Put another way: Do certain academic degrees make you less likely to be "marriage material"? That type of question is one I get at least once a month. Seriously.
In recent weeks, I've been asked three different versions of it:
-- Will getting a Ph.D. mean that no guy will ever want to marry me?
-- If I get a master's degree, will that intimidate a possible future spouse?
-- If I choose a certain concentration over another, will it scare away guys?
As a single woman who is finishing her Ph.D., I understand why my students are asking these questions -- though, in full disclosure, if they catch me on a less-than-content kind of day, I wonder if they are really asking: "If I pursue a certain degree path, will I end up like you?"
You can Google "Are educated women less likely to get married?" and get a myriad of studies, statistics and news stories on the subject from secular sources. You can even find out which cities give single women better odds of meeting single men. However, my Christian sisters, this issue is not about playing the odds or finagling your circumstances.
It comes down to obedience.
One quick disclaimer: My thoughts here are directed specifically to my single sisters. I want us to think through the wisdom in God's Word regarding the matter of your education and a possible future spouse.
4 things to consider regarding your educational path
1. Obedience to God is your first priority. At the end of the day, we each must discern the will of the Lord for our lives as best as we can and then live in obedience with Him as His servants (Galatians 1:10).
Ladies, that doesn't mean we do whatever we want and just tell people, "God told me so." Be careful what you attribute to the leading of the Lord. He never contradicts His Word when He leads us. If you think the Lord may be leading you down a certain educational path and have sought godly advice on the matter, then walk in obedience down that path.
When you choose an educational track based more on what a "some guy" in the future may think over the clear leading of the Lord, you have made a human being more important than God.
2. Loving the Lord with your mind is a good thing. In fact, we are commanded to love the Lord with all of our mind (Luke 10:27). Sisters, God made you -- and any intellectual acumen you possess comes from Him. Don't be ashamed of it. (Don't be prideful of it either; see 1 Corinthians 8:1.) Use it to bring honor to the Kingdom.
By the way, some of the smartest women I know are married. You don't check your intellect at the door when you say "I do." Smart women get married every day.
While a husband is called to be the spiritual leader in the marriage relationship, a wife is called to be a helper to her husband. I have seen married women use their theological training in order to help their husbands in countless ways -- by using it in service to women in the church, by investing in the spiritual development of their children, by being a trusted sounding board to her husband. The list can go on and on.
3. "Tricking" a man into liking you is a recipe for disaster. I am not sure who starting telling women to act dumb or only eat salads on dates to "get a guy." (Probably the same, cruel person who invented corsets or the one who dreamed up high heels or pantyhose -- just saying!)
Seriously, though, when we try to maneuver our circumstances or be deceitful in this way, I am afraid we have more in common with the foolish woman of Proverbs 7 who tried to entrap a man with her words and actions (Proverbs 7:21).
Worldly wisdom may offer you 15 steps to acting like a dumb girl so you can get attention, but godly wisdom says a righteous person acts with integrity (Proverbs 20:7, Psalm 101:2). Plus, do you really want to marry a guy who makes you feel like you have to dumb yourself down in order to attract him? A wife is commanded to respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33), and manipulation is not a sign of respect. As one of my spiritual mentors recently told my class, the man who makes you feel embarrassed about your intellectual abilities is probably not the right guy for you anyway.
4. Don't waste your singleness. You don't know how long your single season of life will be. Don't waste that time pining for what you don't have right now.
1 Corinthians 7:32-35 says that your time of singleness allows you to be devoted to the Lord without distraction. Spend this season, for however long it lasts, deepening your relationship with the Lord. And if you never get married, you have spent your life pursuing God -- not a bad deal! Learning to cultivate a spirit of contentment while single will only help you if you do get married someday (Philippians 4:11).
Let me hasten to add that wanting to be married is not a bad thing at all. I am pro-marriage -- and so is God. However, I have seen far too many women make marriage an idol in their lives and then make really bad decisions. (The same can be said regarding education -- it can become an idol just like marriage). If the desire to be married (or any other desire) becomes more important to you than the desire to be obedient to the Lord, you have a problem. Sisters, being married to the wrong man is far worse than not being married at all.
I love what Marian Jordan said in her book "Sex and the City Uncovered": "As a single girl, there are two truths that I must hold in balance in order to be content. First, God created me for relationship, so my desire for a husband is not wrong; it is good. Second, even though I was designed to be in relationship, my ultimate contentment, satisfaction, and happiness will never be achieved simply through a human relationship. I was designed for something far bigger, far greater, something far more satisfying" (pp. 56-57).
So, let's be honest. Does a little learning scare away the boys? Possibly -- in some cases. But is that really the type of guy you want to marry? When considering a degree path, the question we all should ask is: "Where are You leading, Lord?"
Candi Finch, assistant professor of theology in women's studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, currently working on her Ph.D. dissertation in the area of feminist theology. This column first appeared at www.BiblicalWoman.org, a blog of Southwestern Seminary.
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