How Small Christian Universities Messed Up My View of Love and Marriage
Note: This post originally was originally published at: http://www.lovewokemeupthismorning.com/2012/01/how-small-christian-universities-messed.html on January 18, 2012.
Once, I came across a blog post via The Good Women Project. Then, as I tend to do with posts I like, I shared it on Facebook. Holy crap that started a discussion.
If you want, you can read the post here. It turns out, a lot of my single friends (and some of my married friends, actually) really resonated with this post. One of my friends who was part of the conversation added how she felt it was about letting God have control, singleness isn't the problem, and how God did bring her her husband but she would have been fine if he hadn't. She then asked me this question: "I think being at [the name of our university] warped our views on this topic? Where single = unhappy, married = unhappy? Your thoughts?"
The short answer?
The long answer?
When I was 13 I started to read The Christy Miller Series. Spoiler alert: in the end, Christy marries the guy she fell for when she was 14 just after she graduates college.
When I was in high school, I started going to a youth group where most of the leaders were college students who went to a conservative Christian university in the city. Most of them also dated each other and got married soon after graduating college.
I had friends from youth group who went away to a Christian college in another part of the country. They were there one year and got engaged at the age of 19. Apparently, so many people were getting engaged at this school it was becoming an "epidemic" and couples had to get approval from the university to get married.
At the end of the summer after my senior year of high school, and I was preparing to leave for a small, conservative, Lutheran university, I visited another youth group where some of my friends with. One girl told me: "Emily, I just know you are going to meet your husband in college."
I then go to college. As a naive, impressionable, Jesus-loving, 18 year old girl, I got one message pounded into my brain:
YOU ARE GOING TO MEET YOUR FUTURE HUSBAND AT FRESHMAN CAMP!!!!!!!!
This was written all over the sidewalks and on posters around campus. I'm not even joking. Freshman camp is the weekend before classes begin the fall semester. Granted, the Orientation, Transfer, and Camp staffs (O-staff, T-staff, and Camp Staff) all told us they wrote those things in jest. However... it kind of wasn't a joke.
Through the next four years I saw countless students dating each other freshman year and then getting a ring put on their finger by junior or senior year. Heck, when I was 18, I was in a play where one of my cast mates got married over Christmas break. We would always joke around about getting our MRS degree at graduation. My sophomore year I lived on a small floor filled where a majority of the girls were (A) engaged, (B) in a serious relationship, or (C) pregnant.
The message that you had to get married to your college sweetheart because that's what good Christian girls do was loud and clear.
So where would that leave the girls on campus, like myself, who always found themselves boy-friendless? My single friends and I had countless conversations about waiting for the right guy, how God has a plan, and learning how we need to "give our singleness to the Lord". Sometimes we even put on a very convincing facade that we were 100% okay with being single in a sea of engaged couples.
But it wasn't OK.
I just can't help but wonder why this is such a big trend in conservative Christian circles. Nothing is wrong with marrying young. Heck, I grew up in the Boy Meets World generation where Cory and Topanga were the ideal couple.
Looking back, I'm glad I never dated any of the guys I was interested in during my college years. Not that they weren't great guys, they were, and some I am still friends with. But I remember when I was 18 I thought that if I dated one of them that I would have to marry him. That's completely ridiculous. Why this pressure to marry right away? What if that's not God's plan for you? What if you never marry? What if you marry after the age of 25? (Yes - in some circles being 25 and single makes you an old maid.) Does this make you a "bad Christian?" Does this make you less of a person? Does it mean that married = happy, and single = unhappy? I don't think so.
I also feel like most people would agree with me.
So why this trend? I would love to hear your thoughts.
*Please note, that this is not a bash against Christy Miller, the youth leaders I had in high school, the university I attended, or people who marry young. Christy Miller is one of my all time favorite book series. My youth leaders helped me grow in my faith in so many ways. I had an awesome college experience. I have several close friends who married young and are amazing people whose friendships I would never want to loose.