“Why am I not married yet — why can’t I find a husband?”
I’ve heard this question a dozen times in the last year. Reeling from a breakup, I’ve asked this question a hundred times in the last month. We receive versions of this in the Boundless inbox almost daily.
So I know Allyson Rowe, an outspoken Christian, former Miss Washington USA and dynamic social media presence, wasn’t exaggerating in saying she gets this a lot. Because it’s a question we care about. It runs deep in our soul. It reverberates around, picking up speed, until the only choice is to say the words aloud or allow them to tear you apart.
Rowe wanted to offer encouragement to single women who are struggling with this same issue, so she hopped on Facebook live and posted a video with her response.
As I watched it, I grew more and more disappointed with Rowe’s advice. Referencing Proverbs 18:22 (“He who finds a wife finds a good thing”), she talks at length comparing the spirit of a wife versus the spirit of a girlfriend, and I still have no clue what the difference is (the only spirit inside me is the Holy Spirit … and the spirit of snark). But that wasn’t even the part that inspired my heated Twitter rant hours later.
Rowe begins and ends the video with a claim I have to refute — and I refuse to allow it to take hold in my life (or in yours): “When you begin to walk like you’re already taken, I promise you a husband will find you … Walk like you’re already taken because God knows that then you’re ready to be a wife to the right husband.”
Friends, that is a lie — it’s not biblical, and we have to do everything in our power to root this idea out of the church and out of our advice and out of our thoughts. God is not waiting until you are ready to bring you a spouse.
If I believed this, it would undermine everything I know to be true about grace and mercy and righteousnesses that are as filthy rags. I can do nothing to earn salvation, I can do nothing to earn the love of God, and I can do nothing to earn a husband. While it might not sound like that’s what Rowe is claiming, it’s exactly what she’s offering: Become more holy, more ready, and God will reward you will a husband. He’s holding out until you get your life straightened out. God’s keeping a good thing from you in order to improve your behavior, your spiritual walk or your “spirit of wife,” but once that’s in check, He’s going to lavish you with a healthy marriage and a happy family.
Nope. Nope nope nope. That’s not right. That is, at it’s core, a perversion of the prosperity gospel we’re all quick to discount. Thomas Umstattd calls it the relational prosperity gospel, and he nails it:
The tragedy of both the financial and relational prosperity gospels is that when someone is going through hard times, it is “a sign” that they don’t have enough faith. The more we believe in the prosperity gospel, the more we tend to sound like the Pharisees who said the reason the man was born blind was because of his parents’ sin (John 9)….
The reality is that our actions have consequences. Bad actions can have bad consequences and good actions can have good consequences. The key word here is “can.” If we are not in full control of the world how can all the consequences in our lives be our fault? Laziness does make you hungry (Proverbs 19:15). But do you know what else will make you hungry? A famine. And sometimes famines are not your fault.
We do not have to reach a certain level of maturity or spiritual or personal growth in order for God to see we’re worthy of (and ready for) marriage. Marriage is meant to sanctify us — why would we have to attain spiritual perfection in order for that to be delivered? None of us are ready for marriage, and none of us have spiritually arrived.
God does not operate on this gold-star reward system. “I will give it all to you if you will worship me” (Luke 4:7) aren’t printed in red letters in your Bible for a reason; Jesus never made this claim — but Satan did. Just as the devil tried to woo Jesus with his own version of a prosperity gospel, we have been wooing singles in the church with this idea that if only we were better (better looking, better acting, better loving), God would see fit to deliver a spouse.
Do not bank on this, y’all. I am not going to behave or perform in a certain way and hold God to “His end of the bargain.” I am not going to grow spiritually only with the hopes that one day I become worthy of a husband. I am not going to give into the lie that I do not have a husband because I do not deserve one.
In reality, as Jo Saxton recently tweeted, “singleness is as much a gift to the church and community as marriage is.” And to that I add: Singleness is not meant to be pitied, shamed, fixed or even ignored. It is to be celebrated. And when we imply that we are still single because we are lacking in some way, we spit in the face of Paul, who wrote that it’s better to be single than to be married, and he lived a life that spoke to this truth.
If you’re single, you’re called to be single today; and I will grieve and celebrate that calling with you. We must embrace it. But that doesn’t mean our hearts won’t long for more. Own that pain and heartache. Don’t deny it. Don’t push it aside. Sit in it. And then, when you’re able, look up. Find God in the longing.
Marriage is not an indication of maturation — and singleness is not symptomatic of infantilism.
Singleness does not mean you are less than, wanting, or insufficient. If you are single, do not assume it’s because you’re not ready for marriage or you’re spiritually deficient or you’re inherently unlovable. These are also lies.
Label them as such, and embrace the truth: If you’re single, your capacity for joy, spiritual growth, influence, and belonging are not limited by your relationship status. If you’re single, you are deeply valued, intentionally created, wholly loved and fully known — these things are not dependent on vows taken at an altar.
May we strive to live in these truths and, when necessary, expel the lies that cause our holy longing for marriage to be marred by deep feelings of inadequacy.