It happened again.
During a leisurely lunch with three dear friends* a few years back, horror stories and scars surfaced around two familiar topics.
To preface, only one of us is married and has a child. We range in age from 32-49 and are committed Christ followers. I need you to know something first. This post took significant time to write and pray through because it’s rather blunt about sensitive topics.
This post isn’t a vent — it’s a plea borne out of loving others. That being said…
Throughout our adult lives, my three friends and I have been asked two questions so many times that we’ve lost count. To this day, we remain flabbergasted that some women haven’t caught on. There are questions that plainly shouldn’t be posed to another woman — unless she’s your BFF.
(1) Why aren’t you married?
Stated like that, this question isn’t really a question. It’s a judgment.
Since I didn’t get married until I was 29, I fielded that question a LOT of times. We met when I was 23, dated for two years and were engaged for four years while he finished post-graduate college. If we’d collected $1 from each woman who asked me why I wasn’t married yet during those six years, we could’ve easily paid for the wedding and honeymoon four times over.
The more we talked, my friends and I realized that more often than not the question was posed by married women. That’s tantamount to a millionaire asking an unemployed person why they aren’t buying a mansion.
Even if asked in a caring or flattering way (perhaps she thinks highly of you), it still stings.
Believe it or not, some women ask it to intentionally inflict harm. And trust me, those on the receiving end can tell the difference. I’ve also been asked that question innumerable times since my divorce seven years ago. And frankly, the answer is too long and deep to broach with someone who doesn’t really know me. So I never bother.
Simply put, God calls some women to pursuits other than holy matrimony. Mother Theresa comes to mind, among others.
And the second question…
(2) Don’t you want children?
Again, stated like that, this isn’t a question. It’s a judgment.
This question has caused more scars in my life (and my friends) than any other. It presupposes so many things that it’s hard to know where to begin addressing it.
Asking a single woman that question is cruel — whether intentional or not. Perhaps having children has been a lifelong, unfulfilled dream that has cost her many sleepless nights and a river of tears. What if she believes marriage should come first? Should she rush out to the nearest bar and hook up with the first man she sees? Should she rush to the sperm donor bank and sign up?
Asking a married woman that question presupposes that she is physically able to bear children. Perhaps she and her husband have tried to have children for years only to face financial hardships due to unsuccessful fertility treatments. No woman should ever be expected to share her private struggles or physical condition to justify why her home isn’t overflowing with children.
My ex-husband and I were married for 13 years, but didn’t have children. We trusted God’s plan that if He wanted us to have children, He would provide. I believe we would have been wonderful parents. But now looking back on divorce, I believe God knew best.
This question also presupposes that every woman longs to have children. Having children was never a huge tug on my heart. I realize that I’m opening myself up to some pretty hefty criticism with such a statement. Trust me when I say I’ve received my share of ugly comments. In spades.
I love so much spending time with my nieces and nephews because I see my three sisters in them. My 21-year old niece has lived with me for almost a year and I have cherished that time. Children are incredible. Yet God did not instill in me that desperate longing to have my own. I can’t explain it, it’s just the simple truth.
Some people have pulled out the Christianity card. “God designed women to have children, so you’re disobeying if you don’t have them.” Yes, people have actually had the audacity to say such an unkind thing to me and my friends. And when such a statement comes from someone we hold dear, the wound plunges deep.
Some people have played the adoption card. “So many children need good homes, why aren’t you willing to adopt?” Stated like this, that question is also a judgment. Perhaps she is, in fact, willing to adopt, but is still thinking and praying through the many considerations of such a monumental commitment.
Simply put, no woman owes another an explanation or response to these two extremely personal questions. Over time, I’ve learned to smile and deflect the tension. However, the pain inflicted still takes significant prayer and time for God to heal.
The bottom line? Those two questions negate God’s sovereignty. They infer that we need to follow our own plans instead of listening for and submitting to His. If no one has ever asked you either question, you are among the blessed minority.
If you are unmarried or do not have children, please hear this truth loud and clear:
Despite your marital or parenting status,
God loves you right now.
Just as you are.
Precisely where you are.
Following Him isn’t about conforming to some cultural mold of how others believe your life should look. Remember the Apostle Paul? His singleness allowed him the freedom to accomplish incredible ministry and write nearly half of the New Testament.
Following God isn’t about OUR agenda.
It’s all about what God does in us and through us in HIS perfect timing.
No tangible thing on this earth makes us more or less of a Christian. Following Christ never hinges on whether or not we’re married or have children. It’s about being in relationship with Him. It’s about our desire to know Him, be fully known by Him, and receiving His love and grace into the deepest recesses of our soul.
So to my fellow women who have been on the receiving end of these two questions, I love you. I know what it feels like and I’m so sorry for your pain.
And to those women who believe it’s okay to keep asking another woman either of those questions, STOP.
They kill friendships.
*These three wonderful friends are not members of my home church. They read this post when it was originally posted and granted permission to share these generalities of our discussion with hopes of shedding much needed light on this sensitive topic.*