Friday, February 22, 2008

Why Do We Aim For The Fairy-Tale?

By Ruth Barratt (check out her blog)

“There’s plenty more fish in the sea”,

“There’s someone out there for you”,
“He’s looking for you as much as you are looking for him”.

These are in my top three of phrases that get said to you when you are a single Christian girl on the road to 30! In my opinion there seems to be an unspoken rule in the Christian world that being married is one of the lost commandments. People in church come up to you, asking if there is ‘anyone special’ on the horizon. When the response is no, cue the sympathetic sideways head tilt!

To say I was totally content with being 26 and single is not true. I have always pictured myself getting married and having a family. I pray that it all comes in time, but the pressures of it happening sooner rather than later can be tough. The mere suggestion of something potentially happening with a man in my life gets my married/coupled-up female friends in a spin.

Around Valentines Day it is impossible to escape the romance obsession that is within our culture. Love sells. ‘Romcoms’ are big box office sellers. Love always seems much easier when it is on the big screen or on our televisions.

I have had a very rough ride when it comes to relationships. I have messed up and learnt difficult lessons the hard way. I have been hurt very badly but, if I’m honest, also hurt others too. I am still undecided as to whether the time I was with previous partners was wasted. Some people have said this to me, referring to certain exes as ‘the wrong person’. All of these things within the past eleven years have moulded and made me who I am today. As much as I would want to go back and do things differently, I am unable to and have come to terms with that. When it comes to attraction and love, my opinion is that we become very selfish for our own desires and ignore what God is telling us. We ignore it when we know it isn’t quite right.

As difficult as it can be, I would like to think that I am now in a place where I am holding out for someone that God intends me to be with. The easy option is to settle for someone who isn’t right for us, but we want that ‘partner-shaped gap’ filled in our lives. The hard option is to trust and be patient. In my opinion, being with a non-Christian is not an option. It is not what God wants for us. This is one of my lessons learnt the hard way. My faith is such a large part of my life that, if I cannot share it with my partner, then it is totally heartbreaking. I am seeing too many of my Christian friends settling down and marrying non-Christians. Some of these friends have compromised all they once believed in and stood for. They are living totally different lives for their partner. I, personally, stand firm in the fact that we shouldn’t be with someone to drastically change them. I do know of situations where non-Christian partners have found Christ and that is amazing, Praise God. But, more often than not, the sad situation of the Christian half of the relationship backslides.

In a total reverse I think sometimes when “us young ladies” find out that there is a single young man available, we jump at him, just because he is single and Christian. That small annoyance of desperation can get the better of us. But again we need to turn our focus to God and trust if a certain person is right, not just presume he is right for us because he is a Christian. My two main experiences of this have left me being very cautious. A few years ago, I entered into a relationship with a Christian I had known for a very long time. It all seemed apparently right; we went away and prayed about our relationship and seemingly gave it to God. Sadly it didn’t work out and I was very hurt by this person and his attitude towards our relationship. I had lulled myself into a false sense of security just because he was a Christian. In cold reality, Christian boys are just normal boys underneath it all! My other experience is having feelings for someone who is a Christian, but who, in my humble opinion, is not in the best place with God and I know that, if I did ever pursue anything with him, it might affect my relationship with God. He has a very outgoing personality which does not always leave room for God to shine out and I have distanced myself purposely.

I have only recently changed jobs. I took a step of faith and left my ‘rat race’ job in central London to work for a Christian charity in my local area. I always found that most of the people I socialised with were work friends. A lot of the men I met were not Christian and this is where I struggled. If all we are surrounded by is non-Christian men then it does get tough sometimes. My working environment now is a lot more concentrated. I knew everyone I was going to work with already, which was a great comfort. But it does mean that my days are spent with married men or our teenage gap year boys. There is not much scope for a chance meeting of ‘anyone new’.

Our charity this year is unusual for the Christian world in that it has more men than women. I think this is also a big issue. There is a lack of men in church. I so often hear the phrase ‘All the good ones are taken’. I run a cell group in my church for students and twenty-some things. It is 99% female!

So what is a girl to do? It isn’t an easy situation to be in and I know I am not alone: I take comfort in that. God has worked amazingly in other areas of my life and provided me with things beyond what I thought I needed. So I stand strong in my trust that if God can work in the small things then He will work amazingly in the big desires too. On a good day I get excited about the person God might have in store for me. Do I know him already? What will we have in common? What can we share together? On a bad day I feel alone. A lot of my close friends are in a relationship and I lack a plus one. I dread invites to certain places where I wouldn’t know many people as I feel I would have to find someone to take.

A good friend of mine has commented that I am a good single Christian role model for the girls in our youth at church. It shows that you do not have to be married once you reach a certain age! In a positive way, being single has so many benefits. I do not have to check with anyone else before I make plans. I can stay out as late as I want! I have time to dedicate to my hobbies. I can commit weekend time to youth stuff at church. I do not wish to fast forward this part of my life at all. All I know is that God has the best stuff in store for me and I need to trust in that and not mess it up along the way!

Controversial questions to get you all talking. It’s been quite tough as well as therapeutic to write all of this down. I would pray that it helps anyone in my situation reading it.
  • So why do we imagine life would be better with a husband?
  • Why, sadly, do others put single people under pressure to find someone?
  • Why deep down do we struggle to let God fully fill our lives?

3 comments:

Natalie Armstrong said...

Hi,

I stumbled upon your blog today (because of the title of it), and can't help but share some of your feelings in all of this.

I think just in general as girls we feel so intensely about relationships: with friends, with family, with people. We are relational beings and that is how God created us. HOWEVER, our completeness isn't found in our relationship with a significant other (as it seems the church often pushes us towards) but rather in our relationship with Christ.

I'm really longwinded, but just wanted to commend your writings...and say that you're not alone! Also, I've been working on some material for young girls to come to the place where they can find their identity in Christ and not in other relationships.

I'd love for you to check out our blog on that: iamenough.net

Cheers.

-natalie

Claire said...

I think one of the things that we often do as girls is aim for the fairy tale in all sorts of aspects of our life as well as relationships which I think is the key area. As a married person I totally agree with what you wrote, and I would just add that aiming for the fairytale isn't something that ends if you get married. In fact it can just change direction. You can go after this idealised wedding, honeymoon, every anniversary or significant moment or family life or anything has to be in soft focus too. We set up this unrealistic ideals and then spend a lot of our lives living in disappointment.

One of the projects I'm involved in is to do with body image, and we spend a lot of time looking at the perceptions that the media portray as the "ideal" body. I think at the root of this is the same issue. The perception and the portrayal are becoming further and further removed from the reality.

I agree that churches too often can be couple and family focused, or attempts to include single people can seem tokenistic or frankly lame! I agree with Natalie ... the more we can find our identity in Christ, the less we'll search after the fairytale in any aspect of our life.

Rachael said...

Awesome post and comments.

I hope the reason people pressure others to get married is because they want them to be as happy as they are in thier marriage. But I think it is mostly out of convention and like the other commenters said the fairy tale mentality

Also I have another bonus about being single: You know that all of the germs on your toothbrush are your own. It seems odd to me that I would never take a beverage into the bathroom with me, but I leave my toothbrush in there. It is only slightly comforting that it is only my germs. (that may be too much information.)

-Rachael