Maybe it’s the coming of another year or the reality that 30 is just around the corner, but I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about how short life really is. I remember when I got married all these old people were telling me how fast life goes by, but I didn’t really believe it then. They were the same people who told me high school was a blip on the screen, but those four years seemed like they lasted two decades.
But I believe them now. It goes by so fast. One moment we were getting married, the next we were having our first child, and before we could blink we had three boys in less than a decade of marriage.
As I think about what I’ve been learning in the last 10 years—and I think of all the things that caused so much pain because I didn’t grasp them—a few radical truths from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians stand out. These are truths that we as self-obsessed, individualistic Americans desperately need to rediscover. And if we as Christians really believed these truths and embraced them in our lives, how different our culture would be.
First, Paul says our bodies are not ours to do with as we please; they belong to the Lord and should be used to glorify Him (1 Cor. 6:20). It seems like such a simple principle. You do not have ultimate authority over how you use your body—God does, and he has told us clearly in his word how we are to use them.
But we live in a world that hates this truth. People say things all the time like “You can’t tell me who to love” or “It’s my body, I’ll do what I want with it”; “A woman has the right to choose what she does with her body.” And so, in denial of this fundamental principle of life, people claim final authority for themselves and rush headlong into practices like casual sex or live-in relationships (fornication), homosexuality (sodomy) and abortion (murder), to name only a few. Pretty much every problem we face as people and as a society can be tied to our refusal to accept God’s authority and direction for our lives.
Even we as Christians are suckered into believing versions of the lie that we can do with our bodies what we like. Maybe we use sex in marriage as a bartering tool to gain power over our spouse, or we obsess over the scale and spend countless hours in the gym each day trying to regain our figure.
Or maybe as husbands we get depressed because our job (and calling in life) seems so menial, so unimportant, so unrecognized. We obsess about our “dream” job, whatever that is, and we neglect our family trying to get there. Or maybe we needlessly work late hours trying to “get ahead,” only to miss crucial time with our family around the table with food and family worship.
Maybe as mommies you feel like spending your days with a bunch of whinny, fussy, always-needy little ones (who then turn into larger and more complicated “little ones”) is a whole lot less meaningful than chasing a career. Maybe you compare yourselves to other women and think less of yourselves because your body has been ravaged by the work of birthing and raising children. Maybe it causes bitterness and envy.
But the fact remains, your body is not yours to do with whatever you want.
You can’t have sex with whomever you want, male or female, because God made you and has authority over your body. You can’t exchange God ordained marriage for sleeping around and living in, because your body was made by and belongs to God. We also can’t give approval to those who practice such things—either by laughing it off or saying atheistic things like “to each his own”—because God will judge not only those who commit the sin, but also those who give approval (Rom. 1:32).
You can’t drink until you’re blackout drunk every weekend with your buddies, drive home intoxicated or think it’s funny to always have random injuries from drunken falls, because it’s not your body to do with as you please.
You can’t eat whatever you want, live like a glutton or a bulimic, or obsess over the shape and size of your body, because it’s not yours. It’s God’s. If we really believed this, pornography would die, self-worshipping glamour shot selfies would die, orange spray tans and breast implants and PEDs and photoshopping yourself for Facebook would die, and spending hours a day at the gym (or on the couch) would die.
Abortion would be unthinkable, because contrary to godless popular rhetoric, a woman’s body is not hers to do with as she pleases. She does not have ultimate authority over her body or the child inside of her—God does. She cannot do with either life whatever she wants. She also must submit to her husband’s authority over her body (1 Cor. 7:4), even as he submits to her authority over his body.
Feminism is out, because a woman’s life is not her own to do whatever she wants with it. She is under God’s authority and then her husband’s. While singleness and childlessness can be unique gifts for certain seasons of life, the normative aim of a woman’s God-ordained existence is as a wife and mother. The role of a mommy in the home is a joyous, wonderful calling, not a second-rate chore for the faint of heart.
Chauvinism is out, because a man’s life is not his own to do with as he pleases. He is called to submit to God’s authority and follow the example of giving his life away in sacrificial service for his bride. He can’t chase whatever job (or “dream,” in hip new motivational speaker lingo) he wants to the neglect of his family and provider status, and he can’t neglect his supreme calling as husband and father. He should work hard with his hands and be content to live a quiet life of service.
At a personal level, it’s meant seeing life as fundamentally about receiving a calling and vocation, not trying in vain to create my own. This is about as un-American as it gets. In a world that tells us the greatest adventures are found crafting your own image apart from responsibility, family or ordinary, unexciting jobs—and in which individualism is deified to the extreme—I’ve slowly learned that who I am, what I do, where I live, who my family is, has all been given to me by God. Being a husband, father, provider and friend is, in all of its plainness, a glorious thing.
My identity and calling are not self-determined; they’re God-given. There’s more freedom and life in that one little truth than I’d ever imagined as an 18-year-old ready to conquer the world.