I’m not sure where I thought I’d be at 38, but I can tell you where I was sure I would not be: single. Like, really single. As in, it’s not even complicated, single. On the other hand, I have countless friends who were married in their early 20s and have been “living the dream” ever since. Marriage seems to have come to them so easily, as if they walked out to the mailbox one day and came back married.
Take my sister, for example. Sonya is just five years older than me, has been married to Eric for 23 years, has three biological children, plus three more, now adults, who joined their family as teenagers.
She and Eric met through youth group They group dated for two years before going on their first one-on-one date. On their first date, Sonya said they had a discussion that went something like this: “You seem like someone I would want to marry. You come from a good family. You love Jesus. You are kind.” Done. At the wise old age of 20, Sonya and Eric got married.
Then, there’re couples like the Henegars. Did you know Walter and Anne held hands . . . as babies? They didn’t even walk to the mailbox; they were carried.
If marriage is so easy to get into, why is that so many find ourselves waiting, wanting, and not much closer than where we started? Isn’t the tough part staying married, not getting married?
Admittedly, over the years of my singleness, these questions have come up a time or two. Hidden (or maybe not so hidden) within the questions were my beliefs about marriage and singleness, my desire for a family, numerous expectations, and an incredibly false sense of confidence in my ability to control.
If things were left up to me, I could have everyone hitched, fruitful, and enjoying the blessing of family which was embedded in my understanding of a fulfilled life.
For years, singleness was a waiting and watching game. I mean, literally, the odds of being single at 38 . . . what was the probability of that? My father was 37 when my parents were married, and I can vividly recall thinking how old he was.
Singleness has even been referred to as suffering, prolonged suffering. I have referred to it as such. It’s Scriptural, right? “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12)
Throughout my years as a single Christian female sooooo much focus has been put on waiting for marriage to come. I even cringe a little writing “single Christian female.” Not because it means I am unmarried, but I cringe because it’s a string of labels which have been used to group and categorize me, but which together, or apart, don’t actually speak to the essence and fullness of who I am in Christ. While I am each of those things, and all of them, I am much more.
In the Old Testament, marriage was essential for women to have food, water and shelter. For both men and women, marriage was the path to children. Children were a blessing, as well as an insurance plan to care for you in your old age. Being unmarried put a strain on basic survival.
Things have changed theologically as well as economically. In the Old Testament, having children was also an essential part of fulfilling the Creation Mandate to “be fruitful and multiply.” Under the new covenant, however, the family of God transcends every familial, ethnic and national group. The church, not the nuclear family, is now the primary social identification for the people of God. (At least, that’s what Anne Henegar has to say on the topic . . . )
Like many women, I no longer need a husband to provide for my basic needs. (Though, if oil changes and air in my tires are included, I will retract that statement.)
Technically, I don’t even need a husband to have children. Even more, God has provided me with a family through our church. I don’t say that lightly. I’m speaking of a family whose members pray with you and for you when you are mourning, go to the doctor with you, tackle life’s difficult questions with you, argue with you – and forgive you, and with whom you know yourself better because you are known by them.
So, is marriage obsolete? Not at all. Is it essential? Wait. Let’s roll that back. Is it essential? This is a question for both single and married people. Do we, single and married people, live as though marriage is essential to completeness?
I think we do. And, I’d like to talk more about it.
Have something specific you would like to have covered in our discussion on singles? We want to know. Comment below with thoughts, ideas and questions.