Dalrock blogged a splendid post about people who claim that there is a shortage of “good men”. He says that if there really were a shortage of good men, then people who want women to actually get married would be telling women not to delay marriage, but to instead get serious about marrying early, when their ability to attract husband candidates is at its peak.
We can see the same pattern in Dr. John Piper’s recent post Why Are Women More Eager Missionaries?* Piper explains that missionary work has become a pink ghetto:
…the actual situation among most evangelical faith missions is that between 80–85% of all single missionaries are women. It is a rare thing, like two out of every ten, for a single man to make missions his life’s vocation, which results in the overall statistics being that one-third of those in evangelical world missions are married men, one-third are married women, and 80 percent of the last third are single women. Which means that something just less than two-thirds of the total missionary force are women.
Piper’s main concern with the post however is not that there aren’t enough single men doing missionary work, but that women who choose this field aren’t marrying as they would like. Piper complains that the problem for husband hunting missionary women is really an exacerbated version of the same problem all Christian women have, and that is an overall lack of marriageable Christian men…
I’ll save you the quotation of Piper, but his reason why missionary women struggle to find husbands is – SHOCK! – that Christian men refuse to man up. I.e – Piper believes that women can’t find husbands because men are not ready and willing to marry.
But if Piper actually believed… that there was a severe shortage of husband material men, he would focus his attention on helping the women reading navigate this incredibly difficult situation. Overseas mission work may feel empowering for young women, but (according to Piper) single women going into the mission field are greatly handicapping their prospects in an already bleak field. His advice to young women would be to choose which was truly more important to them, being a missionary or finding a husband.
If Piper really believed that there were a shortage of marriage-minded, marriage-capable Christian men, then Piper would be counseling women who genuinely want to marry to make marriage a priority when they are younger, prettier and more fertile. Some women say that they want to get married “some day”. But the hidden truth is often that they just want to delay marriage in order to have fun and thrills, until they get tired of it. And then they just expect a suitable man to show up right when they need one. But do men want to marry a 35-year-old woman when they are 40 as much as they want to marry a 23-year-old woman when they are 25?
Piper even tells a story which would be a perfect way to teach this lesson. He describes a single woman named Gladys Aylward who went to a place where she found no marriageable men, and then blamed single men for not following her and proposing marriage:
“Miss Aylward talked to the Lord about her singleness. She was a no-nonsense woman in very direct and straightforward ways and she asked God to call a man from England, send him straight out to China, straight to where she was, and have him propose to me.” I can’t forget the next line. Elisabeth Elliot said, “With a look of even deeper intensity, she shook her little bony finger in my face and said, ‘Elisabeth, I believe God answers prayer. And he called him.’” And here there was a brief pause of intense whisper. She said, “‘He called him, and he never came.’”
Now, that experience, I would guess, is not unique to Gladys Aylward.
If Piper really believed that Christian husbands were scarce, he would be sharing this anecdote to warn young women of the foolishness of moving away from the pool of men they hope to choose a husband from and then expecting God to send the man of their choosing across the world to propose. If we were in a culture of scarcity of good men, this would be the obvious lesson from this story. But we live in an age with unshakable confidence that good men are not only available all around us, but will always be abundant. If Piper believed that the husband Miss Aylward was praying for was surrounded by real life English women eager to win him as a husband, this story wouldn’t be complaining about why he didn’t drop everything, fly to China, and propose to a woman he had never met. If Piper believed that the man was sought after as a husband in England, he would be pointing out the foolishness of Miss Aylward flying off to China and then wondering why a man she had never met didn’t show up to propose once she decided she wanted to marry.
Miss Aylward either needed to accept that being a missionary in a secular country meant not marrying, or she needed to focus on marriage first when she was attractive to men as a life partner. Many women are propositioned for sex after they hit their mid-30s, but few of them are asked to marry. This is because men need women more when they are just starting out in their careers than when they are established in their careers.
Many women have no appreciation of how investing in a husband early causes him to be loyal to her when she is older. Women think that a husband will show up when she is ready, and be loyal to her even though she was absent during the hardships of the first decade of his career. A woman can do a lot of good for a man when he is starting out in his career and trying to save money for a house. But when those years have passed, the man’s ability to work and save have been largely set – without anyone’s help. If he went through those years single, then he typically will have earned less and saved less than a married man, because he did it without a wife’s support. Men do better in their careers and finances when they have a wife’s support. Especially in the early career, which is more stressful because of the lack of work experience. If a woman wants a man to be faithful and loyal, then she needs to choose a man who needs her, and invest in him using her youth and beauty to support him during his critical 20s and early 30s. Men respond to support during the critical years with lifelong fidelity and loyalty.
And one last point. I have known 3 women missionaries, and many women who thought about becoming short-term missionaries. In every case the women had grown up as Christians, and then gone wild in their 20s with alcohol and promiscuity. And they saw missions work as a fun and thrilling way to “atone” for their wild past. Another reason for Christian men to be skeptical of women missionaries.