I don’t pray for my children’s future spouses.
Before you think I’m a terrible parent, I hope you’ll hear me out.
I don’t pray for their future spouses because I do not believe I am raising half-children who will only be complete when they find their other halves. My children are not broken, lacking, or created to be content only when their perfect matches are found.
My job as a parent is not to ensure that my children don’t end up single.
My job is to keep my kids safe, to create opportunities to learn about the world and about who they are, to figure out the talents and interests they have, and to know that they are loved – for who they are, not for the people they might marry.
I have seen several articles circulating the internet over the last couple of years from mothers who spend their early morning hours praying for their child’s future spouse. These moms write some beautiful words and show profound love and admiration for people they’ve never even met. I don’t want to judge their intentions or shame them for their attempt at showing love and care for others.
But, I do hope they will pause and consider the message they are sending to their children. The message they are sending is that marriage is not only normal, it is expected. They are sending the message that the goal of adult life is to get married. They are spending those hours they could be using to help their children discover their own identities to send the message that their children’s identities are incomplete and lacking apart from a spouse.
Instead of savoring the life that has been entrusted to their care, they are already trying to fix some perceived brokenness by dreaming up the perfect mate. And I suspect it causes me to react strongly because I went through the True Love Waits program at my church when I was in high school. We were taught that the entire reason we were to strive for sexual purity was so that we could find a spouse. We were told that if we were too broken, our future spouse wouldn’t want us anymore. We were taught that we were incomplete people who would only be whole again when we found that soul mate out there that God had prepared for us from before the foundation of the world.
We were taught that the whole measure of success in growing up was finding a godly spouse.
It wasn’t put in those words, but that was clearly the message behind it. If you don’t get married, your parents will be disappointed. If you don’t get married and have a big family, you missed out on what God wanted for you.
But is that even true? Is that even what the Bible says about marriage, love, and what it means to be a whole and healthy person? And what should our response be to the 25% of the Millennials who will never get married?
Yes, the Bible talks about marriage, but the Bible also talks about singleness as a gift.
When my son hurts another child, my goal in correcting him is not to teach him how to treat a future spouse. I want him to learn to be a person of compassion who treats all people with dignity and respect – including a future spouse, should he ever get married. When my daughter refuses to share what she has, I don’t correct her so that she can have a shared household when she gets married. I want her to learn to be mindful of the needs of other people and how she can reach out and meet them.
I want to raise my children to be loving agents of change and transformation in this world. I pray that God will help me to be a loving, gracious, and courageous parent who will not back down from the difficult life lessons I’m called to teach my kids. In those early morning hours when I’m rocking a sick kid, a future spouse is the furthest thing from my mind. My prayers are more like, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me screw this up. You’ve given me the most beautiful gift in this child, please help me to take the best care possible. Please help this sweet kid get better.”
Because I don’t believe the worst thing that could happen to my child is to remain single. Of course I’d love it if my children get married and have grandchildren I’d get to snuggle and enjoy, but I do not want to define my children’s future for them. I don’t want my happiness to hinge on whether they make the same life choices I do.
And there are some real blessings in singleness, too. I think the best gift I can give to my children is a start on being content with who they are, in whatever their life circumstances. And, should they get married, I think that’s the best gift they could give to their future spouses – the gift of being whole, healthy people, who marry because they want to and not because they need to.