Presenting Mr. Ashley Newton

7:30 AM

Perhaps I had read one too many Jane Austen novels. Perhaps I had read one too many baby name books cover to cover. Perhaps so, perhaps not, but when Bethany told me, "With your luck, you'll end up married to an Ashley Newton," I really couldn't complain.

"You know, I like the name Ashley."

And it stuck in my brain as a particularly adept name for the elusive male who may unfortunately end up marrying me. It was nicer than thinking about the possibility of wedding a fellow Bailey, which creeps me out beyond belief.

In any case, apart from side wonderings and the occasional shrug of shoulders, I never thought much of Mr. Ashley Newton, not in the way other girls did. Never did I pick out the color scheme for my wedding, or write him love notes on moonlit evenings, or daydream about an x feet tall, blue-eyed, blond-haired stud who would have no trouble sweeping me off my feet. Don't think me strange: I thought I would be married by eighteen (until I learned I couldn't court until that age, which did complicate things) and, if asked, could hesitantly offer a few names for future children, and I thought of the conversations we might have over coffee at Sunday breakfast. I had a high view of marriage, a rather disinterested approach to the wedding and an overly romantic view of courtship, which I tried not to indulge.

Even then, I thought too much of Mr. Ashley Newton. It's a fault all but the oddest girls (bless them) share. Unfairly, men don't seem to have that problem, and thus we girls are unmarried.

I joke.

And besides, it isn't problems with the low marriage rate or a darth of eligible young men or anything of the sort - this is strictly girl talk (gentlemen, kindly look away) and it's something that won't sit easy on our romantic hearts.

We're obsessed with marriage. It's something that will not escape us and that won't let us escape. We put ourselves to sleep with improbable love stories - we read all the courtship stories, no matter how badly written - we devour books on emotional purity simply for the fact that they touch upon love and the hope that there's a true life romance tucked between the list of rules. We giggle over it in groups, and by ourselves, and exchange wedding ideas at fourteen and compare descriptions and point out literary heroes and wrap ourselves up in the ever-present, deliciously despairing hope of falling in love.

Do we not?

And we define ourselves by marriage. Our unmarried years are marked by filling hope chests, overcoming crushes and trying to keep that binding verse: "She does him good all the days of her life." For all practical purposes, we're married to him presently.

This becomes sticky when we start making life decisions. We fear going to college because what if that super cute, super spiritual boy at home won't pursue us if we're in another state? Or we go to college because that's where we find the good ones (to paraphrase godly women). We don't start this project or pursue that interest because, well, it doesn't really look good on a homemaker's transcript. Once precariously in the position of eligibility and yet perhaps on the brink of fifty years of spinsterhood, we stop asking, "What is Your will, Lord?" and start asking, "How will this help me find a husband?"

This is frustrating because on the one hand of course we want to keep in mind that we are lovely, eligible young ladies any young gentleman would kill to marry. Of course we remember there's a good chance that this second he will drive up in his white convertible (I saw you look out the window just now). Of course we don't want to waste time and money on a career or an endeavor that will plunge us into debt and will defamiliarize ourselves from the home, which, besides being imprudent, makes us horribly ineligible-looking.

On the other hand, how do we know we're not slotted for the miserable state of nonmarriage, either for a few years or eternity?

The problem with this thinking is that it's impossible to know. That really isn't a problem, though, if you think about it, because our primary goal in life isn't marriage. We aren't living our lives for our man. We don't exist purely for his pleasure. We weren't made for the hide-and-seek of looking for him, and vice versa.

Marriage is not the ultimate ministry for a girl. We must realize that. Marriage is not the pinnacle of womanhood. No, that's not some sort of neo-feminist ranting. It's the Biblical principle of rejoicing in our present circumstances.

Right now, we are not married. We are not our husband's wife currently - I think there's some danger in promoting purity on the virtue of Proverbs 31:12, though we do our future husbands good by living apart to Christ. We don't make decisions based on eligibility increase or the worry of whether we might miss him completely. We make decisions based on the will of God alone.

Is it wrong to desire marriage? I don't think so - we are to desire good gifts and it's certainly acceptable to petition for them, in faith, with the outcome being God's glory. Is it wrong to worry about the fact that you're {fill in the blank} years old and not married? Is it wrong for well-meaning older women to set up their younger sisters in Christ because they have no prospects, poor dears? Yes. If you're too busy worrying about serving the Lord in the future then you're not worried enough about serving the Lord now.

Whether we marry and when we marry is not up to us. We don't get to decide whether our potential is best used inside marriage or out of it. Our concern should not be promoting a desire of marriage, in ourselves or others, but promoting a desire to serve the Lord...which is a discipline very much useful whatever one's status with Mr. Ashley Newton is.

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18 impressions

  1. I got to the part where I was asked to look away. Is there some part in which I can look back.

    I like to call myself contrary because unlike most people I have dreamed of being happily married. I guess I never thought about the wedding but just the idea of having a human being that you can trust with others' lives. Not necessarily your own because that would be too easy.

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  2. LOL! You can look back now at whatever you like as long as you make no comment on the strangeness of females. ;o)

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  3. I just realized that I'm pretty well off when I think about finding a future wife. Not for the reasons anybody might think though. In the blog, you mentioned what might not look good on a housewife's transcript. What are the immediate things that pop into mind? Godly, spiritual, can take take of children, cook, and clean. I can do the last three for someone. I can't be Godly or spiritual *for* someone though. Growing up the eldest in a house of boys and the only female in the family is my mother has it's advantages. I can cook, clean, and I have a plethora of babysitting hours. If I can't find a wife who can cook and clean, at least I'm not doomed to quick meals and a not-so-clean home.

    Other than that, what I want to say, I cannot say as per agreement from the author of this blog.

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  4. This was a such an eye opener! It is so true, so many girls are obsessed with marriage that is just becomes idolatry in our hearts. The single years of a young women's life are truly a gift from God. Like it says in 1 Corinthians 7:34- The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. We also want to do our King good all the days of our lives! Marriage is also a wonderful gift but when we base our choices around it instead of trusting God with those choices we are headed for trouble! Thanks so much for sharing this Bailey, its been on my mind lately...

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  5. God has given you such a wonderful way of expressing your thoughts! I hope you will let this reader quote you from time to time. :)

    And I especially liked the sentence, "If you're too busy worrying about serving the Lord in the future then you're not worried enough about serving the Lord now."

    Thanks for another great post! (And the whole 'Ashley Newton' bit. That's gonna make me laugh every time I remember it.)

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  6. Having been un-engaged for nearly 3 months now, (and I would have been married 3 weeks now, *gulp*) I can attest to this. Not that marriage was so much on my mind before courtship, even--it wasn't--but now, in the un-engagement aftermath, I find myself wondering. Is it possible for it to ever happen right? Am I doomed because of high standards?

    No.

    Today is mine to live in Christ.

    Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." (James 4:15)

    Sheila :-)

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  7. You're so right. And no matter how many Sunday School teachers and guest women speakers point this out, I always seem to forget.

    So thanks for the reminder.

    You’re on my top blogs list!
    Check it out:
    http://maybeteenauthor.blogspot.com/2011/09/blogs-i-love.html

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  8. Tuathal: Yes...I did hear you can make a mean macaroni and cheese. ;o) Come to think of it, you probably have more experience cooking than I do. I try to avoid it in my best moments; in my most angelic moments, I take a slight interest. But only slight.

    I can make PB&J sandwiches, though! Tada!

    Anyway that doesn't have anything to do with the post...I think I'm just hungry and my stomach led me to that red herring. Pun intended.

    Brenna: I'm so glad we can share our hearts on this issue together!

    Lauren: LOL! I know. A certain picture will pop into my mind every time I hear the name "Ashley." (And you can quote me if you like, but people might start questioning your intelligence....)

    Sheila: Thank you, sister. That's a very different perspective than most girls have - it's a blessing to see you living joyfully and Christfully instead of in regret, bitterness and wistfulness.

    Emily: I saw that when I was looking through your blog the other day. I like your blog, by the way. Thanks for liking mine too. :D

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  9. Yes, and kind of.

    (And this is my first comment, to those of you who are wondering if I'm in some kind of imaginary debate with another commenter.)

    Yes, girls - and I am really tempted by this! - fantasize about weddings and marriage to the point of idolatry. Yes, they need to be pulled back on track to doing God's will alone. They should make their decisions based on that, amen!

    But that doesn't mean that we are to disregard the idea of future marriage entirely. You may not be meaning that, but it seems you're cutting close. No, we aren't supposed to seek husbands.

    But our parents - and even our friends, crazy at that may seem - really, they should! When a young lady is lovely and single, her parents should be looking. I'm not advocating "arranged marriages" (horrors!) per se, but putting Godly young men in the paths of Godly young ladies and vice versa is a vital duty of their parents and even other family members and friends.

    So I summarize: Absolutely we must not obsess. Absolutely we must focus on only God's will. But we mustn't throw out the baby with the bathwater, if you'll excuse a cliche, for though marriage isn't a girl's "ultimate" place for ministry, it is often a very important one.

    *pants* Sorry. Long comment. I'll get off my soapbox now.

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  10. Friends,

    Some of you have probably already heard about this, but just in case you haven't...

    There's an Iranian pastor scheduled to be executed tomorrow for his faith in Christ. Please pray! Check out my latest blog post for a link to learn more, if you'd like.

    (Sorry that this has absolutely nothing to do with the blog post, but it's heavy on my heart and I wanted to let you all know.)

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  11. Sahara, you are probably the only one who fully understood my point, simply because it isn't the typical "let's stop obsessing over guys now, girls" post. I like you already. :o)

    A while ago I would have written the exact same thing in answer to this post. Why I changed is a complicated issue, but suffice it to say that some things have changed my mind, slightly. Still, I'm not totally definitive on the issue, so these are just my preliminary thoughts.

    Personally, I don't like the idea that because I'm lovely and single, it's the goal of myself and everyone else to get me married off. For one thing, it just doesn't sit well with my personality, and I've been hurt by people playing with my love life like it's a game, not a true person's feelings. For another, there really isn't a Biblical pattern for it, except the examples of arranged marriages, and as we've all been told many a time, example is not the same thing as command in the Bible. Absolutely parents and friends should play a roll in deciding on a mate...but still, I don't think it's entirely Biblical to say our primary goal is pairing off people. Not to say that it's wrong, but it is Biblical to exhort one another unto good works...which we marriage-struck girls seem to need in strong doses. ;o)

    What I was basically trying to say is that right now, I am not "marriage material" and I am not single. I know I am, but I'm not...I'm not seeking a husband and I don't want others to seek him for me. I don't want to be defined by a marriage I'm not in while I still can be defined wholly by Christ (1 Corinthians 7:34).

    I don't think that marriage is the ultimate ministry, in other words. The Bible doesn't say that. We say that because the family and marriage is beaten to death by the culture today...it's like the swing of a pendulum, the extreme in the other direction.

    I'd encourage you - and not just you, of course, but all of us - to separate what's popular speak and advice on love, courtship and marriage and what is actually the infallible, unchangeable word of God. It's a surprising venture...and I say that as one who has just started the journey.

    Sahara, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I don't mean to say you're entirely wrong (or I'm entirely right, for that matter - that's the only point I'm entirely right on :P)...just trying to separate what I think from what the Bible says. More of your thoughts are always welcome - park your soapbox, if you like.

    Blessings,
    Bailey

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  12. I was very blessed by this post. Sometimes I feel all alone among my friends. Most of them are very godly young ladies but the moment the start talking about the future, I often feel left out. I have never been obsessed with the idea of marriage, I haven't made any wedding plans, and I have been more interested in my writing and the things that I feel God has called me to do then when Mr. Right is going to show up.

    Thank you so much for this encouraging post.

    Sarah

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  13. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this with me. That means a lot!

    Okay, here we go.

    "Getting you married off" wasn't really what I was saying. Whether you meant this or not, it invokes ideas of thoughtless acquaintances poking and pulling, then exulting after the wedding. That's really rather ... awful. I was talking of a more Christ-centered, unselfish attitude toward this - and to a great degree by the parents only.

    Surely you have noticed that in our Christian, conservative, homeschooling(type) circles, there are many, many beautiful, accomplished, and Godly young ladies who are unmarried. Often they are 25 or 30 and have had numerous opportunities to court, etc. but have refused.

    I don't claim to have a perfect, hidden understanding of this phenomenon, but it seems to me like these wonderful young ladies are so concerned with making good use of their single years, not being distracted (from what, I don't know) by young men, and the like, that they lose sight of God's perfect design for man, woman, and marriage.

    What are your thoughts on that part of this issue? I'm sincerely interested.

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  14. Hmm...LOL! I don't know why I'm so eager to give my opinion and then when somebody asks my sincere opinion I get all shy. You're very sweet. :o)

    It depends on what group of conservative homeschoolers you're talking about. There are of course those girls in love with the college/career route who don't see marriage and family as a ministry or a good thing. There are those who may be pursuing other ministries and don't feel called to marriage. There are those who haven't found the right man yet. And there are those who are too picky or make it too hard for a young man to approach.

    Privately I feel that the last two are more likely in the SAHD type conservative circle, though most people place the blame on young men being immature and not asking girls out. I dunno. :P

    As a thought, it's not God's will for every girl to marry. Some are called to singleness, and I don't think we have to pity a thirty-year-old woman who is busy, content and fruitful in the life she's living. :o)

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  15. On re-reading my comment I realize that I was being overly sarcastic in saying I didn't know what they are worried about being distracted from. Often it's from the Lord's service, and that's something I would never gainsay.

    And yes, some aren't called to marriage. That's a proven fact of life. Paul talks about how some people have the "gift of singleness" and how it can be extremely powerful in God's kingdom.

    As to finding the right man, my dad has made the point several times that a man and a woman of similar interests and intelligence are put in a situation where they can fall in love, ten to one they will.(When you think about it that way, perhaps arranged marriages aren't so horrible after all.) If the two are committed to Godliness, purity, etc., it can be even easier.

    So yes, one must wait for a man (or woman!) who is mature, dedicated - in general above reproach. But when Mr. Ashley Newton (Mr. Wes Rillings, in my case) comes to one's dad's door, isn't it reasonable to consider accepting him?

    Just a thought, and I totally realize that there is never a one-size-fits-all plan for courtship/dating/marriage. Thanks again for discussing.

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  16. I don't think anything I said could be construed as saying we should run from any man who's interested in us. :o) Normally we don't even ask the question "shouldn't you consider a man interested in you?" because our default mode is "my main goal as a woman is marriage and motherhood." That default mindset was the only thing I was arguing with. If a young man approached my father or me, of course I would consider, simply because marrying or not marrying isn't the point - serving the Lord is.

    Hopefully we're understanding each other. :o)

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  17. This was great, and definitely resonated with me. I see how quickly I fall short of what my "chief end" is; and that is "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever" (Per the Westminster Shorter Catechism). How does God want me to bring Him glory now, and where He has me in this time of my life? ...That needs to be my question!

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  18. I think we're understanding each other just fine.

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