Maybe it's not the mortgage that's the problem, but the attitude that sometimes goes with it.
Part 1: Single Female Seeking Home Ownership »
When I wrote about the benefits of single women living at home with their parents — or with another Christian family — I knew I was tossing out some pretty counter cultural ideas. I'll admit when I first read about the concept in the book Getting Serious about Getting Married, I was doubtful. But the more I read of the reasons behind such a move, the more it intrigued me. I thought it would be a welcome suggestion for women who are serious about getting married and willing to take the challenge.
The email we received confirmed the ideas weren't only counter cultural, but controversial. Not that all the mail was negative, but a lot of it was.
My concern about the email I received is that most of it was written from the perspective that women can do anything they want, and if and when they decide to marry, they will do that, too. But because marriage isn't a decision one makes in isolation — it takes two — that simply isn't reality.
Again, I wasn't saying a home is something a single woman should never buy on her own. I know some very Godly single women who own their homes. I am saying that the attitude of extreme independence that characterizes many of the decisions young singles make today — about real estate and lots of other things — is incompatible with Christian
Marriage is not something you acquire; like a degree, or a job, or even a home. It's something you enter, with great humility and self-sacrifice. It requires selflessness,
interdependence and the ultimate commitment. How do you prepare for such a thing? You don't do it by becoming as independent as possible. Still that seems to be the mantra of many Christian single women today.
Take for example, the woman who lives independently in her 20s. She is not serious about marriage, focuses most on her education and career and has the luxury of seeing her dating relationships primarily as entertainment. Though a professing Christian, she may even be sexually promiscuous (the stats show Christians mirror the world when it comes to pre-marital sexual activity). Suddenly at 30, she decides she's ready to marry. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Even if she avoided an
out-of-wedlock pregnancy and STDs, most of the men she once dated are now likely either married, or if single, dating women five years or more her junior. There simply aren't as many men to go around at 30 as there were at 23 or 25.
To suggest that regardless of how you live, God will bring the right man along when the time is right if marriage is His will, is at best naïve, and at worst presumptive. Every decision we make has consequences. And some of our decisions can keep us single, despite God's will. Yes, He is sovereign. But He gave us free will and He will not contradict Himself to override our poor decisions.
I like the way author, speaker and scholar Barbara Mouser puts it:
God gave real authority to human creatures. There are five or six billion of us running loose in the world every day making decisions. A lot of these decisions are very sinful. God does not undo every decision just because it is foolish or sinful. He lets most decisions stand. He does sometimes limit or keep things from happening through His providence. But He has given us real authority in this domain [of the earth], and He does not treat it lightly.
God has already made it clear in His word that it is
His will for most believers to marry. The only ones who are supposed to remain single are the ones specially gifted to be celibate. Most of the women who wrote do not, from their own admission, appear to have that gift. Most of them are currently dating or wish to be. And they say they hope to marry one day.
One letter in particular caught my eye. Both because it was among the most pronounced example of this bravado I'm talking about but also because the author said she was speaking for a group of singles that was debating the article.
I read the original article about single women buying homes, and I was quite perplexed by it. It sparked a heated discussion among some of us girls here at the office and I have to say that while we liked some of your sub points about being accountable to someone, and having people looking out for your best interest, etc., and there were some valid points in the article that rung true for us, we just could not get on board with the premise of the article.
We all want marriage, yes. But we're intelligent and educated and want to be financially stable. We know we need a plan B because marriage might not be in God's individual plan for us as unique beings, or it might be delayed. Owning a home is part of that plan B.
Think about that. Plan A is moving toward oneness — interdependence — with another person in marriage. Plan B is becoming independent so you don't need another person. It's easy to see how actively investing in B (financial independence) could undermine A (marriage).
Sadly, the legacy of the feminist movement is a fear that men aren't trustworthy; that they'll inevitably let women down. This feminist expectation drives many women to invest more in Plan B than Plan A. But as a wise friend told me, "When Plan B gets all the attention, it becomes Plan A."
Let's see how this writer's emphasis on Plan B might actually ruin her shot at Plan A.
We didn't think that getting married or not getting married has anything to do with whether or not we own a home. I am single, I have a steady boyfriend, I am 23 and I fully plan on buying a home, on my own, next year. I am doing this because it is being a good steward of my finances. If I get married someday, I'll be able to contribute that asset to my husband and my family.
I'm concerned that this reader is pitting one Biblical imperative against another: being a good steward vs. getting married. And if what she calls "stewardship" makes marriage unlikely, it's likely that's not good stewardship after all. A steward uses all God gives her: time, talents, resources, youth, fertility, etc. — not just her money — for His glory. (Hot housing markets notwithstanding, buying a home is no guarantee of big financial returns. Tying up all your cash in a home purchase could actually mean less financial, geographical and time flexibility, not more.)
In this example, I can see clearly how the house might just scare the potential husband away.
Suppose he thinks she would make a good wife and is getting up the courage to ask her to marry him. Suppose she mentions that next year she is going to buy a home — all by herself. She has sent a very clear message that she does not see herself married to him any time soon.
She is quite possibly delaying her own marriage. And if he walks away discouraged, who knows but that he might have been her best shot at it.
She says she's thinking stewardship. But is that what comes across to him? Consider that a woman who has financial independence as her priority may present herself as disinterested in the interdependence marriage requires.
She went on to write,
As much as I love marriage and the idea of being married, I cannot concede that I should put any part of my life on hold because of an ideal that I wish for myself. My life does not begin after marriage.
What about sex? What about having a baby? What about relocating to a different state for a job opportunity when you're weeks away from your wedding? I suspect there are things you put on hold or don't do because they're counterproductive to other things you want more. Delaying gratification in some cases is worth it. The object of desire is often sweeter when you wait for it till the appropriate time.
Could it be the drive for independence on the one hand is undermining the longing for intimate partnership on the other?
When I first wrote the article, I thought the most obvious and important point was that "access breeds complacency." That with the 24-7 mentality living solo can inspire, women would never leave men lonely enough, or longing enough, to pop the question. Maybe it's not so much that home ownership, per se, is hindering single women in their quest for marriage. I believe it's also the attitude that accompanies some of these home purchases that turns men off.
One thing's certain, getting married is getting harder. Yes, that's due in part to our culture's lack of expectations and encouragement to marry. Yes, for women, it's due in large part to the lack of initiative on the part of men. But let's not forget that one main reason single women stay single is that in many cases, they make decisions that make it less likely they will be prepared to marry.
Copyright 2006 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.