t blame it on my singleness. Instead, like Paul, I can press on to seek Jesus more and know Him better. God promises that everyone who seeks Him will be rewarded. Everyone. Married or single, no one is left out.
Copyright 2020 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.