(From a guest poster who wishes to remain anonymous)
You always made it seem so simple, so easy, so perfect. I vividly remember those days
as a teen in youth group when I made my “True Love Waits” promise and committed my
whole self to my future husband—my prince charming—this man whom you painted
to be as perfectly suited and unconditionally loving as Christ. “It’s worth the wait,” you
preached year after year, as if marriage were the light at the end of an arduous journey of
self-control, and this future husband the fulfillment of my deepest physical and emotional
And then I met him within your walls—that guy who was so on fire for Christ,
who made the same purity vow as I, and held a similar idealistic vision of marriage.
We were so young, so innocent, so naïve. And you knew that. You knew we had
years of growing up to do, years of life to live, and that our understanding of love and
commitment were erroneous. But you kept that knowledge to yourself,
never hinted at any sort of hardship to come, anything less than beautiful. You cared only
that we made it to that altar—still immature youth toting unformed identities—with some
semblance of purity upheld and some line uncrossed. That we could face one another in
front of friends, family, and our God and say with unspeakable joy that we had saved our
deepest expression of love for each other and each other alone.
And then you let us go—turned us out into a world of responsibility, stress, financial
burden, and daily living. You knew what sort of temptations we’d face, through what
monotony we’d trudge, and the disagreements that would brew into all-out brawls.
You could have predicted the niggling doubts and gnawing fear that would eat away at
our minds, the questions we’d ask as we lay awake angry, confused, and distressed at
night: “Is this my forever?”
Church, you never shared—as young, impressionable youth with our best years stretched
before us—the most important truths of them all: Life is hard. Marriage is messy. Love is
so very difficult. Relationships take real work.
Maybe I would have been better prepared. Maybe I would have paused and thought a little longer and harder about the commitment I was about to make. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone in my struggle if I had known that others struggle, too. If the
message weren’t all about sex and purity and kissing dating good-bye, maybe I would
have shifted my focus and been able to wrap my head around the commitment rather than the wait.
Even as a young wife, with my fixed smile and resolve to maintain a rosy façade, you never asked the tough questions. You never encouraged me to share the hard truth. I felt ashamed of my daily love reality, as though I had somehow miscalculated the formula necessary for marital bliss. You assumed all was well, and why shouldn’t it be? We had lived an upstanding youth, made all the right choices, were equally yoked, and even attended your couples’ small group.
Why didn’t you warn me or give me some purposeful truth to cling to in the darkest
hours? Why didn’t you ask me to fling wide the doors of my heart’s deepest turmoil or
hold me as I cried through my pain and the smashed dreams of my future? Why did you
allow me to harbor my shame as though I were the only one who couldn’t unlock the key
to matrimonial joy? Why didn’t you tell us how to work through the dark hours?
Because now I am painfully aware that real life is hard. Love is a choice. People change
and relationships shift. I only wish you’d told me this, and that you’d intervened with questions and support sooner.
Church, what if you talked to your youth groups about wholistic relationships, not just sex? What if you were vulnerable about your own struggles with dating and engaged couples? What if you let down your guards and admitted that marriage is really hard work and then you actually explained what that meant in non-vague terms? What if you took the institution of marriage off of its pedestal? What if you asked your married friends hard questions, and then answered their return questions honestly?
And what if you loved me where I am? What if you listened and prayed for me, and ceased to give canned know-it-all answers? What if you sat with me in my mess and helped me decipher what’s good and true again?
An anonymous pew mate