At lunch a few weeks ago, a professional acquaintance told me of her vision for an adolescent female ministry that would teach its members what it meant to be women of Christ. She envisioned giving each of the girls a plain silver bracelet at the first meeting. Participants would earn blue beads to put on their bracelets by attending meetings and accomplishing tasks. The beaded bracelets would one day adorn the young women as the "something blue" they would wear at their weddings.
Though I think a group like such could have many positive impacts on young women, I felt something pull tight in my chest as my acquaintance spoke. The image of a young and blushing ninth grader collecting beads for a potential husband pained my heart.
This ministry idea is a perfect example of how our Christian culture pushes marriage onto its youth as if marriage is guaranteed for all people. In reality, not all Christians get married. Getting married isn't a birthright.
I have had many conversations on this topic with girlfriends. "The Bible says God will grant me the desires of my heart, and I desire a husband, so I know I'll have one" is an adequate summary of the position I've encountered time and again. Although I relate to the aching desire to know and be known, I disagree with my friends' logic that the existence of a desire means it's God-ordained.
In Jeremiah 17:9, Scripture articulates that "The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse--who can understand it?" This Scripture leads me to believe that we cannot assume that all of our heart's desires come from God. It's apparent that we can yearn for things outside of God's will for us.
Even more concerning than falsely advertising marriage as a part of all people's futures, the blue bracelets motivate godly behavior for the sake of a future-tense relationship with a spouse instead of a present-tense relationship with God. Though I think Christians can definitely hope to marry, building one's life on the assumption that marriage beckons from the future seems unfaithful to me. Living in a "someday when" that centers on another human instead of a "now" centered on Christ strikes me as unbiblical. Simply put, Christian women should be following Christ well today for the sake of the Cross, not for a fantasy of some "knight in shining armor" who doesn't exist.
Throughout the biblical narrative, we find that we're meant to first and foremost seek after God. Psalm 27:8 verbalizes this desire well: "'Come,' my heart says, 'seek his face!' Your face, Lord, do I seek." The Church should be teaching its young women and men alike to "collect blue beads" for God, not fictional spouses.
Marriage is important, but it's not the pinnacle of existence. When God blesses people with the experience of this union, the Church should gather around them and rejoice. Yet, if someone doesn't get married, they shouldn't have to feel as though their blue bracelet has gone to waste.
In my opinion, no one should have a blue bracelet. The beads are simply an embodied symbol of the Church institutionally forcing the expectation of marriage onto its youth while also using inappropriate sources to motivate godly behavior.