Thursday, December 19, 2013

On Marriage (& Singleness)

I am a single girl in her early thirties. I have many friends in each demographic, though admittedly, most are in the realm of a decade more or less than myself in terms of age. Lately, I have been thinking about singleness and "the Singles" quite a bit; how (the royal) we are treated in the church vs. in the world, how we think about one another, how we think about marriage. I have been through many emotions - anger, fear, jealousy, loneliness, relief, apathy, and yes, happiness - in the past few months with regards to this area of my life.

I started writing about it as far as it relates to the church, but haven't had time to really flesh out my thoughts. The general overview is that most people, married and single alike, tend to view church as a large dating pool for singles. Once you have a husband or, especially, kids, church becomes a different, purposeful place (usually). But for the single male or female, it's where you hunt for an acceptable spouse. This is damaging in so many ways. I have had mental, emotional, and even spiritual anguish in the past few years because of the way I've been spoken to, the off-handed comments to the deeper discussions, that assume I'm not a whole person because I'm not a wife.

I am whole. God loves me, Jesus saved me, the Spirit guides me. I. Am. Whole.

Don't get me wrong. I would love to be married, to be a mom. I pray for my future husband (oops, see that? I'm doing it to myself...) and (here we go again) children. I sincerely hope that those people are in my future, and believe that it is good to pray for them - even if I never meet them. I have a desire for them that I can't explain. But I know people I love who had (or still have, possibly) that desire, and yet it has never happened for them. I hesitate to just drop my desire in the misquoted "God will grant you the desires of your heart" we're all so fond of in the church (in general). That isn't even the actual meaning of that verse - do your research (it's Psalm 37:4). Still, why do I feel so strongly if it is never going to happen?

I spend more time than I'd like to admit wondering about these things, but it has dropped off lately. Then today, I came across a video from someone I sometimes watch on YouTube: Michael Aranda. He's not a Christian (as far as I know or can tell), he's 27 years old, and a lot of what he (very honestly) says resonated with me strongly. It struck me because he's much the opposite of me (a non-Christian guy) but I expect things much the way he does.

This made me think, once again, about my own thoughts, my own dreams, my own expectations; how have I set myself up to ruin potential relationships - or even the friendships I have had? How have I set myself up for unrealistic expectations and what impact could that have on any future relationship I might have? It's a little fairly daunting.

The thing is, I don't know if I have a right to even ask myself some of those questions. My life is full. I have family I love and get along with well - even extended family, and even if I see them once every 5 years or so. I have friends to geek out with over Doctor Who and Sherlock and Psych and NCIS. I have other friends who are so close that they are my "chosen" family - they are the ones who see me the most raw and the most honest, the most often. I have prayer warriors. I have encouragers. I even have kids in my life! A niece and 3 nephews who are adorable, hilarious, crazy little people - and they love me right back, even if it's been a while since I've seen them. These are huge blessings.

The pressure of society to be married doesn't really start the same time as the church. At church, it feels weird (in my experience) once you're 23-24 and not married, or at least in a serious enough relationship to expect engagement. Society doesn't seem to have an issue as much until you're hitting your thirties or so, but it's the same force weighing down unless you can really convince someone that it's not something you want. People say all kinds of stuff to help make you feel better or give advice. You get "oh, it'll happen, don't worry," and "stop looking, he'll show up," and "you just haven't been out enough yet." At church it's, "Maybe God's still working on him," and "I'll be praying for you." I've also often heard "Be glad you're still single," and "enjoy your singleness, because marriage is so hard, you have no idea." All of these things are said most often with the deepest level of sincerity, helpfulness and kindness, and I don't discount that. But it implies that I'm missing something, or that I am not good enough ... even if it's not yet. For someone who struggles with self-esteem already (thanks again, society and sin), this is so far from helpful.

I am good enough - but only because God made me. And it's not "good enough for a husband" but just good enough as a person. Because at the end of the day, I'm the only me, and I'm His.

Also, I feel like I have to say this, to be very clear: I know marriage isn't a fix-all for the single life. But marriage isn't the only hard life either. We all have struggles and temptations and relationships to deal with and live through together. We can certainly talk with each other - but KNOW the person you're talking with well enough to know when to stop, and how to say it, and even if you should.

I have so many more thoughts rolling around, but this post has already gotten much longer than I initially intended, and the rest is even less cohesive. So for now, if you're single, check where your worth and your thoughts lie, gauge your motivation and your expectations, and don't set up the perfect marriage as the goal of your life. If you're married, be very careful how you say what you say, because we know you love us, and want us to be happy like you are (or happier than you are), but it is very easy to say hurtful things when they aren't meant that way. For all of us: we ought to be excited with and for each other in each step through life, supporting one another fully, and not putting our own expectations onto anyone else.

My prayer is that God will grant us the graciousness and wisdom to deal with each other, and trust Him in every circumstance and relationship. ;)