April 1, 2020

Have We Said Too Much? (About Marriage, that is)

married.jpgRecently, my daughter returned from a conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. She had a fabulous time, but she mentioned something unusual. She said that every public prayer contained a request for God to guide the conference participants in finding a spouse. This wasn’t the theme of the conference, but the conference was primarily single young college students. Was this odd?

It didn’t surprise me. Southern has become increasingly visible in the culturally confrontational Christianity of its President, Dr. Al Mohler. (A personal hero of mine, and nothing that I write here changes that, I assure you.) And Dr. Mohler is on a crusade to get Christian young students to make marriage a priority.

In August 2004, President Mohler gave an address to a group of (primarily) Christian singles under the auspices of Josh Harris’s New Attitude conference. Mohler’s summaries of the address can be found at his web site: Part 1 and Part 2. The audio of the address is also available on the site.

The address created a bit of a firestorm, as Mohler did not just endorse marriage, but specifically criticized those who delay marriage.

Singleness is not a sin, but deliberate singleness on the part of those who know they have not been given the gift of celibacy is, at best, a neglect of a Christian responsibility. The problem may be simple sloth, personal immaturity, a fear of commitment, or an unbalanced priority given to work and profession. On the part of men, it may also take the shape of a refusal to grow up and take the lead in courtship. There are countless Christian women who are prayerfully waiting for Christian men to grow up and take the lead. What are these guys waiting for?

The delay of marriage has caused any number of ills in the larger society, and in the church. Honesty compels us to admit that this is indeed tied to levels of ual promiscuity and frustration, even as it means that many persons are now marrying well into their years, missing the opportunity of growing together as a young couple, and putting parenthood potentially at risk.

Christianity Today’s Camerin Courtney responded to Mohler with “Is Singleness a Sin?”

We’re the first generation of the no-fault divorce. Many of today’s singles have lived with the consequences of young, perhaps-not-so-well-thought-through marriages of generations before. So of course many single people today are a bit gun-shy about entering an institution they saw, from a front-row seat, fail. We’re also renegotiating romantic relationships in light of recent gender role shifts in our society. Others still are healing from their own divorce, coping with widowhood, rethinking relationships after becoming a Christian later in life, or simply waiting for a healthy, God-honoring mate possibility to enter the picture. And what about those of us who feel like God is using us right now as singles? Aren’t these all logical, healthy reasons for “putting off” marriage? …

Perhaps many of us are slower to marry not because we don’t take marriage seriously, but because we do take it seriously. Because we’ve seen and experienced the consequences of hasty unions, because we’ve seen the statistical evidence that older first-time marriages have a better chance for survival, because we take very seriously the words “till death do us part.” If anything, I think rushing to marry and preaching a gospel of marriage for marriage’s sake devalues it more than our generation’s hesitancy and seeming passivity.

When Mohler calls marriage the “ultimate priority God has called us to,” I cringe. Not because I’m anti-marriage, but because I don’t find backing for this in the Bible. I don’t see the place where marriage is called a requirement. It’s called a blessing many times, but then so is singleness. The only list of Christ-follower requirements I find in my Bible is in Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” These things, not marriage, should be our ultimate priorities.

This debate is a small part of what I see as a major evolution within evangelicalism; an evolution toward overemphasizing marriage at the expense of much that is Biblical, good, healthy, balanced and normal in human and Christian experience. From the best of motives, some bad fruit is appearing.

How is it possible to “overemphasize marriage?” Mohler and other evangelical scholars do an excellent job of showing the central and important place of marriage in God’s creation order. Christians need to articulate a strong advocacy of marriage in a culture that is rejecting the Judeo-Christian ethic. We should oppose attempts to redefine or depreciate marriage. Children need to be raised, if possible, by their married parents. Marriage should be foundational to the Christian church and every vision of Christian society.

Of course, Christians must recognize the place of marriage in scripture, from its place in the creation narratives, to Jesus’ endorsement of marriage in his ministry and teachings, to Paul’s use of marriage as an honored description of God’s intimate love for his people.

How can we over-emphasize marriage? Let me suggest some trends that disturb me, and make me want to suggest a larger, more critical discussion of the current “family values” emphasis before we buy everything that is being sold in all the current rhetoric.

1. Saying that delaying marriage is bad is overemphasizing marriage. This is too simplistic, and we all know it. Don’t get me wrong. Mohler sees a legitimate problem: singleness as an excuse for immaturity and rejecting legitimate adul;t responsibilities. There are such people. I’ve met them. Kick them in the pants.

On the other hand, there are so many other legitimate, good reasons people delay marriage, it’s almost beyond belief that they are ignored. Mohler is speaking to the culture that he sees influencing America in sitcoms like “Friends.” Let me speak about the single’s culture I see at our ministry here.

We have many singles on campus. Most are single because being unmarried allows them to minister in a situation that isn’t conducive to family life. They frequently consider the balance of ministry and marriage and choose ministry. Others are single because they have no real marriage prospects. Some are delaying marriage to care for parents or to pursue a larger career path beyond OBI. Others are delaying marriage for education and the ability to travel. Our singles have unique ministries to our students that married staff do not have. Several of these singles have later married, after years of usefulness here. Of course, we also have divorced and widowed singles as well.

Frankly, many of the singles I know are more mature than I was when I was first married at 21. I absolutely encourage our high school students to delay marriage until they have matured in many different ways. Mohler is right to point out that marriage is a maturing experience, but it is not the only maturing experience, and it is not an automatically maturing experience. Idealizing marriage in a fallen world as a kind of “redemption from immaturity” is, franky, ill-advised. Sometimes, listening to the current advocates, you would think that marriage is unfallen, or at least a refuge from the fall. While I agree it is a common grace, and even has sacramental qualities, it is thoroughly fallen and is not our salvation.

Let me put it this way. Talking about delaying marriage as a mistake is a minefield. I’ve been criticized at times for being intentionally provocative in my writing and preaching. It’s a valid criticism, and I recognize the same tactic in Mohler’s approach. Sometimes it is the right thing to do. Sometimes not. I’ll vote “not” on this one.

2. We overemphasize marriage when we say only “spiritually gifted” singles are truly in God’s will. Again, when Mohler talks about those called and gifted to be “single” as the only “normative” singles, he is running along a very narrow path, with plenty of ways to fall off.

The contemporary concept of spiritual giftedness has proven to be far from perfect or even helpful in many cases. I have done far more counseling with individuals who were confused about their spiritual gift than those who were finding assurance and joy from knowing their spiritual gift. How does one know he or she is called to celibacy and their delaying or passing on marriage is approved by God? In particular, given the differences in male and female sexuality and sexual development, how does a young man know that he is called to celibacy?

The concept of being “called to celibacy” occurs in the Bible in two ways: purposeful vows to be single, and pastoral advice to those who are single. Where in the New Testament do we see a “gift of celibacy” being considered by young singles in the way spiritual gifts are discussed in today’s church?

I have total respect for all those who believe God has called them to a life of celibacy, but I have to be honest. I know many who concluded God called them to singleness who later married. Our Roman Catholic friends could tell us a lot of stories about this.

3. It is an overemphasis of marriage when marriage is automatically called a “priority” for the unmarried Christian. Here is where I hope my readers will think carefully along with me.

Marriage is important, and having a Biblical view of marriage should be part of the understanding of every Christian. Seeing marriage as God sees it in scripture, and understanding marriage in the human experience, are certainly priorities. Considering the qualities of a mate, and the qualities you need to be a mature spouse are important as well.

Does this mean that every Christian young person needs to make “finding a spouse” their major business? I say this as a youth professional and a youth minister who is watching many Christians- especially females- literally make finding a spouse the priority of their lives. Instead of boy crazy teenager girls, we have spouse-obsessed girls, who are seeing marriage as the most important, all consuming principle for living their lives. It is the focus of their prayers, the basis of their reading, the guiding principle of their involvements and a priority in all decisions.

This concerns me. It may not concern other people, but it concerns me, and it concerns me as a father of a daughter and a son. It concerns me as one who believes life is a rich and varied experience to be savored to the glory of God, and there is more than one way to glorify God in life.

I want my children to be useful and happy in the service of Jesus Christ. I want them to experience the goodness of life, and to know the adventure of living. I have invested a large part of the last twenty years sacrificing for their benefit so they can go to college, pursue careers, be encouraged as Christians and use their abilities and talents as salt and light.

If my daughter sees marriage as a goal, but sees college as more of a priority right now, is she wrong? If my son sees marriage as a priority, but wants to travel for several years with a musical group, is he wrong? Are other priorities always to be placed below finding a husband or wife? Should I be advising my daughter to put finding a husband as first on her list of priorities? Should my kids be, literally, pursuing mates in their relationships? (I use that word because I see this increasingly happening, and it’s not particularly spiritual.) Is there no value to a social activity with the opposite gender except what may lead to marriage?

In fact, shouldn’t the priority of general Christian character and growth be clearly ranked above any specific matter like marriage or missions, especially for a young person? Am I wrong to tell young people to pursue general Christian growth as the foundation of understanding God’s will in other areas? And will that general Christian growth always indicate that, yes, marriage should be the assumed priority for their life, even though Jesus wasn’t married and the New Testament shows a remarkable openness to single people in ministry?

I mean, hey, even Rick Warren doesn’t list marriage as a priority in The Purpose Driven Life. Slam the door!

4. We overemphasize marriage when those who are not married are out of the “center” of the Christian community, thus violating clear implications of the ministry of Jesus. I am extremely concerned that the emphasis on marriage in contemporary evangelicalism has created an imbalance within the body of Christ. I am already sensitive to this because of my own life experience.

I grew up in a fundamentalistic Baptist Church where the divorced were ostracized, baited, humiliated and blamed at every opportunity. (No, I am not exaggerating. Drinkers and divorced people were what was wrong with the world. Oh….and anyone who married a Catholic was bad, too.) This is why my dad only heard me preach, in person, five times in his life. What is outrageous about this is that 1) it was done by elevating never divorced families to the center of the church community, and 2) ignoring Jesus’ ministry to the marginalized and broken.

Jesus would have included- even preferred in some instances- the divorced, the single and the rejected in his community of followers. It is inconceivable to me that a church pastored by Jesus would put the emphasis on marriage that I saw in my childhood- or in many circles today. Today’s mega-churches specialize in that traditional family with two kids and a dog. Yes, many of them also successfully minister to singles and other groups, but am I the only one who hears such an incessant drumbeat of teaching on marriage, threats to marriage, crisis in marriage, marriage success principles and so forth that it can sometimes appear the church is preaching the “Good News of Marriage and Family” a bit louder than the Good News of Jesus?

I know single people can be whiners. Every pastor has those single members who don’t want to be single and annoyingly keep complaining that God is unfair. But are singles wrong when they say the church looks so much like a club for families that they don’t feel like they are normal, whole and blessed? Are so many family-oriented events and ministries done with serious thought to how Jesus did ministry? Did Jesus emphasize marriage as we do in most churches?

I only mention this because I know we all would agree that Jesus endorsed marriage, but I do not believe Jesus over-emphasized marriage. In fact, Jesus’ own words about family don’t sound much like any guest on Dobson that I have heard. You know the passages I mean. Jesus does recognize an idolatry of family, and he frequently challenges it. This is in a culture that reads the Ten Commandments and concludes that family is perhaps the highest earthly priority. A culture that practiced arraigned marriages as a way of promoting Godly living. Yet Jesus refuses to go to the door and speak to his mother in Mark 3, instead saying that his followers are his family.

Do our churches reflect this? Or do they reflect an over-emphasis on marriage?

5. We overemphasize marriage when a gospel of “salvation by marriage and family values” is confused with the Biblical Gospel. I will admit to being confused by the current evangelical emphasis on cultural renewal. I am confused on several fronts.

First, I do not see this at all in the New Testament. In fact, if anything, I see almost a complete lack of anxiety over the moral state of the Roman empire or the Greek cities where the epistles were delivered. Yes, the Christians have their eyes open, and the corruption of the culture is the background of much moral reasoning in the New Testament. What I see in the New Testament is the church offering an alternative culture where marriage has its proper place, but I do not see any concern to rescue pagan culture from itself. I do not see the emphasis on cultural renewal that I see in men like Dobson or Mohler.

Second, the political involvement of the church in America is closely tied to the issue of marriage and family. I understand that Christians are protecting and promoting what God has created, but the culture in which we are told to present an inviting community gathered around Jesus sees and hears a community gathered in opposition to gay marriage and abortion, and for the promotion and protection of marriage. Yes, our culture needs to hear about marriage, even as a basis for evangelism. But the overemphasis is doing a lot more than attracting people to our view of marriage. It is confusing many as to what we are all about.

There is quite obviously a vital connection between God, the Gospel, human life and family life. My concern in this essay is with an overemphasis on marriage. I am not trying to disassociate these cultural concerns from the church’s theology. But I am arguing that we have talked to the culture and to the media about marriage and family issues to the point that there is confusion about the Gospel.

Evangelicals are very good at obscuring the Gospel in the midst of other legitimate concerns. The shift of perceived evangelical leadership from Billy Graham to James Dobson is significant. Both men probably believe much the same things, but their perceived messages are quite different.

Thirdly, as a Reformed Christian with tremendous sympathies for covenant theology, it appears to me that we are seeing the triumph of a covenant understanding of marriage and family as a primary means of evangelizing the culture. It is now common to hear young singles state that they want to marry on order to have Christian children. Living and working in the world of Baptist revivalism, I can tell you this has not been the normal way of initially expressing the purpose of family. The emphasis on the nurture and conversion of children has always been strong, but not in covenant terms. Today, the covenant emphasis- sans infant baptism- is everywhere among evangelical young marrieds. Combined with an emphasis on homeschooling and even home churches, there is a definite shift toward the idea that Christian marriage and children are, in and of themselves, evangelism. (Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that’s all bad at all. Just significant.)

6. Finally, there is an overemphasis on marriage when normal experiences not leading up to marriage are viewed, at best, as worthless, and at worst, evil. I experience much of this discussion in the context of questions about dating and courtship. Many- most- of the Christian young people I know are in tremendous confusion over these topics, and it is no wonder. The messages coming through evangelicals today are confusing. It is not at all unusual to hear spoken of as an invention of the devil for the purpose of sex before marriage, and courtship spoken of as a divinely ordained plan for arranging a certain to succeed marriage.

So I’ll show my cards and say I think we have some serious problems here. I’ll list them in no particular order.

1) Courtship is far from a Biblically established and ordained way of finding a spouse. Ever since post-Josh Harris youth speakers began saying “Don’t date. Court!” there’s been enough confusion on this topic to fill a warehouse. This essay won’t attempt to straighten that out, other than to say this: The view of family and adulthood I read in the courtship movement would be quite at home in medieval Islam. If an individual wants a parentally supervised or arranged marriage, then by all means they should have it, but nothing in the Bible compels such a thing. If we are going back to the view of women in Leviticus, please let me know.

2) Dating is not a dirty word. In fact, what I am learning is that there is so much mass confusion over single people of opposite genders spending time together that condemnation of dating is no longer a fringe activity. It is mainstream. Parents of small children confidently assert their children will not date. Those who have dated imply that it was sex, 24/7 and ruins marriage. Dating leads to depression, suicide and certain divorce. All this is said routinely.

Where are they getting this? Some have suggested that evangelicals are totally convinced that single life in America is a “Friends” or “Real World” episode that cannot be escaped. Certainly, the sexual revolution has changed everything. Pagans are sexually active, and Christians are tempted to join in. But am I to believe that we are left with nothing but the belief that dating is a certain road to a preview of hell? Must I be convinced that my children cannot become mature young Christians who can enjoy a date? Do I have to believe that dating, and breaking up are unmanageable tragedies that must be avoided, so bring on the marriage brokers? Must I believe that those who date have such “emotional baggage” that their marriages are doomed?

Good grief! Such pessimism. I believe the information age has done a number on us. Dating has always been an activity that tested our morals and maturity. That’s part of the point. I was never confronted with underaged drinking till my 8th grade dance. I passed. I had never been alone with a girl until I got my license and started dating. I wasted a few evenings abusing that opportunity, but we all navigated the experience with our virtue and sanity intact. In fact, the real cruel weirdness in went on at all those group youth activities, where no one knew who was going with whom. You needed a program guide! With a map!

3) My daughter wants to date for fun, to enjoy male company, for the experience, for friendship and, somewhere down the list, for the consideration of marriage prospects. Should I go and disavow her of this insane and worldly plan? Is she wasting her time when she could be conducting interviews with potential mates?

Dating is an American cultural phenomenon. Wise parents don’t buy into all it’s romanticism and rules, and we should beware of the possible folly. But if we can’t bring up our children to go out on dates as a part of growing up we are a sorry bunch of parents! There I said it! (Now I’ll change my email address.)

American Christians are afraid of the sexual wasteland that surrounds them and threatens their children. Eliminating dating and emphasizing marriage seems like a spiritual and rational response. I respect those who differ with me on this one, and yes, I am the same guy who thinks public schools are not quite the hopeless cesspool many other Christians do. I see kids do stupid things in relationships- including make terrible sexual choices- all the time. I have counseled hundreds and hundreds of teenagers with issues that go back to choices they made in .

Most of those young people were poorly parented, especially in this area. Even good parents can be naive. I understand our hope that our daughter will decide to marry the kid next to her in Christian school and it will just work out perfect. I know there are a thousand hazards and protecting our children from them seems like our godly duty. I know all that.

I still believe my daughter can date, and can make good choices. I believe it is a good experience, and matures her in ways that contribute to a good marriage. I believe she can cope with disappointment. Trying to shield her from a broken heart is a noble sentiment. I can’t do it. I’ve raised an adult and she can make good decisions. I don’t need to pick her spouse. She can make marriage as much- or as little- of a priority as she feels is appropriate between herself and God. She calls the shots, because this is her life, and God will teach her if her heart is open.

The very idea of overemphasizing marriage seems ridiculous. Christian radio, television, publishing….they all increasingly emphasize the importance of marriage. Pundits and preachers are sounding the marriage alarms. Christian families are more and more looking to marriage as the best solution to the problems of adolescence. Courtship is replacing dating, going steady and engagement for serious evangelicals.

Christianity is about Jesus. Marriage derives its meaning and beauty from Jesus. Is it possible to emphasize marriage too much and Jesus too little? Let the reader decide.

Comments

  1. Myron Marston says

    Good essay, Michael. As a single young man, I’ve experienced a lot of the confusion you describe first hand. I’ve had friends who were afraid to spend time with members of the opposite sex for fear they would develop a crush on them and would mistake a crush for God’s will in regards to marriage.

  2. James Aguilar says

    I would second the first commenter, and additionally ask, “Where do we find injunctions against dating in the Bible?” Nowhere. Good essay.

  3. Definitely some good material here, although I don’t agree that the church has overemphasized marriage. Perhaps, to a degree, there has been a failure to communicate the theological foundation and meaning of marriage, which has resulted in a widespread shallow understanding of it and a divorce rate within our churches that doesn’t fare any better than the culture. I see Dr. Mohler as one of the voices seeking to proclaim not just tips on finding a mate or how to communicate better with your spouse (as helpful as those are), but marriage as a theological issue that, as you say, “derives its meaning and beauty from Jesus.”

    Furthermore, I welcome Dr. Mohler’s call for younger marriage because of the trend in our culture toward having everything in our lives settled–education, career, home–before finally deciding to marry, and then waiting even longer before having children, when the biological capabilities of conception have considerably degenerated. I’m not saying that I can prescribe a rigid rule for everyone (“you must be married by this age!”), nor do I think that there is never ANY good reason to wait, but clearly we have bought into the pervasive idea that career and education must have priority over family. This has been one factor in the widespread sexual immorality in our culture, as well as a widespread view of children as a burden rather than a blessing. Dr. Mohler’s pro-family message is appropriately countercultural.

    As one who married at age 20 while still in college (and still today working on a M.Div. at Southern), I know that it was the right thing to do. We will always cherish these early years.

  4. Aaron, I’ll pick on you 🙂

    Your experience of “good early years” is not the only experience. In fact, the brunt of divorces and serious marriage problems I have encountered in the church are in the first 1-7 years and among those who married 18-22.

    Which proves….nothing, except there is no way to generalize, and I think Dr. Mohler is generalizing, and it bothers me that such a culture savvy guy would give advice that, to me, is going to result in a lot of divorces, children in broken homes, etc.

    Why? Because Christians think their marriages are better automatically because they are Christian. They think God will make it work. Bullxxxt. They set records for immaturity, screwed up emotions, denial and don’t even get me started on sex issues.

    I just hear all this and I don’t see it in the Bible. I LOVE Dr. Mohler. He is a hero to me, but I don’t see the foundational role of marriage leading to an advocacy of early marriage. That’s a leap that isn’t warranted. Every person needs to decide for themselves when they are mature enough for this step. There is a lot of mythology in Dr. Mohler’s view. It’s mythology about doing something positive in the culture, but its still mythology.

    Of course, I could be wrong 🙂

  5. >but clearly we have bought into the pervasive idea that career and education must have priority over family. This has been one factor in the widespread sexual immorality in our culture,

    Aaron, forgive two responses, but I can’t stop typing! 🙂

    1) Where does the Bible teach anything that authoritatively says we should be married before completing education or achieving career goals?

    2) How do we conclude that sexual immorality is a function of cultural trends? Don’t Mark 7 and Romans 1 make clear that a Christian analysis of sexual immorality isn’t to blame the culture, but our own depravity? Isn’t this buying into the “salvation by marriage” message that I find disturbing?

  6. Oh man, I hate “single ministry.” The church schedule ends up looking like this:

    Thursday night: Alcoholics ministry
    Friday night: Singles ministry
    Saturday night: Homosexuals ministry

  7. Mark Whittinghill says

    Matt: You may appreciate this spoof at Lark News.
    http://www.larknews.com/march_2005/secondary.php?page=5

  8. Spoken like an old married guy who already has his spouse and children. And the rest of you guys (except Aaron): scared to death of committing to one woman ’til death do you part?

    I heard a statistic that said: for every single Christian guy who walks into a church, there are a least 3 available Christian women waiting for him. How rich. You guys get to choose, while we girls have to wait to be chosen. And the shortage of available Christian men is not just an American problem, it’s global. You know that biological clock starts sounding like a ticking time-bomb to us, whilst you guys figure you can father children til the cows come home.

    So you don’t think there’s a problem here? Statistics are showing the birth-rate in America is down across the board. Infertility is not just a problem of the 30 & 40 somethings. Lest we forget Psalm 127:3…”Children are a gift from the Lord…a reward from Him.” Not some pain in our butt that must be indured after we’ve sown our oats. We are a spoiled lot.

    If I had only known in my twenties what I know now, I would have pursued a husband with a vengence. God help us.

  9. As an “older” (somewhere between 30-40, exact details classified) single, and one who has been in the church for most of my adult life, I have seen that evangelical churches tend towards one of two opposing extremes regarding singles.

    1) Overemphasizing marriage. You’re on target here, Mike, especially with churches in the “cultural warrior” mode. But where you don’t see this, you tend to get instead…

    2) Overemphasizing “happy singleness”. If you just immerse yourself in doing the Lord’s work, you won’t worry about finding a mate! (Most of the books supporting this view are either written by elderly singles, or – irony of ironies – married people).

    My problem is (and I suspect many others have the same problem), I don’t fit in either category. Is singleness a state where one can honor God? Certainly! And I’m sure there are those (like St. Paul) who could enjoy it at the same time. I’m not one of those. And, with all due respect, Dr. Mohler, all I can say is that perhaps some older singles *are* just blowing off marriage, for selfish reasons. But, there are also those of us who would like to be married – but it just isn’t like it was when you were young. Try walking a mile in our moccasins before you chew us out for not having walked down the aisle by the time we’re 25. Some just can’t find eligible mates in their area. Some are still bearing the hurts from being burned (or worse) by the dating system/their parents’ marital failures/being abused. Some (like me) just don’t fit the cultural norms for being attractive (and that does count for “datability”, even in the church – whenever *I’ve* tried to “take the lead”, I’ve been shot down). Slogging through life fighting (and yes, sometimes losing to) sexual temptation is a long, hard, and lonely road. And being slammed from both sides of the divide (“Just get married!” “Just let go and love God!”) does NOT help, one little bit.

    You don’t like that we’re not married, Dr. Mohler? Then mentor us. Talk to us. Invite us over to your house on holidays, when we may not have our own family to be with. Pray for us. Heck, even introduce us to some eligible friends you may know! (Arranged marriages are more biblical than “courtship”, anyways ;-} )

    It’s easy to chew someone out for not being married, or not enjoying being single. Finding someone who can speak the wisdom of Christ to a single’s peculiar (individual) situation, good or bad, is something else again.

  10. I remember a friend of mine giving me some important insight. This was a guy who got married at the age of 25 to the first girlfriend he had. This was a guy who, up to the age of 25, was single and knew what it was like. He said this to me after 2 years of marriage:

    “It is remarkable that married people quickly forget what it is like to be single – even those who married after a considerable time of singleness.”

    My view is, and always has been, that our marital status or lack of it, is simply one situation over another. Being married is not “better” than being single, and being single is not “better” than being married. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but they balance out.

    What we marrieds need to remember is that we DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE SINGLE. We also have to communicate to our single friends that, while we cannot understand their loneliness, that we care for them. We also need to point out, even though they may not believe us, the ugly realities of marriage and that singleness is not “worse” than being married. Moreover, I would prefer a single Christian friend to remain unmarried than to marry a weirdo and/or unbeliever.

  11. Paul Whiting says

    As a single in his late 20s, I really relate to what you say here. I know this sounds very self-indlugent, but I have written an article on the place of singles in church myself recently. It can be found at my own blog: http://paulwhiting.blogspot.com/2005/02/place-for-singles.html After reading this article, I reel jealous: you have so many good points that I wish I’d come up with myself :-).

  12. Paul Whiting says

    oopps … forgive the typo above: “reel” should be “real.”

  13. Aaron is such a great name. From the brother of Moses to Elvis, it has meaning for many people. I am going to have to start using my last initial..

    It has been my observation, for what it is worth, that christian youth group/college kids get married too young. They rush into it so as to obtain legal sex. This always seemed to me to be an important factor in christian divorce rates.

    Giving such a broad group of people such specific advice on when to marry borders on lunacy.

    Aaron C.

  14. Great post, Monk! 🙂 This is probably the best and most comprehensive response I’ve seen yet. A “keeper” for sure.

    I cannot express in words (avoiding the use of inappropriate language) the amount damage done by Josh Harris, Don Raunikar and their throngs of copy-cats and wanna-be’s. I was on the singles leadership team of my former church when much of that hit. Suddenly, overnight, even the most polite request to “date” was, in fact, tantamount to asking for dinner-n-sex. As if the motives and character of single men weren’t already “suspect” enough, we now had our very own new Evangelical language (hey! a newly-named sin!) to castigate men who, after all, did the asking. Besides, those of us not still in High School thought it odd to say, “Well, I’d like to go out with you… NO! Sorry! I meant ‘court’ you… so, um, can I call your dad to set that up?”

    You may also enjoy “Kissing Nonsense Goodbye”
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/008/6.46.html

  15. Condi is single, and she is in charge of foreign policy. She also ran an influential college. Is she irresponsible?
    John Stott is single, and he is one of the most influential ministers in the last 50 years.
    C.S.Lewis was single for most of his life. Did he contribute to the body of Christ?
    We need to stop defining people by their martial status, and recognize them for their abilities and gifts.

  16. Ellen in MI says

    Definitely some good material here, although I don’t agree that the church has overemphasized marriage.

    Generally a statement made by one that is married…(although not always)

    As a 45 year old single (after being married for 23 years – so I know that marriage is not a bed of roses) I see that most churches emphasize marraige, to the point where “being single in a church is like being a dill pickle in a fruit salad” (Wendy Widder, “A Match Made in Heaven.”

    A year and a half ago I went to the leadership of my church and what it came down to is that I could not even get a potluck for singles advertised in the bulletin – “we are not a consumer church” – they didn’t want to break the church off into any more segments (of course, the MOPS, the women, the teens, the “classics”, the special friends, the teen MOPS, etc. etc…are all still around). Shortly after that, they launched a brand spanking new men’s ministry by serving up a steak fry, paid for by the church. The singles couldn’t even have a potluck, at no expense to the church.

    I did a research report on singles in Christian (American) churches and this is *NOT* uncommon.

    Sorry, but marriage *IS* overemphasized.

  17. Good essay and thoughts, Michael! A lot to consider here, what I found most distrubing is Mohler’s trend to present marriage as a cure to immaturity or even place it above the gospel. In that respect, the church may be overemphasizing marriage.

    However, some of the current reaction in the church, and focus on “family ministries” is an outcome of neglecting the importance of family and marriage. The church has seen divorce run high in the body, and there the reaction has been to call people back to the importance of marriage. This has been exasperated by the homosexual issues in our culture as well.

    The church needs to find ways to strengthen marriages, treat with respect and love those who are single (not pity) and “kick in the pants” those who are immature (married and single). Marriage or lack thereof is not the problem.

  18. I was once taught that while you’re single treat is as a gift of God and when you’re married treat it as a gift of God. Unfortunately nobody told me when it was right to switch over. Good thing I fully expect to die young.

  19. awesome article, Mark, thanks!

    While singles ministry is dumb, it would be nice if churches really were competing for that age group… at 20 years old, I feel like all the churches are trying to push me off on each other, sort of like when your parents go on vacation and none of the relatives want to take you (hyptothetical situation – my relatives think I’m the greatest thing ever).

    The one 20-somethings (not “singles”) ministry I went to got the axe for not being seeker-sensitive.

  20. one last comment and I’ll sit still for a while 🙂

    It was youth pastors who emphasized marrying young AND not dating (ever) that are responsible for my singleness “problem.” It makes us impressionable youth think we can sit on our arses and wait for God to deliver us a mail-order bride. My friends who dated through high school are all married now, and most of the rest of us are just now realizing there is work involved.

  21. Michael asked me two questions way back that I guess I can answer (even though it has been several hours since he asked, which means the comments have piled on).

    (1) Where does the Bible say that we should marry before getting career and education settled? Well, obviously, it doesn’t say that because the biblical culture didn’t encounter that problem. But I do think there are principles that we can glean such as the inherent goodness of marriage and especially children over the economic prosperity of the American dream. Meg pointed out how birth rates are dropping in this country (and in Europe–drastically); one of the reasons for this is that our culture values personal career advancement over children. For those who either are or will be married someday, I think it is safe to say that this IS a reversal of biblical priorities. Balancing family, education, and a career path is a tough thing to do, and I’m certainly not trying to prescribe a definite rule. But I do hope that as Christians we will, more and more, refuse to buy into the world’s way of thinking on this.

    (2) How do we conclude that sexual immorality is a function of cultural trends? You’re right, Michael, that sexual immorality stems ultimately from original sin, which is transcultural. But I don’t think that is necessarily at odds with saying that cultural factors can exacerbate or restrain it, especially for Christians. It’s just a plain fact that the longer one waits to marry, the more opportunity and temptation there is to engage in pre-marital sex. I don’t think it is wrong at all to see one of the benefits of marriage as a restraint on sexual sin. Paul makes that exact argument in 1 Corinthians 7.

    Personally, I only know about Dr. Mohler’s message in general. I haven’t heard him specifically speak on this issue. I don’t know if he is coupling his call for younger marriage with a call to maturity in general, but I suspect that he is. What I am saying is that while it is definitely true that a lot of people are not mature enough to marry young, we can encourage a cultural trend toward earlier maturing coupled with younger marriage. People need to learn to grow up in our society.

  22. David K. Monroe says

    I think it’s a fair call that some churches tend to overemphasize marriage, but I think that’s only in response to our general cultural situation, which marginalizes it, and often treats it as irrelevent, unless it’s in some non-traditional configuration. That doesn’t make the church position 100% correct and blameless, but, y’know, churches are made up of people, and people aren’t always perfect, consistent, and balanced.

    This isn’t meant as a dismissal of Michael’s salient observations, just a contextual comment.

    I do think that we have, as a culture, entered into a sort of strange mindset regarding marriage. I believe that, whereas past generations have accepted marriage as a given, and singles under 25 where practically regarded as losers or perverts, now people regard marriage with a peculiar sort of dread. Although they want the benefits of marriage, they dread the possibility of unhappy marriage and divorce. This often makes people put off marriage, in my observation. There’s too much riding on a decision fraught with uncertainty. Unconquerable uncertainty leads to inaction, and that leads some to put off marriage until they are so set in their ways that they may have even more problems being joined to another than they may have had before.

    I’ve experienced this: I got married for the first time at 38. Fortunately, it’s turning out massively well, because we both work hard at it. Maybe it works well for others generally as well, I’m not certain, but I certainly hope that to be the case.

    So, perhaps the general delay of marriage leads to stronger marriages between older, smarter, more mature people, or perhaps it leads to conflict-ridden marriages between people who are so set in their ways that it’s difficult to change. But even if it’s the happy first scenario, a climbing age of first marriage may well add to our already declining birthrate, unless the age at which women can bear children rises as well.

    Oh, about the “called to celibacy” thing – even President Mohler seems to regard celibacy as some sort of mystical calling, which I find strange. I’ve always understood that every Christian is called to celibacy, unless and until they are called to marriage.

  23. Finally!
    He who has ears to hear….Thank you Aaron.

  24. Michael – I’ll have more to say about this over at the Matt Crash! blog sometime this weekend (hopefully), but in the meantime, here’s a comment I posted at the BHT:

    Yet could we not agree that – on the whole – evangelicalism is failing when the Christians it produces are not mature enough to be married before 30? Leaving aside those who simply choose to remain single for purposes of ministry, education and career, what about the rest? I think that is where Mohler’s argument fails. He ignores the fact that the church has done a horrendous job in developing mature young people. And I say this is as a twenty-three year old. Mohler fusses at my generation while ignoring the generation that raised us. He made the same mistake when discussing the “Twixters” phenomenon.

  25. >…there is an overemphasis on marriage when
    >normal experiences not leading up to marriage
    >are viewed, at best, as worthless, and at
    >worst, evil…

    Many years ago, I was thirty-something and in a singles group, listening to a speaker.

    His topic was that COMMON VALUES were 100% of what made a marriage. Not interests, not appearance, not proximity, but COMMON SCRIPTURAL VALUES, COMMON SCRIPTURAL VALUES, COMMON SCRIPTURAL VALUES, and you should only seek someone with these COMMON SCRIPTURAL VALUES (TM) and that would be all.

    And that was it. Unfortunately for him, those appearance/interests/proximity that he was denouncing ARE the initial attractors that first gets you to approach the other to where you can to find out you have those common values. You can have all the Common Scriptural Values (TM) you want, and if you never cross paths or are initially attracted to meet the other when you do, what good is it?

    And what if by blind chance you do meet and marry, and find out you have nothing else in common? Different to opposing to incompatible interests, hobbies, personalities, whatever. What are you going to do in your marriage with those Common Scriptural Values (TM)? Breed baby Christians and nothing else (i.e. “Our duty to The Party”) in between quoting Bible Verses to each other like a couple of Calormenes?

    What happens when you’re finally in a Christian Marriage (TM) and you find out you’re trapped “til death do us part” with a complete stranger with whom you have next to nothing in common?

  26. You hit the nail on the head, Matt. How many of us have gotten any real help in this matter from our parents? Our elders and pastors? Not just book recommendations, but serious one-on-one mentoring and discipleship? How else does one come to maturity, which is necessary for marriage (or purposeful singleness)? I’ve had a few good older (than me) men who’ve given me wise counsel from time to time, but I think that’s the exception rather than the rule.

    And Meg – try to look at it from *our* (the guys) perspective. Speaking as a somewhat introverted Christian man, it’s NOT easy at all to be put in the position you set up for us. With all the contradictory signals we’re given (“take the lead” vs “don’t interfere with my career”), with all the expectations and pitfalls we face, and the fact that some guys don’t have the thick skin that seems to be necessary, the dating scene (as currently seen in America) is a lose-lose situation for us.

    I agree with many of the criticisms that guys like Harris have put forward about dating. It’s just that their solutions are just pie-in-the-sky ideals that often hinge on the same assumptions about romantic love that dating is based on.

  27. Re Matt Smyczynski:

    >It makes us impressionable youth think we can
    >sit on our arses and wait for God to deliver us
    >a mail-order bride.

    So you’ve been hearing the same “How I Met My Wife/God as Matchmaker” testimonies.

    All I can say about them is God gives everyone else wives and families on silver platters and left us to grub for matches on our own.

    >My friends who dated through high school are
    >all married now, and most of the rest of us are
    >just now realizing there is work involved.

    I’m the only one of the Cal Poly Gang who never married (not for lack of wanting or trying, and I’m pushing 50). Even my old D&D Dungeonmaster, the last guy you’d expect to get hitched, found someone and did.

  28. Ken makes a good point and subtlely exposes evangelicalism’s flaws. The same guy who says only common values matter would probably say that the ideas of “interests” don’t matter because we should all be into Christian music, books, literature, etc. Try being an evangelical with red state political values but blue state cultural tastes. Dating ain’t easy.

  29. Is there anything Scripturally wrong about having only 1 or 2 kids?

  30. OSO,

    I don’t believe there is a scriptural mandate for believers to have a certain number of children. The Bible does, however, speak to our attitude about children. Are they a blessing or a burden? Are they to be welcomed or avoided at all costs? Are we to make sacrifices in order to raise them well, or do we look out for number 1 and leave them in the hands of professionals all day? [That last comment is in no way intended to mean that every single family that uses day-care is being selfish; please don’t misunderstand].

    So, I think we need to cultivate a pro-children attitude in line with the biblical teaching (particularly Psalm 127) rather than focusing on specific numbers. The inevitable result of cultivating this attitude will certainly be larger families for Christians than for the surrounding culture.

  31. Wonderful essay, Mr. Spencer. A nice breath of fresh air when, here at Union University, just two weeks ago we had a 3 day chapel stint on marriage, purity, andexactly what we cannot do and exactly what we can do. As a young man who has struggled with lust and pornography, I was often told that marriage is the way out of that. Here I am at 19 years old, just stepping into the world of relationships where people expect me to marry, and I do not consider marriage a way out of my sin. Oh yeah, I’m so sick of hearing that celabacy as a gift garbage.

    Keep it up, sir.

  32. >The same guy who says only common values matter
    >would probably say that the ideas
    >of “interests” don’t matter because we should
    >all be into Christian music, books, literature,
    >etc.

    During my disastrous days with Christian dating services, I read so many identical “what I’m looking for” and “what I’m like” descriptions from female members they should have been pre-printed on the forms.

    The “What I Do” portion of the “What I’m Like” entry always said something along the lines of “Bible Study, Witnessing, Loving and Serving the LORD”. That’s all? That’s not girlfriend/wife material, that’s a Jack Chick tract character.

    Or someone who’s looking for a meal ticket to her 24/7 devotional life (Bible Study, Witnessing, and Worship) instead of a husband. I was a witness to one marriage where the wife went into “mommy-track burnout” after her third kid and decided God had *really* called her to be a cloistered contemplative nun all along; she spent 24/7 in devotions devotions devotions being holy holy holy while Ren & Stimpy & Cow & Chicken raised her kids. It wasn’t pretty.

    The “What I’m Looking For” section always was something on the order of “Spiritual Giant Who Loves and Serves the LORD”, active in the church at least 30 hours a day. A Perfect Christian Man (TM), so holy and perfect us mere mortals need not apply.

    >Try being an evangelical with red state
    >political values but blue state cultural tastes.

    Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I’m near-native Californian (ground zero of the sexual revolution), SF/fantasy fan, anthro artist, D&D gamer, recreational thinker, history buff, militaria buff, astronomy buff, paleontology buff, aficionado of the weird, natural-talent speed-reader — none of which will endear you to Christians, and a lot of which can get you turned into a pile of rocks. (As in “It’s SAY-TANN-IC!” “It’s all gonna burn (smug smug)”…)

  33. Hello Monk. This is Brian Sears, Jon Sears’ son. I am fourteen, and this issue of dating is a pressing one. So far, I have not gotten involved in a dating relationship. I have read I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Josh Harris, and it seemed like a pretty good book. It seemed to be true, but at the same time I thought it was a shame. As a fourteen year old, do you think a dating relationship would be appropriate, and if so, what guidlines should be in place? Also, I take it you don’t like Josh Harris very much?

    Thanks.

  34. Hi Brian, say Hi to dad, and tell him I’d love to hear what came of his visit to Ky when we last talked.

    Short answer: 14 years old. Group activities. Friendship activities at home with parental supervision. My main advice would be to ditch the pressure to act “grown up” by getting into the male competition thing of who can attract girls OR the Christian thing of “start finding a spouse at 14.” That’s whack!

    I like Josh Harris a lot more with each book that he writes. In the first book, Josh was on the run from him own mistakes, and he wrote an emotional appeal. I write like that a lot, so I can sympathize. I REALLY don’t like what was done by youth leaders, etc WITH that book, because it wasn’t a careful, cautious book.

    His next book, Guy Meets Girl (I think) backed up a step or two, and the latest book, Not Even a Hint, is OUTSTANDING and I recommend it all the time. My son is reading it. In the book, a now married Josh has a more level head about approaching the whole situation.

    Concentrate on becoming a HAPPY person, Brian. Do what God has gifted you to do, but CARE ABOUT PEOPLE and enjoy all kinds of people. Teenage boys who get heavily involved with romance usually are missing out on a lot of things that ought to be in their lives- Like BASEBALL! 🙂

    A great book for a young man: Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx. Tell dad to get it for you. It really does a great job of talking to a young man about the kinds of things you should be concentrating on now.

    thanks for writing.

  35. Shannon Richey says

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I can see how marriage would be overemphasized. I certainly have felt that way. It seemed as though everything was geared toward married people, and if you were not married then it seemed that you were expected to be actively looking for a spouse at any given point in time, especially if you were a woman. If you were a man then you were give a lot more leeway because according to many people I heard and books I saw, it seemed that it was our (women’s) lot in life to be housewives and mothers only and if we were not married then we were somehow at fault for not following the will of God. They did not seem to think that a woman could be a whole person without a man or that God might use her outside her home.

    I would have to ask those people, is someone supposed to settle down with someone who is not right for them and does not treat them well simply so they won’t be single any longer? wouldn’t it be better to be single until the right person comes along (if they do-some people are happier single) then to just marry the first one who asks just so you won’t be given a guilt trip? And some people can’t have kids or shouldn’t have kids…are they somehow not as loved by or important to God? I know I might sound angry here but I think that the church and evangelicals particularly need to realize that we are not all cookie-cutter models of each other and that God maybe, just maybe, might have made us different for a reason. Jesus seemed to meet people where they were and love them for who they were, and if a church is to be the Body of Christ shouldn’t it at least try to do the same thing?

    I am married, by the way. But I am a newlywed:)

  36. What’s with all the missing letters and words in your post?

  37. I see I’ve not been keeping up with current trends in the evangelical world. What’s the difference between dating and courting? I thought courting was just an older word for dating.

    My Baptist youth group sure could have used some firm practical instruction as to what qualities to look for in a mate besides the usual caveat “don’t date non-Christians.” Some of us had deplorable taste in the opposite sex, a fact that has lead to untold misery now that we are older and have had sufficient time to really make a mess of our lives.

    We were encouraged to postpone marriage indefinitely, preferably marrying sometime in our early 30’s. With our careers firmly established we were then to have two, perhaps three, designer children. In order to resist the temptation to fornicate, we were told to masturbate. (I have often wondered how normative my church was on that score.)

    Seems now the pendulum has swung the other way!

    It makes me wonder precisely what people think the purpose of marriage actually is. There seems to be a lot of confusion on that score.

  38. Jake: Sorry. I made a spell correction at the school’s computer lab, and the net nanny removed the words “adult, girl, sex and finding a spouse.”

    Ahhh fundamentalism.It’s so much fun (jn)

  39. Dear Monk.

    Thank you very much. I’ll get that book. What you said about the dating, I have been thinking for a while. Unlike Harris said in his book, I don’t think dating is wrong, I just think that it is not the best thing for me, as a fourteen-year-old to be doing. However, it is sort of hard, because if I wanted it, I could have it in a heartbeat. But anyway, thanks again, and I’ll get that book.

    Brian.

    P.S. I’ll have Dad write to you about Kentucky.

  40. lycaphim says

    Being a teenager, I have heard countless over times how much marriage is “recommended” from my senior pastor. Of course, when I then attend my youth group, I get stories of people’s girlfriends and their friend’s girlfriends. And marriage? That’s like saying I’m joining NASA.

    Every man wants a girl (and a girl, a boy) and ultimately to get married then. But didn’t Apostle Paul say he’d rather have us single?

    But then he’d also said he’d rather have someone marry than to burn with lust 🙂

    So has anyone thought about following the guidelines above?

  41. Great essay – and one that provoked far too many thoughts in response to fit into a comment box. So I’ve posted a response on my own blog, here:

    http://confessingevangelical.blogspot.com/2005/03/valuing-marriage.html

  42. John H’s comments are well-presented; his blog worth reading.

    I’ll add one last thought on this topic: I live in Southern California where, as John H describes, it is a buyer’s market for guys. There are so many beautiful, well-adjusted, intelligent, single Christian women who have to sit on the sidelines as their ovaries turn to dust whilst guys in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s just cannot make up their minds. Why? Well if a poll published by Christianity Today is at all accurate, it might be because some 80% of single Christians are involved in fornication. As grandma used to say, “Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?” A sad adage, but too true. And what do most of our churches here do about it…NOTHING. They’re too afraid of offending the “seeker,” leaving the sisters to twist in the wind. The pagans are more honest, and that is truly sad.

    Just remember everyone: if you are putting off marriage, fine. But you better also be putting off your sex life….that’s NO SEX. Nada, nil, zippo and zip it up. If you can honestly do that in honour of our Lord, I commend you. If you cannot, stop cheating your sisters and lying to God.

  43. >I live in Southern California where, as John H
    >describes, it is a buyer’s market for guys.

    I’m SoCal too; been in the Greater LA area since I was about six months old.

    >There are so many beautiful, well-adjusted,
    >intelligent, single Christian women who have to
    >sit on the sidelines as their ovaries turn to
    >dust …

    WHERE ARE THEY? I LOOKED FOR THEM FOR 20 YEARS BEFORE I GAVE UP!

    >Just remember everyone: if you are putting off
    >marriage, fine. But you better also be putting
    >off your sex life….

    I saved myself for marriage; why do you think I’m still single at 49? I ended up saving myself for a marriage that never came along — against the pressure of my entire family pushing me to “Grow Up” and get laid. The only girlfriend I ever had left me because I wouldn’t get into her pants. Virginity must have some kind of awful repulsive stench or something.

  44. This seems to highlight the bizarre case I’ve noticed since college: I knew several women that wished guys would ask them out while at the same time I knew plenty of guys who constantly get rejected. I knew a guy who was turned down for a date by roughly 45 different women in the space of a year.

    Something’s not on the level here, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

  45. I’ve recently found your site Mr. Spencer. Great essays you have here! I became a Christian a couple years ago, and your site has been a blessing in my growth as a Christian. Thank you very much.

    On to the topic at hand. I’m a 33-year-old single man. And I wish I could find these “beautiful, well-adjusted, intelligent, single Christian women that have to sit on the sidelines”. I can honestly say I have never in my life met a single Christian woman over the age of 21. I’ve not met one in the workplace. All of my Christian friends are married, as are their friends, so that network is closed. My church has a singles group, which is comprised entirely of teens and a couple barely 20’s. I’ve gone to some of the local mega-churches, where the message is often diluted, but my mate prospects increase. The problem with this is I’m sure church is where I should be worshiping the Lord, and learning from his word, not shopping for a mate. So I never stay long enough to meet someone. I’ve toyed with the idea of trying a Christian dating service, but so far haven’t. Something makes me leery of them though I can’t pinpoint what it is. I guess what I’m asking what am I doing wrong? Where should I be looking? I have no problem meeting and dating secular women, but I would much rather meet a Christian woman, who shares my faith and would like to spend a life together honoring God. Anyhow keep up the great writing.

  46. Here is a defiintion of singleness found at

    http://www.iserv.net/~mrbill/church-speak.html

    Singleness (1) “An undesirable temporary state, not conducive to “spiritual growth” or “church fellowship”. People who choose to remain in this state for an “unnatural” length of time are likely “rebellious” and in a “dangerous spiritual condition”, not to mention just plain “strange” and unworthy of “fellowship”. (2) The state of a young person after they grow up seeing so many unhappy marriages in the church, including his/her own parents, that were aggravated by the inept counseling and meddling of incompetent pastors whose struggles in their own marriages was carefully hid from the congregation.

    Though not true of all churches, the above is sadly true of to many churches.

  47. Something else that stood out to me is that prayers at the conference “contained a request for God to guide the conference participants in finding a spouse”.

    What they mean by “guide” is a little ambiguous, but what I have seen is people who expect God to have exactly one perfect individual picked out for them to marry. And everyone else is either second best or outside of “God’s will”. In my opinion, what this can do is :

    1) Make you look over a perfectly wonderful spouse because you are waiting for the “warm fuzzy” from God to tell you this is the “one”.

    2) Get you hitched to someone who isn’t really compatible because you mistook that first rush of emotion for God’s leading.

    Just my totally unrelated two cents worth.

  48. Evan –

    When you figure it out, let me know. That’s the story of my life.

  49. This note is for Ken:

    I’m sorry you’ve been so abused by those around you…what you described in your post is nothing short of cruelty. My comments are not directed towards you. You’re being obedient to God’s Word and getting persecuted for it. You’re to be commended.

    I was saddened as you spoke of your life in the past tense, as if your life is somehow over. Don’t give up on your dreams. As a good friend recently told me, “Remember, we have a God who can do infinitely beyond what we can imagine.”

  50. Meg:

    The first thing I wanted to reply was “You’re in SoCal? Where there’s all these single women pining away? Show me where they are — Money where your mouth is!”

    All I can say is you & I must live in vastly different Southern Californias, and I have yet to find the portal between these parallel universes.

    In my church, teenage girls with their families seem to disappear into this parallel universe, returning as twentysomethings with husband and kids. I was never able to find the portal between the universes (where they went in the meantime), and I am now too old to be in the running if I could find it.

    It would help if all you 30/40/50-something single women “waiting for your ovaries to turn to dust” would let us guys know you’re available and realize we’re mortals. Not only not perfect, were probably as messed up as you are. So many “what I’m looking for” entries on those Christian Dating Service forms were aiming for such an uber-Christian spiritual giant that even Christ himself would have trouble meeting their standards for a mate. It’s like me being willing to accept only a 20-year old supermodel who’s also a multi-billionaire.

    I’m no spiritual giant. I’m not perfect. I’m just an aging nerd with a hyperactive brain who got blindsided by the sexual revolution and whose “dating” experience is a string of rejections. I want so bad to find that beautiful unicorn-maiden who acts as though I’m actually important to her and who’ll whicker up to me at night.

    I was a fast-tracked kid genius, and geniuses take a lot longer than average to “grow up” where their personalities catch up with the rest of them; at 50 I’m about where the average guy would be at 30 or so, but with 20 extra years of scars. Now that I’m finally psychologically reaching adulthood, all I have to look forward to is qualifying for the Senior Discount at Denny’s and running from the cancer-Langoliers. Alone.