Finding Christian Community in NYC and “The Meaning of Marriage”

Bethany Jenkins, President and Founder of The Park Forum (@theParkForum), reflects on her journey to New York City and how Timothy and Kathy Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage” speaks to both married people and singles. *
Bethany is a
fea**tured guest at the next NYC Faith+Tech Meetup on Tuesday, November 15th. Please join us at Grace Church at 7pm. For more information click here.*

By Bethany Jenkins, FaithStreet Guest Contributor

On July 5, 2004, ten months after a broken engagement, I got on a train with all my bags in tow and moved from Washington, D.C., to New York City. As the skyline of the city came into view, I remember wondering whether I’d ever feel at home here. Although I had a few friends here already, only one of them was a Christian – and I barely knew her. In contrast, I had left a rich and loving community in DC. Through my broken engagement and the death of a close friend a few months prior to that (who passed away on her one-month wedding anniversary), our small church community had become my family. I was convinced that my community in DC was unique and that I would never be able to replicate it in NYC.Today, eight years later, I am thankful to say that I was wrong – my community in NYC has, in fact, eclipsed my community in DC. When I got to New York, I immediately started attending Redeemer Presbyterian Church and, having received a strong biblical foundation from my church in DC, I jumped into co-leading a woman’s fellowship group. For the past two years, since starting The Park Forum, I’ve been meeting with Kathy Keller nearly every Monday for lunch to talk about theology and life. Of course, as a single woman, we’ve talked about marriage and dating. So, when Tim and Kathy were preparing to launch their book, The Meaning of Marriage, they asked me to co-moderate the discussion from “the single perspective.”

After I read the book, I put it down and thought, “This is the most beautiful and thoughtful and wonderful picture of marriage that I have ever seen.” Then, however, I remembered that I was still single. Now what? Unfortunately, the typical church answer is about serving the church, which usually takes the form of passing out programs or putting out chairs. Yes, these are great ways to serve. Yet, I knew that marriage was more than mopping floors and paying bills – no matter how necessary those things are. So, I took the different chapters and considered what the shadow of each aspect of marriage in the book may look like in the single life.“Loving the Stranger” is about confronting our own self-centeredness by relating to someone totally different from us. I thought, “I can do that now.” I can love the unlovable and the annoying and the disagreeable right now – the world (especially New York!) is full of people like that. “Embracing the Other” is about recognizing gender differences and submitting to the Lord’s design. I can do that now. I can pursue a godly femininity that loves my brothers in Christ. “The Essence of Marriage” is about keeping the covenant of marriage even when it’s tough or when the feelings aren’t there. I can do that now. I can choose people in my life – my parents, my brothers, my sister-in-law, my small group – and I can choose to love them forever no matter what – even when they hurt me and when I know they’ll hurt me again. And when all of these relationships get tough and I don’t know how I’ll make it through, I can turn to “The Power of Marriage,” which is the Holy Spirit. It’s not like there is a special Holy Spirit for marriage. I already have Him in my heart. He has the power to change the relationships that I am in right now. So whether or not I ever get married, “The Mission of Marriage” is my mission as well – that is, to set my sights on Jesus and head toward the throne and lift up my family and friends up to holiness and righteousness, as we worship the Lord together. After all, as I discovered, marriage is no different in kind from the rest of the Christian life; it’s just different in intensity.