“I have ordered the books for the next bible and they will arrive next week.” The elder said as he held up a brand new book. “I’m certainly looking forward to it.”
With that, the Sunday School class was over with. I took a moment to ask if I could take a closer look at the book. “Certainly. I think you’ll really benefit from the material in this book.” He said as he handed it to me.
I flipped through the pages – I don’t know what I was looking for. But the two most prominent words on the cover of the book, covenant and marriage, were more than enough to let me know that I wasn’t the least bit interested in spending the next few months discussing the topic. “I don’t think I’ll be sitting in for this one. I’m a little more interested in the topic of the other Sunday School class, they just started on Radical by David Platt.”
He seemed slightly upset as he asked, “Are you sure? You might get married one day and then you’ll need to know this stuff.”
I answered; “I’m sure. If and when I get married, then my spouse and I can go through studies like this together all the time. But until then I want to expand my horizons and learn as much as I can about as many different things as I can.”
That was a couple of years ago and it was shortly before we left that church. I always thought that it was an odd selection. My class consisted of the only high school student, me, a young family, and I think one or two others that sort of came and went. Before that, we had done Erasing Hell, Lifework, and Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong – all in all, pretty general books that weren’t really specific to any particular role in life. But not this time. To me it seemed awkward to have the church elder take us through this book, after all the other adult class contained all of the church’s married couples except for the one that attended my class and they were so exceedingly busy that usually only one of them was actually in class. Surely Radical would have been a better choice for us – as it was more along the lines of the general studies that we had done.
I didn’t realize it then, but I was defying my one role in the church. Apparently the unwritten rule for the role of all young single Christian women is to prepare themselves for marriage for however long it takes for them to get married. The theory is that the better one is prepared to be married, the more quickly God will bring ‘the one’ into the picture. That doesn’t really explain why there are no shortage of single Christian women in their forties, fifties, and even sixties, but it’s easier to pretend that they don’t exist so they don’t have to be counted as actual women with feelings and opinions on the subject. I happen to think something written from their perspective would be an outstanding resource for younger generations who aren’t sure about what they want. We tend to get the ‘get married quick, get married young’ message early and often, but very rarely does a single elderly women get to share her wisdom with her younger counterparts.
Imagine that one day, a good friend promises to give you your very own vacation house, no strings attached, in great condition, and for free. What do you do with this knowledge? Do you prepare to decorate it by filling storage lockers up with pieces of furniture? Do you prepare to live in it by picking out the perfect wardrobe? Do you prepare to host parties by planning out what kinds of food to serve? You don’t even know if the vacation house is on an island where you cannot ship a household of furniture to for a reasonable price or whether or not the furniture you chose will not be damaged by it’s environment or how much furniture you’d need to fill it up. You don’t know if it’s a vacation house in the mountains where a beach wardrobe will get precious little use or if it is somewhere unconventional like a small town on the interior of Italy. You don’t even know what the customs or language of your neighbors will be or whether or not the foods you want to serve are readily available. You also don’t know when the keys to the vacation house will arrive. We could be talking about decades worth of preparation that isn’t necessarily guaranteed to bring you winning results for your efforts.
I know, I’m not married, but I’m pretty sure that one cannot prepare themselves for the entire experience of married life. No number of Christian covenant marriage Bible studies is going to prepare anyone for the experience. It’s something you have to do together. Which is why I thought it was odd for a church elder to lead a class of mostly single Christians through a book about covenant marriages. At least when a husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend goes through such a book together they can really talk about what it means to them as they walk together into the next stage that life presents them. A single person can only have half of that conversation – for the rest they have to use their imagination. But isn’t the reality of marriage a far cry from what what it was imagined to be like? Granted, there are some practical things one can be prepared to do – like learning CPR, which is useful in saving lives even when people aren’t married.
I just think that the idea that young women should prepare to live their future lives make them miss out on living their lives in the present. God didn’t just look down from heaven saying; “Methuselah! Why won’t you die already? I want to flood the world and you lingering on like this is holding up my plans.” He didn’t hit the fast-forward button during the forty years that Israel wandered the wilderness either. Even in the new Testament, Jesus’ ministry had to wait thirty three years before it was the right time. Solomon noted that there was a time for everything, that means that there is a time to be single just as much as there is a time to be married. If we really believe that God has perfect timing, then nothing we can do can hurry him up or slow him down. We need to respect the time that has been given to us to live each stage of life one day at a time, not trying to hurry up to get to the next one because we never know what the next stage in life will be.