You don’t have to look far to discover that there is an epidemic of women in their mid to late thirties (and fourties) in the body of Christ who have long wanted to be married and find a spouse, who are single. While it is true that there are often seasons in a single’s person life when they are content being single, and some single folks who know they are called to be single and never want to get married – others, particularly women, are really desperate to get married (as much as one is shamed in our culture for being – gasp – desperate) particularly as they watch biology’s clock ticking. I am unashamed to admit that I am one of them – as much as the culture would shame me for saying so.
Now by “desperate”, I don’t mean that I nor others are willing to marry anyone regardless of what he is about nor that we are somehow not totally in love with Jesus and set on knowing and serving Him above all else. But it does mean we know something important to us is not happening and we feel the pain of it. My friend Kate Hurley has blogged about this beautifully in blog posts such as this one. It’s hard to watch as one’s friends are on their third or fourth baby – or even when they are celebrating their own children graduating from high school, while you are still waiting patiently “on God” for your chance to get married and have maybe your first child. Not that single folk aren’t happy for their friends – they are – but as the years go on it becomes more and more evident that one is way out of synch with the human timeline.
There are a lot of things this epidemic can be blamed on:
* the ratio of males to females in the body of Christ is one reason;
* the small size of the generation born in the late seventies compared to the baby boom of the early 80’s is another
* and the “kiss dating goodbye” teachings of the 90s and early 2000’s where women were taught to never pursue or show interest in a man but just wait patiently is another.
And while individual women might have their own personal factors involved, I personally would add one factor that I think is keeping many people single needlessly: Western Christianity’s cultural embarrassment over “appearing too interested in finding a spouse.” That is, women who really want to be married who turn to their churches and ask for help or prayer are met with married people who seem embarrassed to be asked to help, and will quickly suggest to the person that they join a dating site. (Most single women are already on a dating site, or 4 or 5 of them.) Contrast this to most other Christian cultures or Jewish cultures or muslim cultures around the world, where the families and communities see it as a communal event to help match up people with one another when it’s time for people to start families. How great would it be when “loving your neighbor as yourself” begins to include the idea of helping that person meet other eligible singles? Western Christians are more apt to somewhat roll their eyes at single people and tell them, “When you’re not looking anymore, it will happen.”
But one thing I have recently seen is a slew of 35-39 year olds suddenly getting married, and it seems that they are getting married just in the nick of time. Now I have watched these marriages and I know that in our Christian mythology it looks like “faithfully waiting until you’re just about too old to safely have a baby is rewarded as God comes through just in the nick of time with helping people find a spouse.” That’s the way we tell ourselves that it’s all ok – that it’s no big deal that thousands and thousands of women are now just suddenly finding spouses in their mid-to-late thirties – it’s all about God. And now God has shown Himself to be the giver of good gifts, and the answerer of promises, and the one who makes people wait until having a child starts to become dangerous to start their families. One should not worry about this because population statistics on things like incidence of Down’s syndrome or other birth defects, or even things like low preterm birth weight just won’t matter to thousands and thousands of couples for whom God has finally given them their promised spouse at age 37, and God will skew statistics for all these families.
For many of these new families that will be true. After all, statistical probabilities are only about increased odds, and so many people WILL skirt those odds. Babies will be born healthy, normal, and then the only issue will be that parents will be dealing with becoming senior citizens right as their own children are graduating college.
But you know what? I think it’s a disaster. I rejoice for my friends who have suddenly had a last minute reprieve from their sentence of unwanted singlehood, but I hope someone is noticing the social disaster that is taking place all around us when singles are rejoicing to finally get married at 36 (to someone they barely know because now they are in a hurry) and have their first child with that person at at 37 or 38…if they were blessed/lucky enough to get pregnant easily at that age.
And then you have me, and some of my friends, for whom even THAT miracle has not happened. My own personal story was that I had my own miracle guy show up at age 35, proposed to me when I was 36, and then I lost my job and had nowhere to go but his couch (and this was not meant to be some shacking up thing – we had/have never even kissed on the lips.) Then, by 37, we broke off the engagement as we found some huge issues that made a marriage somewhat dubious – but we kept trying to fix/save our relationship so we could turn it into a marriage. And the older I got, the more I was in a quandry of “too old to stay with someone who isn’t marrying me” and “too old to give up the one guy who has shown interest in me to go back into a dating pool where I was already unsuccessful at finding someone for the past 20 years of my life.”
I’ve watched other friends make choices too. Some of them were “just in the nick of time” very good choices. Some of my single friends have made choices now to marry guys that I know they never would have even considered 10 years ago. Some of my friends have fallen away from the Lord, or they are still with him but in what most Christians would consider sinful sexual relationships with nonchristian guys. Some of them have had no choices, but continue to wait with desperation crying out in prayer to the Lord when the reality of their fertility years being over really hits them.
To be continued.