5/10/14

hey, Marrieds...listen.

One time I watched an episode of Say Yes to the Dress where the girl dress-shopping told the cameras, "I'm 23, so I'm getting married pretty young." 

I don't think I was holding anything in my hands, but if I had been, I would've thrown it in the air and shouted "OPA!" because even though I don't know what that means, I think it's celebratory.

I don't think I've ever heard anyone in my own life say that 23 is young to get married. It seems like the age to get married, or maybe even to have already been married for a couple of years. Is that a Christian thing? Is that an American thing? Is it a human thing?

I will be 27 this fall and I'm pretty single. (By "pretty single" I mean I am pretty and I am single. That's actually not at all what I meant, but I'm going to stick with it.) I don't know about you who were or are single, but I have been given so much advice/been told so many things because of my singleness, and it can wear a person down. Usually I just smile and say "thank you" or nod like I agree, but here's what I really think about all the well-meaning singleness comments.

If I had a husband for every time I've been told one of the following, I could have my own TLC show:

1. "Being single is a blessing; you can use this time to prepare yourself for marriage."
That's very true. Andy Stanley (whom I respect and admire) recently did an entire message about this very topic. However, please show me the place in Scripture where Jesus tells us that our goal is to prepare for marriage. I recall Him telling us to go into the world and make disciples of all nations, and I recall Him telling us to love Him with all of our mind, soul, strength, and heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves, but I can't quite remember a time when Jesus tells us to change, transform, polish, and refine ourselves for the sake of our future mate. Could you point that out to me? I'll wait here.

2. “I wish you could date my son. He needs a good woman in his life.”
This is incredibly kind, and I'm flattered that you think so highly of me. However, my responsibility is to be a good woman. Your son’s responsibility is to be a good man. My responsibility is not to fix him up or help him mature, and his responsibility is not to wait around until he has a reason to mature. Relationships make all of us grow and mature in different ways, but I’m not waiting to grow and mature until I find a man, and I’m not interested in a man who is waiting to grow and mature until he finds a woman.

3. “He seems nice.”
“He’s married.”
Okay, cool. However, notice, I said, “He seems nice,” not, “Do you think he’d like to spend the rest of his life with me in a committed, monogamous relationship?” Contrary to the enormous sign saying “I’M MEASURING EVERY MAN I MEET AGAINST MARRIAGEABLE STANDARDS” that must be plastered to my forehead, I do not measure every man I meet against marriageable standards. My first thought is not, “Would his complexion complement my kitchen towels?” I am not a starving lioness on the prowl for a wounded wildebeest. I view people as people, not for what their potential relationship to me could be.

4. “I’m praying for a man to come into your life.”
I absolutely know that you who are married with kiddies have experienced a life joy that I have not yet, and that you want me to have that same happiness. However, maybe I don’t want a man to come into my life right now. Relationships don’t solve problems. In reality, they create problems. They can be so fulfilling and life-giving, but they also take work. So I will give you something else to pray about, because I have plenty of things in my life I need Jesus to help me work on without adding a whole other human being onto the list.

5. “As soon as I decided I was okay being single, my husband/wife came along!”
That is awesome. I love when God works that way. Isn’t it fun? However, God does not always work that way. I have been in the “okay with being single” stage of life for roughly seven years now. Men have come in and out of my life. I’ve dated a couple of them. I haven’t married any of them. I've been single longer than I've dated. So please don’t present an attitude of contentment as a magic formula to find a spouse. Every person on earth should work on cultivating an attitude of contentment regardless of what stage of life they’re in, and for no other reason than to be the complete and whole and confident person that God has created them to be.

6. “My husband/wife and I have been thinking about who we could set you up with.”
It’s so encouraging to know that people (other than my mom and her best friend) care about the details of my life! However, maybe you could just have dinner with me instead of trying to come up with some stranger man to have dinner with me. I spend more of my time wanting friends than boyfriends. And if you and your spouse need something to think about, I have lots of other problems you can do some brainstorming on, and let me know what you come up with.

7. “Someday some guy is going to be very lucky.” / ”Someday you’ll make some guy very happy.”
I'm very flattered by your confidence in me. However, maybe not. Maybe I’ll never get married. Maybe I’ll run an orphanage or a halfway house or a dorm full of college students or a church. Will they be very lucky? Will I make them happy? Is my small group lucky to have me? Or my family? Or will I still never reach my full potential because I’m not a wife? My giftings and personality traits were not put in me to make a man happy. They were put in me to serve this world, to glorify God, and to point people to Jesus. That is my ultimate goal, not to make a man happy.

All this to say: Do I want to make a man happy, raise kiddies, and have family portraits in our backyard wearing blue jeans and mismatching white shirts? Do I want a partner in ministry, someone I can support and who will support me and be my companion on this journey of life?

Absolutely I do. Some days more strongly and unavoidably than others.

But there are also a great many other things I want, involving my career and my community and my family and my friendships and my abilities and my character. 

So let’s not focus on one thing and pretend it makes up the whole.

10 comments:

  1. One big hurrah to all of this.

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  2. thank you. so much. wish I could hug you in person and say thanks (because that would also mean I could stand outside your window and yell "HEEDER, HEEDER, COME TO YOUR WINDOW! in an annoying accent)

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  3. Great thoughts Heather!
    You are so wise and clever
    You are gonna make some guy really happy one day....

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    1. Gosh thanks, Kaylyn. You're so encouraging...I wish you could date my brother.

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  4. haha to the above comments.
    1. Your first reason echoed a lot of what we talked about in Christian Ethics this semester. It's like...wow...I didn't know that we were supposed to follow Jesus above all else -- even above getting married and having kids. Even above all else WHEN we're married and have kids. It has been news to me, but apparently you already knew this.
    2. Please please PLEASE submit this to Relevant magazine's blog or Prodigal or any other online publication. It's perfect for that format (the list thing is very accessible -- and trendy).

    Seriously, this is a message that needs to get out to other people like you and me. We've spent too long thinking our worth is wrapped up in anything other than God.

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  5. Wise words Heather! Sounds like how I felt at your stage but didn't always have the clarity of mind to draw my thoughts together as well as you did...keep seeking Jesus he will not disappoint even the difficulties of this season may not be relieved ... He is walking with you ... I'm working on calling you this week has been full but you are on my heart and I want to talk with you

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  6. My wife took a risk when she said yes to me, because I have some obvious flaws. But there is also deeply buried treasure, which was only evident later. We've been married almost 9 years now & happier than ever. All I'm saying is - don't let someone's obvious flaws blind you to the possibility of hidden treasure.

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  7. “Would his complexion complement my kitchen towels?” Let's hope!!!!!!!!!!!!! It must!!!!!!

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  8. Getting a glimpse of some of your writing...good stuff, Heather. Thanks for your recent articles & thoughts on singles. I released a book last year with Navpress called, "Celibate Sex - Musings on Being Loved, Single, Twisted & Holy." It resonates with many of your observations. Ain't an easy ride and glad the church (seems to be) waking up to a more developed theology and care for this (single) season of life. Peace to you tonight, Abbie

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