I don’t believe in standing against, but in standing for.
This is why I typically refrain from writing posts refuting other bloggers’ opinions; both for this reason and because the blogosphere is a typhoon of free speech; a buffet of opinions from which readers will formulate their own views and in which refutation of any kind is all but impossible.
But oh, we are bitter, bloggers.
In my Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest feeds I see posts on ’10 things every 20-something needs to do/know/read/be’ in 2014. And, because it is just past Christmastime and New Year’s Eve, I have seen three times as many complaints in the newsfeed as I have engagements in the Facebook sidebar. People are getting married, and how dare they.
I personally am fortunate to have a fantastic support system within my family, friends, and Mr. M’s family when it comes to my own impending marriage 30 days from now. But I also have quite a few friends who have gone before me and a few coming swiftly after me into this sacrament of marriage. Many of these young men and women are just that: young. In fact the average age of marriage for many of my friends is about 21.
I’ve seen what our culture and our church today says about young marriages like those, and it pains me.
You can’t possibly know who you are yet – your marriage won’t last.
You can’t get married until you are completely set in your career!
How could your parents let you take such a big step so young?
I’ll be coming up on 24 years old when I get married, and that’s pretty normal (although young on the scale of today’s average age of marriage). God has designed an appropriate time for each person concerning their wedding day: it could be 21, it could be 29, it could be 35, it could be 50! But here’s the rub: our culture – the blended, gray-lined culture of church and world – gets behind those 27 year old marriages, those 30 year old marriages, those corporate-401k-bought-the-house-car-and-dog marriages, and then gasps in the church kitchen over the 20 year old couple who said their vows last Saturday.
In this culture of ‘don’t judge me’, I am surprised at the relative ease in which Christians and nonbelievers declare birthdate determines maturity and readiness for commitment. Here are five reasons why marrying young can be the best decision a couple makes.
1. No one, regardless of age, is EVER completely ready for marriage.
Americans, myself included, are a bubble people. We don’t comprehend the depth of the struggle it is for many people worldwide to simply to wake up and live. We believe life is supposed to be easier, quicker, and more efficient in every way possible. We treat marriage the same way.
Truth be told, marriage brings problems. It means facing life with another person to both support and (gasp!) contradict you. I know this because I have seen the marriages around me on every side, and I’ve faced it in my own relationship many times prior to marriage. Marriage is hard. It is sanctifying. Waiting until age 27, when the career and house and car are all in order, won’t necessarily make marriage easier. In fact, at that point you now have two people more set in their ways, more dedicated to their career and their ‘stuff’, and possibly not as malleable to the heart and ways of their spouse.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not ready to be a wife. I can cook, clean, manage a home, manage finances, work my job and serve in my church but never in my life have I been the closest companion to one person for years on end. I tend to lose my temper and I am forgetful. I will fail my dear Mr. M in the future, disappoint him, and even anger him. Maybe at age 27 I’d have my temper better under control – or maybe not. The truth is, being with my man has brought to the surface my ugliest attitudes and forced me to confront them. Being single would not have not accomplished this.
Age does not determine readiness for marriage. Neither does bank account, location, or social status. Maturity determines readiness.
2. Maturity is not found in putting off marriage. Very often, marriage necessitates maturity.
I blew up about an issue and pouted the entire time Mr. M and I were out in public. When we got back in car, he said, “You need to know that was not impressive or attractive.” As a single woman, I could have stewed in my temper as much as I pleased and maybe even told a few friends with no consequences and some sympathy. Now, I’m forced to face it and grow up.
In marriage, a couple is made to work out financial decisions. They have to depend on each other: sink or swim. They have to communicate clearly and humbly, deferring feelings and forgiving when it hurts. If immaturity is there, you can bet it will show up.
This brings us to a definition of maturity: it is not how much money a man or woman has, how successful his or her career is, or how well they communicate in a social environment. Maturity has its root spiritually in whether a man or woman knows her purpose in this world and is actively living that purpose out. If a woman spends her days doing what pleases her with no thought for the future or the people around her, that immaturity will be brought to the surface as soon as she is in a long term relationship, and she will either end up single again or buckle down to work it out.
Marriage necessitates maturity and when a couple enters it young, they grow up together. In fact I would say they grow into each other. Instead of living separate lives and trying to meld them, they lean so much into each other during this growing period they may more quickly become unified than the couple who marries later on in life.
3. Marriage will never be easy, no matter how long it is delayed.
As touched on in Point #1, no one is completely ready for the demands of marriage.
It’s a funny thought, if you really think about it, that delaying marriage could somehow make the commitment easier in the long run. No matter when you get married, life goes on, and with it will come financial difficulty, sickness, relational problems, heartache, and death. Age of marriage doesn’t change this. No matter how deep your pockets or how secure your job, things can always change.
My parents were married at 21. They worked their way from the ground up, starting out in a trailer park. Only three months after they were married, it was discovered Yours Truly was on the way! That’s not easy. Would it have been easier if they had waited until they were 27 to get married? Possibly, at first. But they also would not have accomplished any of the things they did in those six years of marriage. They wouldn’t be who they are today. My dad is a builder – I can drive up the road into the subdivision he built at age 22 with my mom at his side. They did it together, and they did it young. That testimony has been an example and a strength to us as their children, and while we know it was hard, we also are reassured with security knowing if our parents weathered those years together, they can weather anything.
4. Marriage provides a safe, God-honoring place for sexuality to be expressed.
Mr. M and I were surfing the internet when we discovered that around Christmastime, there is an event called the ‘Jingle Ball’. Curious, we looked it up. Miley Cyrus was performing the opening act, and in less than a minute we were aghast.
Ours is society delighted by perversion. Sexual sin of any and every kind is available at the click of a button. It is everywhere, and it comes in many different forms. No matter how strong the couple or the relationship, Christian young people will be attacked in this area. We are not only a target of the enemy of our souls, we are a target of our culture and our own desires.
Sexual desire was created by God and can be celebrated as His creation. For thousands of years, in many different contexts, people have married young sometimes for the reason of sexual desire alone. While a desire for intimacy is a real and valid reason for marriage, it should not be the only reason or an impulsive one at that. However, the trend of delayed marriage has not made the Christian struggle against lust any easier. It has opened up men and women for further attack as they fend off cultural influences and their own desires for years on end. As they prepare their careers, homes, and bank accounts, and engage in frivolous (even non-sexual) relationships in the meantime, they must consistently manage the sexual side of their lives to protect against temptation. This is extremely difficult, and many of them fail in one way or another.
I’ve received letters from young women asking me to pray for them as they wait on God’s timing for a husband, admitting to their struggle in this area. Mr. M has been with men who admit to the same. By telling a Christian couple to delay their marriage until they are ‘ready’, we may continue exposing them to the culture of temptation and perverted sexuality for an indeterminate amount of time. If sexual desire is not the only reason the couple is seeking marriage, encouraging them to pursue marital commitment can do nothing but good for their sexuality as they celebrate it the way God intended.
5. You don’t need to know who YOU are to get married; you need to know who GOD is.
Life is not about me.
I see it, and I kick against the goads. Selflessness does not come easy.
There are days when I think, “I really should look into that Lifeway internship again,” and start thinking about Nashville and old dreams and then I realize: I’m getting married.
I have chosen to marry a man who loves me like his own life, and where he goes, I will go. But he’s staying here, so I stay. Pinterest would say ‘don’t arrange your life around a man or anyone else’ and tell me to ‘follow my heart’. The funny thing is, if I had followed my heart a few years ago, I’d be in a different state, a different job, and probably not engaged right now. My heart is not a very trustworthy advisor.
I didn’t settle for less by marrying before age 24. I’m moving into a new stage that will grow and develop me into a better woman; a woman forced to face selfishness daily and crucify it for the glory of God. In fact, I have a godly jealousy for my 19, 20, and 21 year old companions who have a four and five year headstart on me in this area. They have chosen a path that can be difficult, but they have but their hands to the plow and aren’t turning back. That’s more than many 30-year-olds can say.
The four points preceding this one all depend on this final point. Marriage as a whole depends on Christ. He designed it, and it functions at its best when He is the center. Without Him, any marriage – including (even especially) a young one – will suffer. But with Him, there is no age limit on commitment.
My encouragement is to those of you who married young, those of you who are marrying young, and those of you who have friends marrying young: be supportive of one another. These young couples very likely know what lies ahead, and the discouragement and doubt of the church and culture does nothing for their morale. The bitter comments on Facebook complaining about ‘yet another engagement’, and the angry blog posts about singleness in reaction to the happiness of others – it’s getting old, folks. Bitterness always ends up alone. Be happy for these young people: the ones who did relationships right and honored their families along the way. They have chosen the ‘road less taken’, and we can support them as they seek God together.
In a letter to me dated December 2012, Mr. M wrote:
“Walk with me, darling, into the light of His glory, and stand by me as we persevere in order to achieve His ultimate and perfect plan for us.”
I pray the same for all those engaged in 2013. Here’s to a 2014 full of God-honoring marriages, young and old alike.