The Church Is Fighting Yesterdays Battle

Right now there is a lot of reporting out there about the American Evangelical culture and it’s impending doom.  While I think that reports of it’s death have been greatly exaggerated, it should lead to a lot of reflection in all sorts of contexts.

As I watch it unfold and watch the church interact with the culture in several ways and in many different contexts I see a couple of things that we have to get past.  These things play out in all sorts of different ways, but of particular interest here in the space, is in relation to singleness.

Here are two major problems (not that there aren’t more – as well as many good things) that I see over and over again in different cultural exchanges.

First, the church is in constant reaction mode and almost never in leadership mode.  There are numerous reasons for this including insulating ourselves and living in fear of everyone else’s opinion.  We want everyone to like us – and come to our events.

Secondly, we come late to every fight.  Now in fairness – we almost always get there – just not usually first, or when the problem starts.  So bottom line, we react to what is going on around us too late, and then fight the battle that we should have fought earlier.

There are sooooooooo many examples of this in the last 50-60 years.  Marriage is one – I don’t remember the protests when no fault divorce was being ratified state by state across the country.  I don’t remember bakers not doing third weddings?  But now we want to take a stand on marriage.  Here’s one happening right now.  We are now in the last decade or two really figuring out that we ought to do poor urban ministry – heck we should even all move there.  But the next wave – it’s already coming – is called the rural poor.** I’m not seeing a bunch of hip young believers heading out there to “live among” the people.  That’s probably a little harsh.  But the point is valid.

What made me think of this is a recent sermon series from a church about family.  I’ve talked a ton here about the the churches nuclear family idol.  To this particular church’s credit while they did talk about the nuclear family, they started and clarified that the church is a family and we have many different family make ups.

But regardless it was their series description that got my attention and that I want to discuss today.  The first part of that read something like this: Our families are in crisis, marriages are crumbling, kids are hurting . . . .Rediscover how the family (read nuclear) can be transformational.

I’m not picking on this church today.  But this is a great example of the problem.

For starters, the idea that families are crumbling is only sort of true.  Actually most marriages aren’t in crisis.  The divorce rate is actually going down slightly for first time marriages.  Even better news is that the idea that divorce is rampant among practicing believers is not true at all.  The funny thing about this is that the church probably should take some credit here.  But instead of pointing to the success of their marriages, they are reacting to the sky that was falling 25 years ago.

The reality is that the boomers caused the divorce rate to skyrocket. They’re still doing it actually – now they are leading an all time rise in “gray divorce“.  But the new problem, the one going on right now, is not divorce – it’s lack of marriage.  It’s the fact that people aren’t getting married.  The new “family” problem is not “My parents got divorced”.  It’s literally that “My parents were never married”.

You see while people aren’t getting married (or divorced – as much) they are still having sex, living together, and having kids (sometimes alone on purpose – future post).  40% of the kids born in the U.S. today are born out of wedlock.  Don’t look for that number to drop.

Basically what we are doing is telling all the people who probably won’t get divorced, how not to get divorced.  I guess that’s good.  It’s for sure easier.

The problem we are facing now is different.  Why aren’t people getting married?  We have to be willing to actually look at the real answers to that.  Why aren’t they at church?  66% of the people that don’t go to church are unmarried.  We have to be willing to deal with the real reasons for that.

If we want to go make a difference in culture we have to figure out how to talk to single people.  We have to stop being the church for the family and start being the church that is a family. We need to stop looking to save the family and start trying to save the people.  If we do that, the family part will take care of itself.

 

** For free – Read that link and ask – where’s the church in this story?  We should be going there now.

 

Don’t Be A Singlist

I knew it would happen.  In an era of hash tags and isms it was only a matter of time before our growing unmarried population found a way to play the same card.

It’s finally here single folks.  You’re very own ism.  Singlism.  This is the new word for the way that singles are discriminated against in our society.  I guess the people doing it will be called Singlist?  Man the church for sure is #singlist.  No doubt about that.

Bella DePaulo is a single lady in her sixties and a harvard trained social scientist has “coined” the term.  (Man I wish I had gotten to it first).  She defines it as “the stereotyping, stigmatizing and discrimination of people who are not married”.

Oh but it gets better.  Married people of course have “marital privilege — the unearned advantages that benefit those who are married”

DePaulo actually points out many things that we’ve talked about here.  Married people make more money than single people.  Not only that, but due to tax laws, family leave acts, along with other systemic Singlism issues in the corporate world such as insurance rates and even travel packages, singles end up paying more for things.  All of that is true.

Man, I was a victim for so long, and I didn’t even realize it.

If DePaulo thinks singles in the secular world have it tough, she should try the Church. In the Church it’s hard to get a job as a pastor if you are single.  Often singles are not offered positions of leadership even in non-paid positions.  And they have to endure marriage sermons, conferences and a barrage of bad Christian romance novels. #suffering #singlechristianproblems.

Now I want to be clear, if I were running things I’d change a lot of this.  Obviously I have constantly advocated here many times that the Church needs to change how it deals with singles.  But that starts not with creating a new victim group but instead actually dealing with whole body of Christ including all forms of singleness and marriage.

What I have never advocated and do not advocate is turning singles into a special group in and of themselves.  There are a number of reasons for this.

The first is that as I’ve pointed out many times, singleness is a terrible term.  We have to get that there are many different groups and each has their own standing and context in the Church.  There are the widowed, the divorced, those called to marriage who aren’t and then those who are celibate for life either because of gifting, choice, or the sin of man. These are absolutely not the same.

Second, to me the idea of singlism implies that it works the same as say racism or sexism etc.  The problem with this is that for most of us, being single is sort of our choice.  Our race or sex is not (at least from a biblical perspective – I can’t believe I have to type that).

Now I know that right now some of you are saying, “but I’m not single by choice”.  Ok, I hear you.  Let me make a couple points about that.

For starters saying that there is singlism when a significant amount of people are simply single because they lack the ability/desire to make a lifetime commitment to a person is ridiculous.  Every single person who is sleeping with or living with someone does not count as living the single Christian life.  In no way are they a victim of the people with marital privilege.  GIve me a break.

Secondly, most people could get married to someone if they wanted.  Not all.  But most.  I was single until I was nearly 41.  But there were people I could have married.  But many things kept that from happening.  Some of those things were my own fault.  Some were issues that I needed to deal with but again, I had to choose to deal with them.  Sometimes I chose the wrong person to date.  Sometimes someone didn’t choose me.  But I had choice many different times.

That is not to say that everyone who is unmarried had that choice.  Obviously a widow didn’t choose to have their spouse die.  Divorce can be a choice, and most often is, but if the person divorces you, that might not be your choice.  But again those are different contexts from not being married yet. So I guess in that sense you could be a victim.

Finally, most single people are working at or at least hoping for a time when they are not single.  Do the same people who are single now want to give up this supposed marital privilege when they get married?

Frankly the only people who can claim singlism are the people who are gifted, called or forced into celibacy.  So perhaps we should call it celibacism.  That’s not quite a catchy though.

I acknowledge that we have a problem with how we deal with singles.  We really should change many of our laws because honestly, we should want to treat people fairly regardless of marital status.  This should be especially true in the Church where the Church family should trump the nuclear one.  But playing the victim and equating singleness to race is for sure not the way to go about it.  Instead we need to actually deal with what marriage is and help people walk in each of the contexts of singleness.  Our problem is more in how we view the whole thing.

What’s crazy is there is still time for the Church to lead here.  Now that would be a movement worth getting behind. #Crazy #Leadership #Biblical

A “Big” Christian Singles Problem We’re Ignoring

In the late 1960’s 60% of those 19-29 were married.  That number now is only 20%. That’s a whole different ballgame.  Half of America is unmarried.

There are a whole lot of reasons for this.  We’ve talked about it many times here in one way or another.  Lack of ability to interact with the opposite sex, fulfilling sexual desire outside of marriage, creating false spiritual platitudes, and over spiritualizing the whole thing, just to name a few.

But there is one thing that I haven’t talked about here.  And this is going to probably make some people uncomfortable and possibly even mad.  But to not talk about it at all, seems to me to be a cop out and if you read here at all, you know I’m not usually willing to do that.  So here goes.

I think one of the unnamed reasons we have less marriage comes from one of the sins and addictions that we don’t like to talk about in the Church.  That is our bad relationship with food and the sin of gluttony.

I’ve mentioned before that attraction is not a choice. Ok I’ve mentioned that about a hundred times.  Now to be fair, I’ve also talked about how our attraction scale is jacked up, and how there is no one who is perfectly attractive or attracted.  I’ve clearly stated that there will always be someone “hotter” and that we need to be careful as to what we “require” for attraction.

But again, attraction matters and we don’t get to sidestep this fact.  From a physical standpoint this is especially true when it comes to how we deal with women and their attractiveness to men.  Again, we correctly point out that our standard of beauty is warped.  We have created an airbrushed world that no woman can live up to.  That is absolutely right to point out and fight against.  But that doesn’t give us a pass on dealing with gluttony (for men or women).

To ignore this issue is a mistake.  According to the CDC 69% of Americans age 20 and older are overweight.  35% are obese.  Now we can argue over what counts as overweight and BMI and all of that.  That’s fine.  But bottom line there are a lot of people struggling here.  In case you are wondering, Christians are doing worse here, not better.

My point here today is not to “fat shame” anyone.  I don’t want to shame anyone, for any reason.  It’s also not to put more pressure on anyone to look perfect.  But I think that the fear implying those things or of dealing with this issue in the wrong way, has pushed us into not dealing with issue at all which is not ok.  It’s as if due to our fear of being politically incorrect we have stopped being honest and this is not helping us as singles or marrieds.

Food, just like alcohol, porn, and many other things can be an addiction.  Just like we have a broken relationship with sex in our culture, we also have a broken relationship with food.  In fact, I’d say that they often sort of play on each other.  Just like there are people in bondage to sexual addiction and drug addiction, there are people in bondage to food in one way or another.  It can for sure be a coping mechanism and one that leads excuses, lack of self control, and rationalizations just like all the afore mentioned vices.

This is important for many many reasons.  There are the obvious heath issues.  But as a single person, it matters in specific ways because you are sending a message with your appearance.  All of us are.  If we are overweight – especially if we are considerably overweight – we could be sending a message that we are out of control, are undisciplined, aren’t good at taking care of important stuff, or just don’t care.

It also affects how we feel about ourselves in two very important ways.  First, if we are unhealthy we don’t feel good.  I mean this is sort of obvious, but if we don’t feel healthy it’s hard to engage with life the way we want to.  It also affects our confidence and how we carry ourselves.  If we see ourselves as unattractive it’s infinitely more likely that others will as well.  It for sure affects our confidence when it comes to how we interact with the opposite sex.

I think that in the Christian culture we often like to pretend that none of this should matter. After all we should just love people where they are at.  I agree.  But part of loving someone is helping therm deal with reality.  If we tell people that it doesn’t matter and shouldn’t have anything to do with them attracting a spouse, to me, that’s lying.

Now in the same way we can’t just stand in the pulpit and tell men to “man up“, we can’t just stand up in the pulpit and say “lose weight”.  We have to actually walk with people. We have to do the hard work.  That starts with honest assessment.

I’ve said before and I’ll say it now.  One of the things about my 20+ years as a single is that I wish more people would have given me more practical help and less spiritual platitudes.  We don’t control a lot about our appearance.  But we do control some things. We should work on those.

Is He Gay?

About 20 years ago on a random cold night I was hanging out with my brother and sister. We had planned to go to a movie but got snowed out. So we settled for a snack at a nearby McDonald’s and as so often happens when you actually stop and share a meal, a real conversation broke out.

My sister was dating a guy and it was heading to marriage.  As we were talking somehow my sister brought up that they were not going to kiss until they got married.  My brother and I both must have had some sort of astounded look on our faces as she quickly said, “It was his call actually.”  My brother and I both looked at her and one of us jokingly said, “Is he gay?”

Now it’s not my intention today to get into homosexuality per se.  Not because I’m afraid of that conversation (in fact I have a lot of thoughts about that), but because that isn’t the point of this post.  Neither is my point really about the decision my brother-in-law made. I’ve talked about kissing before, but almost oddly I’ve never really done a post on “how far is too far” in the two years I’ve been writing here.  I have a post on fleeing sexual immorality coming soon.

What I want to talk about today though is how we think of single men who are living virtuously.

Our current culture obviously thinks everyone should sleep with anyone.  But our evangelical culture is different, they think everyone is sleeping with anyone and even they find it weird when they aren’t.  The funny thing is, the Church’s answer to singleness is “Don’t Have Sex” but when someone doesn’t, it shocks even them.

We have a totally warped view of Christian men.  It starts with the assumption that we are all (all men including Christians) driven primarily by lust.  In a sense the message is that the truest thing about us is that we, if not held in check, will have sex.

But when a man, actually lives a virtuous life then he’s sort of weird.  And if he does it into his 30’s then he is really different.  Between what our culture says, and how we handle it as evangelicals, it’s no wonder that eventually men become what we tell them they are.

The older you get as a man, if you stay a virgin, the more you are viewed as, well, different.

This plays out in a lot of different ways.

Take for example a man who may be called to celibacy.  Since we have no teaching on celibacy and what it is, (and I mean absolutely none as in nada, as in I’ve never in 23 years of church heard one sermon, attended one seminar, men’s retreat, heard a podcast, or read one book), we view those called to it as “different”.  We think for example that a man called to celibacy is someone who, because he has “the gift”, doesn’t struggle with wanting to be with women.  And wait. . . you know who else doesn’t struggle with that . . . men who are attracted to men. . . hmmmm.

The reality is that men, especially early on in their call to celibacy, might very well be very attracted to women.  It’s just not their call to get married.  But we have no reference point for that.  Because we don’t, we don’t know how to encourage them, and we certainly don’t know how to help a man determine if he is called to it.

Now a lot of this can be in our own heads, but it’s not only there.  I’ve led a ministry that reaches out to high school kids for almost 20 years.  When I was younger and single I never thought about it.  But as I reached my early thirties, it creeped into my head, “I wonder what people think when I as a single 33 year old talk to a group of high school girls, or for that matter guys?”  In our environment I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought it.

The problem is that when we see a thirty plus year old single guy, we want to put them into a neat little category.  Here are a few

First we assume sin

  • He is a player who won’t settle down.
  • He is struggling with secret sin – porn, habitual masturbation and the like

If he is virtuous in actions then

  • He is really nice guy who doesn’t have what it takes with women
  • He is too focussed on work/ministry.
  • He lives with his parents and or plays video games all night
  • He is attracted to men

Now any of those could of course be true.  But should we really assume any of them? Should our only answers to singles be based on that assumption?

I want to say a lot more about this in the coming days.  But we need to change two major assumptions.

  1. Just because a person is celibate does not mean they are not “attracted” to women and
  2. Men are not inherently controlled by lust

If we don’t change these two, at the end of the day we are actually pushing single men towards them.

So church let me ask you this.  When you see a 35 year old single, never married man, what first comes into your head?

The Danger Of Church Dating

One of the things that people used to ask me all the time about my “search” for a wife was something to the effect of, “Have you tried at Church?  I mean there are all sorts of women there.  Are you asking them out?”

What makes this an even better question in my case is that throughout my 30’s I attended a church of the hot chick.  In other words I attended a church in which there were lots of single people, many of whom were attractive.  In fact many people go there partly because of this.  I mean what better place to meet someone than a 2000 person church where singles are actually welcomed right?  Well sort of.

Here’s the thing about “Christian” dating – it’s never simple.  It’s a huge disadvantage really.

For starters, it can be hard to figure out the approach etiquette at church.  I mean the “talk to them in the lobby” thing has some value, but our lobby was small and the window to approach was short. But that is nothing compared to the mind games you have to play.

In the church as a guy, if you never approach anyone then you are obviously passive, and not a real Christian leader.  But if you approach too many people you are “that guy”.  And here’s the best part about that.  There are two “that guys”.  The one who approaches and gets shot down by everyone and the one who is successful in the approach but then decides he doesn’t want a second date (or third, or fourth, or doesn’t want to marry that girl).  In a hurry you become either the creeper or the player.  Welcome to dating in the church as a guy.

To top it off, you get to be called out by the pastor.  “Men just need to man up and initiate.” As someone in a class I was teaching a couple of weeks ago said, “You need to ‘man up’. But only once.” Truth!

Here’s the reality.  In our church culture, the church can be one of the least safe places to ask someone out.

Think about it.  If I go to a bar, for example, I approach a girl, she says no, I move on. There’s a good chance she won’t be there in a week.  Or I just go to a different bar if I want.  Grocery store, book store, mall, your waitress, and certainly online – all way safer. Less blowback and less expectations.  Heck the only thing more dangerous than church might be work. . . maybe.

There a lot of reasons for this.  I won’t even try to cover them all, but here are a few (I’ll have more to say about some of these later).

It starts with the general idea in evangelical culture that women are basically innocent and men are basically lustful or immature.  You don’t hear many sermons about it being time to woman up.  There is not space in this post to get into this but think about it for any length of time and you see it.

In church the expectation is marriage.  This isn’t all bad.  It should be the ultimate goal of dating.  But it shouldn’t be the goal of the first date.  If a guy approaches a woman, she shouldn’t have to answer if she wants to marry him, just if she wants coffee.  At the same time, for the love of all things, a few dates does not a marriage make.  No other context creates this type of pressure.

If it goes bad, you still have to go to church there.  In other words, I like my church.  If I ask someone out, she’ll still be there next week.  What if she says no?  What if she says yes? What if we kiss and then break up?  What if I then ask someone else out?  No matter what happens this is both people’s place of worship.

It only takes one scorn woman to mess with your reputation.  Choose wisely.

I know this much – I always hesitated to ask out anyone from church.

This needs to change.  Here are a few quick thoughts on how.

First off we need to get in our heads that both men and women are good and bad. Men need more than the three categories of creeper, player, and perfect.

Second men and women need to show each other this grace thing we all talk so much about.  I remember once I asked out this woman from church.  She said yes, and then changed her mind to no.  I was frustrated and we had a bit of a rough exchange. I then realized she was into someone else.  I walked up to her the next Sunday and simply said, “Hey, are we good?”  She said yes and you know what we were.  Revolutionary I know.

Third and maybe most important.  If the leaders of a church are going to tell men that they need to “man up”, then they better dang well have their back when they do.  The male leadership of the church need to be able to stand up to women, not just stand up for them.  I’ve been blessed to have seen this done well at my church several times.  It’s huge. There’s a time to call out both the creeper and the player, but there is also time to stand up for the guy and tell the woman to let it go.

What about you?  What would make the church a safer place to pursue women?  What is your church’s culture of dating?  Does it make you want to pursue or scare you off? How would you change it?

Are You Good In Bed?

Earlier this week I shared about three questions that all men wrestle with in some way.  “Are you good looking or not?” “What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?” and “Do you have a small or big penis?” All of us have answered these questions in our head, but almost no one has answered them out loud – at least not in any meaningful way.

And yet how we answer them affects many aspects of our lives, none more so than how we interact with women.  This is because all of these answers affect the core confidence we need that in order to pursue, attract, and eventually love a woman.

These questions have to do with three areas of our life – our self image, our shame, and our sexual prowess.  I’ve written a lot about our self image, and I wrote this week about our shame.  Today I want to talk about the third question.  So buckle up men.

The issue of having confidence sexually is gigantic in how we feel about ourselves as men and therefore how we interact with women.

First, let’s just admit that this is true.  Men are about performance.  This is why everywhere you turn you see sexual enhancement drugs, workouts, and techniques.  A man’s greatest fear is failure.  As Eldrege says, every man is asking, “Do I have what it takes?”  No where is this more true, or more scary and vulnerable, than sex.  Nowhere!

Every guy is asking the question do I have what it takes to be good sexually with a woman. In simple terms – “Am I Good In Bed?”  Every Guy.  Our answers are all jacked up.

Most of us began to have the question answered when we were very young.  There are so many factors.  Do you have a father that even broaches the subject?  What happens in the boys restroom in elementary school?  What are you comparing yourself to?  The guy next to you?  The guy who developed before you?  The guy in the porn video? (Average age a male sees internet porn for the first time is now 11).  It can also be affected by our view of sex, abuse, being emasculated by peers or parents or both.

Sometimes the answer is that we are “small” and that we don’t have what it takes.  Often we get no answer at all.  Almost never do we get a positive answer in the right way.

So we of course go and try to answer it.  We might dominate women or become extremely sexual to prove our prowess.  This is the guy who lives for sex and is always out to, “get some”.  We might seek to control the answer by fantasizing or looking at porn.  But this usually just brings about shame, and can undermine the question once again.

And in the Christian culture, for the most part, we are told to bury it, kill it, or starve it.  In fact, we are told basically, “Don’t look, don’t touch, don’t explore, but don’t worry you’ll magically know what to do when you get married.”  It’s like there is supposed to be a Christian switch when it comes to sexual prowess.  Don’t have any, and then man up and have it.  Really?!

It seems to me that most Christian guys end up in one of two camps.  Be a Christian but have sex anyway which leads to the obvious problems.  Or, we go without touch, without intimacy and therefore end up freaking out when we get to it. Sex becomes this taboo thing. We end up having fear and passivity around women, especially a woman we are really attracted to.  We don’t know what to do, partly because we aren’t sure we could do it – as in literally “do it”.

We live in a culture in which the average guy gets married at  28-29 years old.  What that means is that in the Church we are asking a guy to go about 15 years of his life (during the most crucial time when he is answering all of his life’s questions – including this one – for the first time) to not have sex.  My contention is this:  We can ask him to not have sex, but we CAN NOT ask him to not have an answer to this question.  Because he WILL answer it.

While this affects how we interact with women, its much bigger than that.  This answer affects how I do other things in my life.  It affects how I relate to other men, how I relate to my own body and self image and even how I interact at work and play.  This question matters.  I would submit that even if I’m called to celibacy in the kingdom, I’d still better have an answer to this question. It’s crucial no matter what.

In my next post I’m going to take a stab at what I think the Christian community can do to help guys answer it.  But before we can get help, we need to check what our answer is to the question right now.

Do you have what it takes to be good sexually with a woman?  Where does that answer come from? How have you tried to answer it?

The Marriage Is Hard Movement

The other day over lunch a young friend said, “I think it’s the trendy thing in the Christian world to make sure that everyone knows that marriage is hard.”  Haha – Amen.  For sure in the hipster Christian world it is.  In fact it’s so trendy that if your marriage isn’t “hard” then you aren’t cool, must not get it, and are probably heading for disaster.  Man we have over thought this thing.

To begin with it seems sort of counter productive to keep telling this to a group of people (those aged 18-29) that aren’t getting married.  Only 20% of them are married.  So if the goal is to warn people – well then – good job!  Seems to be working.  No one is rushing into marriage.  In fact they are rushing away from it.

As the divorce rate rose in the late 20th century, the Church rightly reacted to re-estabish marriage as a covenant and not just a contract.  They wanted people to make sure they knew it was permanent and that even when it’s hard you hang in there – because less and less people were.  All good so far.

But I believe as an unintended consequence we’ve now got a Christian culture that has made an agreement with the enemy by accident.  They’ve made marriage out to be harder than singleness.  The words Marriage and Hard are now interchangeable in Christian culture.

It doesn’t help that a lot of this generation’s pastors bringing this message are generally kind of joyless to begin with. (For free – one thing the New-Calvinists and Emergent Church leaders have in common – They’re both mad).  These people want to make sure that everyone gets the seriousness of marriage, which is great.  But if we let that steal the joy of marriage then both the married and unmarried are screwed.

On top of this our generation whines a lot.  I’m a part of it.  Think about it.  My job is hard, my school is hard, singleness is hard, times are hard.  Everything seems to be hard and everyone wants to make sure you know that they are suffering just as much as you. Hardness is a badge of honor.  Joy isn’t even on the radar.  I’m dead serious.  There’s a spirit of complaining that is rampant in our world. Can you picture your grandparents sitting around talking about how hard any of those things are?

We spend more time complaining than doing something about it.  How many men’s “accountability” groups are really “share your problems” groups.  “Yeah Bro, that’s tough.” is about as much help as we offer each other.  We’re all about empathy and understanding, which are important.  But at some point, it’s time to actually deal with your stuff, not just have a great premium beer while talking about it.

Marriage is hard because dealing with our sin and woundedness is hard – and marriage forces the issue more than any other relationship.  But marriage isn’t the problem.  We are.  We don’t need to be afraid of marriage – we need to deal with our crap.

Over the years I’ve walked with a lot of people in tough marital situations.  What usually happens is this.  I listen to a guy for about half an hour pour out all that is wrong with his wife.  Then I ask a couple of questions.  And the next thing you know I’m saying something to the effect of, “This is really about you.  You need to deal with . . . ”

Now sometimes a guy has been sinned against or his wife is really going through something horrible and I’m not negating that type of thing.  But about 90% of the time when a guy says to me that marriage is hard what he really means is, “I don’t want to –  face this wound, deal with this sin, make this change or grow up in this way.”

The truth is that in the long run, marriage is not “harder” than singleness.  All research I’ve ever seen (almost all secular) says that married people are happier, have more and better sex, make more money, live longer and impact society more.  It’s a societal foundation. That’s not to say that being single is “wrong”.  Some are called to celibacy and some are single for other reasons.  My point is that a whole lot of this trendy “marriage is hard” stuff is more about sounding deep than actually dealing with deep stuff.

Maybe most importantly, we need to realize that hard and bad are not synonyms – even if our comfort culture tells us they are.  In the kingdom, hardness and joy are not opposites.  That fact is part of our witness.  But we lose our witness if we leave out the joy part.  Read that again.

As singles looking to be married we need to walk a line here.  We need to realize that marriage is not sex and romance on demand and it certainly won’t solve all of our problems. But we need to not give into the lie that it’s so hard that we probably can’t do it.  Don’t resign to it being bad.  It also would be good to start dealing with our sin and woundedness now.

I’d encourage married folks to think about what you mean when you say it’s hard.  What’s the point you’re really making?  Why are you making it?  As a warning?  As an excuse? Are you dealing with what is specifically making it hard right now?