The Valentine Conspiracy

valentineValentine’s Day is nothing more than a marketing ploy.  That’s my consensus on the matter.  By appealing to women’s hearts and men’s pocketbooks, the nameless faces on Wall Street are forcing us to spend money, time, and emotions on a ridiculous, pointless day that nobody would even care about if it weren’t pounded into our heads that we should. 

Valentine’s Day was in fact contrived by a group of financing companies when they saw the economy going in the tank.  Taking a formerly-ignored holiday they managed to push its marketing to an extent that, with revenue from chocolate and heart-shaped candies alone, it has financed the entire stimulus bill.  That’s why it got passed yesterday.

Even more interesting, those financing companies run under false names:  Ghiradelli, Macy’s, Hershey, Starbucks, JC Penney and Victoria’s Secret, to name a few.  With a clever twisting of words and a plethora of deceiving commercials, these companies have taken the nation by storm — convincing the collective that you need to spend money on your “loved ones” on this particular day.  How interesting that the stimulus bill has been debated during this same week.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

As a staunch conservative there was no way Wall Street would snooker me into financing my own extra $13-per-week increase in salary.  What better way to keep the public in ignorance than to have them finance their own pay raise?  It keeps morale high while also filling the government’s black hole of a treasury.  Every Ferrero Rocher truffle is one more dollar into the dining room curtains at the White House.    How innocent that Godive box looks, yet within it lies the means of government control larger than we have ever known.

My patriotism inspired me to forego those wide-eyed sweets beckoning from the shelf at Walgreens.  I know the bankruptcy of the nation lies within their wrappers — so I walked on to the freezer section and picked out a half gallon of Baskin-Robbins instead.  For the sake of America I sat on my couch with a spoon and a box of kleenex, and Baskin and I watched While You Were Sleeping until midnight.  God Bless America!

And I hope He zaps February 14th off the calendar.

I wish I had a real reason to hate Valentine’s Day, but I don’t.  It’s one of those days that is nationally glorified, yet at the same time gloriously exclusive.  Whatever happened to tolerance?  Is there such thing as romantic racism?  I can see myself at the head of the Romantic Rights Movement, banging down the door of the Capitol with a heart-shaped picket sign declaring, “Singles For Equal Treatment!”  That one’s going in the history books.

It’s easy to throw a pity-party when you’re single on the most romantic day of the year.  You think you might find solace in watching Patrick Dempsey and instead find yourself throwing your slippers at the inevitable love interest that appears on the scene.  The fact that she’s always ugly as a horse, fat as a hippo and dressed like a bag lady doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.  She’ll probably have buck teeth and hair like Phyllis Diller too.  You’ll be convinced by the end that she didn’t deserve Patrick at all.  Being delusional has never been so beneficial.

Benefits are scarce for the single girl on Valentine’s Day.  You may try to think of all the people you love, but truth be told, no matter how much you love Aunt Bertha it’s not the same to kiss her as it would be with Prince Charming.  Maybe it’s because Prince Charming remembers to shave.  Whatever the case, counting your blessings can even be hard.  You may have to put some effort into it, beyond “I am thankful I am breathing.”  But that’s a start. 

Just start somewhere.  The government may be behind Valentine’s Day but we don’t have to get caught up in their trap.  Just because Wall Street says it isn’t alright to be alone among the cupids and love darts doesn’t mean we have to listen.  Go look up your friend Baskin Robbins and enjoy what you have now.  It only gets better from here!

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Asked Out: In a Quandary

My sixteenth summer:  I learned a lot in those three months.  I worked for the first time in a retail environment and it was an eye-opening experience. 

There will always be ‘those guys’, and there were definitely a couple who I quickly learned were not of the mettle to mess with.  For the most part I escaped their attentions, and they gradually ceased with their bombardments, but through it I began to learn that my response was everything.  If I sounded the least bit unsure of myself , that indecisiveness proved to be a huge mistake.  Without being rude, I had to shut them down!  Fortunately for us, most worldly guys are just testing the waters to see if you will give them the attention they want, and a few cool, but nice, “Um, no”s give them a 180 the other direction.

But what about the good ones?

Never had a boy liked me before, and in that summer I met a young man at the greenhouse who I thought was… well, really nice.  He was handsome, and friendly.  One day he took down all the baskets that I had been told to take down… without me even asking.  I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I met him a few days later.  I was working in the range when he came up to me with a delicate blue flower in his hand.  “Your name is Phylicia, isn’t it?”  He asked.  “Yes.” I answered, smiling at him curiously.  “This is a Felecia flower… like your name.”  Yes, it was a simple observation, but it was so sweet!  …Right?

He talked to me.  We laughed together.  He met my extended family and endured an hour-long exposition from my great-uncle.  He brought me chocolate.  And he was a gentleman.  But somehow it still struck me as a complete surprise when we walked into each other among the begonias one day…

“Oh, hi Chad,” I beamed (trying to keep the halo of light from stark illumination).  “Hi,” he smiled. “Where are you headed?”  “To water the hydrangeas.”  “Oh.” “Yeah.” “Mm-hm…”  “So where are you going?”  Chad looked at his feet and then at the ceiling.  “Well, I was going to ask you something…”  I felt my stomach tighten — what?  I swallowed my heart and plastered a grin on my splitting face.  “Go ahead.” “Well…” He swallowed too.  I watched him carefully — was his eyebrow twitching? “I was wondering… if I were… sixteen (which he wasn’t)…”  My ears were ringing… I was rehearsing… what do I say, what DO I SAY?!  “… would you date me?”

No.  Anything but that.  NOT THAT QUESTION PLEASE!!!

All the purity talks and studies and answers and questions went out the window of my brain.  I liked him!  So I stood there with a columbine draped over my head and burned the rubber off the wheels of my mind.  “Well, see, I –” I stammered. “I, um, well… I don’t… actually — date.” His blue eyes were blank.  Score zero for comprehension. So a new tack was attempted:  “See, I am not going to go out with a guy until my husband comes someday.  I am waiting till then.”  That sounded right.

Chad blinked and looked at his feet.  Then he looked back at me and wrinkled his nose in confusion.  “So you… arrange marriages?” Now I looked blank.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  So instead, I muttered, “Um… no.”

There had to be a better way.  Now, three years later, I still cringe to think of how I handled that.  Now I know that there is a better answer!  Chances are if you have male friends, coworkers, friends-of-friends or church goers, you are going to be asked out at one time or another.  We’ve talked about the attitude with which to answer them — in complete kindness and respect — but what do you say?!

I can’t elaborate too much because every situation and guy is different.  Yet there are two different genres of answers to give:  the first is the high school answer, the second is the college answer.  The high school answer will contain the fact that you do not date anyone, and, if the boy is a good one, you will be able to turn him down without it being a personal affront.  The college answer depends on the family, but I will give you my two styles within this genre.

First, the Bad Boy Reply.  He comes rappin’ up to you and shoots a “Whassup?” that you can’t even grace with an intelligent conversation.  “Sooo, you doin’ anythin’ anytime soon?”  (This would not be an “um, no” moment).  You Smile Graciously but not Invitingly, tilt your head slightly to the side, and say Pleasantly with an undercurrent of Cool Preoccupation: “I’m sorry, but I am in a committed relationship.”  He may press for a better excuse, under which pressure your Cool Preoccupation becomes Cold Sophistication, which, with a touch of Civilization and slight Acceleration should end Communication as quickly as deemed possible.

Second, the Potential Suitor Reply.  He comes walking up to you and courteously asks, “Do you think — um — that maybe we could…er… possibly… go out sometime?” First, determine that it is not a Hallucination, then show some Appreciation without wedding Anticipation; give a quick Situation Evaluation and check again that it is not Imagination.  Once these steps are complete, do some further Intention Investigation.  Once he has met the Qualifications, give him the Notification that you only go out under your family’ s Verification.  If he is still full of Determination, you should show him some Consideration and relieve his Expectation courteously.

Of course, this leaves plenty of room for flexibility as the need arises.  Just don’t be ambiguous — be clear with what you are answering whether it be yes or no.  You don’t want to leave room for misunderstanding, as in the case of a Bad Boy he may take advantage of that ambiguity and in the case of a Good One he may be confused.  The best thing is to prepare your answer with your parents, for then when you are greeted with you will not be caught muttering “Um… no…”

People Will Say We’re in Love

I went out to eat with a guy friend the other night, and as we sat across from each other we talked about our classes at the college, and our lives, and what we were doing in our spare time… all the things we aren’t able to catch up on when the business of the day intrudes.  I explained to him a few things that had happened in my own life, people I was interacting with and situations that I had been in, and he gave me some advice in those areas.  His perspective as a guy involved things I never would have thought of if he hadn’t spoken.  “Do you really think that?”  I asked him, somewhat indignant since the topic was one that I held dear.  “Well, I’m just telling it to you as a friend and as a guy,” he said.  “That’s how it seems to be to me.”

As I thought about the things he said over the next few days, the more true they seemed.  I had never thought of my situation from a guy’s perspective before — other than my father’s — and it was interesting to see it through the eyes of my friend, whose genuine concern for my well being and happiness guided what he told me. 

Now that’s a friendship.  As I sat poking at my salad before heading off to a night class, I looked at my table companion and smiled.  How wonderful to have a friend like this, who would tell me the truth out of care — but would never deceive me about his feelings.  He has never been ambiguous when it comes to our relationship – or lack thereof.  “Phylicia,” he had said.  “We’re friends, and both our families know that, so we should be able to do things together on that basis.  There’s no pressure for anything more — and I like it that way.” 

I like it that way too.  The stability of our friendship lies in the fact that both of us have obligations elsewhere — to family, work, church and studies.  We have no obligations to each other.  We have no pressures and emotions to deal with.  We have no jealousies over each other’s friends of the opposite sex.  When we meet, we enjoy the time that we have together — and the rest of our lives aren’t spent pining! 

This is the kind of freedom I have spoken of in previous posts.  In the Victorian era, we would have been out of line to go to the cafe’ for our dinner without a chaperone.  Yet in the mid-1800’s, we would have been perfectly acceptable!  Because we are not in a relationship the guidelines for our interaction our less stringent than they may be in that situation.  This, of course, depends on the family.  However, my friend and I are in no dire straits to gain each others’ attention — and thus, we have no motivation to attain it.  Without motivation, there is no temptation.

If anything, my friend has given me great insight into how young men think, feel, and react.  He tells me honestly his opinion of certain character traits in girls, if I ask.  This in turn helps me in my view of myself and in what femininity is in regard to masculinity.  We never go too deep:  we don’t share feelings, emotions, and establish connections that belong within a committed relationship; but we do have a mutual friendship that transcends opinion, gossip and pressure.

Often “what people think” colors our reactions to the opposite sex, and can limit us in our friendships and interaction with girls or boys.  I call it “People Will Say We’re In Love Syndrome”.  Part of this is rooted in pride — concern over others’ opinons — and part is rooted in fear, but there are really only two causes:  Guilt or Pride. Guilt comes when a ‘friendship’ is not actually a friendship but an ‘illegitimate’ relationship (one not authorized or supervised by parents).  Pride instigates PSWLS when we walk around in fear of what people are thinking or saying about us. 

How do you build an immunity to PSWLS?  Two steps:  first, evaluate if you are above reproach in your parents’ and God’s eyes.  If you are, you can eliminate guilt as the cause.  Second, evaluate yourself for prideful intent.  Are you in the friendship to make it look like you’re in a relationship?  Are you so obsessed with yourself that your utmost concern is what people say and think about you?  Why can’t you enjoy the friendship for what it is?  If you work at keeping yourself in line on these two fronts your friendship should be pain and pressure free.

Immunities are built up over time.  They aren’t pills that you pop, although vitamins help in the long run (in regard to PSWLS, I suggest taking Humility, Patience, and Self-Control; write 1 Cor. 13:4-8 on the prescription and Celestial Pharmacy should hand it over  pre-paid).  If you wait until you’re love-sick, emotionally distraught, or fearful of friendships (all symptoms of advanced PSWLS) you will have to take some bitter pills to get back on track, and continue with that medicine until your weakened state is strong again.  Build an immunity now, and you won’t have to take the bitterness later.

My cell phone beeped 5:45 — time to head to class.  My friend was devouring a turkey sandwich and watching the news over my shoulder.  We’d been quite quiet for a while.  “We’re probably the only people who can go out and say nothing and still have a good time,” I laughed, gathering my coat and purse together.  “You know what they say,” he smiled with a twinkle in his eye.  “‘You say it best when you say nothing at all’…” 

Friends don’t have to say anything to know where they stand.  They just know.  And in that knowledge, they’re content.

The Victorian Deception

Somewhere in the past twenty-five years, as the purity movement was developing, there came into play an idea… or rather, an ideal.  This ideal begain to slowly influence the purity movement, in the name of ‘Good Old Days’ and courtship, and eventually has risen to be one of the major contributors to the purity perspective today.  This is the ideal of the Victorian courtship.

I have heard numerous girls chatter about this span of time in history, enamored with the dresses and courtly love of the people involved.  They see the flowers, lawn bowling, and walks; the lazy summer days and mint juleps; and the carraiges with  matching bays.  It was a day when men courted ladies with impeccable manners and propriety, not so much as speaking inappropriately in their presence.  It was a day of the family and the home, when women’s rights had not yet made its impact on society and the world was resting between war and depression. 

My dears, it is a delusion.

Partly because of the state of relationships today, I think the Victorian era has been colored to be more wonderful than it actually was.  Yet in truth, this period of time was nothing to be admired, and even more truthfully, it is nothing to be attained.  The Victorian time came after decades of war and uprising.  It was the eye of the storm between the Civil War and the beginning of the 20th Century — the most tumultuous century yet.  These years are presented as a time of leisure and love — a love that to many innocent girls is viewed as ‘ideal’.

Before the 1890’s there was an entire century of relationships.  There were generations of couples courting each other.  Before the Victorian times, men and women went for walks, had friendships, took carriage rides (unchaperoned) and danced together.  The culture was not the over-sexualized one we see today, but our ancestors had the same desires that you do.  Friendship did not cause them to give in to them.  They controlled themselves.

Sweeping in came the Victorian era.  No longer was it proper for a man and woman to spend time together unsupervised.  No longer was it appropriate for courtship to be fun.  It became a career move for men, and for women it was a game of love.  It became rules and stifled emotions… resulting in hidden sins and smouldering hearts.  What used to be in freedom became regulated and constantly under suspicion. 

Have you ever watched Pride and Prejudice?  I bet you have!  Notice that there is not always present a parent or an adult in every walk between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.  Notice that they exchanged letters and there was no one to bash them with a wooden spoon.  They were free, and in their freedom they chose to operate in propriety.  It is under pressure that many choose to rebel. 

The age of Emma and Elizabeth ended in the Victorian era, but while times change, desires do not.  It became unacceptable to have those desires when they are a real part of human nature — so rather than going away, emotions flamed higher in the dark, where no one could see.  Courtship in the Victorian era was not ideal… it was simply a facade. 

Transferring the Victorian model of courtship from its time to ours is not only difficult but also foolish.  This model reinforces the false pretense that  human beings do not have emotions, or that those emotions are still to be stifled even when we reach marriageble age.  I am not saying that we give full vent to our desires — no one should doubt my commitment to purity throughout my lifetime.  However, we need to understand that who we are in Christ rules our every action if we obey Him, and that letting fear and pride regulate our emotions and desires leads to our own destruction.

The generation following the Victorian era is a perfect example of the results of such a mentality.  The Roaring 20’s came whirling out of the stiff, unrealistic love of its parent decade.  The children of the Victorians rejected the entire method of courtship that their parents perpetuated and instead began the downward spiral into where we are today.  It didn’t come out of nowhere.  Dating didn’t just pop into someone’s head one day.  It resulted partly from the Victorian deception that love is a method, not a liberty.

Bottled and Shelved

I’ve seen it happen. 

A girl, pure and committed, living by every rule and guideline in the ‘book’, yet confused, afraid, and guilty over her own natural emotions.  If feelings arose for someone she tamped them down, stifled them, and corked it all in, not to see the light of day… but then at night, they came flooding back… and there was nothing she could do but stifle them all over again.

I’ve seen it destroy.  Those natural emotions that we have been given by God cannot be contained in so extreme a measure and allow us to still operate in freedom.  We become slaves to our emotions, constantly battling ourselves and feeling guilty because of it — when those emotions are part of our very nature.  The extremity of measures taken to keep a heart ‘pure’ can instead cause it to internalize natural desires, and eventually this leads to rebellion. 

What is a pure heart?  It is not a heart in slavery to rule and regulation.  It is disciplined, yes, but it is not bound and shackled to keep it in submission.  A pure heart is free of corruption, pride, selfishness and fear.  But most importantly… a pure heart is free.  Just free. 

If there is anything that causes me the most pain and frustration in the purity movement, it is the stifling of emotion that so many girls tend to do.  It is this tamped down, corked in, wound-up society of hearts that have natural, God-given desires for love and affection and friendship — without an avenue to vent those desires.  Friendships with boys are forbidden or closely censored, and any feelings a girl or boy may have is told to be stuffed away for That Great Day in the future.

It is not effective.  It is not safe.  This fear of relationships in high school, simply because we are devoted to purity, will prove to be the destruction of our commitment if we do not realize that in Christ, we have a marvelous freedom!  It is our own choice to use this freedom for good or ill — but we are free all the same!  This fear of friendships with girls or boys, this fear of touching or standing close, this fear of what others will think — it is fear.  It is pride.  It is not of Christ.

Oh you girls!  Do you see what you can have?  Do you see the freedom you have in Christ, when you are in submission to Him?  You can have pure, good, godly friendships with boys and girls and no one can condemn you!  It is perfectly possible to spend time with the opposite sex on a friendship basis and remain completely above reproach.  You may even develop an attraction to one particular friend — a crush, perhaps.  That is natural.  What you do with it is the issue.  If you stamp it down and grind it out with legalism and human strength, it will come back ten times stronger.  Give it to Christ, and you will be able to maintain a friendship as well as your heart.

God says all through Scripture, “Do not be afraid.”  (Deut. 1:29, Josh. 10:25, 1 Sam. 12:20, 1 Sam. 22:23, Ps. 56:11)  Do not be afraid anything:  temptation, emotion, friendships, men, what others may think.  If you are indeed of God then you have nothing to be afraid of.  You should be perfectly in control of your emotions, perfectly strong in temptation, perfectly at ease in friendships, perfectly respectful to men, and perfectly content to let others think what they may.  Because God is perfect, and He is at your side.

So where is your heart?  Is it ‘bottled and shelved’ like a keg of beer, fermenting and growing stronger in its pungent smell?  Or is it growing free, like a lily in a field, with sun and water and a whole host of others around it?  The lily white heart is not rotting in a cellar but flourishes where accountability and beauty grow up together.  It is not afraid of the thorns of the thistle that grows beside it, because it knows that it is where it needs to be.  Someday someone will pick it, but until that day, it flourishes where it has been planted.

Is Courtship Biblical?

Now there’s a question you haven’t heard.

A lot of time we take courtship for granted as a Biblical concept, without questioning where it is found in the Christian faith — if at all.  Is courtship a Biblical concept, and if so, are Christians who do not follow it in sin?

There are some denominations who truly believe that courtship is a firm facet of the Christian walk; that to compromise in this area is indeed to wander into sin.  In these denominations, there is a specific way to go about courtship and each couple is to execute their relationship along those parameters.  Other denominations are much more lax in regard to male-female interaction — some just confront the issues pertaining to sexual immorality and leave it at that.  Are either of these branches wrong?  What about all the systems in between?  Is there one set method for courtship that God has ordained for His followers?

I truly don’t think so.  The relationships of Scripture were influenced by culture and era, so the example set by those will not be completely transferrable to our present society.  We can’t lift Ruth and Boaz off the pages of the Old Testament and pop them into contemporary, metro-sexual New York and expect the story to be the same.  Then again, some women like the idea of marrying their former mother-in-law’s cousin, who happens to be about twenty years older and considerably well-off due to a couple decades of careful investment in the wheat industry…

Does this mean that the Bible leaves relational methods for us to decide?  God is not into relativism, in case anyone  noticed.  Just like any other aspect of life our relationships are to proceed along specific guidelines that the Lord provides — but there’s no Dating Rulebook either.  Rules do not equal legalism — but legalism does equal rules.  The true Christian abides by the Lord’s commands because he honors Him and chooses to obey from love; the legalistic Christian abides by commands to one-up others and feel good about himself.  Whether those rules are right or necessary is not relevant to legalism. 

Picture a bowling alley.  You’re standing, ball in hand, about to hurl it down the lane and into the pins for a stunning victory to impress your friends.  But before you send it flying, you purposely put up the bumpers so the ball has no chance of spinning into the gutter.  You send the ball down the lane and — WHAM! A strike!  You walk back smugly… but  no one’s very impressed.  “Let’s see how you do with the bumpers down,” they say.  So you try it — and fail miserably.  You’ve played so long with the bumpers you can’t keep the ball in the lane without them. 

Unfortunately, many Christians operate in relationships this way.  By putting up the bumpers of legalism, they keep themselves on the straight and narrow, knowing that if they take down the bumpers they might head straight into the gutter.  Rather than strengthen and perfect they choose to operate in ‘safety’, within rules, so that they never have to face temptation.  One day the bumpers will come down.  When that day comes, if you can’t keep the ball in the lane, you will have a harder time re-learning so that you can keep it where it should have been before.

Legalism breeds weak Christians — and this means legalism in any area.  However, legalism as pertains to relationships is especially dangerous because of arrogance and selfishness that seep in.  Satan can use legalism to his direct advantage because legalism equals pride.

Am I saying that operating in discipline is legalistic?  By no means.  To live in the flesh, without reserve or control, is equally damaging and full of self.  We must strike a balance, and more importantly, understand our motivation for how we go about our relationships.  If a woman goes into relationships with the intention of landing the man, she may compromise many things in order to accomplish that.  If a man goes into a relationship with the idea that he will tread the line physically, he will be sacrificing his morality on the altar of instant gratification.

What guidelines, then, are given to us?  Check out Titus 1:8-9, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; and Romans 6:12-15 (view this link for an even more thorough Biblical support).  All these emphasize the fact that a Christian is to live a holy, upright life.  Part of living this life is not only to seek righteousness but avoid evil.  Where Christians go wrong in relationships is when they question, “How far is too far?” This clues us in to the fact that they are already wondering when sin becomes sin — and if it is really wrong at all.  The question should not be “How closely can I tread the line?” but “How can I most glorify God in this relationship?”   A person asking this question of himself will not need legalism to keep him in the middle of the lane.  His devotion to God will keep him there.

So then:  is courtship Biblical?  Because of what it stands for, and the concepts, methods and and ideas that are involved, yes.  But courtship in and of itself is not the God-ordained fashion that all people must use for their relationships.  For most of us, our parents dated and they grew to glorify God with their marriage even with any mistakes they may have made.  Even a couple that dates can glorify God if they are abiding by his painstakingly clear standards for sexual intimacy — it belongs within the bond of marriage alone.  If they choose to tread the line of that command it is their own spiritual walk they threaten.  It is their choice.  It is everyone’s choice — rules cannot protect, defend or excuse anyone before God. 

This view of courtship should not be viewed as threatening or undermining to its foundation.  Rather, it should be viewed as incredibly freeing to us as Christians.  We have the choice in all parts of our daily lives to choose God or choose ourselves.  Relationships will be no different, no matter what method you choose to go about them.  Temptation is not picky, and even with the bumpers up it can reach you — and destroy you if you aren’t able to stay true when they’re down.  We have an amazing freedom in Christ — for He “did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control.” (2 Tim. 1:7).  Legalism operates out of fear — fear that without it you will fail.  Strength comes when you beat fear down and become victorious. 

Think about your motivations for choosing courtship.  But more than that, check your heart when it comes to viewing others and their decisions about relationships; especially fellow Christians.  Understand the freedom you possess — and that every one possesses in Christ — because grasping this concept will determine whether you keep the bumpers up in life or if you lay them down and send the ball straight into the pins.

Think of it this way:  I’ve just given you an incredible excuse to go bowling.

Any Man of Mine

“Do not put your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation…” (Ps. 146:3)

 It seems that everywhere I look I see books on waiting, courtship, dating, and singleness; blogs and posts about it; podcasts and magazines, articles and videos — the list goes on.  It’s a hot topic today.  Our world of fleeting romance is definitely not the ideal.  Yet it seems that as a result of choosing the path of purity we are turning out members of society with the ‘ideal’ as their ultimate focus.  Most of it belongs to the feminine side of the equation.  Some belongs to the masculine side.  With the commitment to purity, it seems that many young people form an idealistic concept of who, when, where and how, and when theses dreams don’t take place quickly, the participating faithfuls begin to lose faith.

High school is far too young for young people to be dabbling in relationships.  This is a fundamental idea that with any rational thought can be perceived as perfectly valid.  But what about afterward?  Why is the homeschool/purity movement producing persons (especially women) whose only real desire is to ‘get married’? 

The problem is not with marriage.  I truly believe that marriage is wonderful and I will be delighted when it happens to me.  Yet I have observed, over and over, young women leaving the nest of homeschool with one purpose alone: to catch a man.  My dear persevering relatives have seen this same tendency in me — although not so much to ‘catch’ one, as simply to throw my dime-a-handful fish pellets in the water and see if any come around. 

Girls will dream of their wedding day, that is a given.  But what about making your life around a wedding day?  Until you reach that time, you will not have a purpose.  No goal except to find a mate.  With any other object this may be attainable — a job, an education, even a home — since these things can be found and earned.  A mate is an entirely different animal… a human.  As time goes on, this human can become a god:  all youth is spent in pursuit of him, much time is spent in dreaming of him, and marriage, a wedding and a mate can become all you ever want out of life.

So what happens… when the wedding is over?  What then?  Wedding days are over by sundown, honeymoons are over in a week, and then there’s the rest of a lifetime to deal with.  Tests and trials much like singleness come — often much more difficult as the family must provide for itself.  What then?

The Ideal Mate suddenly is revealed as a sinning human, as well as are you — despite all the preparation for marriage.  If marriage was your idol before the ring, your eyes are opened wide as you see that it’s not all romance and candles.  All the time spent to attain it may make you wonder if it was well spent at all.  Did you redeem the time of your youth?  Did you make the most of the years you had?

Preparing for marriage is an admirable goal, and I would never say to stop learning to be a homemaker or provider (whichever you may happen to be).  At the same time, if that is your only goal in life it is a low-sighted vision.  While God works mightily through married couples, He can work mightily through anyone who is called by His name.  Those with the freedom of singleness are often more readily available than those that are wed, as with the Apostle Paul:

“Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.  I wish that all were as I myself am.  But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.  To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am…”  (1 Cor. 7:6-7)

Would I like to stay single for a long time?  No.  I want hugs and kisses too.  My mom and dad seem to have a rather fun time with it, and I wouldn’t mind trying it myself with my husband someday.  However, if that becomes my only goal then I am making an idol out of something that is a blessing of God, not God himself.  It is the same with a career or an education — or anything that takes the place of God in our lives.  Yet it often seems that marriage is somehow given a license to take this position in the lives of young people while careers and educations are not, especially to girls.

You may be alarmed by the feministic ring to that last statement, but don’t be; I will tell you what I am for.  I am for young men and women making these years when they are unmarried, without commitments and people to provide for, the years that they fill with learning and moving forward.  These are the years to do things you dream of — not in a selfish way, which the world recommends, but the dreams that God lays on your heart.  Dreams beyond marriage.  Once a woman has children she should be in the home educating them as her God-given position in the family.  But until then, she has work to do either for her husband or for her God.

Marriage can seem like the safe haven that escorts a girl out of her parents’ home into the home of her husband.  She never has to face ‘the world’.  The truth is that we live in the world.  We may not be of it, but we sure better be able to face it.  We had better know what to say and do, how to speak and how to teach — and in these things we can still be all the wife or husband that we need to be.  In fact, we will most likely be better. 

Any man of mine will be worthy of my respect and love because he went out into the world and accomplished the dream God laid on his heart.  He will be my hero because I will see in him a man who took his time and redeemed it, preparing for me by not wasting his time dreaming of me, but working to support me.  And I will do the same:  use these years to their maximum.  So when my man and I meet, our years together will be twice as powerful as our years apart.  That’s my dream, and marriage is a part of it — but marriage isn’t the dream itself. 

Society may be set against marriage, instead being a proponent of the ‘swinging single’ image, but that does not give us the license to take the pendulum the other direction with the idea that marriage is the ‘only way’.  We must strike a balance, with morality as our guide and God as our hope, knowing that our work for Him will be effective whether we have a spouse at our side or not.  When He is in His rightful place, then He can give us those blessings that we desire.