Where’s Boaz?

Many of us have seen the countless articles on statistics regarding black women and marriage. I don’t need numbers to highlight my daily experiences. I’m a 34-year-old black woman. I am single and so are many of my friends. We are a part of the percentage of educated black single women. We are also successful, God-fearing and incredibly lonely.

I’ve been going to church my entire life.  My childhood summers in Louisiana conjure memories of reading the Bible with my grandmother before bed right after we watched another hilarious episode of “Mama’s Family.” My faith was ingrained in me from the womb. Church was not an optional activity. It was a weekly, bi-weekly and sometimes triweekly requirement. There was no trick or treating, only bobbing for apples dressed as Mary for the church’s Hallelujah night festivities in which all the children came decked out in their mom’s old sheets and towels.These traditions shaped who I am and also what I believed and very much assumed about marriage. At the center of those beliefs was that God would send me a husband, preferably in my mid to late twenties. If I prayed, believed and made my request known, I would be married at the time I desired to do so.

It was around 25 that I realized there was a strong possibility that things didn’t quite work out as I assumed they would. Right before my 30th birthday, I entered a state of panic. I was in a dead end relationship with someone I knew I didn’t really want to be with but stayed with out of a fear of being alone.

I finally realized that being single was far better than being coupled miserably so I broke that off and surfed on a wave that would shape, wear down and build up my sense of what it meant to be a single black woman past the age of 30.

During college and into early adulthood, I continued going to church because, well it was tradition and I had to be able to tell my parents that I went to church on Sunday.  I enjoyed the services, the emotions the worship songs stirred in my soul and the way the preacher told me how trouble wouldn’t last always.  But when I wasn’t moved by the emotional landscape, when the music stopped and the shouting quieted, I observed the overwhelming number of single women at church.  They came Sunday after Sunday giving what little they had, some with kids in tow, to lay their burdens down at the altar.

Many tired of being strong and doing things all on their own wondering when God would send their Boaz; they left service after service convinced that things would be different soon, but they often came back the very next week with the same burdens.

I felt like something was missing,, namely that the message the church was sending to single women was doing them a disservice. I had candid conversations with other single women in church to get a consensus of how they felt. What I found was that many women had difficulty reconciling their faith with their unfulfilled desire for companionship.  Many bobbed and weaved through seasonal transitions of celibate devotion to God and busy work serving on any number of church ministries to times of total perceived debauchery and distance from church activities.

This pattern developed from a desire to please God and maintain the traditions of their faith but confusion as to how to maintain their sense of sexuality and quench their overwhelming feelings of loneliness.

Relating to these women and facing my own relationship obstacles, I became bitterly cynical. I proudly rebutted any encouragement any well-intentioned church-goer tried to give me about being single. I argued them down about the realities single women faced that they could never relate to. I was often confronted with a number of unhelpful churchy redundancies that offered no real solutions or even genuine encouragement.

  • “it will happen when you least expect it, just wait on God”
  • “God rewards faithfulness, just keep pressing, keep being faithful and busy with the His work and you’ll see how he will bless you”
  • “God is preparing you for your husband”

Now I’m not saying that there isn’t any truth in the above phrases. We don’t know the future nor do we know the will of God.  The reality is that some will get married and some won’t. I honestly believe it’s something we, particularly women, have little control over. It is frustrating when people blurt out these cliché sayings without any regard to where your heart is or even your faith at the moment.

These conversations began to push me further away from church and subsequently from God. I had a very difficult time understanding why the God I served left me alone despite my faithfulness, tears and prayers. As I looked around the church and saw the number of beautiful, seemingly faithful, hardworking God-fearing women, I wondered why God had left them single too.   Were my prayers not working? Am I not believing hard enough? Fasting long enough? Worshiping loud enough?  What about women who are significantly older that have yet to marry but yet have desire accompanied with faith that it will happen?

The black church is filled with women, alone and restlessly praying to God to quench the pain of loneliness and feelings of inadequacy that undesired singleness often brings.

The reality is, many women will marry and many more will not but it won’t be because you didn’t join the choir ministry. It won’t happen because you decided to be celibate for 90 days or until marriage.  Marriage, particularly in the black community has become a victim to modern societal norms and until the church can take a truthful approach to dealing with our issues of brokenness, sexism, misogyny and traditions that remain out of touch with reality, we’ll continue to see churches filled with outwardly strong single women confused about their husbandless homes.

13 thoughts on “Where’s Boaz?

  1. AH

    Whoa!! This was so on point it’s crazy! Everything that my friends and I go through and think about and talk about. Not sure if it’s comforting or disheartening to know we really aren’t the only ones….

  2. Yeyo

    As a black, Christian woman transitioning into 30, I have a similar outlook between between wanting to please/rely on God but also in desiring that consistent companionship. I also have fellow girlfriends who have shared and experienced such feelings as well. It definitely gets harder as you get older in remaining faithful when the waiting game has resulted in increased feelings of frustration and cynicism. Honestly not sure what the solution is, but it is always good to know that we are not alone in our thoughts regarding this issue. Definitely a relatable and interesting read!

  3. DigitalPush

    It might be worth reading the book of Ruth. It’s only 3 chapters. Ruth is 40 and Boaz is 80 when they are married. In the Talmud, Boaz dies a day after the wedding, but not before the marriage has been consummated. In the New King James version, there is no mention of the words “love” or “friendship” as it relates to Boaz and Ruth. The very real and unpleasant truth is that by the end of the the book of Ruth, Ruth herself is a single mother (a child from Boaz before he died) who has been a widow two times in a row. Boaz marrying Ruth was a matter of Jewish law, not a labor of love as with Jacob and Rachel. Even with Jacob and Rachel, it had more to do with how Rachel looked than her character.

    Unfortunately, not just the Church, but people tend to repeat what they have heard over and over again until that thing becomes either tradition, law or religion. There was no romance between Ruth and Boaz. Boaz purchased the land of her dead husband, and she came with the deal. Even using Boaz as a symbol for God providing a husband is a poor one, but it is wrongly used by man. The fact is, we never hear that Ruth actually longed for Boaz or wanted to get married. By the end of the first chapter of Ruth, Ruth is actually content to remain single. She believes it to the point that she rebukes Naomi, when she voices concern about her singleness. Still, it is her mother-in-law Naomi who decides to set plans in motion to attract Boaz to Ruth. It was a very shrewd decision for survival where Naomi had lost all she had to a famine just years before, including her own husband and sons.

    With out being super spiritual, what we have is a lie working it’s way into myth and that myth injuring the lives of so many people, especially women. It is a tool of exploit, designed more for man’s control, than for a relationship with God.

    1. B. Nicole

      I completely agree. I think the Ruth and Boaz story is one of many the church uses inaccurately. It’s always applied incorrectly each time I’ve heard it preached. Ultimately it creates an expectation of God that is inaccurate of who is truly is.

  4. Lexi

    This article really hit home for me being a single, God-fearing woman in my 30’s, I always thought that I would be married by now with 3, maybe 4 kids. I also ended a relationship in my mid 20’s with the man I thought was going to be my husband for so many years. I patiently waited for God to send me my prince. I told myself it would happen when I least expected it, that maybe I just wasn’t ready for him yet. Once I reached 30, I was worried because I wasn’t finding anyone with potential that I could see myself spending the rest of my life with. Now at 33, I’ve accepted the fact that I just may never find him and I may never marry. For me, I’ve always been more excited about having a child more than getting married. It hurt me more that I wouldn’t be able to do that. I know there are a lot of single mother’s out there doing there thing but I never wanted that and I still don’t. Growing up with both parents in the home, I would want to give my child that same experience. I still wonder why I haven’t found “the one” but my feelings didn’t steer me away from church. My church is mostly older people who often ask me when I am going to get married and have kids. It’s disheartening to hear on a regular basis people say they can’t believe I haven’t done these things yet. I just continue to smile and tell them when God sends me my husband even if I know that it may not ever happen.

    1. Cynthia

      This just made me weep because these are my exact feelings. I want to get married and have a family with all of my heart but deep down I have a strong feeling it won’t happen for me.

  5. LT

    I can definitely relate to this article. Remaining hopeful has become increasingly difficult as I’ve gotten older. It seems as though after 30, getting married becomes less of a possibility. Meanwhile I see women in their 20’s getting married every single day. Almost all of my married friends met their husbands before 30. It feels like the window of opportunity for me has closed and the chances of finding true love is slim to none. It doesn’t help that I am now in my mid 30’s, and the desire for a husband and children has only gotten stronger. The lack of companionship can be depressing, and my faith that God will send me a husband is dwindling. My faith tells me to wait on the Lord, and he will never leave me or forsake me, but how much longer do I pray for the one thing that seems to be so elusive in my life? How many more church services will I attend where single women make up 80% of the congregation? Where the women who are married attend church without their husbands? I am trying to remain hopeful, but it’s getting harder and harder everyday I wake up in my husbandless home.

  6. CoCo Latte

    This is a powerful piece, I know as women we may get discouraged but I’m here to encourage you all and myself as well all things are working together for the good and those that wait on the lord will renew their strength with all things pray and God will direct our paths…… our day is coming

  7. Ms. Frank

    I absolutely love this piece. I am 30 yrs, single, no kids, and I have a good career, but why am I still single is what I ask myself constantly. I have married friends and friends in relationships and Im just wondering, when will it be my turn? I know we all heard the saying ‘be careful what you ask for’, well I’ve been very careful and “trying” to be patient but it gets old.

  8. Ro

    I am 35 years old and single been celibate for five and half years. I held on to someone at that time for the purpose of not being alone and other reasons. I use to focus on wanting to be married and the whole nine yards. I saw everyone getting married. Sometimes to the point i would say God whats wrong with me through that process I started to evaluate myself and work on some internal things. What i discover is we can be have good jobs, multiple degrees, etc that does not guarantee us that we will get a husband. I have learn you can be married and still be lonely. I enjoy being single I have learn to tune people out when I am asked why I am not married because humans will not determine my happiness. Yes, I still get frustrated at times but I know God is with me and he gives me what need.

  9. CRL

    Thank you so much for this article. I found it a few months late into the discussion, but I had to reply because you articulated some things that I have been feeling for a very long time as an educated black Christian woman. Too often, if a woman is unable to find a relationship, the reasons offered by other Christians are endless: “All things are in God’s timing,” or “God told me to tell you in ‘due season,’” or “God is increasing your faith/He is still working on you/He has an even better plan for you. This has definitely happened in my circle of friends. While it is encouraging, all these reasons are only telling black women that their inability to find a man is some type of spiritual failure, and that’s unfair. We need to be honest that there are social factors inhibiting black godly love that have nothing to do with faith. I’ve been to predominately white churches and they don’t have this same problem of singleness. This is in part because they don’t have the same degree of social struggle plaguing their community (lack of education, mass incarceration, stigmatization of interracial romance, colorism, etc.). We also need to be honest that many more black women are active in church than men, so this isn’t just a matter of “waiting on God,” there is a genuine problem of availability.

    I think the biggest problem is that black church does not serve singles in any structured way. A lot of single women attend and work in church, but the church does not serve them specifically. Sure, there are informal ways to match single people together in the church, but that is only helpful for the fortunate few. Any real structural support from the church likely starts with premarital counseling, meaning that singles are not a priority until they first find a relationship. In fact, I’ve seen many churches exploit singles as their “busy bee” workers and consume their time with ministerial activities while simultaneously criticizing them for being single. I have tons of friends, some women ministers, who work tirelessly for the church and are encouraged to find someone, but no one in the congregation actually helps them find someone. I don’t see a lot of black Christian folk setting each other up…but I’ll pray for you, sister! Ummm…okay. In fact, a lot of the natural ways to find people, like online dating, going out to bars, match-making, etc. are often discouraged as sinful, but no one offers any realistic alternative to meet more people.

    I would like to see more church programs and events that will help facilitate and encourage godly relationships. Don’t just say I’m praying for you, show me some meaningful single events, opportunities to gather outside of the church on occasions where other singles will be present, bible studies and Christian classes on how to date with boundaries (not just celibacy classes). Too often, these types of events are organized on the fly, but it should be a priority! Family creation is essential for the survival of our church, and singleness is the community’s burden, not the black woman’s burden. That’s my two cents. Thanks again for a much needed message.

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