Occasionally someone ventures outside the cultural marriage norms and makes the case for getting married young, but generally, it’s ingrained deep within us all that there’s an acceptable age to marry, and to do so before that is unwise.
But is it?
We admit there’s an epidemic of adults who are over-sized children though the full weight of it hasn’t fully been realized. But we’re slow to admit where blame lies. And even if we did, would we be willing to shift the paradigm?
I submit two major things are causing adults to delay marriage, negatively impacting their own adulthood and maturity, and ultimately, all of us.
- The adolescent culture
- The worship of education
Since around 1905, when G. Stanley Hall named the adolescent period, Americans have increasingly coddled their children, protecting their “right” to childhood, long after what has formerly been called childhood, has ended. Now we have a culture of parents who protect, shield and defend to a fault. They require little work and responsibility for fear it will hamper their fun and they elevate extra curricular opportunities over the practical preparation for life.
So we have “Generation Y”, the narcissistic generation who wants a ribbon for showing up. Their parents did something wrong.
Answer? We need to balance the natural freedoms and privileges of childhood with our responsibility to help them grow in maturity and wisdom. We need to expect things–important, life things that will help them transition into adulthood when the time comes. We need to let them experience things, while guiding them and pushing them to find truth, to view the world through the lens of God’s Word, where they will find answers for everything.
We need to change our idea of the “teen years.” We are raising children into adults. Those in between years are the most potent for developing skills, learning, training, preparing and practicing for adult life. These are not years to be frittered away. These are the years where we challenge them and they rise to the challenge of womanhood and manhood, the years of their best strength and courage, where vision is best cast. Youth is where character is grown and practiced, responsibility takes root, and self-control must reign.
Worship of Education
The first one was easy; for this one, buckle up.
We could have the talk about the unnecessary hype of college but that would take too long. If we could understand that college may be necessary for highly specialized vocations, but generally, not necessary for a good education and training in most vocations, we would begin the process of demoting the college degree from some idolized status. It is now, especially in our highly technological age, only one of many ways to a higher education, not the least of which is laborious and expensive.
Too often marriage is pushed off until after college. First, college has taken precedence over the importance of marriage. Second, it is assumed that both can’t be done simultaneously.
Sadly, too, in many cases college extends (or worsens) the adolescent stage. Parents pay for their adult children to live (and/or party) during the time they should be assuming those responsibilities.
We’ve given the pursuit of (let’s be honest) more money precedent over the pursuit of a godly spouse.
Why We Should Support Early Marriage
Marriage is good. Marriage is a gift. Marriage makes us grow up, gives us a companion to weather the stuff of life. Announce you’re getting married before the “acceptable” age, and you’ll mostly be met with pleads of “live some life first.” And while the single state has its unique opportunities, marriage certainly doesn’t detract from the joys of life, but rather doubles them.
Are You Ready?
Waiting until we’re “ready” can be a precarious thing. What is “ready”?
Financial readiness is the primary reason caution is offered to young couples. Somehow, just having an income isn’t enough in our American idealistic dream. Mark Regnerus, in “The Case for Early Marriage” said:
“Marrying young can spell poverty, at least temporarily. Yet the mentality that we need to shield young adults from the usual struggles of life by encouraging them to delay marriage until they are financially secure usually rests on an unrealistic standard of living. Good marriages grow through struggles, including economic ones. My wife and I are still fiscal conservatives because of our early days of austerity….
Nevertheless, the economic domain remains an area in which many parents are often able, but frequently unwilling, to assist their children….This cultural predilection toward punishing rather than blessing marriage must go, and congregations and churchgoers can help by dropping their own punitive positions toward family members, as well as by identifying deserving young couples who could use a little extra help once in a while. Christians are great about supporting their missionaries, but in this matter, we can be missionaries to the marriages in our midst.”
What about ready in other ways? Everything I was when I got married has changed. Everything I thought about life has changed. I’ve grown. I’ve learned. I’ve morphed.
Our growing and changing and morphing is best done with our life partner alongside us. Every step toward “establishing ourselves” as adults without our spouse, is a step toward stubborn independence.
We need the companion, accountability and responsibility marriage brings, and we need it earlier rather than later.
Sure there are exceptions, good reasons to wait. But our prevailing attitude should be to think differently, to love and embrace marriage, not just for “one day”, but as something to be desired, sought after and celebrated in youth.