This week Jessie…Jessie is a 21-year-old college student and a passionate new follower of Jesus. She loves to challenge convention, enjoys thinking critically about the world around her, and hopes to someday be a counselor for trauma survivors. Jessie’s favorite thing to do is travel to Africa to work with women and children who have been affected by war. She also loves to read and write and hopes to never stop learning. Jessie is excited to share her perspective as one of The Marcella Project’s Friday bloggers, and hopes to encourage women to think critically, speak loudly, act boldly, and love deeply.
Lately it seems as though every time I check my news feed on facebook, another young girl I know has just posted something showing that she just got engaged, married, pregnant or had a baby. These are all incredible blessings in life, no doubt. But I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the vast number of people I know who are encountering these seasons of life at such a young age. At my age…21. Maybe even younger. Maybe still in college, or maybe out. Either way, I find myself absolutely shocked by the high frequency of young engagements, marriages, and pregnancies I’m seeing.
Let me first say that I do not in any way mean to say that getting married and having children are invaluable goals in life, nor that those who do so at a young age are doing anything wrong. I in no way mean to criticize those choices and way of life.
Rather, I have a very big problem with what the world and often the Church tell young girls and women about what dreams they should be dreaming, hoping, and praying for in this life.
Perhaps it is my feminist perspective. Yes, I hate to use that word, because so many people have warped definitions of what it means, when really it is a personal experience defined by the individual whose perspective it is. I went to an all-girls high school, which instilled in me very strong values of the independence, strength, and limitlessness of being female. A school that grew us into very strong and confident women. Who do not see being female as a challenge in life, but a strength. Who set equally or higher standards as their male peers. Who dream about going big places and accomplishing huge things.
Perhaps that is why I do not share the dream that the world so tirelessly works to instill in the minds of young girls: to be rescued by a man. Let me say it again…to be rescued…by a man.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been huge changes in society since the Feminist movement to bring about more equality between women and men. That is not what I’m talking about here. Despite how much women get paid (which is arguably still significantly less than men) or how many women are now attending college (though that number is now higher than men), this one message still lingers. And girls are socialized to believe it from an incredibly young age.
We see it everywhere. From the earliest of ages, we learn that Barbie is not complete without her male partner Ken. All the classic Disney movies (which I admittedly love despite the distinct message I am against), remind us that Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine, and Beauty only find happiness at the end of each movie when they are rescued by and united with their male partner. I could go on and on with examples, but I won’t. Because we all know them. We see them everywhere everyday. We experienced them as young girls ourselves. They are often invisible, but they are no doubt powerful and invasive images.
As I thought about this frustration I had, I began to think…beyond my liberal, feminist perspective…How do I feel about this as a new follower of Jesus?
And I realized two things: 1) that the Church is equally as guilty as American culture, and 2) that Jesus has bigger dreams for us as young women. They might include marriage and children somewhere down the road…but His plans are so much bigger than that.
I’m sure we can all think of ways that the Church is guilty of sending us this message, as well. For starters, going to church as a single woman can often feel lonely. At times it can feel that everyone around you is paired off, rather married or in a dating relationship. I for one, go to one of the most liberal, progressive churches I have ever seen. I often refer to it as a “hippie church.” And yet, I still find myself staring at the couples holding hands during worship. Watching guys hold their wives and girlfriends with compassion. And despite my own diverse dreams…I begin to think…why don’t I have that? What is wrong with me, that I have yet to find that?
Then there are those small groups and bible studies for “married couples,” or “seriously dating couples.” While I’m sure they have a lot to discuss that I could not relate to due to my singleness, I, as I’m sure many of you have, feel excluded from them at times.
I didn’t go to church as a young girl, so I can’t discuss the sort of messages a young girl would receive as a Christian, but I would hope they wouldn’t be things I have heard from others like…”You should really pray for a husband.”
Like I said before, there is nothing wrong with dreaming of sharing your life with another. Marriage is beautiful and sacred, and the Bible shares that with us in so many ways.
What I do have a problem with, is the idea that we need a man to rescue us…when there is only one man we should ever dream of being rescued by: Jesus.
Jesus is our knight in shining armor running to save us. Longing to pull us out of that deep dark hole of sin. Calling our name in the woods, searching for those of us who are lost. As women, as human beings, as followers of Christ…we should be longing to be rescued, resurrected, and redeemed through Jesus, not through marriage. We should be finding our wholeness, our completeness, our purpose, and our happiness through the love of Jesus. Otherwise, we let these dreams of a husband fill the deep voids in our life, instead of letting Jesus fill those holes overflowing with His love.
Before coming to know Jesus, I had a lot of holes inside me. Deep, dark, debilitating voids. As all of us do. But mine stemmed from a lack of validation. I didn’t see myself as being good enough. As being worthy of love and happiness. And before I found Jesus, I let my romantic relationships attempt to seep into those holes and make up for those deficiencies. I became addicted to the affection of guys. If I wasn’t in a dating relationship or hooking up with a guy, I felt incomplete. Unworthy. Unloved. Doomed for a life of disappointment. I constantly looked for external rather than internal validation.
I allowed Jesus to rescue me in all His bright and shinning armor a few years ago. Although, I definitely would not have described it like that at the time. But I am still working on the huge process of letting God come into those wounded places and fill those voids with His love. And it’s a process God is telling me I have to finish before I let some significant male into my life again.
I love The Message translation of 1 Corinthians 7:17 “And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status defines your life.”
There is nothing wrong with dreaming for a husband to share your life with. But there is something wrong with ignoring all of the beautiful plans God has for you by only focusing on that one thing you are missing in life. With wishing you were somewhere else, with someone else.
Marital status does not define your life. God does.
Young women do not need a man to rescue them. Fulfill them. Give them meaning or purpose.
That is Jesus’ job.
And we should be faithful in His ability to do it infinitely better than a man ever could.