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My wife and I have a single, female friend in her mid-30s who recently sent me a text with a link. It said, "Joshua, I want your thoughts. I found this article true but extremely discouraging."
I clicked on the link and discovered an article by Pastor Mark Driscoll called "Six Options for Godly Single Women Wanting to Marry." It opened with the depressing (but true) line, "These are tough times for godly single women who want to marry," and it only got more depressing after that.
According to Driscoll, the six options available to godly single women include the following:
As an extra measure of comfort, Driscoll concludes with this: "Men are waiting until around 30 years old to marry for the first time, if they ever do. And, they are going for younger women, according to the statistics." But he reminds the single ladies to take heart, because even though it's tough to be single, "God uses everything in our life to make us more like Jesus, who happened to live a perfect life while single."
After I read Driscoll's article, I understood the reason my friend found the article "extremely discouraging": um, because it is extremely discouraging. I'm sure Driscoll's heart was in the right place when he wrote it, but my goodness, does he really think those sum up the options for a single woman — either run her life into the ground or get used to being single like Jesus was?
Single godly women, listen to me: The God who lived as a single man is the same God who looked at single Adam and, for the first time in the process of creation said, "This isn't good" (Genesis 2:18). He's the God who helped a 90-year-old woman get pregnant (Genesis 17:7, 21:1-8), the God who parted the seas when all was lost for the desperate Hebrews (Exodus 14), the God who multiplied the oil from a jar to keep a widow and her son alive (2 Kings 4:1-7), the God who called a dead man from the grave (John 11:38-44), the God who multiplied five loaves and two fishes and fed 5,000 (Mark 6:33-44) — and, yes, He's the God who provided a husband for Ruth, a foreign widow who was anything but an eligible bachelorette in Israel (Ruth 4).
Now fast forward to the 21st century. We're talking about the same God who helped my 33-year-old friend Helena find love with a 28-year-old pastor she had a chance encounter with one weekend. This is the same God who used ChristianCafe.com to introduce my 34-year-old friend Lisa to her 36-year-old husband, Tim, the very first day they both logged on. And He's the same God who brought a sweet widower into the life of my dear friend Gale when she was 64 years old. What I'm saying is, your singleness is not a hopeless situation, and even if it were, God specializes in coming through when all else has failed.
I'm not trying to tell you that you're going to get married if you pray hard enough and believe in faith; what I'm telling you is that if you believe in the God of the Bible, then you believe in a God who is not bound by current probabilities. I'm telling you that you've got a better option than choosing from a life that's somewhere between sad desperation and sweet resignation. And that option is to go before your all-sufficient Father and earnestly pray, "God, if You want me to have a husband, I want one with all of my heart, but if You don't, then I don't ever want one. Either way, I know You're totally capable of providing for me — regardless of what the statistics may say."
Ladies, if God does eventually provide a husband for you, then when that day comes, let it be said that while taking solace in the arms of your heavenly Father, you never doubted His ability to provide a husband here on earth.
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I've said it before... but I don't think Mark Driscoll likes or understands women very much. Also, we DON'T worship a God who is single, we worship a God who is *relational* at the heart. Who is triune in nature, and who selflessly loved the church (his bride) so much that he withheld nothing from her, not even the life of his son or his own life.
The Mars Hills worldview is great for those who need it -- for people who are discouraged by the church telling them that the only way to believe in Christ is by singing worship songs you could sing to your girlfriend -- and it often points out that we are willing to ignore the warrior spirit of God in favor of his more gentle facets. I'm not one of those people who think that Mark Driscoll should be flogged and run out of town -- but I often find that I don't care for his messages, his tone, and particularly I don't care for how he views women (about one step above chattel, usually). It's ironic, that the man who said that Ted Haggard's cheating, lying and sneaking around scandal was "understandable" after looking at the condition his wife kept herself in turns around and publishes an article that berates women for "striving" to be attractive. What, exactly, does Mark Driscoll want from women, other than young, beautiful, complaint yes-girls who perform acrobatics in their husband's bedrooms and have hot meals on the table no matter what time the man would like to show up at the house?
And how is that any different from The World?
Josh is right, Godly women can do better. We can be spiritually, emotionally and intellectually honest with ourselves about our desire for marriage and companionship. We can recognize that a desire for a spouse and a life-partner is an inherent part of our humanity, part of our reflection of God as *relational* beings. We can mourn the loss of those years, and choose to willfully live in joyful discontent -- not allowing our singleness it to hold back our lives, but rather, allowing it to temper us into the kinds of women we admire. Refusing to pass up those opportunities that cross in front of us as they arise while evaluating carefully what we can changed about our circumstances to bring us better in line with God's heart and our own passions and callings. We can allow singleness to shape us, or we can allow it to eat our soul from the inside. At the end of the day, we have it in us to recognise that even though singleness is a lonely and painful path, that it does not define us, it does not control us or master us, it is merely an antecdotal sidenote to our identity as a Christian and a woman. Don't make begruding peace with your singleness. Don't make it into your cross. Understand it, know it, prioritize it. It is no more who you are than your hair color, or your city of birth, or your livelihood is. Ladies, you are more than your single status, you don't need to settle for God's "sympathy" because he has so much more to offer you than a warm fuzzy blanket. Trust God, but work hard; Be a fighter. Achieve things. Grow. Travel. Create. Sell. Minister. Innovate. None of those things are determined by your marital status.
Deffinitely there will be moments were you feel cold and lonely and weak and small -- and in those moments, you will need comfort and rest -- but real solace doesn't come from giving into those weak small moments, sitting down and throwing up your hands and saying "Alright God, well if this is it, this is it." It comes from victory over those moments. From knowing that whatever happens today, tomorrow you will wake up and you will go out into the world and you will Do. That tomorrow is a new adventure to be lived fully and richly. A day to fight, achieve things, grow, travel, create, sell, minister, innovate and learn. A day to cultivate new community, make new connections, to read, to pray, to hope.
I think that's a part of what Paul means when he urges us not to grow weary in doing good. Singleness can be a blessing and a curse. It can wear on your soul until it feels too thin to breathe -- but it can give you freedom to make choices that you would never, ever consider or dream of if you had to consider the wellbeing of another person (or other little people). So live your single years to the hilt, don't grow weary of doing good, and don't stop praying or dreaming or planning. Don't use bad teaching as an excuse for you to check out of life because all you're good for is a sad sack who needs a security blanket. You are so much more than that. With or without a husband there is no one else like you. You are unique, precious to God, and created for a purpose that no one else has been born to fullfill. Whether you do that as a single woman longer than you'd like, or whether you do it as a woman who married in her early 20s, live that purpose. Be the woman that you were created to be.
--What MrsAshleyTOF said. Preach it.
When I click on the link for "Six Options for Godly Single Women Wanting to Marry," it just takes me to a FOTF page asking me to log in, not to the actual article.
--"I'm not trying to tell you that you're going to get married if you pray hard enough and believe in faith; what I'm telling you is that if you believe in the God of the Bible, then you believe in a God who is not bound by current probabilities"
Well said, Joshua!
I appreciate your article although I did read the original one from Driscoll and I really appreciated him for addressing this topic. I wish more Christian leaders would address it. Yes, Driscoll's treatment of it was somewhat depressing, but I think I was encouraged by the fact that Driscoll was aware that many Christian women are struggling with singleness (and getting older and older) and he was concerned. I think in his option of "solace" he is essentially saying the same thing you are saying here. Yes, God is absolutely capable of providing husbands for all of us, even in the sexually immoral, marriage-averse society we live in. But He also has the right to not provide for His own purposes.
I honestly don't know why I (and many other Christian women I know) am not married. Maybe it's my own fault, maybe God has orchestrated it to be thus.....I don't know. But I can tell you this: there comes a point where hoping and praying and hoping and praying just starts to wear you down - spiritually, emotionally, even physically. You just get to a point where you say, "I don't know why my life has turned out like this. I wish it could change but I don't have any options. I just want my life to be glorifying to God in whatever status I am in." Right now, that's the best I can do.
--Thanks for the heads up, Dave In KC! I fixed the link!
--Martha, thanks for the quick response.
When reading through the article, it's probably best to take Mark's own advice:
"Admittedly, I am not the best person to give advice to a single woman about specific ways to navigate the path of holding out hope while being realistic regarding planning for one’s future."
--I don't think MrsAshley read the article by Driscoll, and it's too bad that Mr. Rogers chose to edit the list of options so heavily to fit his point of view. The tone of Driscoll's article is nothing like what one would expect from reading this post. The pronouns in the Driscoll piece could easily be swapped for "him" and "his" and the thing would be perfectly applicable to men as well. It's my opinion that the faux-rage treatises I mentioned are less helpful than the original article. My two cents.
--Gosh, Mark Driscoll really didn't miss a calling as a motivational speaker did he!!
I think Janice is right that in that last paragraph he was going for roughly what Joshua said here, but he frames it in terms of "Yeah, it's conceivable that God might defy the statistics in your life but don't hold your breath."
Joshua and Ashley are right: God is not bound or even in the least bit inconvenienced by statistics. I hate an reject the well-meaning platitudes of "God has a wonderful spouse planned for you" because we aren't promised that. But we are promised that he is faithful and trustworthy and you know what, that means if you ache with loneliness and deeply desire marriage, he is big enough and good enough and loving enough to handle all of that. He is NOT going to take your contentment as a sign that he doesn't need to give you anything nice. He is NOT going to use your discouragement as an excuse to give you less than his best for you. He is NOT going to withhold from you anything that he isn't going to replace with something more wonderful. Waiting is hard and painful, and all of us in different areas of our lives are going to die waiting for something we wanted and never got. Whether it be marriage, physical healing, restored family relationships, material provision, whatever. This is a fallen world and God deals with each of us differently and leads us on different paths. But I'm learning that for too long I've expected God to be my teacher more than my father; to give me lessons more than blessings and to grow me through suffering more than happiness. The God we serve loves us extravagantly and has the ability and the will to give us things that will do us good. We can't know the future God has for us, but we can know that all our hopes, dreams, fears and desires are absolutely one hundred percent safe with him. God knows us better than we know ourselves and is far better at giving us blessings than we are at asking for them. And if/when we do receive those gifts that we've wanted for so long (and even if we don't), we will be blown away by his faithful provision and lavish gifts tailored individually for each child that he so loves.
--MapsG: I actually read the article last week, when someone I knew posted it on facebook. I disagreed with it then, too. ;)
--Thank you, MrsAshley. Keeping in mind that you have read it, I'll change my opinion slightly to suggest that your grudge is against the person and not the article. I wouldn't know this Driscoll fellow if he walked in the door, so I found it odd that you would criticize his tone and view toward women, when both seemed rather positive in the article. My goodness, he even goes so far as to perpetuate this notion that it's more difficult to be female and single than male.
--I feel like Mark Driscoll's comment on men going for younger woman is not helpful. The implication is that they are more attractive. Fortunately not all men are waiting to date supermodels. If you look around at the women who are married, they don't all look like supermodels! There need not be such an overemphasis on looks. Some plain looking women are married, while some gorgeous women remain single.
I know lots of men who prefer a mature woman they can hold a conversation with as a life partner (or potential) than a young immature one that they will have no intellectual compatability with. Also, some older women are much more stunning than younger ones.
I did however like Mark's paragraph on striving. Its not possible to be better looking than you were made and spending so much time on this is futile. We have to trust God made us the way that he meant us to look, to attract a partner if he means for us to have one.
I also have seen many in my friendship circle who were single for a long time, meet and marry there husbands in time. They had to have patience, but there was definitely hope. Hope in a loving and caring God. A God who created marriage and is still a heavenly matchmaker. He is still able.
--Also, men marrying much younger women will have to see them age also. They won't be young forever. A man choosing his wife solely on her looks may have marriage difficulties later on.
I think Mark Driscoll makes some good points, and he obviously really cares about the issue of singleness in women particularly. He's also not condoning men choosing younger women, just noting the trend. He's someone who appears to be grappling with the question of why some amazing women never marry.
I'd love to see Mark's advice to single men... I have heard some of it previously and it sounded pretty good.
I think Mark included those stats on age simply because it's reality, regardless if you are a Christian or not. For whatever reason: looks, fertility, energy, men DO tend to choose younger ladies; it's been like that for almost all of human history. I think the motivation for highlighting it is to not to give women a false sense of security that men as a whole will overlook their age for other traits such as personaility. Now some ladies may they already know this, but maybe some do not, or at least, don't believe it's large enough of a factor worth considering (www.boundless.org/.../the-cost-of-delaying-marriage)
--MikeTime, people generally choose people who are similar in age to themselves in my country. It might be different where you are from.
--MapsG: To that comment, I'd say... you're probably correct. I think most people filter what they read by a specific author through the lense of what they know about the author. When I say that I'm not particularly fond of Mark Driscoll's opinion on women, it's mostly because of what I have heard him say about women (specficially and in general), gender roles, and sex in other contexts -- and I likely read this article with that context in mind which made the tone in my perception more than a little patronizing. I think Driscoll has some much more valid opinons on say... the basic, core tenets of Christianity, and how neccessary it is to build a foundational knowledge of doctrine. He isn't, though, the sort of person that I think I would find to be pleasant company, or a fun conversationalist over a latte (although I don't suppose that my opinion would break his heart :P). In other words, though I respect him as a pastor and a teacher who has clearly built a very successful church and has certainly studied extensively on doctrine, I do not care for Mark Driscoll's brand very much. And it is a brand that has been very carefully crafted over time to appeal to "Masculine" men (or men who wish to be masculine) who are bored with the way that church has been "done" over time and are looking for someone to "shock" them into life-change and then provide a heavily regulated discipleship system to keep them there.
On the reverse side, Most messages emerging from Mars Hill on women are simply focused on, very sweetly, (in very small words so we of simply mind can understand), sighing and embracing our collective lot as the weaker vessel -- and waiting on God and the men around us to change our station (for "theological reasons," of course). This article is in no way an exception to that general rhetoric. Patting poor, unfortunate single women on the head, telling them how sad, desperate and hopeless their situation is (not that they're trying to discourage them, of course!). Then urging them to "pour your desires for a family into your extended family and/or church family" like subtituting margarine for butter and promoting that virtuous singleness is prefereable: Ironic, to say the least coming from the married Driscoll whose literary dossier contains a book on Christian sex. :P
It would be nice, every once in a while, for an influential and well-read pastor to jump out with an article encouraging women to be awesome at *being women* without regard to marriage or family life or the typical laundry list that gets foisted at Christian girls from about age five. Not that those things aren't wonderful things -- but those things (being good at cooking and homemaking and hospitality but also being svelte and athletic and beautiful and wildly popular and well regarded amongst your peers) shouldn't define your identity *either.* Some of them are sometimes byproducts of the Christlife, but some of them are just things that society expects from "nice girls." Not all nice girls are Christians, and not all Christian girls are nice. Wouldn't it be better if we taught women to be Godly women who followed their callings and lived out their passions before we started teaching them all the things that they can't do because they are a girl?
Until then, I guess we'll just have to keep reading "Now Let Me Be a Woman" over and over again.
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