In yesterday’s post, following a train of thought raised by Pastor Aaron in his sermon on relationships this past weekend, I suggested that the idea of a “soul mate”–someone who “completes” us–is quite a commonly held idea in America, whether we use that actual language or not. It’s a familiar Hollywood theme, but similar ideas can be traced all the way back to Plato.
If our lives go according to plan and more or less fit the traditional cultural expectation that we will marry and stay happily married to the same person for life (and maybe even have 2.3 children and a house in suburbia), all is well. We can use soul mate language playfully, no harm done. But when our lives don’t fit the romantic narrative, the expectation of finding one’s soul mate can become particularly problematic, and not even Christians are immune to that way of thinking.
What’s the alternative? Here’s one biblical possibility, again, as Pastor Aaron reminded us:
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them… God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Gen 1:27, 28, 31, NIV).
People have debated for centuries what “the image of God” means. Some have identified it with the human capacity for reason that separates us from the animals. Some, looking to the larger biblical context, have identified it with the idea of dominion over creation as God’s representatives. Others believe (as do I) that the statement “in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” should be taken as a parallelism–in other words, there is something about being created male and female that restates what it means to be created in God’s image.
That’s why Pastor Aaron can say, “We were created for relationships,” with God and with each other. There is something about our relatedness to one another that reflects or images the eternal relationship within the Trinity itself. This is how God created us, and behold, it was very good.
That’s a different story than the one implicit in the language of needing to be completed by someone else. The upshot is this: We are not half-beings who need to be made whole by finding our soul mates; we are relational beings, and all our relationships have been corrupted by sin.
If you feel somehow “incomplete,” it might be good to chew on that for a moment. Our destiny does not consist in finding the person that God has chosen to complete us. God has not consigned us to a game of romantic hide-and-seek. Our destiny, rather, is to be made more and more in the image of Christ–and that means pursuing godliness in the relationships we already have.
Without that way of thinking, we’re suckers for the Hollywood view. Once we’ve found or been reunited with our soul mate, we’re done. That’s The End of the movie. The theme music sounds the note of romantic triumph. But they never show you what happens after the credits have rolled.
Furthermore, we may think of marriage in unrealistically romantic terms. Or we may think that those who marry are the winners in life, and those who don’t are losers. Or we expend all our relationship energy in the privacy of our homes, despite the clear biblical emphasis on the life of the church.
And I’m saying that as a guy who makes a living teaching about marriage and family life.
Don’t look for your soul mate; seek God’s kingdom. Don’t expect another person to complete you. As Christians, we seek our perfection in Jesus, and do this in the company of others who share the same Spirit and are on similar journeys of sanctification.
That’s not very Hollywood. But it’s the story we’ve been called to live, in all of our relationships.