Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, “someday” never comes…

The other night I was at a Bible study made up of less than a dozen 20-somethings. It was a good study, we actually got into the Word and had some good discussion about it. This same group (under different leadership) used to be simply a one-sided regurgitation of churchy cliches from the leader, mixed with copious quantities of “I feel this” and “I feel that.”

But what I found most interesting was comments made as we finished our supper, prior to beginning the actual study. One girl mentioned that the majority of us had graduated from Christian colleges without getting married, and posited that fact was prima facie evidence that those colleges had failed us. Another disagreed, stating that she felt the best age to get married was 35.

I wanted to start reciting Herrick:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying :
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer ;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may go marry :
For having lost but once your prime
You may for ever tarry.

The girls in this group are all right at or past their expiration dates. In fact, one of the girls in this group I recently talked to about pursuing marriage, but only because I heard so much other positive information about her from an old friend and several people at church that it outweighed the fact that she was already at the extreme high end of the acceptable age scale. When she told me “While my dream has always been to be a wife and mom, my focus is elsewhere right now.” I was sad for her. Not being interested in me is one thing, but putting off your dream when you are already at the end of the time when it is within reach is downright tenebrific.

I continue to hope, for her sake, that she was lying to me and really just found me unattractive.

In this week’s sermon, the pastor shared how he and his wife lost their dream of children because, although they married in their early twenties, they chose to wait five years to become financially stable prior to having children, and by that time his wife had lost her fertility. Some of the girls from the Bible study were there–I can only hope they recognized that it was not a story of an unusual circumstance, but rather a reflection of the biological reality that on average, a woman who does not have a child before the age of 25 will have lost 90% of her fertility by age 30.

I think of my sister and only hope that she does not fall into this trap of thinking biology unimportant. I failed in my bid to keep her from going to college, and as she is now at an expensive Christian college, she is piling up debt that might well  give potential suitors pause. Still, that handicap is nothing compared to the handicap that will come with age.

When someone tells me that they want to do something “someday,” I am sad for them. Like Creedence, I know that “someday” never comes.

I don’t know how to help those who say they want to be mothers but put it off past the time God appointed in human biology. But they next time a girl asks me my favorite poem, I may just start “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…”

3 thoughts on “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, “someday” never comes…

  1. This all resonates profoundly for me. While I did marry my longterm girlfriend, we had put off the wedding year after year for one “good” reason after another. I finally grew a pair and said it was time. By then we were both in our late twenties (me 28, she 27). I believe that is the average age now for first marriage. Anyway, didn’t we have trouble conceiving. It took six years for her to get pregnant and carry to term. And then we had “secondary infertility”. So, while we had dreamed of 2 to 3 kids, we have a lovely only. I live with tremendous regrets for my failure to take leadership in the relationship — I should have recognized that she really was waiting on me to make the decision. Had we started earlier, we may not have had the issues we had – or at least we would have had the time to work on them so as not to feel trapped in a years-long fertility crisis that had childlessness as a very possible outcome.
    My God, looking back, my wife was (and is) an ideal partner: supportive, and respectful of my role as head of the household (and not as some demanding dictatorial lout – my priority is the success of our marriage). I share this story with all the twenty-somethings I have occasion to discuss marriage and related matters (I became a minister some years after we married).

  2. @Scott:
    Thank you for sharing your story. I especially like how you brought up our responsibility as men to take leadership and push the issue. That was lacking in my original post.

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