When I was right out of college I attended a conference with several people I looked up to and their spouses. They did an incredible job of including me which was a real blessing as we went to meetings and theme parks. One vivid memory was hanging out with a couple of the guys in the hot tub at the resort when all of a sudden one guy said, “Hey Justin, sorry bro, but I’m gonna go have some sex with my wife.” To which I said, “No apology needed, go now!” We both laughed.
It was one of my first times being around a bunch of married Christian people and it was inspiring. We joked with the guys about how every one of them had married up (which was for sure true!). I saw how they were a team and yet each couple was completely different in how that looked day to day. It was awesome. And it made me want to be married.
We need more of this, and a lot less of what the Church has fallen into over the last 20 years.
God bless the Christian culture in this country but man we tend to overreact. We have been reacting to decline of the family for some time now. But in a attempt to save marriage, we are actually often adding to it’s demise.
We somehow believe that if we can make every marriage a good one from the beginning, then all will be well. But, in a culture that is already hesitant to get married, we have often made them more hesitant.
For starters we have attempted to kill the marriage idol. This is the idea that if I get married then everything will be ok. It is centered on romance and getting my needs met. It puts unrealistic expectations on the marriage. So we tell people how marriage is not about romance. We spend an inordinate amount of time from the pulpit and in books talking about how hard marriage is.
While this is true, it needs to be balanced out. Where’s the joy? Where’s the fun? What if pastors stood up in the pulpit and said, “Sex with my wife is awesome!” If the Church is so concerned that everyone get married, we should quit accidentally talking everyone out of it.
The second thing we’ve done is create an impossible standard for getting married. We lift up Ephesians 5 and of course the Proverbs 31 woman. Holy smokes! Who lives this out perfectly? Can you even be an Ephesians 5 guy if you aren’t married? We basically have said, “Whatever you do, don’t settle. You’re looking for a strong, spiritual person, equally yoked to you, who has it all together and is a perfect grown up. Don’t settle!”
Along with this is the idea that it used to be easier to find this. Really?! COME ON! Let’s talk about Biblical marriage. You married who your parents picked for you – if you were lucky. You had to stay in your caste. They didn’t typically do a spiritual maturity test first. What a joke. Have these people read the Bible?
In the “religious right” church there is even this idea that somehow there is a previous magical time where everyone in America was a Jesus follower. Although I’m not quite sure, I think this is the supposed to be the 1950’s. Just because everyone went to church and didn’t get divorced doesn’t make it “right”. The revisionist history needs to end.
Finally, we have completely over spiritualized the entire thing. If I’m single it means that I just need to be patient and do right because God has a plan. He will “bring me someone when the time is right.” Keep praying. Keep waiting on God. This sort of “help you sleep at night theology” is killing us. It makes God the “Great Withholder” and leaves us waiting for our Christian Soulmate that isn’t coming.
Now obviously I’m not suggesting we soft sell marriage or tell people to just go out and marry whoever. But if we are going to help the next generation we need to stop trying to scare people away from the wrong marriage. They are already terrified. They already know marriage is hard – they need to know it is good. They need to know about the joy of true oneness, the benefits of being in it with someone. They need to be told about the intimacy available with being with one person for a lifetime more than they need to know about the cost of a one night stand. They need to be invited to something more awesome. They need to know that they need to pursue it, not just wait on it.
Most of all, they need to see it because most of them haven’t. We need to give them hope of what it can be, not just tell them what it isn’t.
Great post! I really like the end. I often feel the same way about Jesus…we are always telling people what not to do, instead of telling people what they get to do. It is the same with marriage.
Thank you for sharing. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said here, especially this: “Just because everyone went to church and didn’t get divorced doesn’t make it ‘right.’ The revisionist history needs to end.”
And this: “We somehow believe that if we can make every marriage a good one from the beginning, then all will be well. But, in a culture that is already hesitant to get married, we have often made them more hesitant.”
I have also thought about how crazy it is that I tend to hold potential mates to standards that I, myself, don’t even uphold. I guess it’s a self-defense mechanism. Aren’t men, as “spiritual leaders,” supposed to be perfect and read women’s minds? Kidding, of course.
Now that I’m divorced, I’ve seen some of this from both sides, and now a third side.
It seems as if the church has become a culture club for married people to gather and socialize. Let’s not include the singles because they’re just interested in one thing, and heaven forbid we include people who are divorced because, after all, they’re SINNERS!
Okay… this may be a bit over the top, but maybe it’s not. I can’t help but recall Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well and a few other notorious sinners and how He treated them in comparison to how some folks in the church treat singles and those who happen to be divorced. Think, for instance, of the singles group in your local church and how many different church activities and programs truly include them. Try this: think about how many times your local church has promoted a marriage conference or some other activity for couples and then wonder why many single folks in the church really don’t feel inclined to volunteer.
Though I’m a guy, I feel for the single moms in the crowd, and what must be going through their minds as they imagine what others might be thinking of them as they bring their children in tow week after week. As a non-custodial dad (I get to see my daughter a couple times a year) who loves my church and enjoys the people in it, I can’t help but think I’m somehow seen as inferior or a clear-and-present-danger when it comes to my desire to help with the youth or in situations where kids are involved. Is there any wonder why it’s easier for people like me to simply bow out of opportunities to get to know people in my church when much of the activity is geared towards families and couples?
Thanks, Justin, for letting me vent!
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Oh my gosh! Than you so much for voicing this!