In fact, as I pointed out in my sermon this weekend, you never even marry the right person.
When teaching about Heaven, I frequently stress the point that ‘soul’ is a concept foreign to scripture. As far as Judaism and Christianity are concerned, you don’t have something called a ‘soul.’
It therefore follows that you don’t have someone called a ‘soulmate’ out there either.
I know we all like to go weak-kneed thinking (a la Jerry McGuire) that there’s a specific, special person out there meant just for us who will ‘complete us’ and that, if we only find them-and they us, we will have married our perfect match.
Happily ever after.
Like two puzzle pieces being fit together.
But here’s the problem:
Puzzle pieces don’t change. Everything else about puzzle pieces, save that missing space, remains the same.
People, especially married people, do change.
As a prank in seminary I once logged into several online dating sites and changed my friend’s profile information to hilarious results.
What struck me then, even on the ‘Christian’ sites, was how they were all premised on the popular myth of ‘compatibility.’
If you had asked me twelve years ago if Ali was my soul mate, if she was the perfect person for me, I would have told you without pause: ‘Damn straight.’
But here’s what I’ve learned from my own marriage and from watching others’ marriages. Here’s the point and beauty of marriage:
Marriage is a means of grace.
Like the eucharist, it’s one of the means by which we grow and become more perfect creatures.
We don’t pick our perfect match because we ourselves are not perfect the day when we say ‘I do.’
Such perfection is only possible through a life lived with our spouse.
We never marry the right or perfect person, we never start out with our ‘soulmate’ because marriage doesn’t allow us to stay the same person we were when we started out. Sometimes for good and sometimes for ill, a life lived and shared together makes us different people.
Marriage isn’t two puzzle pieces coming together.
It’s more like two rough diamonds being polished and perfected over a lifetime.
You don’t marry the perfect person for you.
Your marriage creates the perfect person for you.
You don’t begin your marriage with your soul mate.
God willing, you end up with someone who is your soul mate.
If you had asked me twelve years ago if Ali was perfect for me, I would’ve said yes.
But I was wrong.
I was wrong because back then I couldn’t have anticipated how my life with Ali was going to transform me in unexpected ways. She’s made me a better person. Thus, she’s more perfect for me now than she ever could have been then.
Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian whose own memoir testifies to both the redemption and the pain marriage can bring, puts these same thoughts this way:
We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person. just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge is…learning to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.