January 9, 2020

Marry whoever you want, whenever you want.

Rachel Varkey

On the eve of my twenty-first birthday, my sister texted me this message.

Dad wants me to give him your Facebook password. I thought you should know.

That day I had forced myself to the university gym. I had been watching an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, begrudgingly pushing myself to level 4 on the machine.

When I saw my sister’s message, I was confused, stunned, and hot with anger. <em>He’s invading my privacy. He can’t do that.

I grabbed the phone and called my dad. I didn’t waste any time, I immediately asked him what he was doing.

He sheepishly told me he needed to delete some of my Facebook photos.

I grew up in a community where your outer appearances often reflected the condition of your insides. How you looked, acted, behaved indicated what type of person you are and could be in the future.

In my community, there was a huge emphasis on the removing, or not wearing jewelry and intricate clothing. When my great-great-grandparents became Christians, they "separated" themselves from their worldly identity. In this culture, it meant removing anything that would draw attention to them and away from Jesus.

In the past 50 years, these traditions have ebbed and flowed with the materialism of our lives. By nature of a different time and place, I have not followed the traditions my grandparents partook in. One of them was wearing jewelry.

As I grew up, it seemed the adults who held so closely to the rules of worldly separation, still managed to have the nicest clothes, cars, and other material things.

My parents were not blind to my indifference.

But this time was different.

When I turned 20, my parents became obsessed with the idea of marriage. Years prior to that, I wasn’t allowed to talk to boys.

They wondered why I didn’t have an eligible suitor to vet.

I was confused as hell.

I didn’t know this was something I could do. Up until this point, boys were totally off the table. And though I had my fair share of breaking this rule, the idea of identifying a future husband wasn’t totally on my radar.

I also had no clue what "eligible" meant. There were the basics - Indian, Christian, favorable job prospects. But there were other things, things I had never thought about - "good family," "God-fearing," "prayerful."

When I was 20, the doors were open and I was late to this game I didn’t know I started playing.

I wasn’t married.

I hadn’t met anyone.

And I was getting unmarriable by the minute.

My parents got married in three days. They lived in the original parent version of Tinder. They saw pictures, thought the other was agreeable. Their relationship broker set up the first meeting. At that meeting, they spent their first minutes getting to know each hour in front of their parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles.

They were engaged by the afternoon and married three days later.

The mother of a potential suitor found my photos on Facebook. When she saw my jewelry, she was offended.

She felt I wasn’t a pious or devout Christian because of the way I looked on the outside.

My loving and kind father hated the idea of someone looking at my outside and claiming truth over my inside. He decided the best way to manage the situation was to log into my Facebook and delete the photos. That way, no one could ever judge me like that again.

Unfortunately for this potential mother-in-law, this was the least of her problems.

If she didn’t like my jewelry, I could only imagine what else she wouldn’t like about me.

Years later, this same proposal came again to my parents. This time, my pastor gave this man my phone number without my permission.

And in the moment, I felt a need to be open to it. I waited patiently for a text I never got from a man who was from a "good family," "God fearing," and "thought I was pretty."

The boy, unbeknownced to his parents, ended up having a girlfriend and we never spoke about it again.

This was my first experience with 21st century arranged marriages.

Luckily for me, this was the last time my parents tried to set me up. As time went by, people said crazy things to me. I was picky, dissatisfied, I wanted too much for myself, and I should have settled down.

My parent’s pastor’s wife pulled me into a room and told me that one day, I wouldn’t want the things I wanted. That one day, I would be happy being the jewel of a man’s life. She told me how she was just like me, and then one day, she stepped into the role of wife and mother and left her old ways behind.

I know so many women who are trying to fit into a mold, often constricting or changing who they are. They have moments when they are being ashamed for what they’ve accomplished. Overly accomplished women have a harder time in the dating pool.

Our families placed unrealistic, unfair criteria on love. It creates anxiety and a disregard for God's best. People begin to expect less of their search. They will allow much more, hoping something will stick.

I don’t want people to believe there is no hope. Especially if you desire marriage and relationship.

I want us to stand up to our parents and the naysayers and let them know God knows best.

I am a firm believer in timing, the moment, and the right thing at the right time. The wait is worth it.

I know what it’s like, to hear people look at you in your singleness and think that is all you are.

I also know what it's like to be married and see your identity finally matter because you finally found a husband.

My relationship dramatically changed with my mother when I married Charles. It was only after I met him she began to loosen up and get comfortable again. Before that, out of the goodness of her heart, she feared my loneliness. She thought no one would ever be able to watch over me. She feared that what I did, how I acted and looked could prevent me from ever having a partner.

Luckily for her, God had my back long before she, my dad, or Charles ever did.

I don’t think God wants us to live like this. I don’t think God wants us to be waiting for the miracle man or woman to appear to start living. I don’t think God wants us to fear for the future.

I want to live in expectation of the abundance of heaven on earth. I believe God brings us what we need. I don't think it requires settling.

It requires openness, compromise, and empathy.

It requires compassion, bravery, and a belief that God has the best in store for you. Because he does. You just have to believe and receive it too.

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