Here at Liberty University and at many other Christian colleges, there's a phrase we like to call "ring by spring." For those of you who don't know what it means, it refers to people who start dating during the fall semester and get engaged just a few short months later, in the spring. And although it's a slightly derogatory term, it's still very realistic in Christian culture. But as a Christian who has been in a relationship for a year now, I can say confidently that I don't like "ring by spring" at all.
I don't like that in this atmosphere, students are greatly pushed to have a significant other - and when they don't, they feel like outcasts. I don't like that when someone finds himself/herself single among multitudes of taken people, the first consolation to that person is "Don't worry, God has someone out there for you." (Hint: it's actually okay to be single - not everyone ends up getting married - some people don't marry until midlife or even later.) I find it sad that some students go to a Christian college just hoping that a relationship is ultimately what they'll get out of it. And I really, really feel uncomfortable by the pressure that's put on students to commit to marriage so quickly.
I've always heard it said that psychology declares it takes two years to get to know a person fully in a relationship. So why then does Liberty, and the young Christian culture as a whole, push its youth (specifically young women) to say yes to the dress before they even meet the parents? Paul did amazing things for the Lord, and he never married. In fact, he even said that sometimes it's better not to marry (!). Yet I still see so many girls and guys feeling incomplete in life if they don't have a partner. And for the people who are coupled up, it seems that marriage must be the only logical option - even if the couple has only been dating a few weeks.
A few days ago, my roommate said something that I really agreed with: God doesn't necessarily want us to go into relationships knowing 100% that our significant other is "the one" immediately. She said that if it's right, God will reveal it in time. In time. "Time" is the key word here. And while I'm not discrediting the stories of people who saw their partner and immediately knew that was the person God wanted them to be with forever (and then lived happily ever after), the reality is that it just isn't like that for the vast majority of us.
So to the Christians who are dating: don't rush it. Don't give in to the pressure of rushing it, either. I know it can be super stressful and hard to just chill out and enjoy the moment while the environment around you is constantly screaming at you to think about the future. But there's an old adage that goes, "The past is history, the future is a mystery, but the present is a gift." And that's true. None of us really know the future - only God does. So relax and let God do the worrying. Meanwhile, you can get to know your partner better.
And to the Christians who are not dating but who feel like outcasts because they aren't: you're not an outcast. You are fully known and fully loved by God. And while, yes, it can be frustrating to not have a boyfriend or girlfriend in a "ring by spring" culture/environment, know that God has a perfect plan for your life, one that is the best for you. Trust him on a deeper level, and you will see in the end that He will work out all things - whether that includes a ring or not.