Dear 21 year old daughter:
Don’t be in a hurry to marry. Just because a lot of girls around you are graduating with their MRS and engagement rings, doesn’t mean it’s what you need to do. Just because they have beautiful weddings, and adoring, dreamy husbands doesn’t mean that it’s your timing. Just because you hold the sweet little babies of your young-20s friends doesn’t mean you need a baby now. I know you have sought God’s will on this, as you do everything else in your life. But 21 is young.
That said, I get it. You’re in love and he’s the one. I hope he is. We like him.
Too often, we fear being one, and being all that we were created to be as an individual. We feel joining with another is a mark of success, of having arrived. That someone wants me.
At 19 I thought I wanted to marry a man. I left college, I left my home, and I went to be with him. In retrospect I know I was running away from frustrations and uncertainties in my life, and that he was easy to run to. He made me feel special and loved. I stand blessed that he was a good man, who sincerely cared for me, and fully intended to wed me… even though he was 18 years my senior. Yeah, talk about not very wise.
I know my parents had a hundred heart attacks over this. I know I felt like such an adult, doing “adult things” and making “adult decisions.” I know my friends all were confused and biting their tongues over this recklessness, this interruption to the normal course of a productive life. I know that I listened to no one, and thought I had all the answers. I know my 19-year old motives were pure, I truly loved him. I know that the family priest/psychologist my parents insisted I talk to was sage, if not avant-guard in his advice: “she needs her freedom, let her go.” And I know now that I had to go through all this before I truly could understand it was a mistake. I thank God we never made it to marriage vows, or children. Even though I broke his heart and that of his family, I was the luckiest girl alive to have second chances to get my life back on track (albeit with many hiccups), finish my college degree, and go on to have a fabulous career and single life.
Was my single life always happy and great? Nope. Sometimes it was really hard. And sometimes it was great. Watching some of my girlfriends marry straight out of college hadn’t really pressured me much. I wanted to enjoy the things of life one doesn’t enjoy as a newlywed, namely world travel, and living independently on my own. Though by the time I hit my mid-twenties singlehood was admittedly getting harder. The beaus I’d spent my precious heart and time with weren’t turning out to be realistic life-partners as I’d dreamed. Many were users, most were liars. When a real contender came into my life and stole my heart, I was deceived to think marriage was possible, only to learn years later I’d been strung along, lied to, and used. My heart felt utterly destroyed, and trust was decimated. Trust in men, trust in myself to make good decisions. But years later, I could again count my blessings I didn’t marry that one, it would have been a disaster. I actually understood that God had refined me and prepared me and opened my heart to meet your wonderful Dad. Yet I wasn’t on the short-term training plan… I had to wait until 34.
Marriage isn’t easy. You sensed this fact even with your Dad and I. Starting out well into our 30s, it still took us nearly 2 decades to get things right in this marriage. We were committed to our vows, and of course to our 3 precious children, with whom we were blessed by our third anniversary. Like it or not, children really can change the tenor of a marriage overnight, and it takes strong intentionality and hard work not to lose your husband-wife focus among the diapers, bottles, bills, whining, tantrums, discipline, preschool. You can easily let the priority relationship fall to the side in exchange for the tyrannical duties of parenthood. Before you know it, you abandon first love, the foundational love of your marriage. It is really hard work, we messed some things up to be sure, but we knew what many 20-somethings don’t know– a good spouse isn’t a ready-made commodity, he or she is formed, shaped, and refined through the fire of life, and the challenges of marriage. It requires a rare form of maturity to put aside your own ego and desires, and to think of something beyond yourself. To honor the covenant made. Especially when the love flames are nearly flickering out in the face of so many difficulties.
We only want the very best for you. We want you to know and love yourself, and experience life to its fullest. Perhaps you can do these things with this love of your life. He seems to be a good young man, who also has some growing to do. But if he’s truly the one that God intended for you, he will let you be you before becoming a “we” for life.
Don’t be in a hurry sweetheart. At twenty-one you have a lifetime ahead of you. Our prayer for you is that you choose wisely.
Mom and Dad