Emily Maynard appeals to the single community in chapel

Emily Maynard spoke about the harm that comes with “Ring by Spring” language in a chapel last week.



Popular blogger, writer and speaker Emily Maynard is passionate about speaking to young men and women about “the pain of not being picked” in Christian cultures that are marriage-obsessed. | Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES

Chelsea Wiersma, Writer

Popular blogger, writer and speaker Emily Maynard is passionate about speaking to young men and women about "the pain of not being picked" in Christian cultures that are marriage-obsessed. | Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES


22-year-old Sarah Schwartz stood patiently at the end of a grass field, staring ahead at her future. She had on her black cap and gown, her hair was done perfectly and she had a huge smile on her face. She was about to leave her fellow Biola classmates and go out into the real world.

“And ladies, keep a look out; it’s not too late to get that ring by spring,” the announcer joked.

Suddenly Sarah’s heart sank. Everything she was proud of and had worked so hard for had been crushed by a single sentence. Was she not good enough? Had she not accomplished all that she was supposed to? Was finding a man the only thing that counted in life — the only accomplishment that mattered?

According to Emily Maynard, popular blogger, writer and speaker, this is how many girls in Christian universities feel — and this is a huge problem.

Single without needing to mingle

Maynard understands Sarah’s frustration. Raised in a fundamentalist home where marriage was expected at a very young age, Maynard constantly felt the pressure to “be chosen.”

She remembers girls passing their rings down the aisle of her classes to be admired, and the feeling of knowing she was not wanted and was not fulfilling other people’s expectations. Maynard called it, “the pain of not being picked.”

She began to notice everyone around her, as well as herself, becoming obsessed with this idea of getting a ring. This fueled Maynard’s passion for speaking to young men and women and helping them regain confidence. According to Maynard, they do not need to depend on a relationship status for fulfillment.

Maynard is now a blogger, writer and speaker to many single people in the church.

Schwartz, who works for the department of communication studies at Biola, helped arrange for Maynard to come and speak on behalf of Thrive, the Christian formation ministry.

Redefining identities

Friday night, Thrive hosted a chapel featuring Maynard as the speaker. According to senior Julie Dykes, student director for Thrive ministries, the chapel intended to show students a healthy view of singleness, teaching them to identify themselves by what God is calling them to be now, and not in the future as a married person.

“I loved hearing Emily speak at Sacred Friendship [Conference] because she showed me how to view myself and relationships in a healthier way,” Schwartz said.

At the chapel, Maynard explained her personal goal is to be in a healthy relationship with God, herself and others. Pressures to find a significant other are present everywhere. From Twitter hashtags to casual jokes on television shows, people are constantly being questioned about their relationships. This, she said, leads them to focus on only one area of their lives.

However, according to Maynard, this is not mature or healthy. Women begin to feel as if they are not meeting the community’s standards, and go into panic mode until they shut down because they believe the only thing that matters is finding that special someone.

The only way to heal this pain is by talking about it, Maynard explained. There are always going to be social and cultural pressures. But marriage is not something that stands alone. It is a commitment between two individual people who relate to each other.

The bigger picture

Marriage, she said, cannot be defined by a ring. In order to fully understand this, we need to be able to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.

“Life is not linear,” Maynard said. “We need a dynamic theology of personhood that involves everyone, not just married people.”

Maynard gave Biola students three specific calls to action. The first is for students to immerse themselves in community.

Maynard reminded students that life is messy, but that we need to embrace the mess and learn to live in reality as it stands. This means that we need to create safe spaces, set boundaries and know when to speak up. We need to pick a diverse group of friends, including both men and women that we trust, and stay connected, Maynard continued.

“It’s not about marriage, it’s about humanity. When we are willing to be humans, God shows up,” Maynard said.

Maynard’s second call encourages singles to build healthy relationships with God, others and themselves. Her final call to action is to find God in the midst of relationships.

Freshman Abbey Zillweger, who attended the chapel, liked the new perspective Maynard provided for her.

“I really like what she said about not putting your identity in relationships, but putting it in Christ,” Zillweger explained.

Stephanie Linnane, another freshman present at the chapel, added that Maynard brought up and shut down a lot of the cultural standards that singles put on themselves.

“She did a great job of reminding of the misconceptions about relationships that culture presents us with, like saying we have to find our husband in college or there is no hope,” Linnane said.

Continuing the conversation

Maynard’s talk brought up excitement and discussion among many Biola students. Emily said that she enjoyed the tough questions because it meant that this topic will still be talked about and debated even after she leaves. She loves knowing that she made a lasting impact on those who needed it.

“This isn’t just gonna go away. I’m gonna leave campus, but this conversation is going to keep going. My hope is that students from Biola keep talking about this and that it allows for more respect, empathy and understanding between people on this campus,” Maynard said.

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