No Guarantee

money back guaranteeI think I assumed there was a guarantee with my birth certificate.  I think a lot of people make the same assumption.  I hear it often from parents of little girls.  “When she grows up and gets married . . . ” That’s the way I hear it most often.

I understand where they’re coming from.  Most of the time the people I hear making this statement are happily married Christians.  Marriage is a huge part of Christian culture–and rightly so.

Please don’t think I’m disparaging marriage.  I’m not.  I’m a big fan of marriage, especially of marriages centered on Christ.  My parents and grandparents model (and modeled) a great example of commitment and selflessness found in strong marriages.  Living on a small patch of land in Africa surrounded by couples committed to each other and their marriages reinforced my idea that marriage is desirable and worthwhile.

I still think that.  Now, however, I know it’s not guaranteed.  It’s not my birthright.

Truly, I don’t know if someone had told me that when I was a little girl how I would have reacted.  I don’t know if it would’ve crushed me.  It may have, or it may have spurred me to prove them wrong.  I’m not sure.   Perhaps I was told and disregarded such a seemingly ridiculous thought.

I don’t want to seem bitter.  I  really don’t think I am.  I love to see a strong, healthy marriage.  I love to hear my friends who are excited about their weddings but more excited about their marriages. I still hope I’ll join the ranks of the married one day, but I know today isn’t the day.

Parents—of both princes and princesses—please don’t assume your child gets a birth certificate and a guarantee of marriage.  Please incorporate singles into the life of your family.  Please remind your children both marriage and singleness are viable for them. Surround them with people who do both well.    After all, even though we think one state may last forever, there’s no guarantee that either singleness won’t follow even the best of marriages or marriage won’t follow the healthiest of singleness-es.

The only guarantee I know is that satisfaction is ultimately found in God.  He’s the only one who will perfectly fulfill me.  He’s the only one with a guarantee.

What do you wish someone had told you about marriage?

image courtesy of Vectorportal

Today I’ve joined the Faith Barista’s Faith Jam.  Every week Bonnie’s asking other bloggers to “jam like musicians” on a faith and life related topic.  This is my riff on “What I wish someone had told me about marriage.”  I’d love to read your thoughts on the topic.  Please leave a comment or a link to your blog if you’ve jammed on this.  If you’re interested in seeing what others had to say, please follow the link over to the Faith Barista site.

17 Responses to “No Guarantee”

  1. Ginger HuntFebruary 10, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    Thanks for sharing, Sheryl. I agree with you that I always had a great dream to be married “happily ever after” with exactly what was in my dream, including a white picket fence. But apparently I am not good at that, and so I have been single a lot more years than I was married. And this is what I know. People often see marriage as something that completes them, that the other half of them is out there somewhere, waiting for them. That God has chosen a person for them, and trusting in His timing will bring that person.
    I love strong marriages, I love marriages that have ups and downs but truly want to be together, and are willing to work to have that happen.I love love! But, I believe it is important to really understand that you are perfect before God with or without a mate. Getting to know oneself is so important. I am so content- maybe it’s because I’m older, maybe it’s just because I know that God takes me as I am. He’s willing to work with this imperfect person because He made me. That true contentment brings me peace. I wish people knew this about marriage- if you are not totally content alone, just being who you are in God, then the marriage will not make you content. That is my word today- contentment in my heavenly father who loves me more than anyone else ever could. Hooray!

  2. TirzahFebruary 10, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    I LOVE what Ginger said. My parents did a lot of things right. One thing I wish they had done differently is not treat marriage like the ultimate goal. Sure, education, a Christian walk, and being healthy were importan in our house, but marriage…getting married and having a family were seen as the most important thing you could do with your life. Find a good Christan man and pop out lots of kids. How I wish they hadn’t put so much weight on that. My sister might be in a better place if they hadn’t. My brother may have made different choices. I would have savored singleness sooner and maybe for longer. I wish they had encouraged singleness. Then again they had never been single in their adult lives. So I figured out on my own by God’s good grace that there is a whole other world, a different way to be happy and it makes marriage better, makes people better and makes the world work – SINGLENESS! I’m not going to tell my sweet Sarah she can never get married, but I am sure not going to tell her she has to. I want her to become her own person, experience life and become content in her own skin before she even thinks about marriage. Thankfully she has two parents who know the joy, the pain, the wonder and the sorrow of singleness and how it is equally as full of a life as marriage – just different!

  3. TanyaFebruary 10, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    This is lovely, Sheryl. I particularly love your advice to parents about including singles in their family life. I think it’s great for the singles (to not be relegated to hanging out with the “young people” giving that sense that you aren’t a grown up until you’re married) but had never before considered the impact this has on children – the implicit condoning of a single lifestyle, of putting another option on offer. I think it’s hard for parents to show/tell their kids that marriage is not the only option when that’s how they themselves are living (as a married couple, especially if they were married young-ish). Engaging socially with singles and including them in family activities, letting them be an example of another valid way to live a full Christian life, is a wonderful idea!

  4. MalloryFebruary 10, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    Exactly that. That just because you are born doesn’t mean you will get married. I am learning to appreciate this phase of life, but I wish I wasn’t brought up to believe that marriage is the ultimate goal.

    Love your thoughts and love you!

  5. SherylFebruary 10, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    Oh, Ginger! You have been such a role model to me about living life without a husband. You ooze contentment—even when times are tough. L, too, love that God takes me as I am. While I may not be the good steward of my body that he’d like, my extra weight doesn’t bother him. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your heart and your words of wisdom!

    Tirzah—I know it’s hard for those who’ve never really appreciated singleness to make way for it or even encourage it—especially when they have a fairly successful marriage. And it’s all in our own timing, too. If you’d savored singleness longer (on the end, not at the beginning), you’d probably have missed out on both Mike and Sarah—and that would be sad. I think Sarah’s going to grow up with a great appreciation of all facets of life. She has wonderful parents.

    Tanya—I’ve been privileged to be a part of so many families—especially (but not exclusively) when I lived overseas. I think it was good for all of us. For some people that sort of hospitality comes naturally, for others it’s more work. I think it has to go both ways, too. Singles have to be willing to let families into their lives and homes. I remember cooking for families and inviting them over and them being shocked that I’d do that. It’s a two way street.

    Mallory—It’s hard to change your thinking on this, isn’t it? I know it has been for me. I know that if (and more likely when) you get married, you’ll have lived a full life before the wedding, you’ll appreciate it more, and you’ll begin new and healthy patterns for others to follow. Love you back!

  6. Laura JosephFebruary 10, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    Sheryl,

    I think this is one of the wisest posts you have put on here! Good admonitions that I will remember. I was single a lot longer than I wanted to be before getting married (we were both over 30), and have seen long-single friends get married late in life for the first time, as well as married people unexpectedly find themselves single through unforeseen circumstances. I appreciate the exhortation to surround my children with examples of those who do both well. Good job with this post!

  7. SherylFebruary 10, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    Thanks, Laura! I really appreciate your encouragement. I think as you move cross-culturally it’s even more crucial to surround your kids with people from both cultures who do both well. I didn’t realize both you and Abraham were over 30 when you got married. That’s beautiful! Thanks for stopping by and leaving some comment love!

  8. CherylFebruary 11, 2011 at 6:15 am #

    This is excellent, Soul! Even though I was single for quite a while before we got married, I do sometimes forget about the importance of this. There are few healthy single examples here in the valley where we live now. The kids had those models when they were younger in Strasbourg, but not so much now. I should be more proactive about this.
    As for what I wish someone would have told me about marriage… I guess I don’t really have a good answer. Marriage is hard. Being single is hard. Life is hard. But God is SOOOO good and faithful. That about sums it up…
    Love, Soul

  9. SherylFebruary 11, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Soul, I’m sure being so much more isolated than ever before makes the role models harder to find. It probably comes down to just being intentional in conversation when those people are around or have been around. And, of course, you’re right—life is hard and God is good. One doesn’t negate the other. I’ve observed enough of my friends’ marriages to know that there’s green grass on my side of the fence, too. Love you back!

  10. JamieFebruary 11, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    You know, you are absolutely right. So many folks look at singles like it is a skin disease….but it isn’t. It simply is what it is! And it is hard on either side of the fence, so no need to rush into a bigger uglier yard just because…. You write really well and this was definitely a good one to read 🙂

  11. SherylFebruary 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by, Jamie! It was fun to jam with you this week. Thanks for recognizing my bare ring finger as undiseased! You’re right—I don’t see myself as in a hurry to switch yards, but I think I’m as ready as I’m going to be if the right gardener shows up. 🙂 Of course, God may have other ideas about the whole thing. Thanks, too, for the encouragement about my writing. It’s nice to hear.

  12. Faith Barista BonnieFebruary 12, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    Totally spot on. So glad you put this important perspective on marriage into the jam. Definitely need to be said. 🙂

    I have a 5 year old son and I already told him that God gives us freedom to choose to be married or not. And not everyone may get married. I told him before I met daddy, I actually was happy to be single and thought that might be God’s plan for me. I told him, just be open to what happens, knowing Jesus is with him and loves him.

  13. SherylFebruary 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    I like your parenting, Bonnie! (Yeah—I’m a bit biased on the subject). I just think it’s good for kids to see both sides of the coin and knowing it’s their relationship with Jesus that matters most. Thanks for always being a source of encouragement and affirmation.

  14. SharFebruary 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Sheryl,

    Like it! So much of what you said rings true for me. My parents have been really good about just letting me be as I am–but I wish the rest of the (Christian) world would see it that way! It took me so long to find a place where I feel good about being single (but I am now sometimes almost resentful at the thought of giving it up, though I’m sure I’d change my tune if the man were the right one ;). Some things I wish I hadn’t been told:

    “Well, he’s out there somewhere!” Well, maybe he isn’t!

    “Just hang in there.” As if my singleness is some kind of torture I must wait to be relieved from!

    “And you single people, listen up–this will affect you someday when you’re married.” In sermons, mostly, even though a good chunk of the population is single…or children! Or the classic, “Try this out on your spouse when you get home! Or, for you single people, try it out on your…coworkers…” as though singles have very few people to try out whatever-it-is on.

    “After the prayer, she went out and ran into Ondolo’s arms…” From lots of fluff fiction, in which the heroine gets her life straight with God and is rewarded with a manly prize!

    I think the main thing I wish I had been told is that my life is worthwhile whether I am single or married. (I almost phrased that, “whether I am married or not,” but that only speaks to the ways this everyone-will-get-married ideal is so ingrained even into our speech: You are a married or you are a not-married. I wish we spoke as though we were ourselves, not ourselves plus whatever label we lack.)

    Thanks for this. Loved reading it.

    P.S. Have you ever read Stuff Christians Like? You might enjoy this: http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2009/06/550-surviving-church-as-a-single/

  15. SherylFebruary 20, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Hey, Shar! Nice to see you here! 🙂 Great insights; I’m glad you wrote them. Or my other “favorite”? “Just stop looking and caring. When you’re not so occupied with it, God will bring the right man to you.” Yes, the desires of my heart have an on and off button—ugh. I’ve seen the Stuff Christians like book, but I’ll check out the website. Thanks for the recommendation.

  16. Nansie IkeFebruary 28, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    And my children had beautiful role models like you in their lives. You are always and forever one of their favorite people. They are still single and content, pursuing Jesus and His plans. Thank you Sheryl for this word and this reminder!

  17. SherylFebruary 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    They are always and forever some of my favorite people. I just wish they’d stop growing up and making me feel so old. 🙂 Being part of all of your lives has been so much fun and such a blessing. (Did we really drive the wrong way down the off ramp of the autoroute?!?!?!)

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