If there’s a book with a message that helped me at a critical point in my life, chances are I’ll keep it forever…even if I end up reading that same book with a completely different mindset years later.
One of those books is The Thrill of the Chaste by Dawn Eden: a story of one woman’s descent into casual sex, Sex and the City-style, and hope of eventually finding a husband. A practice that magazines like Cosmopolitan and pop culture at large endorse as reasonable and expected.
I like the book because the author does a pretty good job dissecting the problems with this approach to relationships–rarely (though there are exceptions) does mutual objectification lead to healthy, fulfilling commitment–but she does so with the mindset that every opportunity for a one-night-stand she turns down makes her that much closer to finding her future husband. Even more troubling, she seems to believe that doing relationships “God’s way” somehow entitles her to marrying someday.
Even now that I’m engaged, I don’t think I’m being “rewarded” for all my years of waiting (and to be honest, I wasn’t very good at it). I don’t think I deserve Josh any more than I deserve a new job, a better car, a trouble-free life. In college I attended bible studies exclusively for single women, which taught me that God has chosen a man for me, and I can have him…if I pray hard enough, and live a sexually pure lifestyle with few blemishes in it.
I’ve read very few books, save for Lauren Winner’s Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity, that endorse chastity for chastity’s sake. Isn’t living chastely for the sake of a husband losing the point? What about the benefits of chastity on its own?
I wish I had known that there’s a difference between being abstinent and being chaste: even married sex is chaste sex, if you subscribe to the belief that chastity is all about putting sex in its proper place (and if you don’t, this whole post may sound silly to you).
But back to this idea that praying and living an abstinent, chaste life entitles you to a husband…it doesn’t. Those bible study messages actually produced a harmful idea that all women are meant to get married, and that God has designed one specific man in mind for each. If you miss him, or sin too much, you lose him. That’s it.
Truthfully, you can be compatible with any number of people, because love is a choice. It’s not just something you “feel.”
I don’t know what to say to women who deeply desire marriage, but spend most of their lives being single, except this: marriage is not the only legitimate way to experience real love, nor should it be considered the ultimate achievement in one’s life. Before Josh, I was prepared to be single for a while. I just didn’t feel “called” to marriage, and I had been depressed about it for so long that I decided to stop treating it like a curse.
Once I stopped watching that scene from Bridget Jones’ Diary where Bridget drowns her sorrows in ice cream belting out Celine Dion on repeat—truly believing that’s what the rest of my life would look like without a man—I started thinking of all the productive things I could do with that time. I could travel. I could decorate my apartment any way I want. I could make all my own decisions without factoring in another person’s opinion. I could invest more deeply in my friendships (which is, so far, one of my biggest marriage fears: that I’ll be so engrossed in newlywed excitement, my old friendships suffer, and that gives one more reason for my single friends not to rejoice as more of their friends get engaged. It means they disappear!).
Don’t get me wrong: marriage is a gift, and I’m looking forward to it. But singleness can be a gift too. Had I read a book with that kind of message at age seventeen, back when I was wondering if something was wrong with me because I’d never had a serious relationship before, I would have benefited much more. A promise from a stranger about God’s plan for my own life isn’t much to bank on. I wish more women who are fed the lie that marriage = ultimate crown of glory would start taking charge of their own lives and their own happiness. You are entitled to nothing but the life you choose.