Ring Before Spring – Myth or Reality?

Image The following is an article which I published in the February 2013 issue of the Tyndale student publication: The Canon25.  Some of it has been adapted for suitability for my blog audience rather than simply for the Tyndale student body.  The main thrust of this article is to encourage thought regarding our relationship and attitudes behind celibate Christians within the church context (whether celibate for a season, a purposeful choice to be celibate, or simply because one does not desire marriage).  I am currently very interested in exploring celibacy within Christian communities as I feel it is an often overlooked area.  For me personally, being celibate can come as a challenge at times because so much of church life is geared toward married couples and families including the very liturgies we speak, the sermons we hear, the activities suggested to us to “do with our families”, and young married groups that do not include anyone who is single.  Being a Christian single can be a very difficult and lonesome road.  Nevertheless, I still maintain that God does use strong Christian singles and thus the church should work towards ways of including singles more and should not hold groups at the expense of excluding a single person from their activities.  This article is written by a celibate young woman who feels that so many people who speak about celibacy are married and thus more celibate people need to come bring a voice to this important topic.

Ring Before Spring – Myth or Reality?

By: Deborah-Ruth Ferber (2012 Graduate)

“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it so desires.” – Song of Solomon 2:7

Christians love to foster romance.  Sometimes a little too much.  When I started high school, the principal of my small rural Mennonite high school had a meeting with each individual student telling them who they were related to and thus who they should not be dating. 

Upon coming to Tyndale, it became apparent to me early on that there was a lot of pressure to date.  Although some of this was done in jest, the underlying message was still there: now is the time to find that someone special.  Our favourite phrases of “ring before spring or your money back” and “Bridal College” were constantly heard.  During frosh retreat Dean Sweetman [our dean of students] would mention that we could be sitting next to our future spouse, and of courses, there was the whole “insta-babies” thing.

During my three years at Tyndale, dating was always on the backburner.  Some people may say things such as that there are slim pickings or not many guys to choose from, but for me, I just never had that type of burning desire.  I can count the times I was physically attracted to men (including those on TV) on one hand.  I have never found the concept of marriage as appealing as some others have.

Now of course, there were also some young women who would tell me at frosh week that God was calling them to celibacy, only to start dating 6 weeks later, get engaged 6 months later, and married the following year.  I guess that call was only for a season.  If that.

Don’t get me wrong, marriage is a wonderful, God given gift and God certainly does use strong Christian couples to extend His Kingdom vision.  But let me be clear about one other thing: God also uses singles.

Despite the fact that I am in my early twenties, I have not had many instances in my life where I have seriously considered marriage, because of this,  some people at Tyndale used to say things to me such as that there was something wrong with me and I should see a doctor.  Our female dorm events often went into these touchy-feely discussions about purity and how we all wanted a boyfriend but needed to be patient and not become jealous, and for sure, those discussions were important to have, but I never really connected.  Instead I saw my singleness as a gift – one which enabled me time to be with other female friends, focus on school, volunteer, and be free to pursue my passions.  Something I knew would be harder to do in a relationship.

It was not until I was 21 that I developed my first crush and began to see myself as getting married someday.  Some may find that strange, especially those who have crushes since they were 9 or 10, but every day I thank God for guarding my heart until this year.  Once I started thinking more about possibly getting married and having children in the future, I learned a few things.  I would like to demythologize some of them for you here:

1)      Relationships are hard work.  That’s just the truth.  You’re dealing with someone who may have completely different dreams and goals than you do.  You may, at times, find it hard to understand the reasons why the other person thinks as they do.

2)      Relationships are very time consuming.  Your significant others is going to want to spend time with you, and when you’re studying full time and involved in church or other forms of volunteering, working, or student leadership, the limited time you have left will be split between your significant other and all your other friends.  Some days you will have to choose who you are going to be spending time with.  More than likely, your significant other will win.  Depending on how much you are involved with, this can really make you feel alienated from others and you might feel like you really don’t have that many other friends other than your significant other.

3)      Being in a relationship can really bless your life, but it can also really harm your life and you can end up worse off than if you never dated.  Choose someone who will be a blessing to you, not who will take away from your blessing.

4)      If you are an eagle, go for someone who is an eagle.  Not someone who is a duck.  In other words, if you perceive yourself to be someone who likes to move around and change jobs, marry someone who is going to be okay with that, not someone who only wants to stay in one spot.

5)      People will get involved in your relationship and tell you what they think about your ideas for marriage and raising kids and even about the person you are dating.  If they raise concerns, don’t let love blind you.  At the same time, take responsibility for your own decisions.

Once I started thinking more about dating, I’ve learned just how sex saturated our society is.  It is expected for people to be with someone, but there is danger in awakening love before it is time.  It is better to wait on God’s timing.  At the same time, I warn against dating only to marry – thinking the first person you date is the one God intended for you can be a good thought, but it is also dangerous.  Clearly, I am not advocating physical union before marriage, but I also mean it is dangerous for emotional reasons.  You might start talking about marriage after a month, about your future kids after two months, and soon that is all you ever talk about.  God may choose to save your heart for only one person, but God may also give you experience or allow you free will.  Face it.  For many younger people it’s hard to be in a serious relationship because you’re still discovering who you are and what you like and what you will or won’t put up with.  Then on top of that you have to discover the other person.  It can be a lot for many younger people to deal with unless they are marrying someone of the same culture and same age as they are.

I will be honest, I have discovered how wonderful thinking about marriage can be, but marriage isn’t everything.  Marriage can help you define or recognize your goals, but it can also be confining.  Marriage should be one goal among many.  Marriage should fit into the other goals and expectations you have in life such as your ministry, your job, travel, other friends, and other passions.  It should not be your one and only goal.

I am well aware that it is harder to be in ministry when single instead of married.  In seminary almost everyone is married and almost all churches prefer a married couple (preferably with kids) to a single person.  I also know it is considerably harder to adopt kids as a single person than as a married couple.  However, being single is a gift and it is always your choice to be in a relationship or not.  Don’t get married just to be married.  In fact, don’t get married just because you love someone.  Get married because you want to be a blessing to each other.  And if you don’t ever want to get married that’s okay too.  If you’re idea is not to find a spouse a Tyndale, don’t let any of these notions get to you.

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2 thoughts on “Ring Before Spring – Myth or Reality?

  1. A very important conversation we need to have more often. There’s a lot I could say and if I have time at any point soon I may blog my own longer discussion on the topic.

    For now I’ll just say this: It came up at our young adult’s home church this week. After about 10 minutes of extolling the benefits of being single, one of the singles pointed out that so far it had only been the 6 of us who are married who were talking. The conversation quickly moved on without anybody who was single actually saying that they saw the benefit of being single. From that I would say that maybe the most important thing for this conversation to actually work is for people who are single and happy with that to talk about it instead of us married people sounding like we’re lamenting the loss of our freedom.

    • Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for your thoughts on this topic. If you do decide to blog a longer response, I’d be super interested to read it.

      What happened in your house church is a scenario that I see quite often in church settings. That’s not to say, though, that married people don’t have a right to share. I have learned a lot (even some very important lessons on celibacy) from married couples. I’ve also learned a lot from celibate people, though I have found that for people 18-30, it’s actually very rare for me to find someone who is exploring celibacy as a Christian discipline/practice/call. But it does happen every once in a while. I’m always interested in seeing the conversation flow between the two groups and having the two groups learn from each other. Thanks again for your response.

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