I believe strongly and wholeheartedly in solid, godly marriages. Marriage is an awe-inspiring, truly blissful thing and something to be lauded and heralded as the God-ordained institution it is. We are people created for marriage and, once married, we should strive daily, at every possible opportunity to encourage each other toward even stronger, even holier marriages.
But marriage is not the end goal of life.
Knowing personally and loving wholly the precious Savior IS the first and foremost goal of life. While such things as marriage and motherhood are, for many, the outworking of this goal, marriage in and of itself doesn’t make a life complete. It doesn’t signal the beginning of “real life.” It is simply a way God has ordained for some–I’d even venture to say most, but certainly not all–to better glorify Himself. Personal fulfillment, joy and happiness aren’t obtained solely through the finding of a life partner. If this is the only thing one is hoping for, waiting idly for, or even preparing solely for, something is severely wrong. Nowhere in scripture does God command or even suggest that marriage is the “IT” thing in the life of anyone–not even young women. In fact, the verses speaking specifically to unmarried women say the opposite–single women should be concerned wholly and completely with learning of, loving and serving their Heavenly Father, not waiting expectantly for life to truly begin with the appearance of Prince Charming.
It seems there is a rush among Christian young women to see their lives as being in a holding pattern until they get married. I know many–far too many–young ladies who prepare in every way and form they can think of, expecting to get married right after high school, because, well, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Some of us grow up often thinking that all we want to do in life is be a wife and mother… so why think of or plan for anything else? We do a good thing in learning basic and sometimes advanced housekeeping skills as we get older, and often, for Christian young women raised (rightly so) to revere and respect the position of wife and mother, this is the thing into which we pour our whole selves while we wait.
Sometimes, though, the waiting is longer than we thought it would be when we were 16. We reach the end of high school and our knight in shining armour hasn’t yet arrived on his white steed, so we wait another year or so, knowing he’ll drop from the sky soon… right? Two years pass… and three… and five… and… before you know it, some have been single for much longer than they expected. They’ve been waiting at home doing everything they can to prepare for marriage–learning to cook, care for children, keep a home. They far surpass the basic housekeeping skills and have become a homemaker any young man would be blessed to have loving him and keeping his home. But some of them are beginning to wonder–what do I do with these single years as a whole? Have I possibly spent these past years waiting for something never meant to complete me in the first place?
We think we’re living for the Lord by preparing for marriage and marriage alone and might even feel a bit puffed up about our “holy focus” instead of doing the so-called “worldly” thing of pursuing a busy life of college, missions, service or anything that doesn’t center on preparation for marriage. We don’t realize we’re actually guilty of doing the very thing we’re accusing the rest of the “world” of doing. We’re living for our own pleasure–we believe we know what will make us happiest and most fulfilled in this life and so, as with someone wishing to enter any other field, we pursue nothing else. Is it worth considering that in some of these situations, perhaps we’re actually being blinded by our own desires? Are our own preconceived notions keeping us from what God actually has for us for this particular season?
We often speak of things such as being a wife or mother as God’s calling. “This is my highest and noblest calling,” we might declare. I beg to differ. God’s calling to a life is the thing that will never, under any circumstance, change in that life. Throughout scripture we see His call of salvation, His call into service to Him, His call to righteousness. These are universal to all believers. But we don’t find Him calling people into motherhood, the medical field, a teaching career. He does, however, put us in specific seasons in which we, individually, can fulfill those basic callings of service, of righteousness, of love for others, of showing forth His salvation. We are called to be filled with Jesus and be wholly His own.
Marriage and motherhood are amazing blessings to be highly exalted and revered. They are high and noble seasons He gives to some of us, and when we’re in them (which, for marriage, is until death or circumstances beyond the Christian’s control separates the two) they are our highest priority, most certainly, and should be the thing into which we pour our whole selves for the glory of God. But to say marriage and motherhood (which, obviously, typically go hand in hand in our young dreams for the future) are the highest calling for a woman is to say that the woman who doesn’t ever marry or who isn’t able to conceive has somehow missed God’s original plan for her life. Both wifehood and motherhood are noble, if that’s the way God shows Himself through you, but they don’t at all lessen the height and nobility of the season in which He sets another one of us–perhaps the one to whom He’s given the season and priority of being on the mission field, obtaining a Master’s degree, serving as a nurse to people who need care, writing books and speaking to young women, teaching children, or any number of things God’s given the ability to do.
I’d not be so self-confident as to proclaim it easy to find the balance between preparing for what becomes the main occupation for the majority of young women at some point in their lives and not allowing it to become the sole focus. Nor would I say that I, as one who married young myself, have the answers for singlehood. Most noteable, I must be honest and say that I entered my own marriage yet holding some of the views I’m currently refuting. But I do know that even for me, as a wife and mother right now, God is showing me the truth of His calling on my life to follow Him wherever He leads being encompassed in the current priorities He’s given me of husband and children. But for single girls, their priorities are completely different. Even for some who are married, these eventually change. Spouses outlive each other, children grow and have families of their own. We’ve all heard the saying, “Nothing is unchangeable but change itself.” God’s ways are so much higher and more complete than ours–none of us knows what tomorrow holds. There are no guarantees–at all–outside of our unchanging Savior. Limiting a life to a man-made plan for the single years completely negates God Himself and His wisdom that reaches far above our own.
Never in the Bible do we read of women, single or married, spending idle days waiting for Prince Charming to arrive at their doorstep. Think of Rebekah, Ruth, Deborah, Esther, Anna, Lois, and so many others. Every woman mentioned, single or married, is found working, serving the Lord in industrious pursuits suitable to her season in life.
We can’t expect God to bless our efforts when they are ones of idly waiting or of simply taking matters into our own hands because we think we know what will make us happy. The true calling of active service on the path He sets before us is a command that extends beyond the boundaries and context of marriage and motherhood. Single and married women alike need not be afraid of following God’s calling for them, individually—realizing that fulfilling His purpose for their lives is the only end goal worth pursuing and is something that can be accomplished now by living fully and vitally for Him, wherever that path leads… even if that path looks differently than we expect or desire it or even completely different from all of our friends.
Cooking is good. Cleaning, decorating and caring for a home are valuable skills. Children are a wonderful gift from our Father. Marriage is… wow. Learning more about all of these things is helpful (though there is a time to perfect and refine those skills, and it’s usually when they are actually your own priorities).
But also admirable is the unmarried girl who is teaching a room full of eager young minds who need guidance. Or trekking through a third world country and telling natives of a Savior who loves them enough to die for them. Perhaps it’s writing a dissertation. Answering phones and filing paperwork in an office building. Speaking to young women about pursuing Jesus. Traveling around the country and world as a photographer for missions trips and organizations. Meeting a word count goal for the book you’re writing. Serving teens and families at a Christian camp. Leading kayaking tours down a raging river. Being a chef in a fancy restaurant.
Go. Do. Follow Jesus. Be Busy. Embrace your true highest calling.