“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” Song of Solomon 8:4
No young woman wants to marry a boy, I wrote recently. And as one reader pointed out, no young man wants to marry a girl either.
That was the most commented, most referred, and most read post in a few weeks, and it merits another look. And as foolish as it may seem, I going to wade into deep waters here, and address the question of Christian young women and what they need to learn.
I’m not one, of course. But since about 70% of the students in the college where I teach are, I do have some observations.
Lots of other people have observations too. In a widely distributed post, Why You’re Not Married, television writer Tracey McMillan explains why so many 30-something females are still single. And while she is thinking of a different age group than I am, and while she is using much more colorful and anatomically correct language than I do, she sort of gets it. Thrice married, with a host of insecurities of her own, she is fairly realistic.
She writes, “You’re just going to need to get rid of the idea that marriage will make you happy. It won’t. Once the initial high wears off, you’ll just be you, except with twice as much laundry.”
But the problem, she believes is not with the guys, but with “a princess fantasy so universal, it built Disneyland.” Cue romance fiction, if that’s your genre. Or romantic comedies. Or fairy tales of every sort.
“The bottom line,” she writes, “is that marriage is just a long-term opportunity to practice loving someone even when they don’t deserve it.” And unmarried young women of a certain age, she believes, are unwilling to take that risk or make that sacrifice:
“When you have made up your mind to transform yourself into a person who is practicing being kind, deep, virtuous, truthful, giving, and most of all, accepting of your own dear self — you will find that you will experience the very thing you wanted all along.”
She nails it. Sort of. I understand the accepting of yourself part, up to a point. But Christians believe you find that grace outside yourself. The grace of God is bent down to us and we bend it out toward others. This transformation allows us to practice the forgiveness and forbearance marriage requires.
This is true for men and women both. So why might women, and Christian women in particular, be unable to practice this grace in regards to their relationships? Unwilling to choose it? Or, having made the choice, to accept its consequences?
Fear manifests itself long before marriage, either as a fear of getting married, or, perhaps worse, a fear of not getting married. (Christian communities put way too much pressure on young people to get married.) And fear causes young women to give too much and trust too little.
But the Apostle Peter tells us biblical women like Sarah had inner beauty because they “hoped in God” and “were not afraid of anything that was frightening.” Notice the connection. They weren’t afraid because they trusted God.
Sarah didn’t trust Abraham as much as she trusted God to work through him. In fact, she had better reasons than most to not trust him. And this, I think, is where Christian young women (and older ones too) really struggle.
They don’t trust God to bring them a husband or to work through their husbands or their marriage—so they take control, extending bad habits they practiced when they were dating: Half-truths. Manipulation. Control. Desperation.
Subtle, yes. Veiled in religious language, maybe. But they could have waited, trusting God. Instead they leave young men confused and uncertain, while they themselves remain unhappy and anxious.
Shame on their mothers and the older women in their churches who taught them to be that way. Or let them. And their fathers too, for that matter, who gave them no safe place to wait.
But even with godly mothers and fathers, they can still choose fear. And in any case they bear their own burden and their own sorrow. They carry their own responsibility to a gracious God.
I know many young women who are learning to trust the One who is their Father indeed. But frankly, transparent, contented young women are hard to come by. Yes, I know I’m generalizing. And yes, I know men are also full of themselves. Believe me, I know.
But growing up, for either gender, requires getting past our fears. Past our fantasies.
And past ourselves, resting at last in our Father’s love.
16 thoughts on “waiting for your prince”
Much wisdom here. Your observations are “spot on”. Thanks for “wading in” to deal with the other half of the equation. We women have plenty to work on for our part. Thanks.
Hmm… before I got married, there was this one thing my husband to be said… He says that what is in his mind is what he can do for his spouse, not thinking too much of what his spouse can do for him.
When we think of other people, it will come back, even if we have to be patient, but patience always pays a pretty bonus for us :).
Lucky for him, I also think like this. So, both of us think of how to make our spouse happy, and… we are both happy. Such a win/win solution don’t you think?
Stories of people who aren’t happily married around me is always saying ‘me… me… me’ (self centered) What have they contributed to make their life happy?
Wally, great post. Marriage is not easy and it is not about us and our own needs. Andrew and I both continually refer to the framed C.S. Lewis quote you gave us for our wedding and we quote it all the time to other people “Being in love is not merely a feeling, it is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit, reinforced by the grace both ask and receive from God” – C.S. Lewis.
The pressure to marry young is very great in Christian culture, but both men and women have to be mature enough to realize that marriage is tough. It’s not a fantasy and you definitely don’t get your way all the time (or most of the time).
Thank you, Mr. Metts.
Again, you nailed it.
Wally, this is wonderful. I agree with you that most girls/ladies aren’t well prepared for relationships and marriage. We like to think that at whatever that magical age we have in our minds is, we will meet Prince Charming – or we end up settling for whoever is around at that time. I hate the pressure I have seen on friends of mine to take steps they aren’t spiritually or emotionally prepared to take. It takes me back to the post about the Christian fiction. They are so caught up in the fantasy of romance and marriage that they either ignore real warning signs or they miss out on something good because it doesn’t meet X, Y, Z requirement that they’ve had since she was six. Thank you for writing this.
True, true, true. I always appreciate the pastor I’ve had since I came to college–the first comments I heard him mention about marriage were about how hard marriage is. We all know full well that he loves his wife with a love from the Lord, but he and his wife both definitely communicate well that marriage is no boat ride and that it will solve nothing for anybody. It’s a hard lesson to accept as a young woman! Praise God for Godly fathers. Blog post about that??
Love this. Very insightful and encouraging. I especially love that you used Sarah for an example. I’ve recently been studying her in my classes and it’s been a very eye opening experience. Great job!
Great observation. I think we grow used to having bad habits and expect that we can get good relationships out of bad starting dynamics. Thanks for the challenge! I want to be a transparent, contented women.
May your tribe increase. 🙂
Thanks for going there 🙂
There is also the fact that, even today, women stand to loose more personal authority in a marriage. Men don’t marry with the assumption that they’ll have to quit their job and raise children. That they’ll lose authority over their finances and the direction of their lives. Women do.
Honestly, women take a much bigger risk in marriage than a man if that potential spouse turns out to not be what he appears to be. And we all do to some extent.
If your plan for life is not necessarily to be a stay at home mom, it’s an even bigger risk to marry a Christian these days. Because more christian men are marrying to get a personal assistant rather than a life partner.
“I need someone who’ll take care of the kids and the house…”
Perhaps this is true that women take this risk in marriage, but I believe that it stems from a lack of understanding of vocation.
depends on the christian i’m sure, although your “personal assistant” stereotype is, like all stereotypes, often (tragically) correct.
i’d like to see more Christian guys thinking about the self-sacrificing service that the bible actually requires of him.
thanks for reading, thinking, responding. I appreciate the special dignity with which you so often suggest women should be treated. and your sensitivity to the risks they take.
This is great work Uncle Wally! Very much enjoyed reading it, as I do with most of your work.