Thursday, December 31, 2009

Deserving or not Deserving...

Many times in both literature and common life we think of what it means to deserve or not deserve something or someone. In the case of my thought here, I've been thinking about what it means in relation to marriage. Today, we find innumerable excuses not to get married, even though marriage is the foundation of society.

In many cases it's not commitment that people are running away from, I think. More than ever, there is, at least I it would seem, in the Christian community a realization that we need more thought and purposeful engagement on the subject. Personally, life-long commitment is what I believe makes marriage ultimately worthwhile. However, despite many young people wanting to get married, it seems that none of us can find someone "worth" marrying.

Many times I've heard such varying degrees of accomplishment or worth described as prerequisites that I feel as though there is no longer a level playing field. On the one hand, you have those who suggest a young man who has a job, is intelligent, and believes in the Gospel (and perhaps a few other things, although I simplify here for the sake of argument) should be well off towards the path of marriage... then you have girls who will take nothing less than a man who is holier than Jesus Christ himself. Others expect to marry into some amount of money, fame, or privilege.

Is a woman to expect the spiritual maturity of one of the elders of her church? Perhaps it is that men are not wired in such a way as to feel as dependent on the unseen and instead have their heads concentrated on how to make everything work here? Does less fervor inherently indicate a direct road to perdition? Demographically, there have almost always been more women in the church than men. I'm not advocating lethargy... I will be the first to admit wanting to grow more... but I find it difficult to find the community the scripture indicates is essential to this. Why aren't more churches making a point of encouraging young people to get into relationships with wiser and older people in their churches and be mentored? I don't want to walk into a church and walk out having merely flirted with a few people in the hallway between the sermon and my drive home. I want to know there are people there who actually want and expect something from and for me. I would like to not only be able to serve, but to actually connect with people who want more than simply to point out where I am wrong. I can quite ably do that on my own, and my life is often frustrated by doing too much of it. I'm tired of everything being negative.

1st Corinthians 15:19 makes a very good point... "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." That means that it's not just the future life that the Gospel should give us hope and encouragement for... but this life too. God put us here for a reason, it's not a waste to be concerned about what is going on about us.

Is education a mark of intelligence? Is a college degree proof of anything? Is it possible to be educated, intelligent, and competent... or do we put more worth on a piece of paper, than in the person himself? Is a man who drank his way through college and has a slip of paper more worth marrying than the man who has not the degree but is actually capable of intelligent discussion and able to navigate his career? In some circles it is thought that a woman is more of a burden than a benefit... that marriage is best reserved until everything is settled... but is it not also possible, that a wife may be the greatest source of encouragement to actually accomplish something? Is it not true that without women men might be quite content with half of what they would do when someone took the time to care and need them? Additionally, the wife who helped you build your life, would she not be worth even more because of her influence when it was most crucial?

I also wonder why women go to university at times... don't read me wrong, I like intelligent and well-educated women. My problem is that I think frequently college is merely an excuse for people to charge a pile of money and for others to waste precious time. If a family has plenty of money lying around, I can't see any objection to a woman going to formal college... but really, what good is a woman with tens or hundreds or thousands of dollars in debt for starting off a marriage? (Particularly, if she plans not to work, or spend most time at home with her children) Since when was debt a good thing? I for one don't buy the whole, 'good' debt vs. 'bad' debt. Debt is debt. There are times when it is unavoidable or justifiable, e.g. a home or vehicle... but today with all the options that are available, it is absolutely irresponsible to go into debt, particularly where significant, over an education. I understand that a woman has to provide for herself somehow and not all may expect to be married... but I'm sure there are many better ways of going about life than the usual assumptions that people follow without question or thought.

Is it wrong to discriminate against differences of opinion in small matters like dress, or does that make us the more petty? Or are the little things the manifestations of what we are at the core? Also, are we too worried about appearance, in the things we can't change? I don't think it is wrong to find someone who is similar in build or habits... but... just because a guy isn't spending his life in the gym, does that make him less manly? (BTW, I don't believe for a moment that a woman who intentionally neglects her appearance is more godly than those who put an appropriate effort in. Remember, moderation is key here. A woman's character must sustain and increase any attraction her natural beauty may have brought her in the notice of those who see her.)

On the flip side... rumor has it that there are young women complaining they don't find young men who are even interested in the idea of marriage. But do they give the impression that they are more concerned with today... with paying their bills... than with building up the families of tomorrow? How is one supposed to know that a woman is not slave to a career, and is merely being responsible in the present, yet longing a future that would actually mesh with his? I would find it difficult to tell a girl who thought too well of her career (i.e. a 'careerist') from the average feminist, to be fully honest. I can't stop a girl from being a feminist, but I can avoid marrying her... yet... what if she only gives that impression unknowingly? I personally want to know that a woman will be more concerned about her children, than about dollars and cents... even if she is willing to help bring in money to help pay the bills, and perhaps this will require doing it in an unconventional way.

How much of a person's character develops before marriage and how much of it is a result of the development and responsibility that comes with marriage? I think many young men if they start with their heart and mind in the right place will rise to the occasion, if it becomes necessary. Necessity may be the mother of invention... but I am convinced that responsibility is often directly correlated with the realization of the need for a man to take action on behalf of others.

I think the Christian community has shied away from these sorts of thoughts at times in favor of systems and rules to make everything mechanical. However, are we machines or are we human? I don't think any system will change the heart of the matter... that some of us may be more stubborn than others... and perhaps God's plan has a few other twists in it that cannot be anticipated in advance. Does preventing young people from even holding pure friendships create the community that Christ desired? How much parental oversight is healthy to protecting a girl's heart and how much is just simply counter-productive?

Why is it that there are those who entirely buck all these and somehow overcome all logical obstacles, as Mr Knightely complains in Jane Austen's Emma:
"...Frank Churchill is, indeed, the favourite of fortune. Every thing turns out for his good. He meets with a young woman at a watering-place, gains her affection, cannot even weary her by negligent treatment -- and had he and all his family sought round the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found her superior. His aunt is in the way. His aunt dies. He has only to speak. His friends are eager to promote his happiness. He has used every body ill -- and they are all delighted to forgive him. He is a fortunate man indeed!"
And we cannot accuse God of injustice, because we do not really deserve the air we breathe or the life we live. This is the frustration... it is injustice to think that we are wronged when it is our petty plans that are wrecked. This is my problem... I find it difficult to trust that God can work past silly humans that we are... it's as though I've become jaded and cynical after seeing all the silliness in the area of relationships. But then again, I want to believe right now in this moment and for this moment that God has a plan that will work out in the end, because intellectually I know that even though I may be peeved now, ultimately I do believe that God works out everything for his children. How do I translate this into a practical reality? (Philipians 2:13 and Romans 8:28)

Sometimes I wonder... maybe the real answer is that I fear pain... and because I fear pain, I set up walls to prevent my liking those God may have in mind, out of fear that I might be rejected again. Perhaps I may just be bitter and that too is sinful... yet I want to know that what I fear is not real, to know that I am fighting against false walls and unnecessary troubles. I want to know that the hope people speak about isn't just for making good essays, but rather is useful for actual life.

My note really doesn't answer many questions, now does it? I mostly wanted to share what has been on my heart lately and continue the conversation that others who are far wiser than I have begun and whose words have directed my thoughts. I am deeply indebted to many of the articles written by the level-headed folks at Boundless, for example. My note does not do the subject justice, but I hope it at least piques your interest or brings about suggestions and thoughts. I am likely guilty of the worst of everything that frustrates me; too probably it is my own fault that I feel how much I miss the mark. However, am I not a man, imperfect much like every other? (1st Timothy 1:15 and 1st Corinthians 10:13)

7 comments:

  1. I've wanted to read your post several times before I answered. I wanted to let it sink in (because it seems so well written and thought out). Even now, I think I'll only make a few points in regards to a few things my daughter and I have talked about on some of the same subjects.

    I am most impressed with your desire to find a good Christian mentor that will hold you accountable. I don't know what your theological background is but I know from experience that I have always found that type of relationship best in smaller churches and that I often had to seek it out myself. Not so much as going to someone and asking them to be my mentor but by becoming close friends with elderly folks within our fold. I prayed fervently for God to lead me to women who could be an example to me and He did. I will pray for you to find this in your circle as well.

    Our daughter Victoria turns 18 today. She doesn't "date" because she has chosen courtship. Have you read Genesis 24 about the servant being sent and finding Rebecca for Isaac? Or about Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz? They are beautiful stories about family being part of the covenant relationship of marriage. I think when young people get a certain age they feel as if they must get married or they must date because they are missing out on an important step in life if they don't. They don't take into account what God has for them at that moment but what everyone else is doing. I know I felt that way when I was younger!

    Victoria also she says she can't find any chivalrous men anymore. Is it too much for a man to hold a door open, or to call her father first and ask his permission to spend time with her AND her family to get to know everyone better? She loves to go out with groups of her friends but having a deep relationship with a guy should not be a casual thing at all. If he can't do simple things like hold the door or talk to her father, then it shows a lack of respect for her and puts his own interests in front of hers.

    Victoria is going to college. She loves clothing and fashion. She would love to open her own dress shop one day, or at least be able to sew clothes for her family and friends, and maybe clients, out of her own home. I have often told her sewing must skip a generation because I'm not that handy with a needle, yet she can look at a dress and recognize how it is created and whip one up in a day in her bedroom. That's a God-given talent and I can't help her expound on it so that is why she is choosing to go to college. She also says she'd drop it in a minute if the man God has for her shows up anytime within the next four years :-)

    One of our favorite quotes is "A womans heart should be so lost in God that a man needs to seek Him in order to find her." I think the same pertains to a man!

    Have a blessed Sunday!!

    Sallie
    http://www.mikeandsallie.com/sallie

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Sallie for your comment! You have a lot of good thoughts here... btw, thanks for the compliment! :D

    I don't think that there is any set time that one should get married at... merely I believe in getting married as soon as God makes it possible. (Genesis 2:18) Because one is in college, etc. doesn't mean that one needs to automatically be in a relationship... but at the same time young people like myself should probably be preparing our lives to make marriage possible so that when we do have the opportunity to meet the right person we will be in the position to marry them as directly as possible.

    I agree with you that serious relationships are not to be entered in lightly. However, I also think in most cases (excepting arranged marriages) it is helpful that one knows the other person before entangling them in drawn out courtship. For one, I think it is a bit frighting to go from 'hello' to 'may I court you'. I think there is a lot that happens before a guy asks the girl's parents, because there is no point in asking about a girl he doesn't know enough about to have any legitimately serious designs upon. (clearly a prolonged emotional entanglement is not a prerequisite, but some understanding of the person's personality/character/interests would seem imperative, I think... unless we want to promote outward observation at a distance [window shopping] as the ideal method of finding spouses... :P )

    Now, once a girl gets a guy's attention, I am right with you as for asking the parents of the girl for permission to take it towards marriage. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow your thoughts are absolutely rediculous and offensive. I will be shocked out of my mind if you ever find a girl that would marry you, even if you payed her. Go live on an island by yourself and rid america of people like you

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear 'xpumpkinxpatchx'. I presume your name is Andre... but this likely does not matter. I can respect the fact that we perhaps disagree on more than a few things. However, I will not take character attacks that are baseless and inappropriate. I for one am able to disagree with a person and not take it as a personal offense worthy of banishment. (Remember: tolerance is not simply allowing other people to agree with you, but also to be able to cordially disagree with others who may be diametrically opposed to your own viewpoint. In no case is anyone required to prop up your viewpoint. If your opinions don't hold water or you find my ideas too frightening, maybe you should reexamine some of your own assumptions) If you can't/refuse to understand what I speak of, ask for clarification before making a fool of yourself.

    Of course, with all this said, I don't claim to be without fault or necessarily be correct on all points. Perhaps I am completely wrong on many things. I merely express my opinions as they are and allow for constructive discourse on them to gain additional insights, etc.

    Lastly, if you don't agree with me, I advise you not worry about what I think. I'm not forcing you to believe a word I speak, nor am I obliging society to conform to my ideas. Do I think it would be good if that happened? Perhaps, but it would only be of any use if the people involved chose to agree with me of their own volition.

    ReplyDelete