Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Parenting in the Marriageable Years

Is it not difficult to understand marriage before we experience it? I don't think it's impossible to get a fairly realistic picture, but I believe whatever we gain comes from purposeful quest. Unfortunately, every chemical in our body pushes us away from a careful approach when we "feel in love."

Added to the potentially raging chemicals, it seems many of us grow up with misconceptions about marriage based on books and movies and images presented to us in various forms. Before marriage, it's like all we can see is the swirling, dazzling, romantic glory of someone choosing to focus all their attention and affection on us, someone who is wanting to devote their entire life to us! Many dive into a relationship without careful thought. They pursue the delights of dating and being engaged and planning and having a wedding, and then at some point reality hits, and they suddenly realize marriage isn't what they thought it was going to be.

A good marriage costs us something.

I'm convinced God intended marriage to be a relationship that ultimately brings us to better reflect the image of Christ. If I understand correctly, His will for each of us is to become selfless, caring, serving, Christlike people who present to the world a picture of what relationships were intended to be--beautiful and deeply meaningful. Due to the natural differences in the sexes, marriage presents unique opportunities to learn this kind of living. It's a perfect place to learn more of that "lose your life to find it" concept Jesus talks about.

Being a pastor's daughter, I grew up observing and hearing about many young people as they chose spouses. Shipwreck after shipwreck played out before me, and it left me with an intense desire to make sure I didn't foolishly launch into this incredibly important relationship.

I've heard some parents push their teenagers into dating. That horrifies me! There are so many heart-breaking stories that get replayed again and again. So few learn from the experiences of others. Teenagers don't even know who they are yet! Why in the world would we expect a person who doesn't understand herself (or himself) to be able to share what they don't have with another person in the same situation? Sure, there are different degrees of maturity among teens, but think back to how much we changed and grew in our understanding of ourselves and the world around us from 16 to 25... Can children who marry barely out of their teens make it? Of course, it happens. But I wouldn't for the life of me push my children in that direction.

My heart rejoices to see single folk embrace a careful, thoughtful mentality with regard to marriage. When they are dedicated to study, to seek to understand themselves and truth, to try to get at least a little better grip on how the world and relationships work so that if they find someone (at the appropriate time) with whom they can more fully accomplish the will of God, they will have something of lasting value to bring to a marriage relationship. They will have understanding to instill in future generations as they refuse to be guided by the flesh in its drive for marriage as the ultimate goal in life, and hopefully false images of marriage will be set right by careful thought and observation.

May God give us wisdom as we try to help our children navigate through those years when such important decisions like marriage are being made. So much is at stake if they choose unwisely.