As I enter that time in life where my children grow into adults and my friends’ children do the same, marriage is a hot topic. And our grown-up kids are bombarded with unsolicited advice:
“Don’t get married unless you’re ready.”
“Don’t get married too young.”
“Don’t get married too old.”
“Don’t get married and have a baby right away.”
“Don’t get married and wait too long to have a baby.”
Seems we have constructed “perfect parameters” for the major milestones in life and those who fall outside of them are, well, not perfect. Or something.
And I tell you what I think…I think we really don’t get marriage. And I mean even those of us who think we do are so immersed in a secular view of it that we forget. We don’t know what it’s for and so our “advice” becomes empty and even destructive.
The purpose of marriage.
First, marriage is something God made, not us, and so He gets to determine its purpose. The very first glimpse of marriage that God gave us is still our clue into why He created it. Basically, Adam had a big job to do and he needed someone to help him do it.
And what was that big job? The same one we still have. Our complete existence in this life is to make known the glory of God and the reign of Christ on earth.
Not only that, but marriage was the way God would speak to the world about His unconditional love for His Church. He needed a real-life demonstration.
But the vast majority of us think marriage is to make us fulfilled and happy. Or worse, that marriage is something to delay so one can be fulfilled and happy first. Fulfillment and happiness are a common by-product of marriage, but not its purpose.
When we, or if we will force ourselves to deprogram from the movies and books and improper relationships from our lives, then we might be able to reexamine God’s design for marriage which should then equip us with wiser counsel for the young who are entering adulthood.
And as I see it:
- Marriage is something we need, not just something we desire. That small difference changes how we think.
- Marriage fulfills important work in the Kingdom of God; it’s not just a rite of passage in our culture.
- Marriage is good. Marriage is God’s.
- Marriage accomplishes what singleness cannot. Suffice it to say, that the few who have been called to singleness also accomplish what the married cannot. But for most people, singleness is not their calling. And as such, they are better with a spouse. Even singles live within a context of families. The whole Bible is a family portrait, with all playing an important part in tha portrait.
So, fleshing out our purpose and the purpose of marriage, how should that change our idea of the if, whens and hows?
As children become adults it is right and fitting that they transition into their own families. It’s part of the multiplying we were commanded to in Genesis. It’s a parents’ job to equip them for this transition.
Just as Adam needed help in his calling, so men today still need help. And just as Eve complemented him, so we still complement our husbands.
What calling? The overarching calling of pointing the world to Christ. And while we do different things and are placed in different situations, we still all are called to unite together in that mission of glorifying Christ and revealing the Gospel to the world.
Practically applying our purpose.
Practically speaking, we work, build, play, pray, disciple and grow together toward that end. And marriage is an integral part of that, with the dual purpose of the living metaphor of the church and her Groom.
When we really, truly get concerned with the business of God, seeing things from His perspective and desiring to carry out the mission His people have been given, it changes our petty parameters and foolish notions of marriage.We don’t obsess about getting married, but we certainly don’t treat it as an afterthought–something to be done after one has found himself. Ideally, a couple grows up together. Hardship and lack of experience is a boon to the success of marriage, not a hindrance.
The Singleness Disclaimer
I know there are young people who long to get married who aren’t. I think we must be sensitive to them and this post isn’t meant to imply that we “push” marriage to the extent we discourage those who are single. I fully believe that while a person is single, they are living fully if they are living for God’s glory. The single years are a fabulous time of serving and learning and growing. It should not be looked down upon. But neither should we encourage our children to think that marriage is second-rate and “full of woe”, encouraging them to wait for the perfect scenario. They are looking to us for their cues and we should be saying “marriage is a good thing.”
I pray the older generation (that’s us!) will take seriously the responsibility we’ve been given to speak truth into the next generation. We must get our theology of marriage right or the whole course is off from there. Let’s use reason with wisdom as we encourage the young adults around us. Let’s give them hope and a vision of purpose. Let’s share God’s love of covenant marriage and do all we can to encourage it. Let’s talk to them about how they can move toward marriage not about why they should avoid it.