Xenophobia and Marriage
You know the stories. You know the story of the eligible bachelor who has done everything he can to please his parents as far as attaining the highest level of education as required by his family but is looked upon with disdain when he brings home a young woman from another country he desires to marry and presents to his parents. You know the story of the young woman who faces the possibility of getting kicked out the house when it is discovered she is courting a young man from another village or country with intentions to marry him.
Well, if you aren’t familiar with these sorts of stories there you have it, and this is an ever-growing reality for many. Hundreds of thousands of young Africans longing to be married are faced with the reality that their parents and families will not accept the person they have loved, and in most cases, secretly courted for significant periods of time. The reality also is that they are faced with the only option of engaging in these relationships in secret, though they so wish to come out the closet, and because of how strong their parent’s feelings and thoughts are towards a person of foreign origin. Most would want nothing more but the jubilant support from their parents in their relationships and the freedom of expressing these thoughts in their parents presence or even the freedom to bring their partners around.
I have seen girls even in my immediate family recurrently get turned down whenever they try to bring any young man of different ethnic origin home till the point where they are now in their late thirstiest and early forties, still unmarried, and unhappy.
Whoever said love and joy in marriage could only come a spouse from your country or village? I am from the North West region of Cameroon, a small village called Awing and we all know the world is sizeable enough for me to find an apt spouse as close as neighboring villages like Bambili or Mendankwe or even as far as Punsari, India.
But why the strong dislike or hate for people of foreign origin when it comes to marriage?
Why the disapproval?
Why the outrage and raises voices whenever the discussions are on the table?
I see it as nothing short of xenophobia –intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries. It baffles me how our parents love the thought of marriage, and the talk about their children’s or colleagues or relatives children’s marriages with their fellow women at the meetinghouses. It baffles me how they sit crowing about how well marriages and the crave for grandchildren yet they wonder why fewer and fewer of their daughters and sons, especially those in the diaspora, are entertaining the thought of marriage. I am perplexes at how more and more sons and daughters are growing cold to the concept of marriage because of fear their parents will not accept a spouse of their choice should they be from foreign origin or cultural background.
My parent’s marriage was an arranged one and thankfully it has been successful but after being exposed to the diversity in the western world and the beauty of interracial and ethnic marriages clearly displayed in many parts of the globe, I don’t see why I should or cannot not go out and find a fit spouse for myself from somewhere other than Awing, Cameroon. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” the Bible says in Proverbs 18:22. It does not say he who is given a wife, for though our first representative head, Adam, was given a wife or should I say helper, by the LORD, it was a wife suitable and compatible for him, which the LORD saw as good among his other creations. One could even argue that in a sense by His divine and sovereign will, we are “appointed” a spouse by the LORD (see Genesis 24:44. Emphasis added). Truly “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” James says. This gift in form of a spouse can come from your immediate clan or village or he/she might very well come from the other end of the earth. The beauty though is that that person will be just right and should not be shunned because of their ethnic origin or cultural background.
So what exactly is the answer to the “why?” question. Maybe it is the fear of the unknown, but whatever it is, I must admit don’t know. I can only account for the recent discussion with my own mother about the issue on demand, which of course didn’t go very well.
“You better not be thinking of bringing some girl from another country to this house!” she warned
“But mom! What do you mean? What if I couldn’t find any woman from Cameroon and one from another country has proven to be the one proper for me?” I replied
“I don’t care! You’re on your own! I’m not willing to step my foot in some other country. You know our ways!” she replied
“But mother you have to at least make the effort, give her a chance, and I’m sure you’ll see how awesome she and her family are,” I pleaded.
“Enough!” she exclaimed “let’s just end this nonsense now before my blood pressure rises”
And that was that. And as though sovereignly orchestrated by God, speaking to a female friend of mine not long after that talk, I find out she had endured a similar conversation with her own mother which went something like this:
Her mother: “I heard you have a boyfriend”
Friend: “Wow! How? Who told you?”
Her mother: “Does it matter? Your brother told me. Where did you say this boyfriend of your is from again?”
Friend (who is from Nigeria): “His from Washington, DC”
Her mother: “You better end that relationship now before it’s too late. I will not be a part of this!”
These are real issue and situations that many of us face. They are painful and very emotional for we all just want to honor our fathers and mothers–which is the first command with a promise (Ephesians 6:2) and we care deeply about the people whom we love and wish to built life with.
Maybe it is because our parents are insecure. Maybe its because they want to live their lives and dreams vicariously through us being that they never had much of a choice in themselves coming up in their youth. It is a real issue and I’m praying that our parents can accept our girlfriends and boyfriends as potential spouses and in laws. I am actively working towards this because marriage is different. Marriage isn’t an education where we can go and get degrees to be a doctor or engineer, or lawyer just because our parents force us into it against our will. Marriage is sacred and is to be between one man and one woman for the entirety of their lifetimes. Now don’t get me wrong, like I said some arranged marriages do work and have worked even in the Bible, (Genesis 24) but even in that case where Abraham didn’t want his son Isaac choosing a wife from heathen Canaanites, we see Rebekah possessing godly traits that Isaac would then come love and appreciate. No doubt, not all arranged marriages in those days were done in such a godly and submissive manner. Not as is done by our parents now which is why there also needs to be room for one to go out and find a spouse from a far away country.
Young men and women may we display such marriages if blessed with them in a way which proves to our parents that they actually work and can be very fruitful. May we live with such joy and harmony with our spouses and their families that our parents find it good and rewarding to joyfully support our moves. For this in fact is marriage, the leaving and cleaning. A man leaving his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh (Mathew 19:5). Two individuals leaving their respective families and forming a family and at the same time expanding a broader family. It’s beautiful. Lets show our African parents who believe otherwise how truly awesome this is. Above all else, let us pray. If you are passionate about this and are currently struggling with this situation, I want to encourage you to pray for a change of heart in you parents. Also, pray that you would get to know the Lord more through this situations. Christ Jesus can sympathize. His family thought He was crazy but He had to let them know that He was about His Father’s business. If this is God’s will that you marry a certain person from a different ethnic background than yours and your parents give you heat for it, nothing can stand against it if the Lord has willed it. Its going to take a lot of patience and a lot of crying but the Lord will surely conform you two to Christ’s image through this. If you are not one bit familiar with these situations, just know it is real for make brothers and sister and be in prayer for them and their families. Marriage is a wonderful God instituted thing between one man and one woman for life and we want to spend it with those who have found favor in our eyes and those whom our parents force unto us.
© 2015 Upside Down Movement, UDM17.6
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Riflex Mba. © 2015 Upside Down Movement, UDM17.6