About 10 years ago I was meeting with a group of young college guys who were committed to walking together. I, along with a couple of other guys, was kind of mentoring them. One of the young men had been dating a girl for about a year. He had a year left of school and she was a senior about to graduate. The question on the table that night was should they get married and if so, should they wait another year until he was done with school or just go for it.
The first question was answered quickly by all of us. Yes he should get married. She was an all star and he would be lucky to pull this off so by all means do it. The second question was a bit harder. There was discussions about jobs, money, living arrangements and the like. In other words was he “ready” to be married?
I think we have really messed up this idea of ready to be married. Recently I was talking with a group of high school guys, many of whom were graduating seniors. We were talking about this very question – when should they get married. I said that they don’t have to be in a hurry, but that it wouldn’t be bad to get married pretty early. One guy said, “If I got married before the end of college my parent’s would kill me.” I laughed, but I also kind of cringed inside.
There is this idea in our culture that you should wait a long time to get married. You should make sure you are “ready”. This idea comes from a few things.
One is that we don’t want to grow up. Marriage after all is for grown ups and I’m for sure not that. Stay young and irresponsible is the message. Stay in school. Don’t get tied down. Plenty of time for that later.
Secondly we are scared of it not working. We think if I’m not absolutely sure I’m ready that I won’t make it when I’m married. A huge chunk of the not ready crowd are driven by fear. Fear of choosing wrong, responsibility, commitment, or failure.
Finally we are of course waiting for the perfect person -who amazingly is not the person that I’ve been dating for the last year – or apparently the person I’m living with, sleeping with, and in our current culture having children with.
Of course there is the group that is maybe a little too “ready” to be married. This is the those of us who are “tired of the dating scene and ready to settle down.” We think if I can just get married everything will be right. I’m freaking ready so why isn’t it happening.
Let me suggest two thoughts on readiness.
On the one hand I think the reality is that no one is ever completely ready. Marriage is for sure two things. It is a gift from God that you don’t earn. It is also a choice. In other words at some level it could come at any time. You are not going to be a complete person when you get married. You aren’t through growing and changing. Even when you get married you will still grow and change. If you marry a person today, that person (and you) will not be the same ten years from now. In fact, part of the point of marriage is that it changes you. It forces you to grow in new ways. It is supposed to help you grow in Christ.
It’s also a choice. And you can make that choice at any time. You can either do it or not. You always have that choice.
You don’t know what will happen in your marriage. You don’t know how you’ll change or what you will face as an individual or as a couple. You are not completely prepared now and you never will be.
But that is part of the beauty of walking with God. When we are walking with Him, he is constantly leading us into deeper stuff. There is always more and marriage can be a part of that.
On the other hand I think you are “ready” when you are walking with Jesus and you meet someone you want to marry who wants to marry you. I don’t think it matters much what age you are, if you have a high enough paying job or a degree. I think what matters is do you have the capacity to deliver on the vows. If you aren’t walking with Jesus you aren’t ready. (For free this means you are also not ready for sex, cohabitation and children). If you are, and you think it’s right, then I’d say you might well be as “ready” as you’ll ever be.
I’m not saying don’t be wise. I’m saying don’t be scared. I’m not saying you’re “ready”. I’m saying don’t let the world determine your readiness.
What do you think makes you “ready” to be married? How would you know you were “ready”?