Carrie Underwood accidentally stirred the the twitter pot recently when in an interview with Redbook she said that at 35 she may have missed her chance to have a big family. This was of course one answer to one question in the interview but people jumped on it.
Now Carrie wasn’t trying to say that no one over 35 can have a kid. She also went on to say that they have talked about adoption and they do a lot to help kids which she enjoys. But that wasn’t good enough for many who insist that there are no limits to fertility.
I bring this up because I think we need to be honest about where our culture is at. Especially as we navigate singleness, marriage and children.
First, we have convinced ourselves that 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40. But that simply is not true. We tell folks not to hurry and grow up, to enjoy life before marriage, to take advantage of singleness. Frankly we worship youth in our culture.
One reason the secular culture (with the western Christian culture often tagging along) worships youth is that we don’t have a right view of eternity vs. the temporal life. Without going into a complete ten page theological dialogue here I want to address this.
In the temporal life we have a physical, and even eventually a mental peak. What I mean is that at first, physically we are growing and then maturing. But at a certain point, we start to age in a different way. We have passed our peak physicality. This is true for me at 45 years of age. I can get in the best shape possible but odds are I won’t jump or run or even lift what I did in my 20’s. All of my reverse dunking on the basketball court is in my past, not my future. Eventually my body will diminish even more. Someday, my mind will probably start to do the same. This is called reality.
In our current culture people don’t want to peak, so they come up with ways to extend the peak. Now I’m not suggesting that we should quit working out at 40. Not my point at all. But the goal isn’t to stay young, it’s to stay in the best shape possible because our bodies are from God (not to mention we will feel better and all the other benefits of that).
What I’m suggesting is that worshipping youth and denying reality is not healthy. It is especially not healthy if it is used to justify not growing up, not being committed to growth as a person while denying consequences. I think this mentality is one of the things that really hurts single people today.
We’re telling people, and in frankly in particular women, that you can have it all. But you can’t. None of us can. Our choices have consequences. If we don’t talk about those consequences with young people we are setting them up to be severely disappointed as they get older.
Now I know that there are exceptions. I also know that science and medicine have in many ways extended not only our age expectancies but also women’s fertility. But there are costs even to that. If a woman waits until her late 30s to start having kids she is more likely to have trouble getting pregnant and more likely to have complications affecting both her and the child. These are actual facts.
This doesn’t even include the fact that it is harder for a woman in her 30s to get married than a younger woman. Again, we can cry that it’s not fair. I get that. But that won’t make it any less true.
Now here’s the thing, I’m not telling anyone what choices to make. What I want to suggest is two things.
First, understand that you are probably not the exception. In other words, count the cost of your decision making. Do you want to get married? Do you want a big family? Then go ahead and work for that. If that’s not what you want, then don’t. But don’t believe the lies that you can have all that you want whenever you want it without any cost. Live in the real world.
Secondly, I want to encourage you regardless of what you want to see the eternal view not the secular one. What I mean by that is that when you view your life as a believer from an eternal perspective, it changes the peak dynamic. You will still have a physical and mental peak in the temporal life. But that’s not the end. Instead, when you die you will be with Jesus in the present heaven, which will be better than any peak you had here. Then at the resurrection and renewal of all things – the final heaven – you will never peak. You will continue to grow and grow and grow.
What this means is that I can go ahead and grow up. You don’t have to fight to “stay young” so to speak. We can have a long view and understand that God is growing us overall, calling us to grow more and more. That even in my aging in the temporal life, God is growing me. There is no need to delay adulthood. There is no reason to delay responsibility. In fact the opposite is true. You want to grow as much as possible.