I'm 22 years of age and have never been pursued by any gentleman in the church. I know I shouldn't worry or have doubts about this, but I do. It seems to me like all of the gentlemen at my church are pursuing young ladies:
- who come from homeschooling families
- whose parents are professing Christians
- whose parents bring their families to church and oversee their daughters' instruction
- whose families are quite large with many children
- who are well-skilled in homemaking and theology because they've been blessed with a family who saw to their learning from childhood, and
- whose fathers will sit a gentleman down and discuss his intent with his daughter.
My parents don't attend church. Growing up, we never had family devotions and hardly ever talked about theology. My parents couldn’t care less who I date (if I ever did enter into a courtship). They would never sit a guy down and give him their blessing on our relationship and make sure he has sound theology.
I go to church by myself every week. It's a wonderful church, and I love all of the people there. But I get discouraged and envious at times. It seems to me like I'll continue to be looked over — looked over by all of the young men for someone better. Because I have non-Christian parents, didn't grow up in a Christian home and go to church by myself, no one will ever see me as a suitable prospect.
I'm so glad you wrote because there is great encouragement to be found for your situation. There's much to learn from the family-strengthening ways of your fellow church members, yet I can understand why you would feel left out. But there's more to consider than your feelings.
Your identity as a Christian doesn't rest in how you measure up to the other believers around you, nor how well you keep up appearances of whatever education and courtship models are most common around you, but in who you are in Christ.
In Christ, every believer is singled out as a condemned sinner worthy of the punishment He endured on the cross. In Christ, every believer is a forgiven sinner, washed clean of every offense by the blood Jesus shed in our place. Apart from Christ, all of us are cut off from God and without hope.
Ephesians 2:1-3 says,
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
It's as if you and every other church member and every other believer throughout all of history have had "WANTED" signs hanging over their heads. This is not just you; this is all of us. What you see around you in the lives of fellow church members — the things you don't have that they do — may seem like the most-defining thing about you and them. But what's really real is who you are, who all of us are, in Christ. Verse 4 continues,
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved … For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
You have no control over who your parents are, nor do any of us. You are no less worthy a church member because you attend without your parents. You can't even take credit for your own salvation (Revelation 7:10). Everything of grace is free and unmerited. Every bit of your rescue is credited to God's mercy and Christ's sacrificial love. But consider, as true as this is of you, so it is true of every believer in the church you attend and in every other church for all time. None of us stands before God justified by anything we have done, will do, or are. Our families of origin, our birth country, our wealth and status — and more probably, our lack of wealth and status — all of it is powerless to reconcile us to God. And all of it is meaningless, holding no sway over or adding any value to our identity in Christ.
None of what Scripture says about Christian marriage is off-limits to you because you don't fit certain patterns you see practiced in your particular church. I saw this lived out recently by two friends from very different backgrounds. In a blog on the day of their wedding, the groom, Spencer, wrote this:
Today is the day of my wedding. And I am not marrying the girl of my dreams.
If you would have told me when I was a teenager that my wife would have seven tattoos, a history in drugs, alcohol, and attending heavy metal concerts, I would have laughed at you, given you one of my courtship books, and told you to take a hike. My plans were much different, much more nuanced with careful planning, much more clean-cut, and much more, well, about me.
You see, it wasn't my dream to marry a girl that was complicated. I never dreamed that I would sit on a couch with my future wife in pre-marital counseling listening to her cry and tell stories of drunken nights, listing the drugs she used, confessing mistakes made in past relationships.
This isn't my dream — it's better.
Many people wouldn't put Taylor and I together. In high school, we probably would not have been friends. She probably would have thought that I was a nice, boring, judgmental Christian kid; I probably would have thought that she was a nice, lost, party-scene girl that guys like me are supposed to stay away from. People like us, with our backgrounds and histories are not supposed to meet, fall in love, and covenant their lives to each other.
But everything changes when people meet Jesus.
That's the encouragement. You can read the rest of it here.
Now for the exhortation. What should you do?
Trust in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Look to Him for all your needs, including your desire for a godly husband.
Pray for wisdom. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." There are practical things you're lacking in the absence of engaged, Christ-honoring parents. But that doesn't mean those things are unavailable to you. Ask God, who generously gives us what we need. Jesus said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
Seek counsel. It is a blessing to be surrounded by believers with strengths and talents you don't possess. Ask them to help you. Titus 2 says older believers are to help younger believers, teaching them what it means to live as a Christian in the daily relationships of marriage and the daily work of family and home life. There were many believers in first-century churches who were there apart from their parents. Jesus said it would be so and that believers would be blessed for choosing Him over biological loyalties (Matthew 19:29). That's why Paul wrote what he did in Titus 2 and elsewhere in his letters, urging church members to help one another as part of the family of God.
Don't compare. It's possible for people to place too much hope in their way of doing things rather than in Christ. Don't fall into that trap. But also resist the temptation to become bitter over what you don't have. Comparison with other believers is never OK, and it always leaves us in one of two ditches: 1) bitterness and envy or 2) pride. God doesn't show partiality. Neither should we (James 2:1-9).
Give thanks. It sounds like you are surrounded by good examples of godly families. Embrace that as God's provision, and thank Him for it. Rather than seeing it as a reminder of what you don't have, be thankful for examples in your life of what you hope to have. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to envy, self-pity and pride. And it's God's will for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Serve others. It can be debilitating to always only focus on your areas of need. Using your gifts and talents to serve and bless others puts your need in perspective. It also keeps you humble. And humility is the key to contentment in this situation, where you are surrounded by people who you perceive to be in some ways better (or better-suited to what you want, which is marriage) than you are. But it is also the key to contentment in situations where you are the one who has the perceived advantage. Why? Because, as Timothy Keller says in his helpful little book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness,
Both low self-esteem and pride are horrible nuisances to our own future and to everyone around us. When someone whose ego is not puffed up but filled up [with Christ] gets criticism, it does not devastate them. They listen to it and see it as an opportunity to change. … Friends, wouldn't you want to be a person who does not need honor — nor is afraid of it? … gospel-humility… [is] not thinking more of myself as in modern cultures, or less of myself as in traditional cultures. Simply thinking of myself less.
I leave you with the exhortation from 1 Peter 5:5, "Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'"
May He shower you with grace!
Copyright 2014 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.