You hit 21 and suddenly everyone is screaming marriage and by everyone I am referring to your mother, your mother’s friends and church folk.
“Cristine, do you have a boyfriend?”
“No aunty, I don’t.”
“Don’t worry, God’s timing is the best timing.”
You never asked for the unsolicited advice but you take it anyway because you’ve learnt that the only way to avoid lengthy conversations about your non-existent love life is to simply feign interest and then sign off with an amen. You didn’t need to be told that God’s timing is the best timing because you knew that already but again you’ve realised that defending your single status or justifying it in any way is a fruitless exercise. Watching paint dry might be better use of your time.
I always find this level of interrogation amusing but also unusual. Amusing because although you are being asked a series of questions, you are actually not being given any room to answer; and unusual because a few years ago you were being warned against boys, sex and teenage pregnancy. Now the aunty who used to warn you against men is the one advising you on ways to be more approachable, how to catch and keep a man.
It’s brilliant. You’re considered ripe for marriage and so every conversation, at least the ones you are having with older women seem to be steered towards that direction. Even your conversations with your girlfriends are tied to marriage and understandably so given that we all want to be wanted and for the Christian single, marriage is the appropriate context to unleash that desire. It’s not that you don’t have a desire for marriage; it’s just that everyone else’s desire for you surpasses your own. What’s more significant is that your mother never ceases to express that desire. During family prayers she adds, “and Lord let her find the bone of her bone and the flesh of her flesh” which translates to “find her a man ASAP”. She also replies very loudly whenever she is asked about your single status, especially when she knows you’re in close proximity. You hear her say: “I’ve spoken to her about it but you know children of nowadays… They don’t listen, but like I always say,there is nothing prayer cannot do.”
She’s right. When Hezekiah prayed over his illness, he was delivered. When Jesus prayed over the five loaves of bread and two fish, he fed an entourage of 5,000. But praying for a husband? I don’t know.
My pastor’s wife used to encourage us to pray for our spouses and when I remembered to, I did pray. I can’t remember my exact prayer points but I definitely remember praying. It made sense to pray for a man but I don’t think I realised what I was praying for. I think that’s a common theme with humans; we pursue things without actually questioning our intentions or considering if we actually want what we say we want.
I was praying for a husband without asking why, without assessing whether I was even in a position to love someone in that way, or whether I was asking amiss. I should have been praying to become a better follower of Christ, which in turn would make me a better daughter, a better sister and a better friend, but my adolescent self was praying for a husband. There is nothing wrong with the desire for marriage (I hope to be married in the foreseeable future), but there is everything wrong with obsessing over another man who isn’t Jesus and then putting that obsession to prayer.
I want to obsess over being Christ-like; I want to obsess over being impactful in whatever capacity I find myself; I want to obsess over teaching; I want to obsess over loving, but I don’t think I want to obsess over my dream man anymore.
I’ve curbed my obsession (although sometimes I can’t help but remind the Lord that the dream guy should hopefully come packaged with a beard and muscles), because I do think we run the risk of turning our desires into idols when we obsess. So I’ve changed my prayer point to “Lord, my love life is in your hands” and keep it moving.