Why I'm Done 'Preparing for Marriage'
Life doesn't wait for wedding bells.
I’m 29 years old, and I’d love to be married.
I can say that without getting embarrassed because marriage is good. Hebrews 13:4 says it should be “honored by all.” It’s a worthy desire.
I’ve spent good portions of my formative years preparing for marriage. Heck, I work at Focus on the Family, where I read marriage and parenting content all day. We even have a stellar young adult ministry dedicated to preparing for marriage and honoring it.
As good as marriage preparation can be, preparing became a quiet idol for me. A legalistic barometer for my restless soul. I never would have said this, but I secretly thought that if I could become a better Christ-follower, a better communicator, a better cook or a better dresser, God would bless me with a husband.
When a short-lived relationship with the perfect Christian guy ended earlier this year, I made a conscious decision to stop preparing. After all the years I had spent preparing myself for marriage, preparation wasn’t going to make or break the outcome of that relationship.
And I realized that it never could. The tie-breaker is always God’s big plan and His perfect timing.
And preparation was something I had to let go of.
Because I’m tired of treating God like a vending machine.
I acted as if I could do a bunch of good works or be more spiritual or pray harder or trust more and He’d suddenly reward me or bless me in the exact way I want to be blessed. Following God doesn’t work that way. His ways aren’t mine, and most of the time, I’m glad they’re not.
Married or single, we all have unfulfilled dreams. Dark, dusty corners of our hearts where we’re not quite sure God is going to meet our needs or desires. I have yet to meet someone who says, “Wow, my life is perfect. I have everything I ever wished for and dreamed of.” We’re not promised all blessings, yet we often negotiate with God like He owes them to us.
Yes, I want to pray more. And trust more. And be more obedient. But I’m not doing those things to prepare for marriage. I’m not doing them to prove my devotion and find Prince Charming at my doorstep. I’m doing them because Jesus is worth it. Because my soul only comes alive when I’m with Him. Because everything else I turn to leaves me empty. Paul told the Philippians, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And I’ve found that to be true.
Because I’m already in relationship.
Relationship is something I’m living in right now. It’s not a destination where I’ll arrive when I meet the man of my dreams. I’m in relationship—and I need relationships—because that’s how God created me. Becoming a better communicator or learning to express my feelings or putting the needs of others above my own, that’s all stuff I need to learn as a person—not just as a future wife.
Of course there’s an added element of marriage that I can’t and won’t diminish here. I don’t share children and a home and a bed with my friends. But I do walk through difficulties with people I care about. I get sick and people take care of me. I call mentors for advice. I squabble with family. I share meals with friends. I experience conflict and make compromises. I honestly don’t consider this “preparing for marriage.” I consider this being a person.
When I listen to Focus on the Family marriage broadcasts, I don’t usually think about my future husband. I instantly apply these messages to my context. Personality conflict at the junior high winter retreat? I can apply marriage advice to that! Friends can’t decide where to eat dinner? Marriage advice! Just because I learned it from Love and Respect doesn’t mean I can’t apply it to my relationships right now. It’s not preparation. It’s my life.
Because I’m already an adult.
When I was 22, it felt dreamy to prepare for my future marriage. I would learn how to cook and clean and invest in others for a year or two, and then the perfect guy would sweep me off my feet and I’d switch over to doing all of those things for him alone. Somewhere along the line, I realized that I couldn’t forgo adulthood because I’m not married.
I’m closing in on 30, and I had to learn how to adult because that’s my world. I work a full-time job. I pay rent. I clean the apartment that I rent. I get my oil changed. After a couple years of knowing all of the Thai food delivery workers by name, I learned how to cook. I can even keep up with homeschooling moms in terms of meal prep. Kids at church look up to me and think I’m a real grown-up. No one else is going to do these things for me.
In the world we live in, at least one in five people over the age of 25 is single. That means a lot of single people are out there doing adult things. Because they are adults. We don’t do adulthood because we’re preparing for marriage. We do adulthood because we are adults.
Because love isn’t a formula.
If you read articles as often as I do, love can start to feel like a formula. You can read hundreds of pieces of advice on how to attract the opposite sex, how to turn a friendship into a relationship, or how to go on more dates in 2017. I don’t need to read 10 more “show him you’re interested, but not too interested” or “pose like this in a dating profile to get him to notice you” articles that make me think I can orchestrate my circumstances so a man will fall in love with me.
People who are unprepared get married all the time. If you are single, you may never admit this, but you probably look out at the latest crop of people getting married and think, “I have less debt than they do. I’m a better cook. I’m more responsible. I’m more attractive. I’m more emotionally healthy.” And you’re probably right! You are all of those things. You are more prepared. But the preparation theory falls flat because love isn’t about preparation. Preparation might make you qualified, but it doesn’t make you married.
The main difference between me and a married girl is that the married girl found her guy. And if she’s a Christian, she probably believes that God had something to do with it. She wasn’t perfect, but love was awakened when the time was right. And she met someone who chose to commit to her. To her specific strengths and weaknesses. To her specific baggage. To her specific quirks, passions, and physical features.
The guy who marries me isn’t going to be annoyed that I’m a verbal processor or that I research everything to death. He’s not going to be concerned that I watch too many YouTube videos or consume well beyond the recommended serving size of chips and salsa. He’s not going to be worried that my skin is too pale or my hair is too unruly. He’s not going to be intimidated because I have a master’s degree.
Why? Because that’s not how love works.
That’s not how God set up love. It’s not a matter of controlling my circumstances or creating the perfect atmosphere for love.
That’s how preparation works, but it’s not how love works.
People show up in all of the imperfect parts of our lives. Ready or not, they arrive in the unexpected—the unprepared.
And I have to remind myself that it’s just like God to enter into those places. In the places where I feel the most vulnerable and insecure. It’s in those places that He loves me.
Jesus didn’t come to earth because the perfect atmosphere for love had been created. He came because of love. “For God so loved the world …”
He came because He is love.
And I have a feeling that when love shows up in my life (at least the right kind of love), that’s exactly how it will look.
It won’t look like love because I’ve prepared more, invested more or become more spiritual.
It will show up because it’s love.