A few days ago, Amanda and I visited a boutique in town to do what girls do. I haven't done it for years, but we tried on pretty dresses. Actually, we did what I've never done before: tried on wedding dresses.
The first dress fit absolutely perfectly.
The cap sleeves, pleated waist, beaded detail, and train were just that. Perfect. Here's the thing: I have never been the girl who fantasizes over her wedding dress. This dress made a believer of me. I didn't want to take it off. Wearing it was a waking dream. Guys, I apologize if you're tuning out. It's a girl thing. It's fine if you don't understand.
I do believe submission (literally, having a sub-mission... supporting a man you love in his mission) is beautiful thing. I hope to marry someday, but it's not the final goal and aim of my life. The final goal and aim of my life is to love people like Jesus does. Whether or not that includes a husband and biological children is up to Him.
I stated the former paragraph because I take an issue with the idea that life is a race to the altar. I also take issue with men who treat women as dolls... as empty-headed, pretty things to be amused and amused by.
Are these two issues related?
At worst, this is a complete misconception and at best a gross generalization, but I've caught the sentiment in my (plain, Mennonite, etc.) culture that this is a woman's order of life: grow up, wait, get married. Very few apply their minds and energies to educations and jobs that could easily be the ministry of their entire lives. It's pointless, right? Because you'll "just" get married anyway. Wrong.
I am convinced that the "living in waiting" mentality is both crippling our culture and robbing the world of the influence of Christian... and particularly Anabaptist... women in arenas where our uniquely female gifts, combined with our love for Jesus, are most desperately needed.
How is our culture being crippled? First, the "doll" phenomenon. If a woman isn't developed mentally, how can men treat her as an equal? If women would just rather be told how the church and home is going to operate, rather than taking the bother to understand the implications and core issues of her faith and the broader world, we are left with a male-dominated culture... one lacking the female insight that balances and complements the male. It gets lop-sided and the guys are left with more responsibility than should be theirs. Secondly, no matter which way you turn it, mothers are the first and primary educators of their children. If her world is only as big as her house, her cultural experience limited to her own, and her reading material limited to romance fiction, she is poorly equipped to gift to her children the broad scope of change their faith is meant to bring to this world.
I want to be careful here, because I have very dear friends... vibrant women... who honestly have no greater ambition than to be a wife and mother. I consider their ambition to be the highest of any woman. Maybe these women aren't undertaking careers or becoming activists, but they are not merely living in waiting. They are broadening their minds, finding new places to bless with their talents, and finding people within the reach of their influence to love. So, while I am not saying that every woman "has" to use her single years to get an education and experience in a particular field, I wish more women in my culture would. At the very least, learn the implications of your faith. Don't consider conversations of an intellectual sort to be off-limits for you. Take the trouble to learn. A vibrant role awaits, and only you can fill it. Whether as a mother or as an employee, knowledgeable, passionate, compassionate women are desperately needed.
If you don't want to be a doll, get off the shelf.