Editor’s Note: CBMW receives a lot of questions at our office email, [email protected] As a staff, we try to answer as many of these as we can. Occasionally these questions and answers are applicable to many situations. This is why we have started a series called CBMW Mailbag, in which we will periodically post answers to questions sent to our inbox. Names are changed to protect privacy.
I am 21, and there is a girl I’m interested in pursuing who is a couple years younger. She loves Jesus, and I have seen several signs that her heart is in the right place. She has a spiritual maturity much greater than most of our peers. I’ve been interested in her for several years. My parents are godly people who are saying I need to wait a couple more years so that both of us can grow and mature more since so much change happens during this period of life, especially in light of higher divorce rates the younger a couple is.
However, I am really having a hard time with that— I feel very ready to move forward financially and spiritually, and I keep thinking that we’ll both never be as mature as we could be. Additionally, and maybe I’m being reckless with this, but I think that the Holy Spirit would help us get through it if we continue to seek the Lord! These feelings for her have not gone away. I know my parents are godly people who have much more experience of walking with the Lord than I. Are they right? When I think about waiting longer, it’s almost too much for my emotions to bear, but I’m also trying to determine if that shows my heart is in the wrong place. I’ve been praying a lot for my parents to see from my view, or vice versa, but nothing has changed.
Thanks for your help— I appreciate your ministry.
Thank you for reaching out and sharing about your situation in search of godly counsel. It sounds like you are asking many of the right questions, but without knowing you personally or the girl you are interested in—let alone your parents, her parents, or your pastor(s)—unfortunately I will only be able to speak in generalities and offer what are, Lord willing, general wisdom principles.
The Scriptures command us to honor our father and mother (Exod. 20:12) and children to obey their parents (Eph. 6:1). While many of us assume these commands only apply to children still under their parents’ roof, so to speak—a figure of speech that can be applied both literally and metaphorically, such as degree of financial dependence—the command to honor your father and mother has application for grown children as well. To be sure, honoring your parents when you are young compared to when you are full grown is going to look different. Obedience is always required for children still under strict parental authority, but obedience is not always required when a man or woman goes out from under their parents and establishes their own household. The honor principle, however, must still be honored. You can honor your parents in a variety of ways, such as by seeking and heeding their advice, complying with and seeking to measure up to their standards and ways of living that are not contradicted by the Scriptures, caring for them in their old age, acknowledging the sacrifices they made for your upbringing, etc. The girl you are interested in must strive to honor her parents as well, and part of your leadership in the relationship will be helping her to do so. She is not yours until you say “I do”—she is still under her father’s headship. You both must consider him. And especially since, as you have indicated, your parents are mature, godly believers, they too are filled with the Holy Spirit and seeking what is best for you. The Proverbs tell us that wisdom is often correlated with the amount of years one has lived, and so it would be good for you to acknowledge—both to yourself and to them—that your parents probably have more wisdom than you. Your parents will not always be right, but you should always seek to honor them.
I didn’t see in your email anything about what your pastor or church community thinks about your situation. Have you asked your pastor(s)? Have you asked her pastor(s)? (assuming, or course, you both don’t go to the same church.) Marriage is one of the most significant life decisions you will make, and you should seek godly counsel wherever it can be found. God has given his church the gift of spiritual overseers in the gift of pastors. Talk to them and see what they think.
“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Prov. 5:18). I am an advocate for godly, mature couples to get married young. I think our modern technological society has unwisely overturned millennia of practical wisdom by pushing the average age of marriage higher and higher, often back into the late twenties and early thirties for women and men, respectively. While part of this is due to the remarkable increases in life expectancy over the past century, part of it is also due to negative cultural factors such as extended adolescence; the proliferation of premarital sex, which is directly connected to advances in modern birth control; and pornography; as well as changing expectations about men’s and women’s roles in society. But while the end-of-life biological realities are significantly different than they were 100 years ago, they are not significantly different at the front end of life. You are right to point out that, God willing, you will continue to grow in maturity, financial stability, etc. Often times these are arbitrary benchmarks that are used to dissuade couples from pursuing marriage when getting married is what they should do. There are, however, real benchmarks that can and should be considered before marriage, such as: (1) Are you both Christians? (2) Are you capable of providing for her and any children the Lord may give you in the first years of marriage? (3) Do you both have a clear-eyed understanding of what the covenant of marriage is, and what to expect in marriage? In my mind, these are non-negotiables. As a father, they are the very things I will not compromise on when I give my daughters away for marriage. But there are other factors to consider too, such as whether or not you have a community of believers in a local church encouraging you toward marriage and would be there to support your marriage.
This leads us to another point. Are your parents right to point out the high divorce rate among couples married young? Yes, this is a valid concern. But young couples do not have a monopoly on the divorce market. Age will not secure your marriage. Money will not secure your marriage. Romance will not secure your marriage. The only thing that will secure your marriage is a shared, loving commitment to the covenant of marriage before God and his church. If there is any doubt that either of you is any less than 100% committed to upholding the covenant until death, you should not consider marriage. Again, age is a factor to consider in assessing both of your commitments, but I have known couples who married in their late twenties/early thirties that divorced in less than a year, and I have known couples who married in their late teens that are still married with half a dozen kids and a home full of joy.
All that said, the “feelings for her” that you cited are not sufficient grounds to pursue marriage. Your feelings will most certainly wax and wane. What cannot—must not—wax and wane is your resolve to make a marriage covenant and to keep the covenant; and she must express a similar resolve. Your parents, your pastor(s), and your Christian community can help you discern the when and the who. You should listen to them, and consider the reality that they can see your blind spots. But above all, seek God’s will for your life: your sanctification. And insofar as you have a prayerfully considered and biblically counseled desire to be married, with the accompanying desire to sacrificially love this particular, Christian woman in the covenant of marriage, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4).
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