When I was a little kid I loved when my parents would take me to the toy store. The huge toy store that I remember was called Children’s Palace. It was AWESOME! I mean it had every toy. I could spend all day in the Star Wars and G.I. Joe aisles. There were endless action figures and vehicles. Now the vehicles were usually for the birthday or Christmas lists but most times we went, I got to pick out one, and only one, action figure.
When I got just a little older the stakes were as I was there to pick one to spend my own allowance money on. While on the one hand this was cool, it was also kind of stressful. There were a lot of figures and I had to choose one, just one. Usually I would narrow it down to two or three and I would spend a lot of time (or at least what seemed to be a lot of time) trying to decide. I’d look at them both, considering all sorts of things about them. And finally I’d pick one. Sometimes it was the best. Other times I had little kid buyer’s remorse and thought, “I should have gotten the other guy”. There is a lot great about this – it’s great parenting actually – you can’t have it all, you have to pick, but you get to.
As intense as it was, that was a toy. Now choose someone to marry. Yikes.
And here in lies two of the things in our culture that has created more singles than ever before. The first is that we have more choices than ever before. We get to choose if we marry, who we marry, and when we marry. What’s crazy of course, is that until about 150 years ago, almost no one ever had one, let alone all three, of those choices.
I was talking to my dad about the breakdown of the family in America. I asked him why he thought that happened? He said, “I have a theory on that” (not surprising knowing my dad). He went on, “100 years ago you lived in rural America and you were 18 and you met a decent girl – You married that girl because you might not meet another one.” As funny as it is, he’s exactly right. But then there were big cities, cars, planes, and now the internet. The choices are endless.
And then you add to that an extreme fear of buyers remorse. My generation and younger are scared crapless of getting it wrong. Half of our parents are divorced, some more than once. In the Church we’ve been told how hard marriage is and how it has all these standards. We don’t want to choose wrong. We have friends who marriages are brutal or who are divorced already. People are scared.
We know intellectually that there is no perfect scenario but the fear can drive us to not marry. It leads to all sorts of things I want to touch on more later. Things like: serial dating, fear of commitment, looking for the perfect person, consumer dating (what can they do for me), cohabitation (I’ll live with you but I’m scared to marry you), looking for faults with everyone and much more. All of these things get in the way of marriage and can lead us to stay single even when God has not called us there.
But guess what, we probably aren’t going back to arranged marriages, although I know some people who will do it for you, so that means you are going to have to choose. And there’s a lot good about that. It gives us some ownership in the process and it makes us responsible. And at the end of the day when we are married we are responsible for that.
We are going to have to choose. How will you do that?
Look for a blog about that soon, but here are some things to consider. Maybe we could use some help. Number one we need to walk with God and ask Him a lot of questions. And, we need community. I don’t think I could write enough blogs about that. We need people in our life who know us and who can be in this stuff with us, people who would say, “I’m worried about this one and here’s why,” or, “quit being an idiot and marry this person already.”
Finally we need to face this fear and ask if it is one of the things keeping us single when we don’t feel called to be. We need to ask what we are really afraid of and ask God to help us fight through. Choosing wisely makes total sense – that is from God. Being paralyzed by fear – that is not from God.
I’ve definitely seen this to be true. Living in a city where the (Christian) singles community is predominantly female, as opposed to the predominantly male city of Austin, Texas, that I previously called home, there’s a joke that there are so many choices that men don’t ask out the amazing women in the lives. They’re paralyzed by all the choices surrounding them. I’m not saying that it’s all a male problem. Hear that loud and clear. It’s simply on thought.
There’s an Indian couple at my church. She grew up in Southern India. He grew up in Florida. They met a week before their wedding. Both devout Christian families. Discussing marriage with her revealed that we – Americans – have a really messed up perspective on romance, marriage and dating standards. No big conclusions. Just interesting to consider the differences.
While, at the same time, we live in a culture where it’s harder to sift through all the various life views and discover who would be a good fit. In their culture (and 100 years ago), there was more consistency in expectations for life style, world view and faith. That’s something even our parents didn’t have to deal with as often as today.
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