As I was flipping channels looking for something to watch on TV, I briefly came across a reality TV show. All I could watch was about 7 or 8 minutes before I couldn’t take it anymore. Several girls had traveled to England to meet their Prince Charming. They did not know the man in question was an impostor and at the end of the show, after they “fell in love”, he would reveal his true identity (probably to the horror of the winning contestant).
But this is not a criticism of reality shows (I confess I do watch a couple of them; Have you seen Master Chef?) Rather, this is a perplexed observation of the interviews with these girls as they entered into their quest to find love. The words “fairy tale”, “prince charming”, “happily ever after”, and “soul mate” easily flowed from their mouths, garnished with deep sighs, bright eyes, and pensive smiles.
Let’s face it, girls are practically born romantic. Our little princesses love the idea of growing up and finding their prince. Not just any prince, but the perfect one, you know, like their dad. Through a steady diet of fairy tales, their feminine, little hearts are persuaded they will grow up, meet a great looking boy, fall in love instantaneously, and marry for sheer, eternal joy. Teenage girls’ Pinterest boards are packed with ideas for wedding dresses, wedding hair, wedding pictures, decorations, themes, and menus. Their minds are full of dreams of happily ever afters. It is natural and adorable when they are young. It is worrisome as they grow older.
I don’t claim to have an expert opinion on this issue, but it seems to me that it is actually unhealthy for parents to foster this idea of finding a soul mate, as if each of our kids are “meant” for a specific other person, and that this person will provide the happily-ever-after their hearts long for. It could seem harmless to instill this romantic idea that destiny (in a secular world) or God (in believers) has chosen this one, perfect match.
Am I just a cynic and a pessimist? I’m open to hearing other views, so feel free to chime in. But before you do, let me clarify my point of view:
I believe in marriage. I believe in marriage to one person, until death-do-us-part.
I believe in God, and I know that all things are ordained by him. Everything works out for the good of those who belong to him. Even bad marriages.
I believe that marriage is a really, really good thing. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful husband who has been my absolute best friend for the past 28 years.
I also know that marriage is hard, even painful. Spouses hurt each other, betray each other’s trust, and are hard to live with. Marriage takes WORK and perseverance. The idea of sheer happiness in a marriage, in my opinion, is non-existent. A good, intimate marriage develops in a battle ground where two people are striving and fighting against their own selfishness to love their spouse. It takes time and effort and lots of I’m sorry’s. It takes forgiving and forgetting. It takes self-sacrifice.
It is naive to think that bad things won’t happen, even in the lives of young people who take all the necessary steps to “insure” a future, good marriage. Death happens. Abandonment happens. Abuse and betrayal.
Finally, there are people who remain single, either by choice or by circumstance. The truth is that not all women find their “prince”. Our daughters could be called to God-ordained singleness, which is not a life any less worth living than a married one.
So if our girls, while maturing in age, do not simultaneously mature their thinking from fairy tale to fact, they could find themselves facing the harsh reality of life and not knowing how to respond to it. They could be so disillusioned by their crushed dreams, even to the point of a weakening of their faith in the providence of God.
I’ve been guilty of over-spiritualizing this concept of awaiting for this sole chosen mate. And while I don’t think we should crush little girls’ illusions and dreams, I am also convicted that we are to communicate realistically about their options. Marriage is an option. Singleness is an option. Hopefully they will marry one man and live intimately and lovingly with the same person until their old age. But sometimes things don’t work out that way. To me, what is important is to ground our children in a personal faith in GOD, not in marriage or circumstances in life. A spouse can abandon, but God will never abandon. A spouse can betray, but God has laid it all down for us, proving his faithfulness. We may feel lonely in our life’s journey, but in God we can find steadfast and fulfilling fellowship. So no matter what happens to our little girls as they grow up, if they are anchored in God, by trust, then they’ll not only be OK, but they will be prepared to face whatever comes their way.
Let us reject Disney and fairy tale parenting. Let us, instead, point our children to Christ, regardless of where life takes them.