>Myth of the One

Posted: 15/12/2008 in marraige, sex

>There is a common evangelical myth that God picked out a spouse for you, and that are you are destined to meet this person. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to blog on this. This subject has come up in many conversations with my friends. More than a few events in the past few years have made reflect on the gravity of this error. I have no idea where my blog will go in relation to this. For this blog, I can only describe its ugly consequences. For sake of brevity, I will call the idea that God picks our spouses for us as the “myth of the one.”

Some of you may have read God of the Possible. In it, Greg Boyd relates the tragic parable of “Susan.” Susan came to him very angry one day. It took Greg Boyd some time to figure it out that she was angry at God. Susan had a dream to be a missionary to Taiwan, and she believed strongly in the myth of the one. She met a nice man who also wanted to be a missionary. They dated. He eventually proposed. Surprisingly, instead of saying yes right away, she prayed about it for some time. God told her that this was, indeed, “the one.”

The story book marriage did not go well. He had an affair. They reconciled through careful pastoral care, but he cheated on her again. He was emotionally abusive on top of that. They finally divorced, but it was only afterwards that she found out that she was pregnant. So much for Jeremiah 29:11.

Now we all know what the “myth of the one” is supposed to look like. The whole point of the myth of the one is that such trauma should never occur. God somehow brings us to beatific relationships that last. What we do is just “seek him.” Dating is supposed to be replaced with “courting” for these reasons. Once God has ‘revealed’ our spouse, our relationship should happy and fulfilling. The Susan story is a dramatic counter-example to this. Further examples could abound, but I need to repeat them here.

I know that most people who are reading this do not believe in the myth of the one. Obviously, I do not either. However, I think that there a lot of Christians who do. I think the consequences, like the Susan story, are horrible. Contrary to preparing people for marriage, actually often encourages premature marriages.
Some may object at this point. Someone reading this could be thinking that they followed, or knew someone who followed, the myth of the one and are happily married. To this I say, “Congratulations, I’m happy for you.” As happy as that is, it still does not overcome the numerous Susan stories out there. To be sure, there are many people who do “find the one,” but I cannot help but feel they are an exception.

What I have never figured out, is exactly where this myth comes from. Did it start in youth ministries as the only way to curb the hormones? Was it someone’s own resolution to a bad dating relationship? Does it come out of perfectionism? Some ultra-strong version of Calvinism?

If anyone has any ideas, I am quite open to them.

  1. Heidi says:

    >I don’t know where this concept came from. But I think there are several other ideological flaws related to this, which may be more at the root of the problem.First, whether or not you think God has “the one” for you picked out, really depends on whether or not you think God actually controls everything or if you have a choice in the matter. If you believe you have a choice, then I think God allows you to choose, and I think there are many options. The problem then boils down to how people are taught about relationships and what a healthy relationship looks like.Another factor is sin. We’re imperfect. Even if this person is “the one” (or “a one”) God has for you, there is sin that enters into a relationship and can totally screw things up. Just because God may give us “the one,” doesn’t mean we can’t totally mess it up.I think this is a huge topic, and those are just some of my initial thoughts.

  2. Biomusician says:

    >Ditto on Heidi’s first comment; the two categories for prospective spouses are good and bad, not “the one” and “not the one.”And this is not just an Evangelical thing. I’ve heard the term from religious, secular and commercial sources. When they ask “Is she the one?” most of them mean “Is she perfect (for you)?” or “Is she your one and only?”But really, Jet Li is “The One” for me.

  3. -k-anne- says:

    >I believe it stems in part from your first idea: hormones. I am a firm believer in the turning of human sexuality from something to celebrate a cherish into something to fear. It boils down to premature marriages for sex. Poo-poo it all you want, but I do honestly believe that the infatuation due to sexual attraction is twisted into some love at first sight fairy tale for most Christians in order to excuse their desires, and the early marriage is just an off shoot of that. Most people that entered into marriages quickly and had it be successful had extensive marriage counseling. If they didn’t, they are one of the very very very very few lucky, or lying about their success. It sounds very pessimistic, but I’d rather be a murdered of love than an infatuated fool.

  4. Adam Goyer says:

    >”The One” Theory is deeply connected to predestination, fate, Calvinism, “God of the one future” as opposed to “God of all possible futures.” Having living through this theological mistake, I’ve thought about it quite a bit.

  5. Q says:

    >I think it definitely comes from a conception of God that has everything planned out; I don’t think it’s confined only to Calvinism, but any theological position that believes that God has a specific plan for humanity, down to the minutia of life.I think Boyd is wrong though with the “Susan story.” I don’t think that dispels the “myth of the one.” All it proves is that humans are fallen beings and that we can screw up God’s plans.The danger of believing that there is one person set out for you is that it leads to the mindset that you don’t have to put any work into a relationship. The assumption is that if God has set someone out for you, then everything will just click, and that is the lie.I’m not completely opposed to the idea of “the one” but all it means to me is that, yes, there probably is one person who we would fit best with in a marital relationship. It says nothing about the amount of work it takes to make that relationship succeed, not does it preclude a relationship from following if it doesn’t succeed.

  6. >Good thing I have this BA in psych…the myth of “the one” actually started when the idea of romantic love emerged. Prior to that, the idea of “the one” did not exist, as the idea of romantic love did not exist. So, if you are looking for when the idea of a soul mate came into being, you can actually trace it to Western Europe starting with courtly love among the upper class, and then spreading among the lower classes with (you guessed it!) the printing press (the idea of marrying for love and love affairs could now spread!) and the rise of the middle class (you can marry for love when you each have a little bit in your pocket and land is not as much of an issue). Now, Evangelical Christianity has taken the idea of “the one” and planted it into Genesis with the idea of a helpmate. Here is where it gets very Open Theism on my part. I think there is a helpmate for everyone, or rather, several helpmates, because I think God gives you many key people who are destined to be a giant helping influence in your life. In terms of whether or not you have a spouse, I think there are many potential helpmates, depending on the choices that you make and how God responds to those choices. I also think that that helpmate does not have to be male or female or have to be your spouse necessarily.

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