Becoming a wife does not warrant a grand prize trophy. In fact, several days out of the week, I feel like it only rewards a participation ribbon. The truth of the matter is, marriage takes work. And for whatever reason–whether the church taught us by way of the archetypal Proverbs 31 woman, or society influenced us by way of the Real Housewives of whatever city trope–there is a large population of people, both men and women, who believe and feel as if becoming a wife marks the pinnacle of womanhood. I’ve been married for 4 years and 4 months and by no means would I call myself an expert. I’m literally living by trial and error and doing the very best I can. But, as the dialogue around marriage, “wife material”, and singleness continues to surface, I feel compelled to offer my truth to the discussion.
The Internet erupted when Ciara recently re-posted a single’s sermon from Pastor John Gray with the caption #LevelUp. And while I understand how the use of certain terminology or even his delivery of his point opened wounds and/or simply rubbed people the wrong way, I believe both Ciara and John Gray were making the same point—if you desire the position of WIFE, you have to make certain life choices to get the HUSBAND you deserve. Translation: a man who desires the position of HUSBAND is looking for a woman who desires the position of WIFE. Another way: When a man understands his role in a marriage as a husband, he is looking for a woman who will honor both his and her role as well. Now if this is a concept that you disagree with, there is no need to read any further. But for everyone else…
As a public figure, Ciara’s past relationships and their failed outcomes were available for the world to see and scrutinize. So, naturally, the, “Girl, you was just single five minutes ago—sit down somewhere,” commentary ensued. But from the way I see it, doesn’t that make her a prime example for what she even meant by “#levelup”? Doesn’t the change in her life and future (no pun intended) serve as proof to the shift in mindset and behaviors serving her for a greater purpose?
I said earlier, and I believe this to be true of most wives I know, being married does not make any of us better than the next. But if I knew Ciara and, I were able to ask her, I think she would agree with me when I say: it makes ME better.
I know, especially as Black women, we can do bad (literally and figuratively) all by ourselves—and most of us do. Some by choice, some by nature of the reality of life, but most women cannot and will not say that having a male counterpart makes them better.
But I will. I’m a better lover, listener, problem solver, and friend. I can admit that sometimes life is just too much and I have someone to share the ups and downs with. That makes room for me to take better care of myself, so that I can still be who I am supposed to be.
I don’t believe God intended for me to carry the burdens of life by myself. I don’t believe I am supposed to spend my life searching for peace that I call home. I don’t believe I am supposed to (nor do I want to) raise my children alone simply because I can. I don’t believe I am supposed to look for validation from the world because I’m missing the foundation of genuine love at home. I don’t believe that I should compromise what I value about my femininity because I have to compensate for what’s lacking in masculinity. I want to be vulnerable without the risk of being used. I want to give myself over to ONE person and know he will protect my temple because it is precious and valuable to him–which means he ain’t bringing nothing and no one else up in it! I want to be 100% woman and I want to be 100% wife. The key to this, though, is that I must have a man who is just as committed to being 100% man and 100% husband.
That’s the problem with most discussions around marriage. The burden of responsibility almost always lies on the woman—whether she is already a wife or desires to be a wife. Because women are more outspoken about their desire for love, the conversation becomes centered around what she must do.
I want to add this disclaimer. I follow John Gray’s ministry and whole heartedly believe the intent of his message was to safeguard women from men who have no intentions of becoming husbands. Husbands love their wives. Husbands don’t play games with their wives’ feelings. Husbands provide a safe place for their wives to run to. Husbands make sure the only other arms their wives will ever run to are those of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Husbands may get weary but they don’t give up on their families. Husbands keep themselves to their wives and their wives only. Husbands realize their wives’ potential and give them the space to grow into everything God made them to be. Husbands assume the responsibility of safety and security and understand the value that wives bring to the family. Husbands know that the only way they can do these things is by the help of the Holy Spirit. And husbands recognize when a woman knows the same for her. The only spirit that makes marriage successful is that third member of the Trinity—that Comforter and Helper, the Spirit of God himself. We see so many marriages fail because in our own human capabilities, marriage is difficult to maintain. But that’s why God sent us Help. We just have to use Him.
Woman, you are not broken because you are not married.
Perhaps God is protecting you from years of anguish by being hooked up to the wrong man. Perhaps who you’ve been waiting for is waiting for you and God is setting up the time for which he has planned your union. Perhaps he is birthing inside of you a dream, task, or plan that marriage would distract you from. Perhaps he’s healing some wounds he doesn’t want you to carry into your marriage as unresolved baggage. Maybe he’s ridding you of insecurities that can eat away at your future marriage. Maybe he is hiding you from the man pretending to be a husband and looking for someone to keep him satisfied on the weekend. Maybe he’s making sure that is not YOU! Maybe he is trying to change your mind about what you will accept from a man and how you value your self. I don’t know. But I do know that God is a good, good father. Many of us don’t know what that looks like or how that feels. It’s scary to try and fathom, honestly. But a good father knows his daughter, and is the first to love her the way she needs to be loved. God is that father, and He will not hand you over to someone who cannot care for you the way he can. And he wants to make sure you love yourself just as much, too. In true love, we don’t always get what we want–sometimes what we want is not good for us. Instead, true love practices self-control, leaves room for growth and correction, and becomes the catalysts for us to grow into our best selves.
I know I speak as a married woman so you may feel I don’t understand your pain. I get that. It is my earnest plea that you understand what I am trying to say, though—God said that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). He made no mistakes when he made you. He knows everything about you and still loves you. He will not give you to someone who won’t do the same. He also told you that if you delight yourself in him, he would give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). This means he will place in your heart the desires he has for you. From experience I will say, I trust what God has for me more than I trust anyone else, including myself. I’ve tried figuring life out on my own. I’ve tried doing things my way. Perhaps you’re reading this and it feels like you’re hearing the same old song. Please listen to me—do not let time, society, culture, friends or whatever else, influence you to be anything less than what God called you to be. You have not done anything wrong. You walk in the Spirit of the Most High God, all your needs will be met. The scripture tells us that we cannot even conceive what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9). But we do know that he has a plan and purpose for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11). He loves you and only has what’s best for you. I pray you find peace in that. I believe your time will come.
My time came four years ago, and I desired then and still desire today to be a wife. No matter how hard life may get or mundane days may feel, my life with my husband is one I prayed for, chose, and continually choose to live. I don’t believe I’m better than single women. I don’t even believe I’m better than other married women. But I am a better version of myself because I am connected to the man I entrusted my heart and my life, and now after two children, their lives and futures. I’ve watched women raise children with no man around to even buy socks or toothpaste and those kids became adults who live decent lives. I’ve watched women juggle multiple jobs to cover food, rent, and tuition and by God, make it all happen! I know women who have been single for their entire lives, just living and loving life all by herself, and happy while doing so. But I have also seen women searching for love and validation in the arms of any man who opened his arms. I have seen women fall so hard and deeply in love time after time after time and ultimately end up empty from giving all of herself and getting abandonment in return. I have watched women make the world go ‘round on their own, and I decided, I don’t want to bare that weight alone.
And I shouldn’t have to.
Marriage, if done correctly, should be a safe haven.
It should function as a partnership where the success, well-being, and overall wellness of one member should be identical to the other. I don’t mean this to say everything the man does the woman should do or vice-versa. What I mean is, what each party brings to the table should balance out so that on this journey called life each individual knows there is at least one other human being on this earth that understands, values, admires, and appreciates their existence, and is committed to ensuring both people live their best lives. This, I believe, is basic humanity and the vein that keeps a marriage alive.
Now, I do govern my life by the Bible and what I believe God says about marriage, womanhood, and manhood for that matter. It serves as my blueprint and how I choose to make my marriage come to life is up to how well I follow that blueprint. Perhaps this will grow into multiple postings where I flesh out each of those beliefs, but for now I will summarize with this: marriage may not warrant a grand prize trophy, but if it is ordained by God and centered around a love for Christ and therefore a desire to do his will, it is an invaluable gift. One cannot measure unconditional love except for the example Jesus left by laying down his life for even the worst of sinners. This is the charge that was left to the man in his function as husband—for him to love his wife as much as Christ loves the church—and I believe that being covered by such a love should be met with inexplicable gratitude, appreciation, respect and honor.
A Note From the Other Side of “I Do”: Finding The Truth In Ciara ‘Leveling Up’ Amid Backlash was originally published on hellobeautiful.com