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When I was a little girl, I heard a frightening parable about an Indian who had been displaced from his land. The new settlers told him he could choose one cornfield on the reservation to make his own. So the Indian walked the length of the reservation all day, examining each cornfield individually—and finding something to be dissatisfied about with each plot of land.
By the time the sun set, he had reached the outer limits of the reservation—but he still had not made his choice. He turned around to go back and choose, but all the cornfields had already been taken, and there was nothing left for him and his family. When I grew up, I thought I was the Indian and marriage was a cornfield.
The lesson from the parable had been as plain as it was haunting: Don't be too selective, or you'll be left with nothing. Both my great-aunts died as old maids. I heard they had been given ample opportunities to marry—but they were said to be proud women who simply never found a man "good enough" for them. I was chilled.
No one is perfect but Jesus. I'll be the first to remind myself and other single women that we need to take all our expectations and dreams about marriage and lay them at Jesus' feet, saying, "Not what I will, but what You will. Let my will be Yours." We desperately need God to make us women full of grace, viewing ourselves and others from the angle of humility.
And yet, dear friend, choosing a husband is still nothing like choosing a cornfield. I say this as a single woman who deeply desires to marry and raise a family who loves Jesus. I also say this as a woman who has been given opportunities to marry and has chosen No through many tears. I understand the aching fear that settles in late at night when you wonder again if your hope was unrealistic. What if you've passed by the best love from a man that you'll ever be given?
Single men who are pursuing Jesus with abandon are not extinct. But compared against the plethora of available Christian men, they're certainly less common. And in our sex-saturated culture, the virtues of faithfulness and chastity do not tend to thrive in the heart of man who is not pursuing Jesus with abandon.
Enter pornography, one of the most common addictions within the church.
John Piper Answers My Question about Pornography
"For nearly every man who regularly views pornography, there is likely a wife or girlfriend experiencing the fallout resulting from his choices." –Vicki Tiede
Porn is the new normal. Although the effects of a husband's addiction to pornography are broad and devastating, this is the sobering refrain I've heard shattered girlfriends repeat:
"Every Christian man fails here. I think it's just something we have to understand and accept."
Marriage is a sacred covenant, designed by God to be a breathtaking portrait of the gospel (Ephesians 5). If He calls us to marry men who have sinned with pornography in the past, it will be our privilege to drench them with the same grace God has drenched us with—and it will be our joy to recognize the power of God to restore what has been broken. As we think through this topic biblically, we need to understand that we all stand on equal ground at the foot of the cross. We have all been forgiven much (Luke 7:36–50), and those of us who do not have a history with porn are not better than those of us who do. If the gospel is true, then there is no room for self-righteousness in this conversation.
If He calls us to marry men who have sinned with pornography in the past, it will be our privilege to drench them with the same grace God has drenched us with.
But when the man you're thinking about marrying has a current, habitual lust/porn problem, there's a ball in your court. It isn't in the past yet. You aren't his wife. You have a choice.
Although I'm currently single, I want to be well-prepared to approach this difficult choice compassionately when it arises in my own life or in the lives of women God brings to me for counsel. So I emailed Pastor John Piper with the following question, speaking on behalf of many other single women who desire to navigate the dating years ahead with both grace and realistic wisdom:
Should the present presence of pornography in a man's life be a marriage deal-breaker for single women like me?
Pastor John answered my question with power, discernment, and hope. His answer made me cry toward the end, and I believe that you will be similarly encouraged by his answer.
The full audio is well worth your time.
I've written a recap of his response below:
What is pornography?
- Pornography is looking at or fantasizing about nude women other than your wife.
Why is it wrong?
- To use pornography is to hate women and enjoy their degradation. It is unloving.
- Pornography endorses, helps, and approves of behaviors that destroy men and women.
- Pornography is adulterous. It pursues physical pleasures designed by God for marriage.
- Pornography is destructive to a man's capacity to love a woman purely, for herself rather than for her body.
- Pornography trains a man's mind and body to be less content with the body of the real woman God gives him.
- Pornography withers trust. A woman needs to be able to trust her husband, and pornography profoundly compromises that trust.
- Pornography is destructive to a man's soul. His capacity to see and worship God in His glory is shriveled.
- While he is in bondage to this sin, he cannot see God, delight in God, and treasure God the way God should be seen, delighted in, and treasured.
Can a man have regular triumph over pornography?
- Yes. We've set our expectations for men too low.
- Christian men are not victims or dogs in heat. They are created in the image of God and they have the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, and self-control. The word for self-control in Galatians 5:22–23 usually refers to sexuality.
If he doesn't have regular triumph, should this be a deal-breaker?
- When Jesus is a man's treasure—not just a doctrine, but Lord and Friend and Savior—he will not continually demean and hate women and confirm their destruction through his choices.
- He will not continually shrink his soul's ability to savor God.
- He will not continually defile his capacity to love his present or future wife.
- He will not be continually committing adultery in his heart.
- Yes, this should be a deal-breaker. A man who is walking closely with Jesus cannot simultaneously be in bondage to lust. Don't lower the bar.
Thank you so much, Pastor John, for your discernment and encouragement.
Friends, let's press close into Christ's love. And if marriage is His desire for our lives, let's trust God to be in the process of purifying the hearts and minds of the men we someday choose to marry.
Will you be narrowing your options if you choose not to marry unless it is to a man who is walking closely with Jesus? Yes. But—unlike the story of the Indian and the cornfield, where he was left with nothing after rejecting perfectly good plots of land—we will never be left with nothing. Married or single, we have the unmatchable promise of God Himself as our "portion." When we look to Him to fulfill our heart's deepest longings, we will never be disappointed. Instead, our hearts can leap in agreement with David in Psalm 16:
"The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
"I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
"Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (vv. 5–11)
Topics: Relationships with Others