Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Love in marriage - a joyous celebration of life

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.

27 comments:

lady jane said...

So true, MrsT, so true.

ladyakofa said...

You couldn't have said it better!
From someone who is older than you & your husband and hasn't the slightest clue when marriage and motherhood will happen for her.

The lies of the world are all over... even and esp. in Ghana and the rest of Africa, because we're trying to keep up with the West (the Joneses).

Well said, Anna.

november said...

Mrs. T,

Thank you for articulating this so well! This one was so compelling and personal, I had to retreat from my lurker status!

When I became a Christian in my early 20s, I was in a church of highly educated men and women, people whose devotion to their studies and careers was slightly less than their devotion to God. While this did not come directly from the leadership, the culture was one that it was seriously frowned upon to marry in your 20s. I still can remember the fuss that was made when one couple decided that at 27 they were called to be married! You'd think they announced that they were pregnant and were going to live together! I was a very new, very impressionable adult and Christian still trying to learn the ropes at that time, so I took what they said as truthful and wise counsel.

Fast forward 10 years, I am now in my 30s and still single, but now I have the education, have had a few adventures in the world, for which I'm very thankful, but career-wise I'm floundering and unfilfilled. Indeed, God has used these years very fruitfully, but I am wondering if I would've taken relationships with men in which I was involved in my 20s more seriously (including preparing myself from the role and responsibilities of wife and mother) had I not been discouraged to think of marriage until my 30s. It is just within the last two years that I have begun to think along those lines.

It should be noted that two of the women that were two of the loudest voices telling me to wait to marry both married in their late 30s and just like you said both have scrambled to make babies before their reproductive years end (one has one child and probably will have no more apart from adoption, the other has two).

My case may be somewhat extreme, however, this mindset can be idolatrous. I know members of my then church were well-meaning, but education and careers, while being very important and necessary to a extent, should not come second to developing men and women into future husbands, wives and parents devoted to living their lives as God intends. That is the stuff that will last.

november said...

I should also note that after leaving that church I had a transitional year where I was visiting another church which had almost the opposite philosophy. Actually, more truthfully, they wanted people to marry when led by God, which for most proved to me when they were in their 20s.

Initially, it was a shock to my sensibilities--people were actually marrying just after college or even while still studying! "Wow, is that even biblical?!" I thought. (lol!).

There wasn't all this wait-until-you-get-settled or wait-until-you've-explored-and-found-yourself talk. Young people knew their highest calling was to be married (if they found God called them to it and most did) and they prepared themselves for it (It should be noted that I did not find the people in this church as a whole less educated than those in my former church either).

It was definitely a much healthier and godly environment in that regard.

Mrs. P said...

Mrs. T.,

What a wonderful post! My husband and I will be celebrating 6 years of marriage this coming Saturday, and indeed we married young. I was 21, and he was 22. But as you mentioned, we have grown together, side by side. How sweet it has been, knowing no matter what comes my way, my J is in my corner.
The only thing that has confounded me is this. You say being pro-life isn't being anti-abortion. Now, I am personally pro-choice, and have honestly never heard someone who was pro-life say something like that. I'm afraid I may not be grasping it in the way you intended it. Could you further explain or direct me to a post if you already have?
Thanks a bunch! And congrats on your pregnancy! My 2 boys are growing up fast. Enjoy every moment. They go by in the blink of an eye.

Mrs Mills said...

I'm 37 years old, married and I'm still afraid that "having a baby will ruin my life", even though deep down I want one. This is the harvest of my public school sex "education" from 20+ years ago. You and your husband are so wise for your years, your baby is blessed to have such good parents:)

Mrs. Rabe said...

Very well stated, Mrs. T!

I will go to Karen's blog and read her post as well. As a mother of 4 daughters, 2 of whom are in their teen years, we desire to prepare them for marriage and raising a family.

I appreciate hearing your view.

Mrs. Amy Brigham said...

Well said!

Bethany Hudson said...

A balanced and beautifully written perspective as usual, Anna. Thank you.
~Bethany

Neuropoet said...

Amen, Anna! :)

My husband and I were up much too late last night - just talking and laughing together - and the subject of how many years we've been married came up :) (over 12 years). We married very young, (well I was 17 - he was 21) and we did so purposefully. We wanted to start our family young so that we would have lots of energy to run and play with all our children - we were hoping for a large family. :) As a side effect, even though we've had a lot of circumstances that would seem like family crises, our marriage has been very solid. We were able to easily adapt ourselves to each other because we were still very young and "flexible" - it was natural to "grow up" together, if I can put it that way. :) So, while many people look at us and wonder how we could stay together in the middle of all the hardships we've experienced in life, we can't imagine living life apart. We are one flesh - we are part of each other... I know that if we had waited and married later in life - aside from the fact that we wouldn't have been able to have any children at all since I became infertile at 23 - we wouldn't have been able to join our lives together as easily. When we were young it was like we were drops of water on a windowpane that just flowed together into one larger drop - both simply coming together and going in the same direction. It would have taken a lot more work if we were older... I guess it doesn't really surprise me that divorce rates have gone up with the age of the bride and groom...

~Jenny

Catherine R. said...

I read the post...she is right on the money. It really baffles me how things have gotten so twisted. I feel sorry for people who feel guilty for wanting to get married because everyone in their life is telling them how foolish that desire is and that they need to wait 20 years until they are "ready".

So true, young marriage is a much better solution and how unfortunate that we have done everything to prevent children/people from being prepared for it.

Miss J said...

This is SO true! Especially with men being encouraged and pressured to wait on marriage, women who want to marry early don't have a lot of opportunities, because they are waiting for men to initiate, which I think is the proper order of things. It's really sad how anti-family/marriage/parenthood our society has become.

ChelB said...

Hello dear wise Anna! :) This is such a well written post. I definitely agree with what you wrote based on my own personal experience in which I was in a long-term relationship with a man who was 10 years older than me and I do believe that within the first two years of us meeting/dating we would have married (when I was 23), but I instead listened to people/influences on the outside and decided it best to wait until I was 30. At some points I did attempt to look within myself and do some soul searching, but I admit that I was caught up in the events of daily life. Of course I didn't get married when I was 30 to this man I've mentioned. Instead, at 31 I met and later (shortly after my 32nd birthday) happily married someone else! :) I can only speak from my own experience in saying that I definitely know what you mean about someone getting stuck in their "singleness" and having a hard time being flexible. Flexibility is must in a marriage and also very important when you are raising children too. Over the years I realized that it was a concern that I had in my previous relationship, but fortunately when I met my husband it wasn't anything that I even worried about. :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Anna,

What a lovely post! I wish that the whole world would read this. I wish that I had read this when I was younger. Marriage and motherhood are the best things that ever happened to me! A former career-oriented single gal, I can honestly say that staying home and nurturing my family (Husband and 2 Blessings) and home mean more to me than I could ever put into words!
Your blog is a beautiful place to visit!
God bless you and yours.
Marnie

Ewokgirl said...

You know, in some respects, this is a complicated issue, and in other ways, it's quite simple. I'm Southern Baptist, and traditionally, we marry young. But having spent 4 years at a Southern Baptist university, I've seen a downside to that. It was a competition to graduate with a diamond on the finger. The competition was unspoken, of course, but it was there. That is not a healthy attitude to have about marriage, and I've seen quite a few failed marriages from those college romances.

On the other hand, the ones that have worked seem to be those in which the man and woman were seeking God's will for their lives. This is not an absolute, as not all were Christians or even necessarily seeking God's will, but in many cases, that was the situation. When seeking the Lord's will above all else, it's hard to make a poor marital decision.

My theory on the high divorce rate is that so many people have sex before marriage, and it fools them into thinking that they're in love. A marriage based on nothing more than feelings is going to have a difficult time succeeding. Also, those who enter marriage to escape something in their lives often find that marriage wasn't the fix-it solution they thought it would be.

Then, of course, there is basic human selfishness, which any of us can fall prey to if not careful. We have a culture that tells us that we need to seek our own personal happiness above all else, so that leads to a lot of bad decisions, whether it's pre- or extra-marital sex, marriage to the wrong person, divorce, abortion, etc.

In my opinion, all of this just goes to show how badly we all need the Lord. Without his guidance, it's far too easy to fall into selfish habits and foolish decisions.

Miss Amy Smarty said...

On the Christian side of things...I've seen people go so far (in a shockingly popular movement now!) to say they are "dating Jesus". This means they are either breaking up with their boyfriend (even if he's a godly man, as I've seen before) or staying single for a good length of time to "get closer to God and concentrate on their relationship with him". This movement was very popular when I was growing up in a private Christian high school. Only the "ungodly" kids dated, and the very holy ones vowed to not begin relationships until they were finished with college or whatever.

I saw it a lot in college, too. I couldn't get it through my head how we could say on one hand "Marriage is honorable! It's great! Sex is great in marriage and you should wait!" but on the other hand display an attitude that saw delaying marriage is the best thing to do in a Christian life.

Monks and Nuns for 1000s of years have sworn off marriage to pursue the "holy life".

Why does religious life become more pure and devoted to God just because we are single?? I'm not married, but it sure seems to me that when I'm in a relationship it is MUCH harder to stay devoted to the Lord, because of the challenges of having another person's needs and time to consider along with our own! Surely marriage is really a "school of character" developed and sanctioned by God to make us be more holy and devoted followers of Him.

I, personally, am still having a very difficult time sorting out all these messages and what they mean in my life. I pray for guidance, but it's not as easy as it seems to be for a lot of people.

Miss Rose Virginia Butler said...

Well said, Anna! Just within the last few months, I've been really reading and researching what God says about marriage, and this is exactly what I've been finding.

Anonymous said...

Hello MrsT,

I have been a reader of your blog for about six months now and especially liked this post. I am so happy for you and the blessings of having the desires of your heart!

I just returned from my second trip to Israel yesterday and everytime I drove past Samaria I thought of you! It is so ruggedly beautiful.

Thank you for sharing bits of your life and thoughts!
Emily W.

Ways of Zion said...

yet another wonderful post!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Mrs. P,

You asked:

"You say being pro-life isn't being anti-abortion. I'm afraid I may not be grasping it in the way you intended it. Could you further explain or direct me to a post if you already have?"

I think I didn't explain myself very well; OF COURSE I'm against the killing of innocent unborn children by tearing them away from their mothers' wombs. There's no doubt about that.

What I meant is that I believe we shouldn't limit being "pro-life" to stickers, campaigns, anti-abortion legislations, etc. Each one of us can convey a very pro-life message simply by loving, treasuring, cherishing, and welcoming babies and children - all babies, every baby.

In a child-loving society, people's imagination will be unable to bear the horrors of abortion anyway.

Marianne said...

This post struck a real chord with me. My husband and I started dating at 23 and 25 (I'm the older one). I knew right away that he was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, the one I wanted to be the father of my (God-willing) children. He had cold feet from the beginning.

After dating for 5 years (I know), I finally had to tell him that we should be married or no longer be together (neither of us was religious at the time, so keep that in mind). He finally proposed about 8 weeks later. His parents were furious! What were we thinking??

We got married at the end of 2006. I was 31 and he was 29 --- still people were telling him that he was too young. He should still be "out there." When I got pregnant a few months later, he still had no friends who were married. Again, his parents were angry. He was too young --- becoming a father at 30, nearly 31.

Our son, who is a blessing to us, came at the perfect time --- because God blessed us with him. However, I cannot help but feel that we would have been blessed with several children had "society" - especially the urban environment we live in - and my in-laws not consistently told my husband "Just wait. You're too young. You're not ready for that burden."

Mary L. said...

Wonderful post Anna,

My husband and I got married when we were both 18. In November we will celebrate (Lord willing) our 55th wedding anniversary. We have been blessed with 6 children, all grown and married, 31 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren with 2 more on the way. In our family we encourage courtship and early marriage, with God's leading, because we teach the children (our grandchildren ) to remain pure until marriage. Long engagements are not a good idea if the couple wants to remain pure. This past June, 2 of our grandaughters were married. One is 18 and the other 19. The 18 year old and her 18 year old husband are both going to college and will both work part time for the two years that their college courses will take. The 19 year old married a man who is 23 and established in his work. They are already very joyfully expecting their first baby.

I am sometimes saddened to see the way our society discourages young people from getting married and even after marriage discourages them from having a baby for several years. Sometimes after all that waiting they find out that they can't conceive.

My husband and I are very happy together and want to make the best of whatever time the Lord allows us to remain together before taking one of us home.

Blessings to you and your husband and your dear daughter.Your blog is wonderful and is very needed today.

Mary L.

Karen said...

Wow I actually get featured on your blog lol. How exciting! Thanks! I didn't even know it till just now when someone mentioned it in a comment. I'm so glad you agree with me. I was sure I would get a LOT of debates and unpublishable comments about this, but oddly enough I did not!

november said...

Returning to the post today, I remembered that last year my mother, a Christian, told me after attending the wedding of a lady family friend who at 34 was marrying for the first time (her groom was 36 and also marrying for the first time) that her age is the appropriate age for women to seek marriage nowadays (that would of course include me!).

Mind you, by 34, she herself was married and had had me her only child (I was 10).

MarkyMark said...

Anna,

When I read the part about men suppressing their natural desires for such a long time, I couldn't finish this post; I HAD to comment RIGHT NOW. As a man, I'll simply say this: it is NOT healthy at all to suppress one's natural drives and desires-not at all healthy!

Though I no longer attend church, I am a Christian. I became one @ 27, and though I hadn't lived a clean life prior to that, I made sure I was careful about sex after that point. I have to tell you, I went STIR CRAZY!! At times, I couldn't think straight, such was the state of certain drives and urges. The fact that our faiths teach TOTAL ABSTINENCE prior to marriage, and that marriage is the ONLY righteous path to fulfill certain desires, that is a TOUGH ROW TO HOE...

And, regardless of what anyone says, marriage is provided by God to provide a righteous path for fulfilling those desires. When I combined that with the longings I used to have for female companionship, I had a very hard time of things. I'll just leave it at that.

Thankfully, my sex drive and longing for companionship have died down-finally! Don't get me wrong; the plumbing still works; it just takes some doing to get the juices flowing now, whereas this wasn't the case in the past. I feel as though I've been released from the clutches of a terrible beast...

The more I look at my life; the more I look at the lives of others; and the more I look at the overall MISERY in the world with respect to men, women, and relationships; the more I become convinced that God made us to MARRY YOUNG. For so many reasons, He wanted us to marry when we're young. As much as I would love to delve into that, I'll save it for another time, since that's a post of its own...

I could say more, but I need to finish this post of yours...

MarkyMark

november said...

Just so my grumbling won't be my last word on this topic, I must also add that God has used my single years, particularly the last few years, to help me understand and practice chastity, which is not simply abstaining from sex, but having the proper, godly perpsective on human sexuality and sexual behavior and honoring it as a result. Although I'd been practicing abstinence my entire adult life, God brought it to my attention that I still had a somewhat disordered, selfish view of sex, and it was not helped by my consumption of certain elements in the culture. On my worst days, I felt as though I was just counting the days (or years) until I could be married and "relieved". Because of my struggles, I sought to understand more about sex. That's when I learned about the importance of the self-giving, life-honoring state of being chaste, which is applicable to both single and married people and has helped me tremendously in growing in my reverence for sex, putting my single years in perspective, and also developing the proper mindset regarding sex for married life. This will be a huge blessing to my marriage.

When I think about the power and significance of the marital bond, it renews my resolve to be pure until that day when I become my husband's wife. Drawing strength from the Lord in times of particular weakness has helped as well.

Coffee Catholic said...

You're deffinately right about how difficult it is to smash two lives together after a long time being single. I was 31 and my husband was 45 when we married two years ago and although the two of us were madly in love it was a very difficult transition! And the *only* reason I delayed getting married for soooo long was because of the stupid wisdom of the World. "Go to college and get a career first or else you'll never be able to do it!" Our modern secular society acts like women and men are incapable of doing anything creative and intelligent, or anything that is full of adventure when they are older. It's as if life suddenly ends once you leave your 20's! Meanwhile, we human beings only get wiser and more interesting with age ~ what's wrong with marriage, raising children, and *then* college and career?? Or world exploration? Or any other interesting persuits? Why is that so "wrong"?? Why are we brainwashed into thinking that we can only be happy doing these things in our 20's and that if we wait until afterwards we turn into duds that have somehow "missed out on life"??
The older I get, the more I see all of the lies, lies, lies that I have been fed in my young and impressionable years by the Feminists and their agenda. And people are shocked by the anger that comes out of me on my own blog ~ and they can't understand why I'm so against Feminism! I think of all those young women that are being led astray as I type this comment... I can't help but hurt for them because I know they are going to spend the next decade or so feeling empty and lost and alone while they persue the expected course that has been pounded down their young throats by the Feminists. Some of them will find their way to happiness but so many of them will go on for years being lost and unhappy while everyone tells them they have no right to feel that way!
This just breaks my heart.