For several decades now the feminist life script for women has been to delay marriage as long as possible to focus on education, career, travel, and sexual experience. Many have mistaken this strategy by feminists as signaling that they don’t value marriage, but this is not the case for the vast majority of them. Marriage is essential to the feminist dream of having it all, they just don’t want to waste a day more of their youth and fertility on their husbands than absolutely necessary. Even the fictional protagonist from Sex and the City must eventually marry Mr. Big at the overripe age of 42; otherwise she would just be a slutty failure and not a feminist heroine.
Each year the age of first marriage has continued to advance, and eventually the White UMC feminist chattering class started to show periodic signs of panic; maybe they had waited too long and missed their chance to marry? In March of 2008 The Atlantic published Lori Gottlieb’s now famous piece Marry Him! warning of a shortage of eligible men for marriage delaying women:
…despite growing up in an era when the centuries-old mantra to get married young was finally (and, it seemed, refreshingly) replaced by encouragement to postpone that milestone in pursuit of high ideals (education! career! but also true love!), every woman I know—no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure—feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.
…if you say you’re not worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying. In fact, take a good look in the mirror and try to convince yourself that you’re not worried, because you’ll see how silly your face looks when you’re being disingenuous.
Whether you acknowledge it or not, there’s good reason to worry.
In November of 2011 The Atlantic published Kate Bolick’s All the Single Ladies, wherein Bolick described missing her chance to marry by waiting too long:
We took for granted that we’d spend our 20s finding ourselves, whatever that meant, and save marriage for after we’d finished graduate school and launched our careers, which of course would happen at the magical age of 30. That we would marry, and that there would always be men we wanted to marry, we took on faith. How could we not?
But what transpired next lay well beyond the powers of everybody’s imagination: as women have climbed ever higher, men have been falling behind. We’ve arrived at the top of the staircase, finally ready to start our lives, only to discover a cavernous room at the tail end of a party, most of the men gone already, some having never shown up—and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with.
In 2015 Bolick drove the point home with her book
Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own.
Christians rationalize the same feminist life script.
Modern Christians have for the most part adopted the feminist life script for women, with some modification. Instead of admitting what they are doing, Christian women generally claim that what looks suspiciously like a feminist lifestyle is really a sign of piety. The catchphrase for marriage delaying Christian women is “season of singleness”. The longer the woman’s season of singleness, the more pious she is said to be.
In the Christian feminist life script, God is ordering Christian women to move to the big city (or at least out of their parent’s house) and pursue education and career. Women who do this are thought to be demonstrating that they trust God will keep His promise to deliver their dream husband if they stay strong and independent long enough. Shari Funk explains in The Season of Waiting at Today’s Christian Woman:
“Why doesn’t anything just happen for me?” I often find myself grumbling, tired of waiting, tired of trying to hang onto hope as the months and years slip away and so many questions remain unanswered. I long for a breakthrough in a tedious career that does little to spark life in my heart. I struggle to find a meaningful purpose to center my life around. I wonder when God will finally bring the right man into my life to love and be loved by. I look inwardly at all the healing, growth, and freedom I’ve yet to experience and wish God operated on my timetable instead of his.
So many times I’ve begged God to finally reach down from heaven and move, speak, act, shine a light on my path. But so often when I go to him with my questions and restlessness, he doesn’t reveal anything instantly. Yes, he brings hope, he renews my faith, and he gives me strength to keep going.
But in that gentle, quiet voice, he also speaks the words I’ve heard over and over again . . . my daughter, wait.
Likewise, Maggie Niemiec has been faithful to God by doing all that he has lead her to do. She moved out of her parents house at 18 to go to college, then moved across the country to another new city when she graduated, and eventually moved to New York City to start a career. And yet, though she knows her feminist lifestyle pleases God, what she really longs for is to be a wife and mother. It is only due to her great faith that she stays the course and continues to delay marriage:
Waiting is quite possibly my least favorite thing to do. My mother can attest—ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been impatient. Living in New York City only amplifies this…
Scripture instructs us to wait. We’re told to stay dependent on God, and He will honor our waiting.
Even though I know waiting is good, I still wrestle with it. Just hurry up, God. If you’re going to grant me the desires of my heart, then can you make it happen sooner rather than later? That would be great, thanks.
Full disclosure: I’m waiting for a husband, a man who is God’s best for me to come into my life. I’ve been in love. I’ve been in a long-term relationship with someone I thought I could marry. And I’ve been hurt. So I’ve started to become hardened, thinking maybe I’ve missed my chance. Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe I’m meant to be single forever. I can’t help but think: If I have to experience this much pain and longing, is the wait really worth it?
Fortunately Niemiec met Marian Jordan Ellis, founder of Redeemed Girl Ministries, who inspired her to stay the course:
Marian lit a fire in me, one that’s been dimmed for months because of heartache, doubt, and fear. I know The Lord is absolutely using this woman and her story to be a light to others.
She talked about how God redeemed her, and what she’s learned in waiting. Marian got married in her mid-30s, after hosting countless bridal and baby showers for her friends. She knows what it feels like to deeply desire something that doesn’t seem to be happening, and to have glimpses of the relationship she so wanted only to have it taken away.
“I thought my life should look a certain way,” she said. “But God was holding out His hand and saying, ‘This is what I have for you in this season.’”
If Marian Jordan Ellis hadn’t intervened to reassure Niemiec to stay the course, surely Mandy Hale could have done the same:
Invited by Oprah to cover her Lifeclass: the Tour events as part of OWN’s “VIP Press Corps” in 2012, Mandy has also been a featured speaker at the Women of Faith conference, TD Jakes’ “Woman Thou Art Loosed” conference, and Lakewood Church. She has been named a “Twitter Powerhouse” by the Huffington Post, a “Woman of Influence” by the Nashville Business Journal, and a “Single in the City” by Nashville Lifestyles magazine. She has also been a featured in Forbes magazine, the Huffington Post, and on Glamour.com, Fox News, The 700 Club, and many other outlets. With followers from all over the world, Mandy has made a name for herself as the voice of empowerment and sassiness for single women across the globe.
Mandy’s first book, The Single Woman: Life, Love & a Dash of Sass was released in August 2013 and has gone on to garner nearly 500 five-star reviews.
Hale’s newest book is Beautiful Uncertainty:
Mandy has shown women how important it is to be secure in singleness by being smart, strong, and independent. In this all new book, she will prompt readers to never settle and not miss out on the beauty that can be found in times of “waiting”.
But even Hale sometimes has her doubts about staying the sassy empowered course. Hale writes at Today’s Christian Woman that Waiting for Marriage Is Hard.
As I read the prayer out loud, something in me broke, and I started crying, all too vividly remembering the many times I’ve cried out to God about my desire for a family, children, traditions, people to grow old with, and a husband to hold me and tell me everything was going to be okay. I cried, remembering all the years of waiting, of enduring the space between “no longer” and “not yet,” and reliving all the moments when I’ve felt forgotten by the God who claims to love me. I recalled the countless instances of frustration and impatience and even despair as the birthdays pass, and my situation seemingly grows more and more hopeless. I might never find the simplest and most complicated of life’s blessings: someone to love who also loves me.
But Christian women should never lose faith. If they only wait long enough, never settle, and persevere as strong empowered women, God will deliver their dream husband. A strong empowered woman may have to wait until her late thirties or early forties to find a husband on God’s timetable, but what matters is that delaying marriage is God’s plan. Carolyn McCulley explains in The God Who Knows the End of Your Singleness.
Moments like these are glimpses of the Lord’s sovereignty in action and treasures to be stored up in the hearts of single women especially. Only occasionally do we have the privilege of seeing so clearly how “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). We should cherish and retell those evidences of God’s grace to encourage and strengthen each other. Our Lord is not a random God: His plan includes blessing us but also making us a blessing to others.
I didn’t know Charlotte when she was single, but I do remember reading her testimony in our ministry magazine, one that was written just weeks prior to her wedding. At the time, I was thirty-two, a fairly new Christian, and to be unflatteringly honest, horrified at the prospect of having to wait until thirty-nine to be married. Now I am thirty-seven, a little less arrogant (hopefully), and grateful for Charlotte’s example. Last year in my church, a woman got married for the first time at forty-three. That pushed Charlotte’s benchmark out of the way and gave me six more years to hope, so to speak.
See Also: A very long season (part 2).