I'm 24 and single, and I desire to be married and have a family. I've been listening to your podcast and reading your website for a few years (both of which I really appreciate — thanks!), so I have what I believe are fairly biblical ideas about marriage and dating. But there's a problem: I'm a missionary, and I live in a third-world country. There are only a few single missionary men here, and most of them are over 40.
I desire to be married, but at this point in my life, my chances of marriage look bleak to me. Should I give up my missionary work to go home and try to find a husband? Or should I stick it out as a single when I really desire to be married?
I've been praying for a husband for years, and two years ago (as I was in my missions training) I met a godly, responsible man who was interested in me. However, because I was planning to move overseas, he decided that pursuing a relationship wasn't a good idea at the time. He's still at home, and we're still in occasional contact. Would I be pursuing him if I tried to step things up a level?
What can I do to be actively preparing for marriage? Or should I just give up and accept that I'll be single forever? Do I have to choose between missions or marriage?
I'm so glad you wrote and want to reassure you that your questions are relevant to a large portion of our audience. Longing to know what, if anything, a woman can do to encourage a man's affections without usurping his role as risk taker, is a desire I'd guess most of our single female readers feel! You are not alone.
I suspect many of our readers also feel cut off from community support, often lack a mentor, and wonder if the apparent dearth of eligible men where they work and live warrants a radical change. All of these scenarios are why we're here! So thank you for this great opportunity to answer the questions that are heavy on a lot of hearts and minds.
For starters, I'm curious what "stepping things up a level" would look like in your circumstances. Given the great distance between you, I'd suggest emailing a bit more often. If he writes every two weeks or once a month, don't wait that long to reply. Get back to him promptly and see if he reciprocates. Answering his emails in a more timely way is certainly not taking over as leader or pursuer. It's a test of his interest and a good opportunity for him to step things up himself.
Incidentally, it's the man's role to interrupt a woman's plans. Then she has the option to accept or decline his request. But if he's unwilling or unable to ask you to set aside missions for marriage — to even give you that option — then he sounds like he doesn't yet have the leadership qualities necessary to be a husband. On the flip side, if you made it clear you didn't want to date because of your work and now you've had a change of heart, I think you should tell him so.
Now to your second, more serious question: Do I have to choose between missions or marriage? Well that depends. If he's also interested in missions and does ask you to marry him, then no. You can, in following him to the mission field, have both. If, however, he were to ask you to marry him, and he planned to keep his job in the States, then you would have to decide. Biblically, it's the wife who is called to follow her husband, not the other way around.
That's not to say that if you do marry a man who stays stateside that you'll have to completely abandon your God-honoring desire to be a missionary. There's no mission field quite as ripe as that of family. I've never felt as called to evangelism as I have with my own children. Steve and I feel the weight of sharing the Gospel more heavily when we look at our children and consider that (1) they have a call on their lives (and we want to do all we can to help them fulfill it) and (2) they are immortal beings and we want to spend eternity with them in heaven.
Never discount the value of ministering within the context of your own family. It's there that we're daily challenged to die to ourselves, serve others, and in so doing, become more like Jesus.
As tough as this long distance maybe-relationship is, it's a great opportunity for you to discern your calling. If he (or another man) did ask you to come home to marry him, could you see yourself giving up your work? If not, you may well be called to celibate service. As we've said many times, such is a high and holy calling.
If, however, the thought of working in missions for a time, then relocating somewhere as a wife, does resonate with you, then yes, there are things you can be doing now to prepare. The daily sacrifices required of you on the mission field are preparing you even now for being able to give selflessly to a husband and children. Your devotion to working for God and spreading the Gospel are also preparing you for family life. Everything you do that strengthens your servant muscles and matures your character will serve you in a future marriage.
That's one thing that's so wonderful about a life submitted and obedient to Christ: It has vast benefits for living, whether married or single. Preparing for marriage overlaps Christian discipleship, and even if you never do marry, your efforts won't be wasted.
As to your concern that all the unmarried men you're meeting on the field are over 40 and by implication, your chances of marriage look bleak, I would say, don't lose heart. The seeming presence or lack of eligible men is less telling than you might think. When I lived in Washington, D.C., one of the most "single cities" in the world, I was utterly dateless. There were more available, Christian men than I'd ever seen in one place. Trouble is, few of them were interested in getting married. They were there for their careers, and serious dating was, for most of them, a distraction.
Contrast that with friends I've had who met a man in the middle of a relationship desert. One was a missionary in China. Their stories are a great reminder that all you need is one man. Just one. And that's not too much to pray and trust God for. He can do that and much, much more.
Thank you for your service on behalf of the Gospel. May God direct your steps.
Copyright 2009 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.