She was articulate, Biblically versed, a cultural warrioress, womanly woman and culinary artist to boot. She dressed beautifully and modestly. She could debunk any atheist who trotted along as well as wring a chicken’s neck. She loved books and children alike. She submitted to her father, exuded a gentle and quiet spirit, and ended up married to a godly young man who had waited a long time to meet this godly young woman.
I shut down the internet and put my head in my hands. Perhaps it was the time I set the stovetop on fire after spaghetti night, the lopsided dishrags or the chronically messy desk. Maybe it was the way I stumbled all over my words, laughed boisterously and jumped around to my sisters’ utter embarrassment. Surely it had to do with the fact that I could win the Forgetful Laundress Award. I don’t know. But I knew for a very long time that I would never graduate homemaker-in-training satisfactorily—with the MRS degree. I would be the failure woman who, if she ever did get married despite her college degree and dislike of knitting, would send out for pizza when the babies screamed, might possibly waste too much time on Facebook and would be too bored to read her Bible one morning.
I just wasn’t godly enough.
In a stroke of brilliance, I told my mother how imperfect and ungodly I was, and she shrugged off the alleged perfection of this paragon of internet godliness and told me to be myself.
Be myself? The horror! I’d read the purity books. I’d seen the godly young men’s lists, the ones where the wife holds a baby on her hip, chops peppers and talks eschatology at the same time. I wasn’t stupid: I knew that the key to marrying a godly man was being godly myself. Godly marriages defied universal law: opposites did not attract. They didn’t want a girl who’d had random crushes on guys. They didn’t want a girl who’d rather go off to college than stay home. They didn’t want a girl who was imperfect.
They wanted a godly girl—to wit, not me.
For the longest time, I thought marriage was the reward of the godly. I even heard a girl say that everyone will eventually marry if they’re walking in God’s will. I don’t think I ever believed that, but I certainly believed that no one would get married unless they were good enough. There were slim pickings, after all—the group of godly young men who would lead and love was small and diminishing, and they only went after the cream of the conservative crop.
So I was out. Unless I wanted to marry some semi-heathen who let his wife work outside the home and eat McDonald’s.
The idea of young women preparing to be homemakers, wives and mothers is beautiful. My mother tells me of the days when about all she could cook was eggs. Certainly nothing is wrong with preparation and skill, especially if one hopes to be married someday. My only concern is that “preparation” has become equated to “worth,” as if a young lady can increase her godliness factor and eligibility by meeting more requirements before marriage. I stumbled across one article where the author insinuated that the fault of declining marriage lay not with immature men but ungodly girls who were too busy chasing after “fluffy homemaking” and ignoring the true qualities and skills that godly men look for.
In other words, if you care for the frivolities of cake decorating and chick flicks, you’re losing the race to get a husband.
Silly as it is, this thinking needs correction. Pronto. It’s not a race. True love can never be earned. Marriage is not as simplistic as (godly) boy meets (godly) girl. Women are not made of what they can and cannot do. We hold distinct worth simply by being daughters of God and followers of Jesus. Nothing and nobody can take that away—certainly not our messy desks or frumpy sneakers. If a man cannot love us for who we are—warts and all—and pursue God with us—pitfalls and everything—then the fault lies in the fact that it was not meant to be.
I do not believe the Bible lays out the path to Ultimate Eligibility; indeed, I do not think the Bible ever supports the idea that all godly women will be married. It does, however, speak powerfully to the timing and wisdom of God, the beauty of marriage and the mystery of the love within. Ironically, marriage is not a reward or the pinnacle of godliness: it’s a temporary, earthly sanctification tool, meant only for sinners who need the companionship, support and reproof of another.
In my off-and-on pursuit of homemaking, I now view it not as a means to the end of marriage. I view it as an opportunity to serve and proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, whether now in helping my mom with dinner dishes or then in ministering to a husband and a house of kids. I know that imperfection does not disqualify a girl from marriage and that it’s not sin to marry without learning how to imitate Olive Garden or Design on a Dime.
Love is not the reward of the faithful. It’s what makes the sinner perfect.