Just over 10 years ago I was meeting with a group of about 30 juniors and seniors. A female volunteer and I were leading a session on sex and dating (because if you are a good youth person you must do this right?). But anyway, I asked a simple question that brought me a somewhat shocking answer. I said, “How many of you think that you will get married one time and stay married to that person forever?” Only about half the kids in that room raised their hands. This was in the middle of Missouri . . . in 1999.
We so often refuse to deal with the reality of culture. The divorce rate is 50%. 49% of adults are not married. 80% of adults aged 18-29 are not married. That is the real world. Why?
There are many reasons. Last week I said one of the reasons is that we have become more self centered. Today I’d like to talk about another huge reason. People are scared crapless of marriage.
There’s this idea in the “Christian” world that marriage is less respected today. I get that thought and I don’t totally disagree. But I think it is a huge oversimplification of the problem. I actually think that most young people actually do respect the idea of marriage, which is one reason they are so scared to commit to it. They’ll do anything but get married. They will date the same person forever, keep trying to find the perfect person, try out sex, live together and heck even have kids together. Anything but get married. Some of that is selfishness but some of it is just pure unadulterated fear.
What is everyone afraid of? Several things actually.
First, in a general sense people are afraid of screwing up marriage. They are scared they won’t be able to do it or that they aren’t ready to do it (which of course no one is). You see they’ve seen it done mostly wrong. It’s now more normal in our country to grow up in a “broken home” than a complete one. Kids have grown up seeing their parents in one of two situations. Many have seen divorce and all the cost that comes with that. And if that is the choice then let’s not get married at all. They don’t think divorce is ok. They have sworn not to let it happen to them and the best way to ensure that is to avoid marriage. Believe me, I’ve talked to these people. They’d rather have a kid out of wedlock than be divorced. Less drama.
Secondly a lot of people have watched parents in marriages that are completely dysfunctional and they don’t want that either. They believe in marriage but they haven’t really ever seen it work.
People are also afraid of community and commitment to others in general. I mean think about your small group – who really is committed? Have you ever really been completely committed to anyone or vice versa? Marriage is the ultimate commitment. It’s the first human community – Adam and Eve with God in the middle. That’s how it all started and it’s still the idea. But if I’ve never had real community with anyone – how the heck do I do that with another person. . . every day. . . no matter what. . . with no exit. Get what I’m saying? We are scared of what comes with community – fighting, getting hurt, accountability, someone knowing the worst things about me. And there in lies perhaps the our biggest fears.
Men are afraid of failure. We are afraid we won’t be able to do it. Can I be a husband? Can I be a father? I don’t know what I’m doing – can I take on that fight? What if I fail? What if I choose wrong? What if I’m constantly all day reminded of my failure over and over?
Women are typically more afraid of abandonment. Not necessarily that the man will leave physically although that too. But that he will leave emotionally or spiritually. That somehow at some point something will happen and she will be alone.
Marriage is the ultimate test of these fears. Making matters worse is the fact that every guy will fail and every woman will feel alone, even in the best marriage. So why put yourself in that position. That’s crazy scary.
I don’t have space here to go at how to face all these fears (I promise to come back to it). But here’s the point for today. Many of us need to face the fact that we are scared. We need to ask where that comes from because it’s not from God. And the Church, if it is going to love singles well has to recognize and help us face those fears. Morality is not enough in the face of fear. More to come. 🙂
So are you scared? What part of marriage scares you the most? Where does that fear come from?