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.