My Human Behavior professor taught us that adolescence is man-made.
Puberty itself is a biological process by which a boy or girl becomes a man or woman, but adolescence is a fairly recent creation of our society. Instead of children being taught homemaking and craftsmanship skills and getting married at a young age as they used to, we go to school, oftentimes college. Live with our parents or in a dorm or in someone’s basement, and get married closer to 25-28. And as a result of our preference for higher education and extended free time, we end up with a really awkward time frame where it is not really clear who we are and who we have responsibilities to.
“Am I a child who still needs to contribute to family activities and chores? Am I an adult who has complete schedule control? Does it make a difference if mom and dad are paying for tuition still?” And when we fall in love and find “the one” before we hit graduation and have stable employment, it becomes that much harder to understand who we are. There is tension — our brains and our bodies are moving faster than our material and relational situations. We are too big for our own skin.
Is it a societal fluke? A mistake? Maybe.
But I think another perspective of singlehood could be that it is an opportunity given by God. I was thinking last night how in a world where marriage is being desecrated and undervalued every day, entered into under selfish pretense and with little understanding of it, maybe God meant for this society to have a longer singlehood for a reason. Maybe not. Maybe longer singlehood is a root of the problem of selfish marriages. I can’t say for sure. But I think God really wants a generation who takes a step back and utilizes their singlehood. Who prepares. Who fixes their own hearts so they will be super ready to change the world with mind-blowing, life-giving, fruitful, beautiful life-long marriages.
What a great prize and honor marriage is, and what a great responsibility it is to have been given a lengthened single life to prepare for it. To build maturity and love now with every opportunity we can get so as to have incredibly solid married lives, knowing who we are and deeply valuing the gifts of our spouses and of marriage. To practice and be ready to serve our spouses and our children, not ourselves.
As Catholic singles, we have a special responsibility to represent the way God meant for marriage to be. A man named Curtis Martin, the founder of FOCUS Missions, recently asked at a dinner I attended, “Why is it that Catholics are getting divorced at the same rate as non-Catholics? Why doesn’t the world understand marriage the way the Church proclaims it? Because Catholic marriages are sadly no more life-giving and joy-filled than other marriages.” If Catholics engaged in marriage the way it was meant to be, we could be such witnesses to the world. And if Catholics engaged in their single life the way it was meant to be, we could live marriage the way it was meant to be.
Thank goodness for singlehood! Really.