William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, once said, “Don’t instill, or allow anybody else to instill into the hearts of your girls the idea that marriage is the chief end of life. If you do, don’t be surprised if they get engaged to the first empty, useless fool they come across.”
I’m pretty sure William Booth wins Dad of the Century award, because I’ve never heard of anyone else from the 1800’s preaching about how women might be made for something more than marriage and motherhood. You, Mr. Booth, were ahead of your time. I applaud you.
In any case, that quote ingrained itself in my mind when I was researching Beyond Waiting and continues to occasionally surface in my mind. I think about it when I’m watching movies or scrolling Facebook or otherwise observing human interaction.
We are a culture obsessed with love, creating hopeless romantics who dare to dream that there is someone out there for everyone. We have turned our lives into a quest to find that perfect someone in hopes that they might complete us. Those who are lucky find their way to happily ever after while others…
Well, others might find themselves bouncing from partner to partner, always hoping that the next one might be The One. Perhaps they settle down, but fear they chose poorly. Perhaps they can’t shake the feeling that someone better is out there waiting. Perhaps they will go out in search of that elusive person, or maybe they will cling to the person they have because anything is better than being alone. Am I right?
All my life, I’ve been told that choosing a person to spend the rest of my life with is the most important decision I would ever make (aside from the decision to follow Jesus, of course). While I see the wisdom in this, I have to question why no one ever told me that I also had a choice in whether or not I would choose a person. Or warned me that I might really, really want a person, but not be able to find someone who was right for me.
It seemed like that was never up for debate. Because of course I would marry. Doesn’t everyone?
Remember that silly song where Larry the Cucumber sings about how everybody’s got a water buffalo and Archibald Asparagus rips into him about what a ridiculous claim that is while begging him to stop before they start getting nasty letters from people demanding to know where their water buffalo is?
Basically, I think y’all should stop promising people that God will bring them a spouse because God is starting to get nasty letters from people who have been single longer than they anticipated.
I’m serious, folks. We are not doing anyone any good by feeding them empty promises of inevitable romance. Maybe marriage is in their future—heck, it may even likely be in their future—but it may not be. And we have to be okay with that.
We need to stop talking about marriage as if it is THE beginning and acknowledge that it is simply a beginning—that there are a thousand different roads you can take that will lead to a fulfilling life, and marriage is merely one of them.
A friend of mine recently shared his own struggle with prolonged singleness and talked of reshaping his perspective to see that marriage is the probably just the latest thing he is chasing in the age-old “if I can just have this one thing, I’ll be happy” cycle.
I think his heart is in the right place, but what I don’t think is that now that his heart is in the right place, God is going to come swooping in like, “Aha! Finally, you are prepared. Here is your bride, my good and faithful servant!”
It could happen, and I will rejoice with him if it does because that’s fun and exciting and full of possibility. But the thing is, I am rejoicing already because God is doing a new thing in my friend’s life and that’s what I’m excited about.
So often, I hear people talk about marriage like it is some kind of heavenly reward. People have long promised me that when I have my heart in the right place, God will bless me by bringing that special someone into my life. But you know what I think? I think God didn’t present Levi to me like some kind of gold star for a job well done; I think He chose Levi for me when he realized the area I needed to grow in was community. I was so good at functioning independently, and then God was like, “Yeah, but let’s see how you do with Together.”
This relationship has been one more way of God ripping the rug out from under my feet to show me a new perspective. This chapter of my life is just one more beginning—one more tool meant to reshape me. Same as writing. And traveling. And skating.
That’s something no one ever told me when they were singing about relationships like Larry the Cucumber sings about water buffalo.