I am getting married.
My family has finally stopped referring to my boyfriends as “flavors-of-the-month.” Laugh if you must, but I’ve pretty much had a boyfriend since I was twelve.
Colby Marsh–shout-out to Colby–asked me to the Valentine Dance in the sixth grade. I was two inches taller than him in my one-inch heels, and his suit was too big for him. He had asked me to the dance, so, by default, he had to be my boyfriend. This was middle school. This was the big leagues. We didn’t just throw our emotions around.
I can still see poor sixth-grade Colby being lifted above the heads of the other boys, flailing, writhing, desperately trying to escape. They carried him right over to me and plopped him down at my feet. He tried to run for it. They held him there.
“Dude, just do it. Everyone else did it.”
“Catherine, will you go out with me?”
They let him go. He bolted.
The romance lasted for two months–we even held hands once–before he broke up with me on a Sunday afternoon through a mutual friend. He called Friend. Friend called me. My heart broke. I spent the duration of youth choir practice staring out the window, imitating the obligatory post-breakup depression I’d watched in movies as best I could.
After Colby came a string of middle-school boyfriends, the longest lasting four months and the shortest a mere six weeks, hence “flavor-of-the-month.”
As I got into high school, I dated two boys over the course of four years and began my current relationship just a month into my freshman year of college.
My friends and family pretty much reached a consensual conclusion that I’d be the first to get married and start a family upon graduating college.
This past weekend, I spent the Fourth of July with my sister and our cousin, who are both twenty, at our family’s river house in Dover Bluff as per usual.
We’ve spent nearly every Fourth there since I was eleven, and it has become more of a routine than a tradition. Seven people come. Our Memaw, my Aunt Mag, my Uncle Harve, my cousins Anna and Layton, my sister, and I all take our place in the Bluff House and quickly establish normalcy. Memaw can either be found in a rocking chair on the front porch, tearing through a novel or in the kitchen, looking out the big window over the sink, watching people come and go on golf carts and four wheelers. Aunt Mag is either walking Anna’s Maltese, reading by Memaw, or in the kitchen, trying to keep up with the stomachs of the teenagers that are in and out of our house all day. Uncle Harve is either fishing on the river, out working on the yard, or sleeping. (Seriously. That man can sleep anywhere. Once, when we replaced an old hand-me-down recliner with a slightly-less-worn hand-me-down recliner in the living room, we placed the old one outside in the yard for Uncle Harve to move. When he didn’t come in from the river when he said he would, we didn’t think much of it. But when Memaw moved to the window over the sink to watch the comings-and-goings of our neighbors, she found him. There was Uncle Harve, snoozing in the old recliner in the front yard of the house, wearing a shirt that said “Women love me; deer fear me.”)
South Georgia, yeah!
If Layton isn’t working or fishing with his dad, he hangs out with the other boys our age. And we three girls are always riding through the woods on the golf cart, singing at the top of our lungs. We even have designated Fourth-of-July bedrooms. There is a balance to it that I love. We each have a niche.
On the Fourth, the entire family comes to the back yard to help Anna, Madison, and I put together our float for the parade. The stakes and stress are always as high as the humidity and heat index because we have now established a legacy, taking home first place four years running.
This year was different, though. Anna, who is three years my junior, travelled to Europe with People to People Student Ambassadors this summer, and she was set to return to the U-S-of-A from her three weeks abroad on none other than July 4th. So she, Uncle Harve, and Aunt Mag couldn’t make it for the actual Fourth this year. However, since the holiday fell on a weekend, the events were spread out among three days. So they considered coming for Saturday and Sunday for a bit, but Layton decided that he’d rather just Madison and I join him and a friend for some cousin bonding for the weekend.
It dawned on me that there would be no adults down there with us.
Then I thought about it, and something scarier occurred to me.
I am nineteen, a legal adult, and, since Anna would not be in attendance, the baby of the group.
We have two good friends that I’ve known since I was eleven, when we met the first year we started coming for the Fourth. Blake and Daniel are cousins and the two funniest guys I know. Blake is twenty-one (and the object of my first real crush back when I was eleven; shout out to Blake!), Daniel is twenty along with Layton and Madison, and I am nineteen.
It dawned on me that we WERE the adults that would be down there with us.
Although we kept up some of our antics, i.e. dressing up as Bald Eagles at the age of twenty, the over-all tone to this year was more serious than it ever has been, more adult.
When Madison and I rolled into the Bluff on Tuesday night at eleven, she and I stayed up with Layton well into the night, discussing our relationships and listing off everyone we knew in our classes that are engaged or “close-to-it,” married, or having/have already had kids.
The list was surprisingly long.
I kept thinking, But we’re kids. We aren’t old enough for any of this.
But we were the adults that were there. We were the adults period. I just don’t feel like one when there are older adults present. I don’t feel like an adult when I am sitting in the same bed in which I’ve slept since I was a toddler with my cousin and sister, mentally taking inventory of all the materials I’ll need to make Bald Eagle costumes. I don’t feel like an adult when I squeal over the dipped granola bars that Aunt Mag left on the kitchen counter for us. And it didn’t stop there.
The next night, Layton and I sat on the front porch, rocking and talking about what we wanted in our lives, mostly in relationships, in the near future until three in the morning. The following night at dinner, Madison and I sat with Blake and Daniel on their front porch, discussing what we wanted to name our children while we ate dinner.
Meanwhile, in my head, I am freaking out.
When did it become normal to spend the present talking about the future? The real-world future with a salary and a mortgage and a family? When did we stop surfing dirt on trashcan lids while being pulled behind golf carts and spending hours in the pool or chasing each other around, massacring the others with water balloons and silly string? Why does it all of a sudden have to be front-porch sitting like the adults?
The more I sat there and freaked, the clearer it became to me how dead-wrong my friends and family have been this whole time.
Chances are, I will not be the first person to settle down out of college. I don’t know my future, but I know my personality. And considering the looks of where I am right now in my life and the fact that I still have four more years at the best school in the universe before I graduate with my Master’s, I will not be where I assumed I’d be even last year.
Four years ago, I was sketching plans to make the golf cart look like a giant wave for the parade. Four years later, I am considering making a buffalo costume to go along with next year’s potential covered-wagon pioneer theme.
So four years from now, I expect to be up to my knees in papier-mâché, transforming the golf-cart into a mobile Mt. Rushmore. I call George Washington, kids.
I am legally an adult.
I am mentally a kid.
It dawned on me for the first time since my sixth grade year that one’s preparedness for marriage is not dependent on the ratio of time spent in a relationship to time spent out of a relationship.
Yes, each new relationship is an opportunity to find what I think I’ll prefer in a life partner, and since my freshman year of high school, I’ve been able to discern which qualities in a guy are compatible with my personality and which are not in any way, shape, or form to be repeated.
I don’t know who I am going to marry. It could be Noah, my current boyfriend, or I could have ten boyfriends after Noah before I decide to settle down. But I do know that I have never gone into a relationship thinking that I am going to marry the guy I am dating, and I have never actually believed that I would marry any of my boyfriends at any given time in any of my relationships.
Because I am too busy getting excited about being a buffalo next summer.
I don’t want to marry my boyfriend because I am not ready to think about marriage.
It has nothing to do with Noah. Noah is a great guy in every meaning of the word, and our relationship is just fine. It’s everything either of us needs at this point in our lives, so it doesn’t matter if it will be everything either of us needs in the future. If it is, great. If it isn’t, great. If our relationship grows with us, great. If we outgrow the relationship, great.
God has a plan.
My sister told me about a book that one of her friends from high school read on relationships. I’m being a horrible blogger right now, but I have no idea of the title or even the author’s name. Even so, one of the most profound claims that this author made was about our tendency as human beings to search for someone we can make better. We want to help others, “fix” them, or fill a void in their lives so that we become an object of infatuation, falsely convincing ourselves or the other that our partners NEED us. We complete our partners, or they complete us.
I, like many other little girls, was introduced to the idea of Prince Charming at a very young age. I began expecting that one day, I would meet and fall in love with someone who offers everything I want, who balances me out perfectly, and I would do the same for him. He would be someone who inspires and challenges me, loves me through all my struggles and in spite all of my imperfections.
He would complete me.
I was silly.
The only one that can complete a human being is God. His love is the only power that can make us whole. Our souls long to be relentlessly sought-after, yet the same souls hunger for something we can’t offer ourselves–freedom. God is our souls’ mate, the author argued. It isn’t until we have honed and cultivated our relationships with Christ that we will truly be made whole. And even then we should search for other whole people who desire a relationship with us because of their relationships with Christ. God then truly becomes the foundation for the relationship, the common ground and the common goal.
Christ is my Prince Charming, King of Kings. Not only does he offer everything I want; He offers everything I can’t, everything that any man I will ever meet cannot. Not only does He inspire me; He is my strength and my shield, my source of unfettered joy. Not only does He challenge me; He guides me and reveals to me through His love my purpose. Not only does he offer me unconditional love; He washes my imperfections away.
He completes me.
There has been a lot of chatter recently, especially on the internet, as to what age is appropriate for marriage nowadays. Posts have gone up in opposition to “starting a life” with one’s partner right out of college (23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged When You’re 23), and others have gone up in opposition of the former’s opposition (My Response to “23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23″).
(That’s not my response, just a response. THIS is my response to the whole debate.)
The fact of the matter is that some people are ready for marriage earlier than others.
There is no right or wrong side. It’s a personal choice
I’m nineteen. I know people my age that are getting married, but I am personally not ready to consider it.
Why? Because I am nineteen, and I need to be selfish.
By “be selfish,” I mean I need to work on myself before I turn my attention to anyone else.
Eventually, I hope to have a husband to love and fight with, to worship God and be broken and yoked together. Eventually, I hope for the blessing of children with my husband, to bring them up the way they should go.
But it’s not time for my eventually.
It’s time for my right now.
Right now, I need to find myself.
That’s not as extreme as it sounds. I am not going to drop off the face of the planet a la “Eat, Pray, Love” or reinvent myself or date as many guys as humanly possible.
Right now, I need to cultivate my relationship with Christ so that I may do His will, so that I may know His plans for my future.
Right now, I need to be made whole.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11
If I allow myself to fall deeply in love with Christ, to devote my life to him, to surrender my own desires and trust that He will guide my soul in the direction it should go, I will know when I will be ready for marriage. I will be ready when He wants me to be ready, but I won’t be ready until I am whole.
My greatest fear is resentment. How am I supposed to respect a man with whom I will hopefully spend the remainder of my life if I selfishly blame him for all of the opportunities I missed because of him or resent him for not living up to my expectations. How is my husband to respect me for the same reasons?
Christ fulfills our deepest desires in ways that we can’t, in ways that others can’t. If I am whole, I won’t feel empty. I won’t feel like something is missing. I won’t wonder “what if?” or regret opportunities not taken. If I am whole, I won’t need a man to complete me, to live up to my expectations.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” –Ephesians 5:25
I don’t want to need a husband. I want to love him.
And I want the same for him.
The Church is Christ’s bride. He doesn’t need us, yet He loves us. He doesn’t need us, yet He desires us. He doesn’t need us, yet He pursues us. He doesn’t need us, yet He sacrificed His life for us.
Our souls long to be bonded to something bigger than just ourselves.
If I bond my soul to a human being, if I depend on my future husband to fulfill my soul’s desires, I will become a prisoner to my own resentment and disappointment.
If I surrender my soul to Christ, if I allow myself to depend on Him, I will be set free.
How beautiful and wonderful is it that through total dependence and submission will come total liberation?
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” –Matthew 6:33
And here’s a crazy idea.
I can continue to live the life I am living. I can continue to spend most of my time in Seaton Hall at Kansas State, working on whatever Hell-in-the-form-of-a-project I’ve been assigned. I can continue pursuing my Master’s degree. I can continue in my sorority and church and friendships. I can continue going to football games on Saturdays and cheering on our Wildcats. I can continue dating my best friend. I can continue growing toward Christ both with him and as an individual.
As long as I actively pursue God and my relationship with Him above all else, He will guide me. He will work in my life and my relationships. But if I allow my concerns for my future, such as my success in school or keeping up with my friendships and relationships, to consume my focus, I will never be complete and always feel lost.
If I pursue God above all else, He will bless my life, and eventually, my marriage. If He remains my focus, my life as an individual and with my someday-maybe–husband will be more fruitful than if I put my relationship with God on hold and make Him my eventuality. There will be no guessing, only confidence.
” ‘And the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” –Mark 10:8
When I marry, I will not marry my soul mate. I will marry my brother in Christ, a man who has yoked himself to the Lord. And under Him, we will become one; through Him, we will be bonded.
I will not be dependent on him, nor will he depend on me. We will depend on Christ and support each other in our pursuit of God.
But I am not ready to support another in his pursuit because I have not truly begun my own.
I don’t know when I will be ready. God does.
So I will run toward Him, and He will run with me.
Right now I am a nineteen-year-old Eagle. Right now, I am not whole. Right now, I have to work on my relationship with Christ so that He can work in my life.
Right now, I am not waiting on eventually.
Right now, I am waiting for eventually.
I refuse to be a slave of my expectations or aspirations. I refuse to be a slave of the future.
My eventuality is not my purpose. My God is my purpose.
My marriage will not define me. My career will not define me. My parenting will not define me. My success will not define me.
My relationship with God will.
My relationship with God will define my marriage, my career, my parenting, and the success of all three.
So who needs twenty-three things to do other than get engaged when you’re twenty-three?
I have one thing to do that trumps the entire list:
Fall madly in love with Christ.
So I’m getting married.
To a man? Eventually.
To Christ? Every day of my life.
“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.” –Hosea 2:19