The blogosphere is buzzing with backlash about recent articles that are advocating for “young marriage.” Apparently, the millennials (18-29 yr olds), my generation, have a low marriage rate at 21 percent in the U.S., compared to other generations during this age range.
I posed a question on my Facebook status to my unmarried or later-married friends:
Why are YOU delaying marriage? (Besides not knowing anyone you WANT to marry.) I chose to get married instead of waiting, so I’m curious about other people’s choices.
The responses included:
· Wanting independence
· Needing time to mature and figure out life
· Focusing on career or graduate school
· Same-sex marriage isn’t legal
· Hoping to avoid divorce
· Not interested in marriage
This conversation is fascinating to me. I got engaged at 23, just 3 months after college graduation. It was a decision that took many by surprise—myself included.
You see, I was an outspoken advocate AGAINST the “ring by spring” culture on my Christian university campus.
Although I dated some in college, I was single for most of it and I was confident in my singleness. I had no expectations of getting engaged by graduation. In fact, by the time senior year came around, I was intent NOT to enter a serious relationship. I wanted a clear path to career exploration and time to seek God’s call on my life.
But, funnily enough, I did meet someone senior year who totally confused me. I won’t say I “fell” in love, because that connotes something more accidental or unconscious. I was aware of what was happening. But I surprised myself with my willingness to love him, in spite of my feminist declarations of the glory of independence.
I struggled a lot with the statement I would be making as an outspoken feminist getting engaged shortly after graduation.
Would all my convictions about the hurt of single-shaming and the value of independence, the worth of choosing a spouse carefully, etc. be wasted if I got married right away? Would I be throwing away an opportunity to embrace my freedom in a 21st century world to pursue a fast paced career?
And yet… I realized I was fighting a false dichotomy. What I discovered—and decided—was that my decision to get married, even if it lined up with some stereotypes at my Christian university, was NOT the opposite of being a strong, independent woman. I could pursue my dreams WITH my husband. And I wasn’t losing my identity by choosing marriage nor was I going back on my belief that singlehood could be a gift and a calling.
Sometimes I fight so hard against stereotypes that I forget to be myself.
This, my friends, is not healthy. God has created us each with unique, beautiful qualities. Be who you are and be obedient to God’s leading—even if that means a more traditional road. There is no shame in that.
We who are Christian advocates for giftedness above gender, proclaimers of freedom from boxes that bind, and celebrators of mutuality in marriage must resist the temptation to limit ourselves—or others—by our convictions. What a shame if we are stepping from one form of legalism to another.
Whether or not you get married and the timing of that union should not be prescribed by others around you. Be free, Christian men and women. Be who God has made you.
Even the Apostle Paul dealt with this struggle about marriage. 1 Corinthians 7 is deep and somewhat confusing, but I think the point Paul was trying to make is that both marriage and singleness are good. (Paul was biased towards singleness, but did not expect everyone to be just like him.)
I think this sentence—smack in the middle of Paul’s exploration of marriage and singleness and divorce—sums it up pretty well: “…let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you.” – 1 Corinthians 7: 17
Everyone’s story is different. As it should be. Let’s reserve judgment of others—and ourselves—and focus instead on where God is leading us as uniquely created people in uniquely lived circumstances.
Naomi Krueger is a Sunday School curriculum developer and freelance writer in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Her passion for mutuality in marriage and ministry was honed when she interned for CBE in 2009. She’s proud to be married to her thoughtful husband Tim, the new editor of Mutuality Magazine.