Sunday, September 22, 2019

Marry Sooner Rather Than Later

Here is my counter-cultural advice to young singles: Marry sooner rather than later. This is Biblical advice because the Bible specifically tells young people to marry rather than continue to burn (I Cor. 7:9). Most young adults have a sex drive, and this is evidence that they should be moving toward marriage. To delay marriage without cause is foolish at best, and sinful at worst. This principle of moving toward marriage rather than burning with sexual desire was given to prevent sexual sin. It is no surprise that in a society that avoids and delays marriage, sexual sin is rampant. We Christians should not be following the ways of the world that lead to sin and destruction, but rather prioritizing God's ways and wisdom. This principle of moving toward marriage intentionally works out a little differently depending on where you are in relationships. Here are some practical tips to help you move toward marriage in your situation. If you are engaged or very close to engagement because you know who you want to marry, plan a simple, inexpensive wedding in the near future. My general recommendation is that engagements should be 6 months or less. It doesn't take very long to plan a simple wedding. The longer you drag the engagement on, the greater the chances that you will fall into sexual sin. The Bible tells us that it is foolish for a man to work to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul. Similarly, it is foolish to choose a long engagement if that means disobeying God by having sex outside marriage. If you arrive on your big day having stained your souls with fornication, you have lost that which was more important. We should not purposely put ourselves in the position of needing super-human strength to stay sexually pure. Move up the wedding date and avoid the temptation. Prioritize obeying God and don't leave room for sin to creep in. A cheaper wedding is also important. Reducing costs is a good thing anyway as it is wasteful to spend large amounts of money on a wedding rather than investing in the marriage. But it's important to be frugal in order to start your marriage off right. Studies have shown that the greater the amount of money spent on the wedding, the shorter the marriage tends to last. Elaborate and expensive weddings tend to lead to divorce. Invest in your marriage. A wedding is just one day and soon over. You want the marriage to last, so prioritize it over the wedding. That might mean giving up some of your dreams for a fancy, picture-perfect wedding, but that is a worthwhile trade to make. If you are in a relationship, be intentional about marriage as your goal. Dating is often a very fun time of getting know someone, and there's nothing wrong with having fun. But fun can't be your purpose for the relationship. A dating relationship needs a goal, and that goal is to determine whether two people should marry. Marriage should be the underlying question in every dating relationship. Are you compatible on your beliefs, your goals, and your values? Do you work well as a team? Do you resolve conflicts well together? Are you willing to fulfill the duties of marriage together if you marry (including leadership/submission, frequent sex, raising children, faithfulness, communication, and selflessness)? These are the kinds of questions you should be answering about each other and your relationship as you go along. When you pursue the relationship with intentionality, this does three important things for you. First of all, it greatly increases the chances that your relationship will be successful. A successful dating relationship does not necessarily mean you will marry. You might successfully determine that you are not suitable for one another and end the relationship. That is a perfectly valid outcome of a dating relationship and not a failure. If you knew you wanted to marry, you could just skip to engagement. The relationship before engagement is precisely to determine whether you should marry. If you decide not to marry, that gives you information you did not previously have and fulfills the purpose of the relationship. If you decide to marry, then you have also fulfilled the purpose of the relationship by finding that you are ready to move toward marriage with one another. But notice what does not fulfill the purpose of the relationship - aimless fun without assessing one another for marriage. They say if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. That is nowhere more true than in a dating relationship. If you have no purpose for your relationship, you will never know if you have been successful or not. And in the meantime, you waste one another's time without moving toward marriage and set yourselves up for temptation without cause. Too many young people find themselves having dated one another for years and yet still don't know whether they should marry. That's insane. The second thing intentionality does for you is that it speeds up the process of finding a spouse. Aimless dating is one of the biggest reasons for delayed marriage in our culture today. Many young people are not serious about looking for marriage, but they play at romantic relationships for years and sometimes decades. They often don't marry until their 30's or 40's, if at all. Marriage prospects grow more and more dim as one gets older and fertility declines as one gets older as well. It is easier to find a good spouse in your 20's, so don't waste this decade. The third benefit of being intentional is that you are more likely to avoid sexual sin. The people waiting until their 30's to marry aren't usually remaining chaste in the meantime. Our sex drives were given to us to move us toward marriage as marriage is the proper outlet for sexual expression. But if we delay marriage, we have all that drive and no proper outlet for it. This leads to great temptation and, for many, sexual sin. We weren't meant to spend decades single and sexless. If that is our lot through no fault of our own, then God can certainly give us strength to be obedient in this area and remain chaste. But it's best to avoid prolonging the temptation. That is why we are told to marry rather than burn. Avoid wasting your time with a relationship that has no purpose as it will not move you toward marriage and this will lengthen the amount of time you will need to say no to sex and increase the chances that you will give in to temptation. If you are not in a relationship, be intentional about looking for a relationship headed toward marriage. In our culture today, it is easy to drift along, thinking marriage will happen one day, but not in any big hurry to find a spouse. This drifting often goes on for years before the person decides to intentionally pursue a serious relationship headed toward marriage. It is not too uncommon for them to find, to their chagrin, that marriage doesn't appear automatically and that their prospects are few when they finally do start getting serious about marriage. What is especially odd about this lackadaisical attitude toward marriage is that it is usually accompanied by a belief that a good marriage partner is really hard to find. When you think about it, that makes no sense. If we really believe a good spouse is hard to find, it seems like we would want to start early and put a lot of effort into it. We might need to be realistic about our preferences and be ready to settle down with the first person who looks like a decent match and is willing to have us. We might even need to go out of our way to visit places where singles congregate, brush up on our social skills, build up a solid marriage resume, and speak positively about our intentions to marry so as to attract the few decent potential mates out there and get a leg up on the competition. Yet this is exactly the opposite of what most people today are doing. Most young adults think of marriage as something to worry about several years down the road, and then only when they find the perfect person who meets their every preference. Delaying marriage and not pursuing it with any great effort only make sense if we believe awesome marriage partners can be had under every bush and around every corner. If there are great numbers of acceptable matches around us and we could marry any time we please because opportunities are so numerous, then it might make sense to put off the search for awhile and be really picky about choosing the best among the numerous good choices. But that is not the world we live in. The reality is that people of good character who wish to marry are fairly few in our culture, and most of us have quite limited options even among them. That is why we can't afford to leave marriage to chance. It can take years to find a good spouse, even if you are actively looking. Not every relationship turns into marriage. Sometimes you have to date several people before you find someone who makes a good match. So don't put off the search. If you find a spouse right away, that's great. Start building a life together. But if it takes awhile, you'll be glad you didn't wait to get started. So, if you want to build a good relationship that is headed toward marriage, how do you prepare for that? How do you find someone to start a relationship with? And how do you attract them? These are all worthwhile questions to answer. This article is already long enough, so I'll talk about that in a future article. ------- Of course, marriage is not the only purpose of our lives. We can still have purpose and meaning in our lives without marriage. But marriage is a good gift from God that forms a means of normal grace for most people. Marriage is a way to fill our loneliness, satisfy our sexual desires, and build the next generation. Marriage gives us a partner who is there for us through the good times and the bad - someone to witness our lives and for whom we can make a difference. Marriage and child-rearing is a means of taking dominion and bringing the world into submission to Christ. It takes our impact for God down through the generations and multiplies it. Marriage is a means of sanctification. It pulls us out of ourselves and teaches us selflessness, patience, gratitude, and generosity. Marriage is a good thing worth desiring and pursuing. It is God's calling for most of us.
Because marriage is so valuable and because most of us are called to marriage, we should be sensible about pursuing marriage. Other things we value we pursue with focus and determination. The effort most put into building a career, for example, is often lauded as noble and praiseworthy. A good job isn't going to land in your lap. You have to go out and build your skills, search for openings, advertise your strong points, and make the choice of which position to accept very carefully. Yet marriage is much more important than a job and more difficult to find. It is worth expending the effort to pursue it intentionally.
"He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD." Proverbs 18:22 "An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels." Proverbs 31:10 "Marriage is to be held in honor among all." Hebrews 13:4a

Friday, September 13, 2019

A Recipe for Entitlement

Take one child and give him everything he could possibly want all his life. Make sure he never goes hungry and always has his needs met. Heap to him gifts of all kinds to please and entertain him. Never make him work for these things, but rather have them appear.

Give him an education that costs him nothing, but be sure not to give him a good understanding of how people of the past have lived or how unique his particular upbringing is in the grand scheme of human history. If he counts his blessings, let it be only once or twice a year and drown that out with food and entertainment and muffle it with repetition so that he need not take it too seriously. 

Surround him with other people who are similarly prosperous and be sure not to let him come in contact too often with those less fortunate. Let him make his friends from those who have also never had to go without. They will only convince him that prosperity is normal. 

From these formative experiences, he will almost certainly come to believe that the world he lives in is horrific when it fails to fulfill his least fantasy and this will leave him dissatisfied and depressed at the imperfections rather than grateful for what he has. 

Be sure to tell him he's wonderful and smart and informed as he is, and let him assume from this that he need not learn from his elders or study the past in order to learn from it. He's going to change the world, you see. Why would he need to know about the past? His elders obviously did it all wrong or else all the problems would have been solved by now. But he is better than they. He sees the imperfections they seem not to notice. Arrogance is as important as ignorance if you want a really fine case of entitlement. 

After this preparation, he will be ready to follow anyone who promises him one of his fancies and will, in pursuit of this purported improvement, think himself a very fine person to be changing the world in such a way. The sacrifices of the past that have placed him on this pinnacle will be unknown to him and thus unheeded. And in his ignorance, he will destroy all that has brought about his bountiful prosperity because he does not even know that it exists. It will be to him like water to a fish - just his normal habitat which is always there and which he never sees or thinks about.