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I’m single and 25. I’m not a psychologist, statistician or counselor. As girls within Christian, conservative, homeschooling circles go…I am a pretty average one. I’ve got lots of friends (both guys and girls), am well-traveled, love adventure, and am a forward-thinker. I’m the girl who knew at age 8 that I was going to be a wife and momma, and who sat her Dad down when I was 17 just to make sure that if Mr. Right came along before I was 18, we’d still be able to pursue a relationship. Yet as the years have passed and friends who have desired marriage (both guys and girls) remain single, my heart has been burdened for them and the prevalence of this reality.
Because of this, I have become a student of my generation for the past five years – observing my friends, acquaintances and life in our sub-culture. Everything I’m writing stems from this observation, extensive conversations with my friends and peers, as well as folks in both my parents and grandparents’ generation. I’ve read books, statistics, queried leaders of this movement, corresponded with folks, and lent a listening ear to many friends. This writing comprises not only my observations and conclusions, but theirs as well. My purpose is not to vent or point fingers, but to give hope and a challenge. I sincerely believe that these trends continue to be seen because too few of us have spoken our minds.
My generation as a whole is not getting married. Certainly, there are some romances and marriages amongst my friends, but they are too few and far between. No one, it seems, can find “the right one,” and even if they think they have, guys and girls both are too comfortable with waiting around for “something to happen.” Unfortunately, a vigorous pursuit of a spouse is looked down upon, or at the least marginalized, and often rebuffed. Guys aren’t expected to look for a girl until they are “ready,” and girls aren’t expected to have any help in making it clear that they are available. Singleness is viewed as a very blessed gift that one must never seek to change, or at the least as an individual concern not a familial or community concern.
In a generation and sub-culture that has grown up being home-educated, usually in large families, and with an entrepreneurial mindset, and thus more prepared than ever before – at least practically – to be wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, this is a sad situation.
We’ve heard more sermons on the godly role of men and women, seen (and helped) our parents raise children (from diaper-changing to graduation), and are much more knowledgeable about the functioning of families, both internally and as they interact with society at large than the previous two generations combined. We know how to talk about a multi-generational vision, and how to interact with multiple generations. Yet as I see few of my fellow generation-ers actively pursue marriage and get married…and fewer still begin to raise families, I am convinced of two things. First, our parent’s generation deserves respect and kudos many times over for their pursuit of that which is Godly and right, and, second, something has to change…and soon!
When one views this great disparity in light of the emphasis on relationships, marriage, and Godly families that so many of us were raised in – it is even more disheartening and baffling. Now is the time to assess, draw conclusions, and take action. As I stated before, I’m not willing to see a multi-generational vision die with mine, and I don’t think the Lord is either.
Abortion and Birth Control
Abortion in America was decriminalized in 1973 and as this most radical form of birth control became accepted, other forms did as well. Though it might seem ridiculous to credit the state of so many single folks in my generation to the scourge of abortion, the reality is that the science of love and romance starts with facts and statistics. While America is not dealing with horrors on the level of intense sex-selection abortions that have impacted China to the point of importing women into their culture, it has certainly had an impact. Just as our American social security system is failing (much sooner than anticipated) in large part due to a lack of workers to maintain the pool of funds, so the amount of people in our generation today has been greatly reduced by abortion. Simply put, my generation has a smaller pool of people to choose from than my parents’ generation had.
What to do?
This is a permanent, culture-wide state of affairs…and not something that can be fixed. A good place to start is to be mindful of the impact of a few small choices on future generations. Once you are married and a parent, commit to be forward-thinking and embrace ways to leave your children and the upcoming generation in a better place than you found it.
On a practical level, as single people we can look for spouses outside of “our box.” Be open to long-distance relationships, and don’t put strict age restrictions on those you would consider to be “spouse material.” Speaking with a 28-year-old single friend of mine, she remarked that statistically speaking, abortion peaked the year she was born, and that is one of many things which has caused her to realize that God’s best for her might be someone a few years older or younger. Another friend recently mentioned two sisters who are in relationships and marrying men from England – though they never dreamed that God’s best for them would be an entire ocean away from their hometown.
Unbiblical View of Singleness
I don’t agree with everything that Debbie Maken writes in her book, Getting Serious about Getting Married, but I do appreciate the challenge she puts forth about re-thinking the pop-Christianity view of singleness. In an attempt to give singles a place in the Christian community, often times being single is not only normalized, but viewed as the ‘holiest state of existence’. However, from a historical and Biblical perspective, “being single,” especially as an extended state, is not considered healthy or normal. While singleness is certainly not to be despised, and in rare occasions the Lord will even call a person to be single for a short time – or for a lifetime – this calling is few and far between. From Genesis to Revelation, the primary mode of living as unto the Lord and spreading the gospel is in the context of marriage and families. An entire book could be written on this topic alone, but let me mention just a few examples: we are commanded to ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth’ (Gen 1:28); almost every great person in the Bible – man or woman – was married; and God rewarded those who sought marriage actively (ie – Isaac, Ruth, etc.).
Unfortunately, pop-Christianity implies, and sometimes out-right states, that being in the state of singleness allows for knowing and serving God better. I certainly grant that there are opportunities to serve as a single person that one simply cannot do once married, however there is not one shred of Biblical evidence that one should embrace singleness as a holier state than marriage. The issue here is not being single; it is a need to re-think our singleness in light of correct reasoning.
Unfortunately, because it is often viewed as a more holy state, I have seen young people – guys and girls alike – turn away from pursuing marriage, for intensely selfish reasons, and use the “holiness of singleness” as an excuse. It breaks my heart to know that they will regret that decision in years to come.
And for those who view singleness as the time of preparation (which indeed it is), far too often one is expected to remain single until they have “arrived,” whatever that means. For some, they are expected to be debt-free, for others, they must be debt-free AND have a certain amount of money in the bank. For others, it means having all their beliefs and convictions solidified.
While these are great goals and we should strive towards them while single, I see no strong Biblical basis for excluding relationships and marriage until one has ‘arrived.’ Just a quick glance back at my own family heritage demonstrates that both my parents and grandparents supported and encouraged one another financially, emotionally, spiritually, and so forth as they faced the challenges of life together…and they became not only better people, but have had stronger marriages for it. It would be a shame to rob ourselves of the joy of growing together in marriage (and the world of seeing this progression) because one or both parties must reach some ultimate point of completion or wholeness prior to marriage.
What to do?
We ought to recognize, both individually and corporately, that singleness is a no more holy state than marriage, and that marriage should be pursued as the normal state of being for which we have been created.
To that end, I advocate an attitude of pursuing marriage. Young men ought not to be afraid to pursue a girl even if they are not “Mr. Perfect,” for they never will be. Young ladies ought to inspire Biblical Manhood by pursuing Biblical Womanhood. For those who especially have a desire to be married they ought to be good stewards of that desire and not squander it on singleness. As a start, I think it is wise that young men and young ladies both seek out advocates who will help them assess someone who might be a good mate for them, and who will guide them in this pursuit. Often times, this can be parents, already married couples, and spiritual mentors. The bottom line is that marriage ought to be pursued Biblically.
A Culture that is not Marriage-Centric
This goes hand-in-glove with the last point. We live in a culture that punishes marriage as a rule. There are marriage taxes, pressures from the outside world, and very few jobs are marriage and family-friendly. In short, it’s a lot easier to pursue OTHER things in a culture that is not Marriage-centric. These things might not even be BAD things, but if God’s norm for us is marriage, then they certainly aren’t His Best for us.
Unfortunately, even in our sub-culture, when someone has pursued a marriage relationship I’ve heard snide remarks along the lines of “Well, they finally fell…guess we won’t be seeing any more of them…” and “Are you ready for the chain and ball…?” I’m saddened to say that whenever I spoke up to counter this thinking it was not well received.
Add to this the reality that there is a Spiritual component to every marriage. As I’ve mentioned before, there are few things more powerful and representative of God’s love and continuing purposes in this earth than a Godly marriage and family. Satan is never going to be content to sit idly by and watch Godly people get married and have Godly families. He’s going to do his best to thwart that pursuit at every step, and we should expect him to. I’m convinced if we as a generation considered that just maybe Satan was pleased with the low marriage rates, he might have a fight on his hands…and very soon things might look different.
Historically, entire communities recognized that for their community to continue in the future it was incumbent upon them as a whole to see the next generation married. If a person were to remain single the entire community viewed it as their failure. Today, if a person is single, it is viewed as HIS or HER problem, not the community’s. What a radical change in thinking! No wonder they’re known as the “good ol’ days.”
What to do?
The truth is that no matter what our culture embraces in God’s economy, families are the cornerstone of society and marriage is the cornerstone of the family. We must resolve to be counter-cultural, to take the harder path and quit settling for the one of least resistance. Yes, that means taking risks. It means putting ourselves in a position of possible heartbreak. But, we can do this with confidence knowing that our Lord will never leave or forsake us, and He will only allow our heart to be broken if it is within His sovereignty and for His purposes.
Pray. Pray. Pray. Don’t underestimate the efforts of our enemy to keep our culture, churches, and individual lives from being marriage-centric. The only sure defense against spiritual powers is to put on the full armor of God which begins with diligent prayer and continues to an active pursuit of a counter-culture lifestyle – including one that places every institution that God has created in its proper place.
Begin thinking with a community mind-set. Realize that a person’s pursuit (ie – YOUR pursuit) of marriage has a direct impact on the sustainability of the future of your community, belief system, and our culture. If Christianity and Christian culture is to wake up to many more sunrises, it will be because of the choice of individual people to pursue counter-cultural living, even if that means going counter to pop-Christianity.
Another stumbling block is the easy accessibility young people have to each other – particularly young men to young women. This is a double edged sword. Without some measure of accessibility our generation can’t connect, become friends, and develop relationships. On the other hand, the ability our culture provides for easy and instantaneous connection many times serves as a deterrent for serious relationships. With tools like Facebook, cheap texting plans, and Instant Messaging at our fingertips, one can have a host of friends without really BEING a friend, or at least not a good one. For guys, this often provides them easy access to a host of girls who are more than happy to affirm and encourage them (which they should be receiving exclusively from a spouse or girlfriend). To put it bluntly, why would a guy (or girl), want to pursue a deep, meaningful relationship with one person if they can get basically “all they need” (instantaneously) from a myriad of friends who are at their beck and call? Of course, this is a poor substitute, but we are by nature lazy creatures and not prone to change our circumstances unless forced to by necessity or conviction.
For girls, easy accessibility is typically a source of much grief. As they interact with guys through these new technological modes, a girl has no way to measure the type of relationship she has with a young man. In my parent’s generation, the “rules” were much more defined. If a young man called a woman on the phone, it meant something. He was, at the very least, interested. Today, those cultural indicators have been blurred. What does a phone call, text message, e-mail, Facebook message, or any other such communication mean? More often than not it means nothing more than “hey, I’m your friend…,” and unfortunately, many times I’ve seen both guys and girls suffer from reading too much (or too little) into this type of interaction. I wish we lived in a culture where single guys and girls could interact AS FRIENDS, that both parties would understand this. But, one can’t blame a girl for wondering and a guy for being over-cautious.
Too often though, this easy accessibility and lack of understanding works to stifle what could be a healthy friendship between guys and girls. Taking it one step further, once a friendship understanding has been reached, even that has gotten in the way of what would have been Godly pre-marriage relationships. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a guy say “Oh, I couldn’t be interested in her…we grew up together, and she’s like a sister…” Well, what’s a girl to do? We are taught all growing up to treat our fellow male friends as brothers in the Lord, only to wake up single one day, hearing that type of person is not what a guy is looking for.
What to do?
Take your friendships seriously. Be sure that the people you surround yourself and invest your life in are like-minded, healthy, wholesome and edifying people…the kind of person you would want your future spouse to be.
Be a good friend by having boundaries in friendships. There’s something sacred about friendship, as it’s one of the most intimate forms of relating. In the Scriptures it was a high privilege to be known as the friend of God, and friendships of all sorts are something we take far too casually these days.
Don’t be afraid to interact. All solid marriages are built on solid friendships. A Godly marriage is never going to survive without a foundation of friendship, so don’t shy away from it, but also don’t share your deeps thoughts, desires and wishes with someone of the opposite sex.
Cover your friends and friendships in prayer. There’s nothing more powerful, and don’t be afraid to pray towards marriage on behalf of your friends, or towards one of your friends. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – God desires our pursuit of His Will for our lives, and that includes marriage for almost every person.
Satan fully recognizes the power of two people yoked together towards a common goal, and he’s not about to see that take place on a regular basis. You know, Satan is tricky. He recognizes that he’s not going to win ultimately, so just like the coward he is, he’s determined to cause as much destruction as possible in his downfall. Each marriage he destroys is another trophy. How much bigger a trophy is it when he’s able to keep two people from ever reaching the marriage altar? And what better way for him to do that than by causing division in relationships over minor issues.
My parents and I have often talked about how much they have grown in their own faith and as individuals through the differences, trials, and challenges the Lord has brought them through as a couple. The truth is that I think more often than not, the Lord brings two people together who do not see eye to eye on secondary issues and causes them to work through that as a couple, forcing their dependence and their relationship as a couple to be on Him.
One famous couple that comes to mind is Martin Luther and his wife, Katherine von Bora. Many times they disagreed on the practical day-to-day aspects of life, but they provided an example of marriage to the entire European continent within a culture that likely had more misconceptions and confusion about it as a Godly institution than we do today.
What to do?
Be discerning. Step back from situations and assess if this “issue” or “difference” you have with a person you may be interested in as a spouse is over a primary issue, or not. Make sure that these issues truly are essential ones. I’m not condoning compromise on essential issues, but neither am I going to watch mountains being made out of molehills. Whether it’s a slight difference in dress or a minor disagreement over a doctrinal issue, the point in pursuing a relationship must always be to seek God’s will, not finding every way in which it may not work. We need only to look at our hearts to find an answer for that.