Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Thoughts on Getting Married


Several of you indicated that I'd piqued your interest in this book I just finished by Candice Watters -- Get Married, What Women Can Do to Help It Happen. I thought it only just to come right back and post about it now that I have finished it off (and before I hand it off to my single friends for their reviews).

I must say, I have to appreciate the counter-cultural message that Watters daringly proposes. She lays the groundwork in her book by removing misconceptions about marriage, and replacing those misconceptions with biblical thinking. These were misconceptions that she herself held as a single woman, working on Capitol Hill to stand up for the rights of families in the country. Deep down, she wanted to be married, but she was repressing that desire, and praying faithlessly about it. Watters points out how the church has adopted society's view of single women, and no longer is a safe zone for single women to talk freely about their hopes and dreams. She pointed out some typical quips that married people use to "comfort" single women, such as pointing out the flaws of marriage (as if that is some sort of comfort), joking about freedom, etc. Her point is clear -- there is absolutely nothing wrong with a godly desire to be married. Furthermore, those desires should be honored by the church, by providing a community in which such a desire might be freely spoken of. Watters challenges single women to talk about their desire to be married without shame! Certainly, it is easier to say nothing and never fail in the eyes of others, right?

Watters provides some practical helps to women who wish to be married. She asks them to take stock of their lives to see if they are living as if they were intending to marry (I got a little tripped up on this one, but I think I got it now). I reflected on her point here, and applied it to my situation -- wishing to be a mother someday. It's true I wish it, but I really don't live like I'm planning on it. In preparation for marriage, Watters recommends digging into a multi-age community in a church, practicing good stewardship with your time and resources, refraining from sexual activity as "good seed" to sow. Watters says "Many women sow bad seed, then pray for good fruit. It's like spending time with friends instead of studying for a test and then asking God to help you pass."

I also liked her honesty about challenging commonly-held over-romanticized ideas of marriage. She dispels the "soul mate" myth (made popular by Kip and LeFawnda, no doubt), and points to false expectations we might dream up by reading too much Christian fiction! I had to laugh when she said "Living up to your wildest romantic fantasies, being your lifelong soul mate, anticipating all your deepest longings and desires, and feeling with you as deeply as Oprah does, well, that's a tall order for someone designed by God to be a husband." Watters presses single women to think about their expectations for a man through the lens of scripture -- what does scripture call men to be? Certainly don't lower our standards, but realign them.

I do commend this book both to single women who hope to be married someday, as well as those married women who have single friends, or work in a singles ministry. I think Watters does a great job instructing the reader to be content, patient, godly and wise, while at the same time bringing this message of hope to those who have been told for so long that their hope is foolish.

15 comments:

Candice Watters said...

Thanks for the thoughtful review, Gretchen. You captured in that short overview the essence of Get Married. I appreciate you drawing attention to the message of hope.

Annie said...

Gret, I would love to talk with you more over coffee about how to live like you intend to marry/have children. Very interesting...

M. Kate said...

DUDE! You have authors reading your blog!?!?!?!

I want to be as cool as you, someday...

Molly Carlisle said...

wow, she actually replied to you? How lucky are you! I can't wait to read it! I should probably just hit up Amazon.com right now, but that would be poor stewardship since I'm kinda broke, so I'll just have to wait a couple weeks.

Anonymous said...

Ooo Gretchen! This is why I hate blogs instead of just sitting down and talking.. Oh well, since that's not going to happen, I'll comment... That book does not sit right with me! Why should someone think that they SHOULD get married just because God told Adam it wasn't good for him to be alone? Of course he wouldn't give him a guy to hang out with! Even if they didn't sin, there wouldn't be any kids or family!! haha!! I know you said you "know some people who are called to be single"... like who? Paul? Didn't he say it would be better to not marry? Personally that sounds like a weird book that's definitely counter-cultural, but not encouraging. I guess if someone is not admitting to desiring marriage and the church is making it worse, but I really don't know any church that does that! How many singles do you know that people in the church aren't constantly trying to set up?? haha

Okay, like I said, it would be easier to talk about it, hee hee..

Anna

Elise said...

Response to Anna and in general ... I think the biggest pt I'm picking up on from the book is that women in our modern world who are SINGLE are very afraid to declare their DESIRE to *simply* marry - and for the Christian woman in particular, to simply marry a Godly man - because they are picking up on this message drifting through the world that either some divine occurance of meeting a soul-mate occurs, or they are unlucky and are on their own... which is a grim situation if you are desiring marriage, and most are (I think - no data to support that statement, hehe).

There is so much "girl power" in the world and all these new ways of couples living together without marriage (ie having a "life partner", and I'm not even talking about homosexuality, heterosexual couples are doing this...) that it seems embaressing to say "Hey, I'm single but I'm still hoping to meet my husband" ... as if you, the single, have been overlooked by the eligible bachelors of the world or God didn't "set aside" a "soul mate" for you.

I also have to agree that I don't notice churches nudging single young people together ( at least in my own personal experience ) AND I NEVER hear girls my age saying they're hoping to meet a man to marry unless it's been dredged up in some tearful midnight hour long girl-chat (well, I used to have those in college, lol, they were rather depressing, nothing good came of them) or unless they're putting themselves down. Anything that is said is said with an air of protection of self - I guess women really are very vulnerable concerning this matter (the thinking seems to be "am I good enough/pretty enough/whatever enough for a man to want to marry me?? am I worth it?"). Also worth noting, although this is a different conversation entirely, suffice it to say that the general way relationships and marriages are born in the world is through passion and lust... which are fleeting but immediately satisfy the woman's ache to find out if she's "worth it" to the man.

I for one am encouraged by the thought of "hope" for the single woman and I happen to agree that there are ways a single woman can live that would make her appear ready and waiting for marriage... to expand on that thought would require some depth I guess because I am really just talking from minor observations regarding living as someone who pretends she doesn't care as opposed to living as someone who would be a good wife to someone else (simple example: having goals and plans that are adaptable {very much so!} to a husband).

Hmmm. I'm so longwinded!

Gretchen said...

Anna,

Hmmm . . .

I guess I was using the example of Adam just as a response to one of the unhelpful quips people try to give a single person who wishes to marry. Clearly, there are many many other passages of scripture that esteem marriage other than just creation -- though the creation of something at all qualifies it to be something that is good. Like the church, it is what it is, but God made it, and said it was good, and so it is.

I DO think people are called to be single -- yes, like Paul. I think people like Mother Theresa, Amy Carmichael, etc. (even Misty) understand that a single woman is how they might serve Christ best.

I guess I was refreshed by the idea put forward in this book that a woman can want to be married, AND not be pathetic or something, AND honor Christ with their lives.

Thanks for commenting. I totally know what you mean, and that is why I read the book.

Gretchen said...

Elise,

You are the greatest! Thanks so much, girl! We totally posted at the same time! :)

I am so e-mailing you and doing a post on my darling dramatic cousin. You are the next post in my series of Benzings as well as on the theme of marriage. Tying the two together -- I love it.

Great reflections on the midnight chats -- haha!!! I've had many of those. Wish we could totally sit down to coffee together. What do you say to a little L-ville trip sometime soon? :)

~Gretchen

M. Kate said...

Thanks for opening this up Gret. Such a blessing. I'm certainly checking it out.

JoelandRachel said...

Great review, Gretchen. I appreciate your application of it, too.

elisebenzing@yahoo.com said...

I would love to visit with you Gretchen - if we can make that happen in the future, I bet it'd be a real blessing for me. Here's my e-mail, and while I do have a history on the stage, I'm now retired! haha! :) Have a good Thursday!

Rebecca said...

Ok, Gretchen, Anna & Elise...you guys are so cool. I LOVE the conversations I read from you all. I wish I knew you guys better. I feel at least I'm getting a "glimpse" of the kind of women you are and you are all so totally the kind of women I would do lunch with on a very regular basis. I could learn so much from you guys.

Rebecca said...

Oh, and by the way, Gretchen, I am so totally impressed that the author of this book commented on your blog!!!!!

Kevin and Jill Thompson said...

This book looks interesting, Gretchen. I was a 27 year old bride this last summer. My mom at my age had 3 kids! Without having laid eyes on the book, I think I can sort of see (through your review) what the author is getting at. At my last job, I worked with a lot of girls my age with no marriage in sight . . . the dangerous attitude (and prideful, maybe?) is that "I don't NEED a guy and I will make no attempt to pretend like I care about preparing for marriage one day". This is, of course, usually thinly masking a real hope and desire. I think that this time lost could be better used in preparing one's heart for whatever God has and cultivating a spirit of becoming a godly woman. Too many girls carry on through their twenties acting like teenager - "footloose and fancy free" and in so doing may damage their reputation and present ministry in whatever situation God has placed them. I don't think that the problem is not being married or being married, but rather using whatever circumstance and life God has given you to learn and grow.

Anyways, just thought I'd jump in since this issue is still pretty fresh to me. I'm sad to admit that I didn't always use my "single years" as wisely as I should have. It's tough to do when it seem just about everyone else is happily married. Just like anything, being too extreme in any direction is harmful. I'm mostly thankful for a Godly husband whom I love dearly. :)

So that's my two cents . . . .:)

--Jill

Steph said...

I just found this so I'm a little late in commenting but I have to say that my experience as a single woman in a "christian setting" i.e. working at a Christian college and then coming home to the church I grew up in - was that people were ALWAYS trying to marry me off. Someone always knew the "best guy - he is single and he is a christian..." I felt that I needed to be more content with being single (I didn't ever feel like I needed to express my desire to be married. Everyone around me did that for me.)
My biggest frustration was that all the "older" single women I knew seemed like they got "stuck" with their lives since "Mr. Right" didn't come along. It was almost transparent that so many of them were living out plan B. That was the thought that scared me the most - if God called me to a life of singleness - would I appear (and feel) that way too?
But then I met Miss Westphall (MBBC Dean of Women). WOW - there was a woman who made her life look like it was meant to be - she was following God and serving and she still seemed "Cool". Not someone that needed to be given pity. She went on to introduce me to Miss Appling and a few other women that were single and being SO effective for Christ. It made all the difference in the world to my perspective. I am grateful for these Christian women.
Ironically enough I stumbled on a verse two weeks ago that really made me pause... I Cor. 7:26b "But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this." (NIV) Paul understood that being single was a gift because you could be so focused on God and ministry. (And being married carried its own set of frustrations to work through) I think that anyone who is able to remain single and be a devoted Christian has really been blessed in a way that we who are married will never know until we get to heaven.