Two Questions Women Shouldn’t Ask

During a leisurely lunch with three dear friends some time ago, horror stories and scars surfaced around two familiar topics.

Among the four of us, two are married with children, one has never been married or had children, and one is divorced with no children. We range in age from 35-51 and are committed Christ followers.

First, I need you to know something. 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 two questions that plainly shouldn’t be posed to another woman — unless she’s your BFF or a close second.

Question #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. During those six years, if we would have collected $1 from each woman who asked me why I wasn’t married yet, we could’ve easily paid for the wedding and honeymoon four times over.

As our conversation continued, my three friends and I realized that more often than not this 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 emotional or social harm. And trust me, those on the receiving end can tell the difference.

I’ve also been asked innumerable times since my divorce nearly ten years ago why I have not remarried, along with who, when and whether or not I am dating. Frankly, the answer is entirely too personal to discuss nonchalantly with casual acquaintances. So I never bother. 

Last month, a Christian friend whom I hadn’t communicated with in a while asked about my dating status. When I responded that I was not seeking to be in a relationship, she typed a stunning one-word response: “Disobedient” — immediately followed by, “You’re not a nun.”

Wow. Currently, I am more content in Christ, peaceful and purpose-filled than at any other time in my adult life. But she didn’t ask about those things. She simply judged one aspect as the whole story and moved on.

If you are single, divorced or widowed, perhaps you need to hear this today: God gave marriage as a blessing, not an entitlement or commandment. He did not create us as half a person seeking another half to “complete” us. We are whole and complete in Christ alone. The rest is all grace.

I loved serving God as a married woman. I love serving God as a single woman. Simply put, God calls some women to serve through their marriage and others through undistracted singleness. The key is a passion to love and serve God no matter your marital status.   

And the second question… 

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 three 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 conceive 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 thirteen 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. 

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 three friends in the past. 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 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, extending relentless forgiveness, and time for God to heal.

The bottom line? Those two questions negate God’s sovereignty. They infer that we need to follow cultural norms or our own plans instead of 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.
You can joyfully, successfully serve him today.

Following God isn’t about conforming to some cultural mold of how others believe our lives should look. Remember the Apostle Paul? The Apostle Peter? One was married, one was not; one had children, one did not — but they made a powerful difference for God’s kingdom from their individual, God-designed circumstances.

God can use any person at any time in any place for His holy purposes.

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 and be fully known by Him. To rely on Him for our every need. To receive His immeasurable love and amazing grace into the deepest recesses of our soul with overwhelming gratitude.

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.

PLEASE STOP. 

They damage — and even kill — friendships.

*These wonderful friends are not members of my home church. They read this post when I originally wrote it and gave permission to share the generalities of our discussion in the hope of shedding much needed light on this sensitive topic.*

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Donna’s brand new individual and small group Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.

Dear Christian Single Woman

Early last year, for the first time since my divorce seven years ago, I actually took the initiative to ask a man that I greatly admire on an informal “date.” I bought two concert tickets to hear my favorite band and took the plunge. Yep, I was scared stiff.

With trembling fingers, I texted  him a casual, nonchalant invitation that did not  include the word “date.” I was a complete chicken. Feel free to paint a yellow stripe down my back.

The waiting game began. I was a wreck and clearly not cut out for being a date initiator. As a fairly confident person in most other areas of my life, the insecurity was torture. Like wearing a fluffy, burnt orange rabbit coat in July.

He finally declined my invitation citing a prior engagement. Gulp. Should I believe him or take it personally? In all fairness, I never checked his schedule before purchasing the tickets. I chose to believe him. Hello, StubHub?

Fast forward.

A few days ago, a single female friend asked, “Where is God hiding all the good, decent men?” She’s tried dating and feels fed up with her less-than-stellar pool of prospects. If you’re a single, Christian woman, how many times have you asked yourself that question?

I wasn’t a Christian the first time I was single. And let me tell you, it makes ALL the difference in the world. Having said that, I believe God through His Word has given us abundant instruction how to live a God-honoring life as a single (or single “again”) Christian woman:

I need to act like I’m already married. Let me explain.

As an unmarried woman I am careful not to spend significant time alone with married men. This is partly to guard against misconceptions, but it’s also to guard against weakness. I’m not interested in opening the door for trouble. Having watched infidelity play out in my own marriage and other peoples’ marriages. I’m under no illusions that hearts are bullet-proof to physical attraction.

As an unmarried woman I guard my speech around men. This is a hard one for me because I love using humor to put people at ease. Teasing or sarcasm often communicate flirtation, and innuendo invites heartache. Weigh your words carefully.

As an unmarried woman I think twice about what I wear around men. Looking nice is perfectly acceptable and we feel more confident when we do. Dressing to intentionally attract a man’s attention to certain body parts is not God-honoring. Dress so that men will look you in the eye, not from neck to naval.

As an unmarried woman I think twice about my body language toward men. This one is hard because I’m a Southern woman who loves to hug the stuffing out of people. However, I ensure there is daylight between me and a man I am sitting next to. I still hug, but it’s a “hug-and-release” policy (yes, I love to fish).

As an unmarried woman I guard my thoughts about men. If I find myself daydreaming about “what if” or “íf only” scenarios with male acquaintances, I ask God to shut down that dangerous thinking. I’ve also learned to “bounce my eyes” so that I am not disrespecting men with a neck to thigh assessment which will invade my thoughts late at night.

This list may seem fastidious, but constructive dating to discover the “one” is serious business. Dating is a process that we prayerfully move through to determine the character and moral fiber of a man. Dating is not a status that we sit in for years with one man without discernible momentum.

Yes, dating can and should be lots of fun, too. But don’t cheapen yourself with the legalistic gymnastics of “How far is too far?” We know what Scripture says when it comes to physical boundaries for sexual intimacy. You are a daughter of the King. If that man uses you, he’s going to have to answer to your heavenly Dad.

Scripture describes the church as a bride awaiting a husband-who-is-to-come. That bride is to keep herself pure, to live as though she is already the wife of her bridegroom.

This is a powerful image of a Christian single woman.

As for me, I have not extended another dating invitation. God has never prompted me to do so — with that gentleman or any other. Honestly, the anxiety almost wrecked me. I believe that the responsibility to invite in the future belongs at their doorstep. Call me old-fashioned. That’s okay, my big ol’ Texas hair would agree.

I don’t know whether I will be married next year, in five years, or ever again. But I trust God’s perfect plan for my life and yours. I take heart in seeing how God mightily used the apostle Paul in his singleness. God also powerfully used the apostle Peter in his married state. Those apostles linked arms to make an eternal difference together for the kingdom and glory of God.

Whether a husband is ever in your future, a Husband is certainly in your future. Honor Him now in eager expectation of meeting Him soon. Think like a married woman whether you ever become one or not, guarding your heart from sin, and opening it to God’s incredible plans.

So to my Christian single and single again friends, I pray that God uses us mightily for His good purposes today. Right where we are. In whatever dating status we find ourselves, to spread the hope of salvation to a hurting world.

That is our highest priority above all.

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Forgiving Adultery

He was supposed to be out with the army. That’s what 2 Samuel 11:1 says about King David.

But he decided to stay home.

He took a stroll along his rooftop and saw a beautiful woman taking a bath. And the rest, as they say, is history.

David lusted. Bathsheba succumbed. David ordered Bathsheba’s husband murdered so he could marry her. They had a child.

All seemed well. But God did not forget what took place. The price of David’s sin was the life of their child.

So much collateral damage from one person who thought he was above reproach, the law, or reprimand.

Are you and I any different?

Adultery plagues our world today. Whether you have been victimized by it or know a family member or friend who has suffered a wayward spouse, infidelity affects us all.

Infidelity frays the fabric of families.

Teachers feel the effects in their classrooms when kids act out or grades slip as they process the emotional hurricane caused by their parents’ divorces.

Pastors’ and counselors’ schedules stay full as they walk the victims of adultery toward God’s healing.

I don’t use the word victim lightly. That’s what adultery feels like.

The one person to whom you opened your heart, body, and mind decided on some level that you were insufficient. Whether that insufficiency stems from within or is persuaded from without, it decimates intimacy.

Adultery ranks among the top significant hurts that are the most difficult to forgive. But that’s not news. The real news is that “victim” is not our identity when we are in Christ.

And if we are in Christ, forgiveness is not optional. Ugh. Believe me, I understand how much that stinks to hear when you’re sleeping single in a double bed.

Forgiving the deep betrayal of adultery seems impossible. How do you even begin such a daunting process?

I asked that question several times. When our emotions are screaming for vengeance, entertaining thoughts of forgiveness seems impossible. But as God’s children, we do not operate in our own strength.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

If you’ve experienced adultery, you will feel weary and faint. But rely on HIS strength.

People question when I say, “Through gritted teeth, I asked God to help me forgive my ex-husband.” That’s because forgiveness is an intentional act of the will.

When I kept asking God to help me forgive my ex-husband instead of dwelling on his actions, God focused my thoughts on Him, not the hurt.

God sets our heart right when we focus on the Lord and surrender toxic emotions to Him. (Colossians 3:2, Proverbs 3:6).

So how do you walk toward forgiveness?

Begin with prayer. Pray for God to heal your shattered heart and mend your broken spirit. Over and over and over.

It may seem as if you’re trying to convince yourself that you’re worth such love. God says you are.

Healing takes endless hours poring through Scripture. The verses God used powerfully in my life during that time were Psalm 18:16–19.

No matter our hurt, its depth or its breadth, God rescues us. Why? Because “He delighted in me.” That’s it. No other credential necessary.

Your worth is not stained by those who hurt you.

Your lovability factor is not decreased by his or her actions.

You are completely and wholly loved by God regardless of external circumstances.

When we endure painful seasons, knowing that Christ is our strength gives purpose to our pain. God never wastes a hurt. He will use that brokenness for our good and His glory.

Forgiveness doesn’t let them off the hook. Forgiveness frees you from the narrative of hate.

Ask God to help you forgive your adulterous spouse.

Keep asking.

Not because God doesn’t hear you, but to keep your focus on Him.

Keep focused.

In Christ alone, you will find hope, healing, and the strength to forgive.

 

*This post is an excerpt from my new book, Forgiveness: Received From God, Extended to Others, available now.

Without This Ring by Donna Pyle

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