You’ve probably heard the expression “ring by spring” floating around campus, and it will probably continue to be mentioned throughout your degree. One day the expression may even ring true for you. The Christian community places a high value on relationships and it is a frequent topic of conversation. There are unique pressures that find themselves present simply out of attending a Christian University because the world of faith and love collide. At Trinity, the student body has created clever sayings like “ring by spring” to highlight a common ritual to find a spouse by graduation. There are four stages of life many students at Trinity might experience. Each has its own challenges because of the close-knit nature of our campus.
First, we have the single phase. At Trinity, there is an impossible ideal that is: you must be constantly looking for love. It makes people feel as though being single is unacceptable or looked down upon. At family gatherings, it’s the first question your grandma asks you; your friends constantly send you pictures of potential candidates and social media is full of nasty couples who can’t stop making out. People can desire a relationship and even pursue them, but shouldn’t they be free to date in their own time and their own way? Being single is considered, by some, to be the best time to discover who they are and to grow in their relationship with God. It is a time to constantly keep your eyes open to possibilities, but it’s also important to not let it take all of your attention. It’s also a time where you can cultivate deeper friendships and learn about yourself. Plain and simple – you shouldn’t be pressured to date because it is expected of you, or the social standard.
Mandy Hale, author of The Single Woman, articulates this beautifully: “[h]ope for love, pray for love, wish for love…but don’t put your life on hold waiting for love.” Don’t let the status of your love life dictate how you live.
The next phase falls under the Facebook category “in a relationship.” When you enter the Trinity campus, you enter a small interconnected world where most people know your name and your relationship status. Dating can be one of the best times in a person’s life, but it can also be the most painful. You are spending time together, learning about a person’s most personal thoughts, and it is fascinating. You become known, but also vulnerable and that gives the person the ability to hurt you. The struggle with dating at Trinity is that relationships are often on display. Trinity has a student body of 4,000 people and is referred to as a ‘bubble’ for good reason. As you are discovering more about a person and dating them, people around you also discover your mutual love interest. People can form opinions or make assumptions about your relationship without ever actually knowing you.
Now for the engagement phase, which is often the most notorious stage of love, before marriage. At least I thought it would be. It’s hard. Being engaged myself, I expected that the pressures of dating would be lifted and it would just be a wedding planning frenzy. Although there is truth in this, it also means new challenges are introduced.
I got engaged to my best friend and go-to person. I am relatively young though, and with my age, came a mix of reactions. Some people had pure excitement, while others gave me concerned looks. I’ve even heard whispers of my ‘poor’ decision through the grapevine. I was worried about whether people would judge me for being too young. At 19, I am still learning who I am and what my life will look like, but I can’t think of anyone better than my fiancé to figure that out with. One thing that has been continuously obvious to me in our two-year relationship is God’s providence. God has provided us with a place to live when we get married, family and friends who love and support us, and enough money to get by.
Unfortunately, people will gossip about, disagree, judge, or question the choices of others. When I centre myself in who God is and His calling on my life, I feel an overwhelming joy. He reminds me of His constant presence and eternal love. This is a lesson I learn, over and over again. So, this season of life has been thrilling, but also a challenge, as I have to own who I am and my choices regardless of what others may think.
The final phase is marriage. You become one and share everything. People often forget that marriage also affects the people around you.
A church in Langley was advertising for a bible study group, and on the poster, it read, “We’re married, now what?” This hits the mark perfectly; so often the excitement is built around the wedding and everything that comes before marriage, but what happens after is the most important part of building a healthy relationship.
Joy Kinna (Leivdal), an Art and Design student, married Mason Kinna in May of this year. Joy says the best part of marriage for her is,
“The security it brings. There’s something amazing about knowing someone has your back no matter what and that you always have someone to come home to. There is security in knowing that no matter how hard or how easy things are, we always have each other and are always fighting for one another.”
Joy also highlights that marriage has brought on a new obstacle that she did not expect. “The biggest challenge for us was learning how marriage changes relationships with friends if you aren’t intentional. We found this hard, being some of the first in our group of friends to be married.” It’s easy to assume that your married friends don’t have time to hang out or that they have moved on. It’s a brand new social dynamic but also not talked about often, therefore, it’s important to have a strong community of people around you.
Those are only the four obvious phases, but there is one more, and some people at Trinity fit the category. This is the harsh reality of love and one that is hard to talk about. We can call this the mending phase. With the hope of a new marriage, we don’t think about divorce, especially in the Christian community where it is often frowned upon. Divorce is real and many have seen it first-hand.
Kevin McCarty, a fourth year student, was brave enough to share his story. He is currently undergoing a divorce and he says that one of the hardest things about his marriage was,
“Keeping our worldviews and outlooks on life cohesive. Because we came from different churches, we had a tough time developing a system of beliefs and worldviews as a couple.”
Kevin understands that marriage is the merging of two lives and when you don’t share the same values, it can create great tension. You are sharing everything, from money to personal space to family. Like Joy said, it takes two people fighting for each other to make a marriage work.
In closing, I think the myth behind “ring by spring” isn’t one specific thing. It’s a humorous saying that portrays something common at Trinity. The saying encompasses a Christian practice that has been observed for hundreds of years. In the end, remember that your story or worth is not defined by your love life. You can find your identity in one thing: relationship with God.