Quite often, when people see that I’m young, married and pregnant, their eyes flicker over my rounded form with incredulity, followed by a succession of questions and opinions.
“So…was this planned? I can’t believe that you’re already married and having kids so soon. You’re so young. Wow. I don’t think I’d ever be ready to have kids. I don’t get along with kids.”
“Oh, you’re religious? You must be crazy and intolerant.”
At first, I was baffled when I received these strong, unsolicited opinions out of the blue; then I began to feel indignant. Why did people feel the need to show their disapproval, or ask extremely personal questions, when my life in no way interfered with theirs? It’s not like I was pushing my personal “agenda” onto them. They were the ones with the unsolicited comments and questions. I would come home and rant to my husband, only to find out that he had similar experiences with his own friends and coworkers he barely knew.
What I hated the most were the assumptions that because I’m a young Christian living in an “outdated” manner, and because I’m open to life, that I’m going to fail. That I’m going to end up miserable, unfulfilled and dissatisfied because of my life views. That because we chose to get married and have a child young, I’m giving up on having a career, on being successful, on doing “more.”
I had always realized that our society views life, love, commitment and religion in a negative light, but I had never received backlash for it in my own life and wasn’t sure how to respond. Should I be defensive? Sarcastic? Ask an impertinent or intimate question on their family planning myself? I began to feel embarrassed when people looked at me, and dreaded their questions. And I hated that I felt that way. And the fact that I was shying away, and letting the opinions of others get to me made me feel even worse.
One day, I was working on a project with a coworker I had just met from a different department. Like the others, he glanced at my protruding belly. As he began asking me the questions about my family planning, my plans after having the baby and why I decided to get married after college, I suddenly felt calmness and security spread over me. I realized that the best way to answer these questions was joyfully, with calmness and honesty. I realized that my life was a model for Christ, and the way that I respond should reflect peace, joy and deliberation. We are the hands and feet of Christ in the world; we are His face that people see, and we need to be living examples of Him.
I answered my coworker honestly, with short reasons why I did what I did. My husband and I are open to life, which is why we are having a baby so “early” in our marriage. We fell in love with each other and wanted to commit to each other, which is why we got married. No, I don’t think children will ruin my life and I’m going to do my best to keep working on myself as well as raise our child well.
A few weeks later, I opened my Bible and found the following verse from Apostle Peter: “Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ my themselves be put to shame (1 Peter 3:13-16).”
As Christians, the way that we live our lives is really shocking to the outside world. Society views us as anomalies bound to fail, and members of society feel entitled to ask us questions on why we live our lives so differently. When faced with incredulity and criticism, it’s easy to withdraw; to become bitter, shy and elusive. I realized that as a Christian, it’s important to never shy away from giving answers to what and why we believe in our faith, even if we’re considered the biggest fools in the world. And if, Lord willing, I managed to succeed in my life, I can be a living example that faith, love and commitment are not cruel, binding farces, and that there’s something more than a self-centered, secular, road to success.