Do you have a bucket list?

Things that you have always wanted to do, little dreams, huge dreams, unrealistic dreams, probable dreams?

I do.

And if I’m going to be completely honest, one of the biggest things on my bucket list, my dreams list, is to get married.

Now, if you are married or are about to be, you’re probably making an “aww” face and then looking over at your spouse or fiancé with a knowing “aren’t we lucky” look.

If you’re NOT married or engaged (and especially if you’re not even dating anybody), you’re probably looking at me like a traitor.

I would be, too.

See, here’s the thing I’ve been noticing recently. If Facebook and conversations with your girlfriends and emails and text messages were like the “New York Times,” marriage would be the topic splashed across every headline. I don’t know if it’s the boom of Pinterest or just the fact that I’m officially a “twenty-something,” but it seems like marriage and weddings are topics that I just can’t escape.

And to be honest, I’m not often complaining about that.

I love Pinterest, and although I refuse (on principle) to make a “wedding board” before I’m even officially dating someone, I’m not going to lie to you and say that I haven’t looked. My friends and I “ooh and ahh” over dresses and rings and that adorable picture of the guy doing a victorious fist pump as he kisses his new wife. I have happily discussed details and heard proposal stories from several friends that are barreling towards marital bliss, and have dutifully bought the bridesmaids dresses, the shoes and the gifts and stalked wedding photos on Facebook – like a good friend would.

But there’s something about this wedding fever, something that’s irritating and insecurity-inducing.

It’s the pressure.

Have you ever been sitting in the movie theater watching a chick flick when the plot gets to the very end and the main characters have their final, climactic kiss? It’s like every moment in the entire movie has been leading up to that one magical moment where the world stops, the background goes blurry and their lips meet.

But have you ever noticed what else happens in those moments?

It seems like everyone else around them kisses, too! It’s like the romance and the passion from that one kiss spreads like an atomic bomb over the rest of the crowd and everyone’s overcome.

The old people grab each other in (awkward) passionate embraces. The hot dog vendor grabs the single mom in the stands and dips her in a kiss. Everyone is overwhelmed by passion and must have a moment where they think, “If they’re doing it, maybe we should, too.”

This can be an awkward moment for you, depending on whom you decided to see the movie with. Because inevitably, the passion slips off the screen and that’s the moment during the first date where you think, “Should we be kissing, too?” This dynamic changes a bit if you’re at the movie with your parents.

But that’s the thing I’ve been noticing about this wedding fever.

The passion, the romance, the excitement of planning a gigantic party dedicated just to you, spills out from one couple and all of a sudden there’s this feeling in the air of, “Should we be doing this, too?”

But it can’t be completely the fault of the happy couples posting their wedding albums to Facebook.

So, what is it?

What is it that perpetuates the pressure to be in a relationship barreling towards marriage? What is it that prompts the question at 3 am (when nobody’s around to see you so insecure) of, “Jesus, is this ever going to happen for me?”

I love weddings and I love marriage and I love the fact that so many people around me are happy and in love and sharing their lives with their best friend.

But I don’t love the fact that so many of my conversations with my single girlfriends (and myself – let’s be honest) include reasons why we don’t have to feel like garbage that we’re not moments away from a proposal, reasons why we shouldn’t feel insecure and lonely because we’re not sharing our lives with someone and reasons why we don’t have to feel like the time is ticking between our lives right now and our lives as spinsters with 47 cats.

So in an attempt to change that insecurity inducing pressure, here’s what I think we should do:

1. Celebrate

If you’re married, congratulations! Live it up. Learn, grow, fight, love and enjoy the fact that you get to have your best friend over for really awesome adult sleepovers each night.

If you’re single, congratulations! Live it up. Learn, grow, fight, love and enjoy the fact that you can do whatever you want and that nobody is going to get on your case for leaving bagel crumbs in your bed.

2. Help Others Celebrate

The last thing you want to have happen as a single person is for someone to look at you with pity.

This happened to my best friend at a wedding this summer. A girl, younger than her no less, looked at her tenderly and whispered, “Your time will come.” My best friend is a great person for not decking her on the spot.

There’s not a better or a worse. It’s not better to be married or better to be single. I think, as my pastor said once, “It’s better to be single and want to be married than to be married and want to be single.” But regardless of your marital status … life is hard!

There are challenges and things that rub us the wrong way and refine us into people who look more like Jesus! And whether you’re single or you’re married, that’s true. And so because of that … we all need help, support and encouragement.

We all need people to help us see the awesome things when our eyes are too clouded by loneliness or frustration. We need people to help us through the hard things and to remind us that the stage of life that we’re in is awesome and perfect and that whichever side we’re on, the grass is super green and perfect for drinking sweet tea and having a BBQ.

3. Live Your Passion

Whether married or single, God has given each one of us a job to do. He’s given us each a specific and important role in His kingdom, and it’s our responsibility and our honor to be a part of it.

If you’re a writer or a missionary or a business woman or a garbage man, your role is important and God has picked you specifically for it.

So do what you’re passionate about. Life doesn’t begin or end with marriage. On both sides, you get to be a part of the grand adventure that is life with Jesus. And so venture out!

Try something new, do something you always thought was impossible. Check something off of your bucket list. If you want to travel the world and you’re single … travel the world. If you want to travel the world and you’re married … travel the world.

Marriage is not the beginning or end of your life with Jesus or otherwise.

So here’s my plan as I attempt to shed this pressure, the fear that marriage will never come and that pesky temptation to compare my life with people at another (equally beautiful) stage.

I’m going to enjoy it.

I’m going to enjoy the fact that I can spread out over my entire bed when I sleep at night. I’m going to leave my dirty clothes on the floor for a bit longer than I should, just because I can. I’m going to stay up late at night reading “The Hunger Games” to the light of girly scented candles, because that’s not going to bother anyone – and I’m going to eat a bagel in bed as I do it.

I’m going to go out with my girlfriends as often as I can and come home and spend time snuggled up with my family.

I’m going to live the adventure that God has placed in front of me and move to Georgia and stay up late making pancakes and singing into hairbrushes with my roommate.

I’m going to live in this stage of life fully and thankfully, and am going to reject (as much as I possibly can) the pressure to live on any other time frame than the one that God is so perfectly writing for me.

And so next time I’m at a wedding, when they call all of the single girls together for that shameful moment to battle for the bouquet and the chance at “being the next bride …”

You can find me with my girlfriends, making a toast – to being full of life, full of joy and exactly where we are supposed to be.

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