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The Idolatry of Marriage and Family

10.7.12 Journal Blog post about my experience counseling in the inner city (For more context- please refer to Corporate Girl in an Inner City World)


The dream of the child of divorce

I saw my client “Lauren” today who has struggled with a long battle with alcoholism—she lost her marriage, her “dream” of that American dream of the marriage, 2 kids, and home,…when her husband got involved in cocaine.

We had a very poignant session where we explored why it made her feel so angry and jealous inside to see her husband divorce her then get remarried, and attain that dream of  hers. Although she clearly knows that her husband had a large portion of responsibility in leading to the divorce, she also blames herself for the marriage and for turning to alcohol to cope during and after it.

As we explored the narrative of rejection in her life, I keyed in to this “dream” that seemed to stir up so much emotion when she would think about it being ‘lost.’

I asked her when she first started having this ideal of marriage and family and how it made her feel—she told me that she remembers (a memory that popped up in the session, afresh) of talking to her friend across the street when she was age 10…her dad had already left his 8 kids, including her and her little friend thought she was a ‘freak’ for not having a dad.

“Lauren” remembers talking to her little friend and saying something along the lines that she was going to be married and have 2 kids one day. At that moment, she even named one of her sons! (Almost like she was saying, “Well, I’m going to be married one day and have 2 kids! And I’m going to name one of them Nathan”) She said it with confidence.

What did that dream give her? A sense of stability, security and comfort…to get what she did not have.

I strongly identify with this.

When you grow up not having something so fundamental, so basic- a mom, a dad, that love each other…a feeling of belonging, a feeling of security…

you do get great pleasure and comfort to look forward to getting that one day in your life.


Hope deferred makes the heart sick

That’s the problem though—security, comfort, purpose, stability….sounds like something only God can provide.

Not only does it replace God as an idol (instead of getting security and comfort and identity from God), it is also a buffer against the pain experienced from the divorce, abandonment, loss, or rejection.

Instead of grieving and mourning after not having a father or mother or having a dad or mom leave, the weight gets shifted to this one-day, some-day dream.

Not only can no man or dream ever fulfill us, if that was ever to fail, a person like “Lauren” loses their identity (their identity was that dream before it came true and once it came true, losing it means losing their identity) and that can spiral a person into addiction….

It is so easy to fall into this—very subtle…

I wonder what it would be like to help little kids mourn their family issues and healthily approach their futures…


Life without Idols

No matter where you are with this issue– maybe on the side of the spectrum of living in this future hope and idolatry of marriage and family…or at the spectrum of waiting so long for it, your heart is sick

or if you have gained then lost this ‘dream’….

There is a life without idols that you can live in Christ. For men and women alike, I describe this process in my article, “Manifesto of a Christian Single Woman“:

“Marriage is not the end goal…

The majority of us have heard of the verse that says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt 6:33)

But what does that really mean?

I think it doesn’t just mean put God first but it alludes to the concept of what’s really important at the end of the day. The Kingdom of God. Our relationship with Jesus. Our faith and love for God, first.

When I get to heaven one day and I stand (alone) before Him, He is not going to ask me: Did you get married?

God loves marriage but marriage is not the end goal. Instead, I will be accountable to God for being in His will and following Him, in every season.

He’s more interested in my heart and relationship with Him than anything else.

If I’m to live for eternity, my focus cannot be marriage as a end goal. My end goal and focus needs to be on Him, alone. Not that it’s not a huge blessing (because it really is!), but it’s not the end goal.”


Heart Check

1) Are your parents divorced or was your parent’s marriage not healthy? If yes, how does that impact your thinking about your own marriage and family (or future marriage/family)?

2)Have there been times that you have ‘vowed’ to yourself to have what did not have growing up? Was this done in a healthy or unhealthy way? (e.g. vowing out of bitterness and self-determination or was it done with surrender to God and humility)

3)Would you say that you have had an idol of that marriage/family ideal? If so, I would invite you to pray a prayer of repentence and asking God to help you be all that He wants you to be and trusting God to be the one you worship.


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