Serious Question: How Do You Feel About The Church Telling Single Women To Wait For A Man To Find Them?
I came across an article on the Washington Post today that brought back every fear and frustration I had as a young, single woman growing up in in the church.
Janelle Harris begins her piece, “Pastors tell black women to be passive and wait for love. I don’t believe in that,” with a conversation she had with a friend. She writes:
Last week, my cellphone lit up with texts from a friend who, like me, is black, Christian and single in her 30s. The first message began: “Tonight my pastor told us, ‘The Bible says he who finds a wife finds a good thing.’ He and my mentor always emphasize that single women should not look for a man, but wait to be found,” she wrote. “He says that, while waiting, we as women should instead focus on becoming and being that ‘good thing.’ ”
To that, I heaved the heaviest of sighs and rolled my eyes all the way to the top of their sockets. Not at her, but at the under-inspiring, over-articulated rhetoric that women — particularly black women — should be passive in the search for love. And even as we nullify our power, we should also work to be as close to perfect to qualify as marriage material. It’s contradictory and so very cliche.
Unfortunately, this scenario is also oh so very common. Like Harris, I grew up in the church and dreaded the day I’d become one of the single women on the pew that was presented to every new single man that entered the sanctuary like some kind of dowry. The message was that it was okay for church folk to throw single women at men, but if you’re actually a single woman you shouldn’t dare throw yourself at a man. Just be a good, patient lamb and the Shepherd will provide one for you.
It’s for that reason that in my adulthood I’ve threatened physical violence upon anyone who’s ever said anything to me along the lines of “wait for your Boaz.” The Bible is full of stories of men and women taking leaps of faith to get from A to B in life. Every character may not have known exactly how they were going to get what they wanted, but they were doing something to move toward it and, as a result, God provided. It never made sense to me that the criticism of faith without works was applicable to every scenario under the sun except finding a husband.
This may not be fair to say, but I’ve always thought the notion of focusing on becoming that “good thing” a man should find was made up to pacify women. An empty piece of advice shared to give single ladies something to focus on other than their singleness and make them feel like their inaction is actually getting them somewhere. In that sense, the message isn’t inherently bad; it’s just not helpful. In no other circumstance are believers supposed to sit back and wait for something they desire to magically appear. That advice is like being the best website coder in the world, never sharing your work, and expecting a top-notch employer to find you. It’s simply not going to happen. Further, as Harris pointed out, the implication of this advice is that you’re single because you’re not already “good” and that simply isn’t the case for most sisters.
“I love the black church. I am who I am because of the black church. But we can’t continue to push a message about relationships that is so dramatically different for women than it is for men,” Harris wrote. “Many men enjoy the liberties of sex, scandal and indiscretion with little consequences. We’re obligated to crawl out from under the patriarchy that weighs on women socially even as they’re lifted spiritually. Black women are already that good thing that my friend’s pastor and so many others like him tell us we should be striving to be. And we should be clear that we have our own connection to and relationship with God to drive our own choices; to get discernment and wisdom; to be convicted about celibacy or decide to have sex, and not because someone else is telling us either is the right choice; to register for a dating site or go out on a blind date; to send a cute guy a message or ask a crush out for dinner. We get to decide with God — not be told by outside forces, no matter how well-intentioned — what waiting and taking no initiative entails.”
It’s fun to fantasize about being a woman so filled with the Holy spirit a man can sniff you out from the couch on whence you lay immediately after work, but the reality is having faith in being married one day is going to require a little bit of work. No that doesn’t mean desperately throwing yourself at every man you meet or trying to obtain an unrealistic standard of what a wife-in-waiting should be; it means doing the things God has already required of you as his child and as a Christian woman — and smiling at a brotha or two and saying “hello” every now and then so your potential husband he gets the hint.