Yesterday I came upon a great post written by Karen from Be Still My Soul. Karen, a deep-thinking and insightful lady, shared her perspective on how a call to long-term abstinence can be as disastrous as promotion of birth control and "safe sex", or even more so. I would like to clarify that when I say "long-term abstinence", I'm not talking about teenagers. I mean those young religious people who are committed to preserving their chastity until marriage, but also discouraged to seek marriage until they are in their thirties.
Whether young people are told, "Here, take these pills and condoms and have 'safe sex' - just whatever you do, don't have a baby", or whether we say, "Save yourself for marriage - just don't get married and don't have babies in the next 15 years" we are conveying an oddly similar message: marriage is a burden. Having a baby will ruin your life. Delay it for as long as possible.
I have always said being pro-life isn't being anti-abortion. Being pro-life is embracing the beauty of marriage, of sex, of children, with an open heart.
When you look at us, it's amazing how late we marry. I got married a few months ago. I was 22, and my husband was 27. 27 is considered a young age for a man to marry these days, even in certain Orthodox Jewish communities. Yet these same men are also told to never touch a woman with their little finger prior to marriage. The result? They suppress their natural and normal sexual desires not for a few years, but for 10, for 15 years. Does anyone really think it's healthy?
Then they are thrown right into marriage and told to build intimacy after so many years alone. The older you become, the more difficult it is to learn, to accommodate. Is it any wonder divorce rates are soaring?
We are told that it's unwise to rush into marriage; one side tells us how we can lead nice and carefree lives without the burdens of marriage and family until our mid-thirties. The other side tells us about the spiritual "dangers" of early marriage and how we should embark on a long, long, long journey of self-search first - otherwise, we won't grow to be spiritually fulfilled individuals. We are told it's an insult to our intelligence and self-control to listen to our healthy, God-given desires for family and intimacy, and seek a marriage partner - we should rise above such petty considerations.
Society doesn't encourage us to grow up, but we must know better. Abstinence for many years is technically possible, and some have always married later in life, but it's not what we should aim for.
Like Karen said, I don't think everyone should feel the pressure to get married early. Some people would love to get married early, but it just isn't the Lord's plan for their lives. However, I do believe we should be aware of the implications of purposefully delaying marriage: the rigidity that naturally develops after many years of living alone, the narrowing pool of singles, the decreased capability of adapting to each other's needs, and (especially for women) decreasing rates of fertility, which might doom a sweet dream of having a large family, leaving a woman with enough time to have only two or three children if she is lucky.
However, I believe scaring young people into marriage isn't much better than scaring them out of marriage. Rather, we should emphasize the beauty of marriage and family, of walking down the road of life hand in hand, building a together-ness that is especially sweet because you started it so early in life. We should illustrate the beauty of motherhood, of seeing the world through childlike eyes - not only by saying it's healthier to have children while you are young, which is an argument often used. Even if we start as young mothers, the Lord might continue to bless us with children well into our mid-forties, and those children born to us when we have grey in our hair won't be any less special and desirable than those born when only a couple of years separated us from teenage-hood.
Marriage and motherhood are beautiful no matter how old you are, whether you are in your early twenties or in your forties or later. The key is to live out these noble vocations with the honor, reverence, dedication, love and joy they rightly deserve, instead of picturing them as burdens which young men and women must be warned against. Celebrating and joyously living life in all its forms is, in my very humble opinion, the very best way of being pro-life.