As a homeschooler, there are a few facets of the traditional schooling experience that I wonder about. Like lockers — those seemed fun. Also, drama club — I think I would have liked that. Do kids burst into song in the middle of the hallways, High School Musical style? Are there freshmen who are as awful as the chicks in Mean Girls?
The musical part may be a stretch, but I know enough about human nature to know that we do enjoy our cliques. And though I never quite experienced the AV geeks, the cheerleaders, and the science nerds cloistering in their separate corners, I have seen adult versions of these lines being drawn in the sand. The clearest delineation often happens between married women and single women.
I will never forget my wedding day.
Some aspects have already faded over two years’ time, but the big moments remain. I remember getting ready down the hall from Phillip and hearing his laughter echoing through the building. My bridesmaids were doing my hair and makeup with nary a trial run, and I was being taped into my beautiful dream dress. I remember laughing with my dad in the foyer before walking down the aisle to The Gentle Waltz. I remember I laughed hysterically before the kiss because Phillip literally growled at me.
What I don’t remember amid all of those precious, precious moments, was my pastor laying the mantle of perfection upon my shoulders, and pronouncing that, from that day forward, I would have every last bit of my crap together. And yet, as I look around the landscape of singleness and married life, it’s hard to miss the hint of condescension that often accompanies a wedding ring: those poor single girls do need to get their lives together so that they can reach higher consciousness like we married few.
The Ultimate Status Symbol
As a single, the messages that I got were quite mixed. On the one hand, everyone knows the Sunday school answers that we give to the unmarried: marriage is a gift of God, not based on our merit or our timing, but on his grace and his plan for our life and our sanctification. It is not a brownie point in some cosmic reward system, but just one of many ways that we can bring glory to God.
The Apostle Paul was not married. And, in fact, he said that the unmarried had a unique advantage in serving the Lord (1 Corinthians 7). Jesus never got married — clearly, his focus was on his eternal Bride, the Church, and not on the earthly illustration of that relationship. So, while marriage paints a picture of Christ and his Bride, singles, too, take part in that picture, because the church is Christ’s Bride.
The Pressure Is On
However, we have become quite adept at talking out of both sides of our mouths. On the one hand, marriage is just one way we can bring glory to God. On the other, it is something that we earn by preparing for it, being “ready” for it, and pursuing it.
If a young woman gets past a certain age and still isn’t married, we start to wonder if she spent too much time investing in her career and not enough time in her homemaking skills. If a young man gets too old without putting a ring on it, we start to question his seriousness about serving the church and putting some single woman out of her misery. People who were once all too aware of the pressure of being a single, but once married, forget what it was like to feel like a pawn. Our wedding rings give us amnesia.
The Waiting Game
In our amnesia, we forget what it was like to wait for marriage without obviously waiting for marriage. We don’t remember trying to pursue God wholeheartedly while also trying to understand what it’s like to pursue a relationship. We don’t recall the frustration of “getting to know you” turning into something serious, and then crashing and burning for all to see.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Marriage did not change my status as a sinner in need of a Savior — it only changed my context.” quote=”Marriage did not change my status as a sinner in need of a Savior — it only changed my context.”]
Instead of enthusiastic supporters, too many married people either become parents or the peanut gallery. We want to advise, cajole, and lecture or simply offer commentary like sports announcers critiquing our favorite team. “She just needs to find contentment in Christ,” as if it were something we had always done easily.
It’s a vicious cycle: single is belittled by married people and hates it; single becomes a married person and enjoys being in the in-crowd and therefore belittles the other singles.
We’ve got to stop.
One Of Us
As I look back on my wedding day, I don’t recall my pastor elevating me from my lowly status as a single girl to wife, like a humble serf being knighted and offered a seat at the round table. In fact, I quite remember him promising us in counseling sessions both before and after marriage that my sin issues would get a lot “worse” when put under the magnifying glass of the most intimate relationship I had ever experienced — and worse, still, before they got better.
Marriage did not change my status as a sinner in need of a Savior — it only changed my context.
Married women: we have much to learn from our single sisters in Christ. They have insights to offer on our wifehood that we are often too jaded to see and perspective on our motherhood that we might be too uptight to catch. They are not the subordinate or the other, but our sisters in the Lord. Sympathy is not enough. In fact, it’s a bit condescending (“Bless your poor little heart!”). Cultivate a heart of empathy. It’s the difference between standing on the sidelines shouting, “You can do it! Work harder!” and realizing that we’re all in the battle together, helping each other along. Yes, there are battles that we’ve already fought in marriage, but that is not the only battleground that matters.
And single women: you don’t need to be put in your place. We’re all in the same place, on our knees before the Cross. Don’t miss out on the beauty of diverse relationships. It may take a bit of a thicker skin to wait for the married people in your life to “get” this, but your relationships with them are valuable. Don’t count them out just because they need a few reminders now and then. The deciding factor in our status isn’t whether or not we have been chosen by Mr. Right, but in the fact that we were chosen by God.
I’ve been in Atlanta all week with my husband. We’re here half for ministry (for me), part for work (for him), and part for some quality time with just us two. We left on the heels of hosting my family all the way from Zambia. In fact, seven of my siblings, my mom, and my dad are back in our eighteen hundred square foot home with our sons. I should be laying in a hotel bed binging Parks and Rec with my husband. And I will be soon. But I have something to say about motherhood and mom guilt.
A few months ago, I wrote an article for Legacy about friendship. In it, I tried to be as honest as possible about the struggle of being a transplant in Mississippi’s foreign culture, and my own hang-ups with making new friends. I hit send. Weeks passed. A couple of months. Then the article went live. And I had more than one friend reach out to me and ask me if we were okay. “I thought we were friends!” Undercover Trust Issues I’m not a journaler, and I try not to use my articles as thinly veiled diary entries. However, there…