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Jesus Freak: I am a Christian mom who was raised in a fundamental Christian home. I have questioned my beliefs and have come to love myself and God on my own terms. I’m raising my kids the same way. 

As a Christian in my early 20s, I was desperate to find a husband. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that, but it’s the truth. At the age of 20, when most young adults are looking forward to hitting up bars as they turn 21, I was hoping that someone, anyone with slightly-godly street cred would tie me down.

In retrospect, it sounds ridiculous. But I wonder where I got it from? I was raised in a typical Christian home with a submissive mother. I was told verbatim, “The husband is the head of the household, and the wife should be submissive.” I didn’t ever question this because it was how I was raised. It was also explained to me time and again at church that this imbalance of power should honor both the husband and the wife, so it technically wasn’t disrespectful to a woman.

I am not discrediting the Christian marriage model because I know it can work for some people. However, I have seen it exemplified in all of its overblown glory, where “balance” fell by the wayside. On top of that, marriage was presented to me in church and in Bible College as the highest honor for a woman. Instead of spending your early 20s as a sad, single loser, you should find the right person to “yoke” up to—the person God has waiting for you.

If you think I am exaggerating, I am not. The “MRS degree” is a popular joke in the church culture:

It’s a joke that when men go to Bible School, they get their Bachelor’s Degree, and women get their “Mrs” degree. It just seems that a lot of Christian women get engaged by the time they graduate.

The MRS degree isn’t specific to Christianity; this Mormon forum user below proudly advertises her MRS degree in her forum signature:

Female, late 20′s, BIC, MRS degree @ BYU, Temple Marriage, young kids, recently resigned, happily attending new Christian church

One “eye-opening” post entitled How to Find a Christian Husband! provides the following advice for snagging a godly man:

If you want to know where to find the right kind of man to marry be like a fisherman. When he wants to catch fish, he goes where the fish are, the river or lake or sea. If you want to find a Christian husband, you should go to church or the youth group where Christian people meet!!

This is a complicated subject. I know that many people who found their mate in church are likely to get their feathers ruffled. While I do agree that it makes sense to “go where the fish are” and look for like-minded people to date, often found in church, I disagree with the pressure placed on young women to get married within a church community.

Granted, my experience is not likely to be universal, but I have experienced the Christian culture. I’ve lived in several states and have attended multiple churches. I went to Bible College for more than three years and also interned at satellite campuses. It was hard to put my finger on exactly what was happening, but in retrospect, it is easy to see—young Christian women are often expected to use the church as a dating service. I often felt that if I wasn’t godly enough to attract the right man at a young age, then I had failed.

Other forum users discount this husband-shopping attitude, and I have to agree:

I don’t think you can go “husband shopping” at all. You’ll mee the right guy (or the right woman, whatever) when the time is right, whether you’re “looking for a partner” or not.

There’s nothing wrong with meeting your mate at church, if it happens organically. There is something wrong with attending church specifically to find a husband—and with the pressure placed on single women to size up potential mates. Perhaps the pressure goes both ways, but I can only speak to my experience.

I’m so thankful that no one ever wanted to marry me at the time when I thought that I needed to get married most. I can guarantee you that I would have gone into marriage with absolutely the wrong intentions, thinking that marrying the perfect godly man would make me the perfect godly wife.

I met my husband (re-met as we were best friends in high school) just a few years later at the age of 24, when I had already started to question many fundamental Christian teachings. My husband is also a Christian and was a pastor’s kid, but he is remarkably open-minded. He continually challenges me to question and rethink my beliefs for myself; I’m proud to pass that on to our kids.

Though I still got married at the young age of 26, by then I felt like an old maid according to some church standards. In hindsight, I find that ridiculous. If I could tell one thing to my past self, it would be this: Your value doesn’t depend on who you marry. Take your time. Enjoy yourself right now. Don’t let anyone pressure you into a relationship that isn’t right for you.

(Image: Marc F Gutierrez/Shutterstock)