Even if I don’t actually end up getting married, God wastes no time teaching me about what it means. Sometimes, he’s so intentional about delivering the word or pattern that I need to understand him more fully in my specific season that it feels like curricula. Like he had a series of planned lessons already ready to go, and sent them in ways that a regular teacher couldn’t budget within his or her wildest dreams. I love thinking of God as a teacher. It helps add legitimacy when you focus on his teachings.
Anyways, I often think about what marriage is. At this stage of my life, it feels both appropriate and useful. And while I am not in charge of the answers, it helps me to be able to articulate whatever God is saying, at least for my own sake.
For the past couple of months, I have been struggling with what it means to be a white woman. Hear me out for a minute. Within my own family, and within a lot of families over time, white women have been this kind of household fixture that has been forced to be polished, tidy, self-possessed, etc. Although we haven’t been fetishized in the same rapey way that African American women have throughout US history, so many white women I know act out these cocktail party set of moral requirements that seem to aspire after being like [insert glamorous white actresses’ name here]. While these rules certainly have lost place within my generation, it is bizarre to me that as a woman with naturally light eyes and hair color, I could force myself into the era of the pin-up girl if I tried. I could put on this false sense of self, and this artificial confidence. While I respect my mom a lot and she is a very independent woman, sometimes she puts on these cocktail party manners in a way I legitimately do not understand (holidays, when we have company over, etc). To me, it’s like trying to sell off pieces of yourself in order to be the best candidate for being coveted. Success is defined by how many boys you have after you. For me, life is too short for that.
It’s such a generational thing that I don’t think she means anything by it. Those roles weren’t really shoved on most women my age, as they have been in the past. It’s weird how sharply they are used whenever there is a formal event, in the style of a public benefit or a fundraising event. It feels like playing house.
The ideal of the trophy wife freaks me out. Part of that is because of class-based resentments I’m trying to work through about what it means to have money, and shut yourself off from the rest of society. A lot of what bothers me has to do with the idea that by putting on these roles, we are essentially completing a transaction. It feels disingenuous. Instead of becoming the woman of Christ you are meant to be, you sell off parts of yourself (an arm, a leg) to become like a household idol, a mantelpiece dressing. Having a carved wooden woman isn’t the same thing as having a wife who is entirely satisfied in Christ, who is capable of actually being a helper, and who has gifts to contribute more than being a doll. It throws away the things that God has put in women away and inserts an infinitely less valuable set of requirements that fall short of the blessings God intended. My character is not going to weaken my marriage, but strengthen it, because I am already satisfied in Christ. My husband shouldn’t have to lust after me in a way that makes him covet me. That is weird. The best gift a guy could get his wife is to be the best version of himself, and to boldly walk into the gifts God has given him. And to let his wife do the same.
You can’t substitute God’s diverse blessings for each of us into etiquette and then expect the same blessing. While I am not saying that virtues like tact and self-control are important, those things mean nothing if they aren’t part of a larger image of Jesus, and two people striving to become like Christ together. No sane woman wants to be idolized. It’s a lot easier to be a follower of Jesus than to be made into an idol.
Love is a freewill offering, and it is not coerced. If we make finding love into a paint by numbers set and make following God’s plan as formulaic as human-devised codes of conduct, we entirely miss out on the sublime miracle of supporting somebody who through marriage, actually strengthens you, and submitting to one another. Love can’t be free otherwise, and you can’t do it with your full heart.