This picture was featured in an article I read recently called "Where Have All the Men Gone?" Funny? Many single women might beg to differ ...
A man must be a believer.
This image perfectly describes the way that many single women who want to get married feel in a society where single men seem to be complacent, at best, toward the idea of marriage. Granted, we're not actually wearing wedding dresses and chasing available men down the street, but in our hearts we might as well be. And the fact that there is only one man in the picture, and he's running for his life, gives testament to the reason we feel the way we do. Where have all the men gone? A single woman mentions she wants to get married and have children ... all single men flee. A single man mentions he wants to get married and have children (which seems like a myth) ... single women flock. Where is the break down here?
We breached this topic last night in my community group. I brought it up, emailing out articles that I have been discussing for a couple of weeks with some other single women, hoping to get some good perspectives from the range of experience represented in our group - young marrieds, young marrieds with children, older singles, younger singles. It was an interesting conversation, for sure - but I'm not sure that I walked away feeling any differently than I do, despite some of the encouraging informational nuggets that I gleaned from the discussion.
It all spawned, in part, from an article in the Atlantic about settling. How settling for Mr. Good Enough is better than years of loneliness while holding out for Mr. Right. The author states:
"Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling 'Bravo!' in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year."
Admittedly, after reading this article I couldn't help but think, "Should I marry that one guy in my life who really likes me, even if I'm not sure if he would be a spiritual leader for our family? Even if I'm not interested in him romantically?" And on and on it spiraled, until I had a grim picture of my future married to Billy Bob Burps-a-Lot who only wants to use me to make him sandwiches, bring him Natty Lights from the fridge, and pop out babies he can't afford and doesn't intend to help raise.
Of course, this dismal view of my future was untrue and fueled by the rantings of a single woman who decided to have a child by sperm donor, and now wishes that she would've married "Mr. Good Enough." Thank God for a voice of reason - this article, written from a Christian woman's perspective, argues that there are, in fact, certain non-negotiables for a Christian when considering marriage. She says this:
"If you're holding out for perfection, or have a long list of must-haves, it's possible you're overlooking some good men who are already in your life. Knowing what about a potential mate is worth appreciating and what's just eye candy has everything to do with when you should 'settle.'"
Ah, Sanity - so good to see you again. She goes on to say that the things that must be present in a potential mate are ...
A man must be a believer.
He must be able and willing to provide for his family.
He must love sacrificially.
He must be honest, have a good reputation and strive for the qualities of a spiritual leader.
That's no easy list to measure a man by. But, she also urges the reader to consider "his aptitude for growing into full maturity in those areas." In other words, he's in progress just like you are. He won't be perfect, but God has promised to complete the work He started in him. If the beginnings of those things are in place, that's a start.
But still, the question remains - Why is the guy running? What is it about marriage that scares single men half to death? Is marriage even on their radar? The answer is still unclear for me, and is why I was slightly dissatisfied with the outcome of our discussion. According to the author of this article, who is male and urges Christian men to seek a wife, this is the thinking of the typical single Christian male:
"I'm a Christian. I love God. I currently don't have a wife. If God wants me to marry someone, He'll make that explicitly clear. For me to get proactive in the process is to imply that I don't trust God to make it happen. And seeking a wife seems less spiritual than taking on another ministry responsibility. After all, I'm single. I really should commit all my time to God, and not be distracted with thinking about girls."
He goes on to say that, "The problem with this line of thinking is that not every man who has the status of singleness is gifted for singleness." This is true. But is this really their thought process? After further discussion, I don't think it's the case across the board.
The encouraging thing is, yes - it is on their radar (ladies, wipe the beads of sweat from your worried brows). And I think, from what I've observed and heard from the fellas, the reason why they aren't getting married isn't because they think they have the "gift of singleness." It's that pesky number two on the list - being able to provide for a wife and family. And I have to understand that. If the tables were turned, I would be freaking out, too. If it were me trying to provide for a family, we'd be in the poor house in two weeks or less.
But where is faith in that? If God leads you to marriage, won't he also then provide for your needs? Would He rather you be out there "burning with passion" and having no godly outlet for that desire, and living a financially comfortable single life? I don't think so. How do you marry the two (forgive the pun) - the need and desire for marriage and the faith that God will provide - and go about your life with faith and confidence that you will be able to feed your children, put them in diapers, and eventually though school?
It is scary. The weight of adulthood is enough to quickly crush the free spirits of many of today's young singles. But it has been done for centuries, and God hasn't failed us yet. Why would he start now?