Sunday, June 8, 2014

From Josh and Marisa--Why Getting Married (Young) is a Good Thing

Just to clarify, this post is from Josh and Marisa.

It's probably not a mystery to anyone reading our posts that we think getting married young would be a good thing not just for ourselves, but our families, the church, and the community too. If you aren't biblically rooted (not that we are super-Christians or anything), you probably would disagree with us. Society tells young men and women that they ought to wait 10 or 15 years out of high school before they should even consider being married, yet culture and the media creates a hyper-sexualized atmosphere in which young people are supposed to live in the weird paradox of young, pre-martial sex being "ok" but young marriage being taboo.

Obviously getting married young is not for everyone. Marriage is about sacrifice and selflessness. However, the sacrifice in marriage doesn't have to be something that compromises your happiness. Eric Teetsel, executive director of The Manhattan Declaration, a Christian advocacy organization, writes in this article in Christian Post Magazine about how the church and society needs to reemphasize the importance of marriage amongst our youth, stressing that getting married young is a blessing, not a curse where a person resigns their liberty or joy.
"I think the church should do a better job of teaching the civic necessity of marriage, and how it is a sacrificial act, in many ways, but not in terms of sacrificing your own freedom or happiness, but giving yourself in order to contribute to the common good, in both your community and of the country."
Two of the most crucial ingredients in the success of any marriage, but especially young marriage, are maturity and selflessness. We'd actually argue that without maturity and selflessness, no marriage can survive or thrive. The reason why put selflessness after maturity is because without maturity, one cannot be selfless. 

The issue with society, especially American society, is that people honestly believe that marrying later in life is the correct thing to do. Another article in Christian Post interviews Ted Cunningham, the author of Young and in Love: Challenging the Unnecessary Delay of Marriage. Maturity in Cunningham's eyes is a necessity before getting married, but maturity can be acquired in youth.
"There's a certain level of maturity, life responsibility and one's walk with Jesus that should be considered when assessing someone's preparedness for marriage."
That's why maturity, in our opinion, comes before developing a selfless attitude. One needs to be mature in their walk in Christ and prepared for the storms of life before they can seriously say that they are selfless and willing to give themselves for the benefit of their wife, family, community, church, and nation.

Selflessness is a difficult trait to acquire, especially later in life after you are used to living your own way, apart from the desires and needs of a spouse and family. Cunningham perfectly summarizes one of society's main objections to the idea of young marriage: independence.
"Personally, I just believe that independence has become a socially acceptable term for selfishness," he said. "'You need more time to live for yourself' and that's not the Gospel. Our life in Christ is 'deny yourself.'"
Cunningham is spot on with his assessment of why this objection is unbiblical and, frankly, illogical. Cunningham is saddened by the modern movement of churches and families telling their children that they basically need to get through college, travel, get a job, and save money--or basically learn to be independent. In many ways, the concern of ensuring a person's ability to be independent is not unfounded. People are often concerned that if a young marriage fails the couple will not know how to survive independently. Society (including churches and families) lets fear dominate their demands for their children regarding marriage... "don't get married young, you need to learn to survive alone first."

While the concern of couples getting divorced is legitimate, teaching people they need to be independent and then telling them they need to get married and become co-dependent is, in our opinion, one of the reasons so many marriages fail. When people are taught to be independent, they learn what they like and dislike, what they want to do with their spare time, what they want their lives to look like, and how they want to achieve their goals. In short, people learn to only care for themselves when they are single and independent for extended period of time in their early adulthood. How are young couples supposed to survive the compromise and conflict-resolution that marriage (and life) requires if they are only taught to care for themselves?

People who only know how to live by themselves and are set in their ways are likely to be terrible spouses and doomed to a failed marriage. It takes weeks to break a bad habit. Imagine how long and hard it is to break what essentially becomes a personality characteristic--selfishness. In addition to living independetly, Teetsel and Cunningham both argue that being pure with our God-given urges in youth to have sex with our spouse in a society that says you are not ready to marry until you are in your late 20s or early 30s is virtually impossible, if not detrimental emotionally, physically, and spiritually. If men and women were designed by God to peak in their hormonal level and sexual desire in their late teens and early 20s, why would God not want them to marry until their late 20s? Living the single-life until society deems you are ready to marry is not only destructive by teaching people to live selfishly, but also damaging because men and women often unfortunately bring emotional baggage from the sexual sins of their past (multiple sexual partners, an addiction to pornography, etc.).

To an extent, the sexual urges God gives us (for the first time) in our youth is to allow us to survive the temptation of pre-martial sex in order to make the blessing of sex within marriage all the more awesome! However, we by no means believe God wants young people to remain abstinent for 10 or 15 years after those urges first arrive.

So basically we live in a culture that doesn't want young people to have sex before marriage, yet tells them that they need to wait, be independent, acquire sexual and emotional baggage, and be selfish before they should even think about getting married. Makes a lot of sense, huh? This may sound harsh, but it's the honest-to-God truth.

We want to now show you why we believe that we are ready for marriage in the near future. If you are a young couple interested in the idea of marriage and your thoughts line up with ours, odds are you may be too, despite what society says. The following lists are just three of the many things that Josh thinks would make Marisa ready for marriage and three things Marisa thinks would make Josh ready for marriage:

  1. She focuses on trying to be completely selfless. Everything she does is for my benefit, her parents' benefit, or society's benefit. Just the other day she encouraged me to volunteer with her at a local homeless shelter on our anniversary. Even a day dedicated to us was used to benefit others! (See the photo on the right.) 
  2. Marisa is rooted in the Bible, which will allow for our relationship to flourish correctly in the God-given way it should. We were both raised on the Bible and both fell away from God for a season at the start of college, but due to the trials we've had (God's wake up calls in life) we have grown deeper in our love for Him and for each other. It's a blessing have a woman of the Lord in my life, someone I can rely on for emotional help and support, and someone who will support and encourage me in everything I do! 
  3. Marisa is mature beyond her years. We both know young marriage is a challenge, and she is willing to work with me to prepare for the journey. Marisa faithfully reads God's word and reads books on marriage and living according to God's plan. She knows there will be trials and storms ahead, and instead of doing the normal thing adolescents (and many adults do) which is to ignore that fact and just have fun, she actively desires to prepare herself for the journey ahead, which includes planning for both the roadblocks and the treasures that she'll encounter on the way. 
  1. He is the ultimate encourager. Even when I've been at my lowest point, he's built me back up with not only words of affirmation, but words of love. Many people tend to shy away from those facing hardships, fearing that they'll say or do the wrong thing.  Not Josh, though. He always seems to know exactly what to say.
  2. He is a natural conflict resolver. There have been times in our relationship when we've had pretty heated arguments and times when I've unintentionally hurt him with my words. Yet, he has always been quick to diffuse the disagreement and irritation between us. He has always been quick to calm me down and work towards a solution. It's a quality that I'm working on for myself and one that any person would be blessed to find in their significant other. 
  3. He never fails to be upfront and honest. Honesty has always been important to Josh. Ask him a question, and he'll answer you truthfully. Of the various things he has taught me in our relationship, one of the most important is honesty. He's taught me to be open and honest with not just him, but myself. If something's bugging me inside or outside of our relationship, he always encourages me to confide in him. This has been one of the saving graces of our relationship. The straightforward honesty between us is beautiful and has helped us make it through even the most difficult trials together.
If you are a young couple and you line up with these answers, odds are you are like us and probably wanting (and nearly ready) to marry your boyfriend or girlfriend. We are by no means a perfect example, but we do hope to show you that there is a very valid reason to wanting to get married early for both of us. In addition to our personal reasons, here is a list of a few of the benefits that we and many other Christian experts on dating and marriage believe young married couples can receive if they get married young:
  • Growing up and growing old together: with a very minimal past, it's easier for younger couples to grow and thrive together. Anyone in a relationship brings baggage to the table. The question is how much baggage will there be? Will you have a backpack from just having some family problems, or will you have a trunk full of your past sexual and emotional transgressions? By marrying young, you develop a history together, something that you can cherish and use to build your relationship, not something that haunts you. 
  • Not being selfish, but selfless:  as we mentioned earlier, marrying young means that individuals within a marriage are not well established in their own patterns of how they want to live out the details of their life (e.g. when they watch TV, where they go on vacation, et cetera). Obviously you want to be compatible with your spouse and share generally the same dreams and goals, but it is impossible to find someone who will match you 100% on every aspect of your likes and dislikes. Marrying young allows you to learn to be selfless and devote yourself to your spouse and family, conceding on aspects of your life that you may not have given up so easily in the future after living life on your own for many years.
  • You are fighting for holiness: as this author puts it in his #2 reason to get married young, God has given us a better and meaningful plan to enjoy sex within the confines of a fruitful marriage. However, modern culture embraces sexual impurity, and unless you live under a rock, the temptations of sexual impurity may wind up being an extremely destructive force in your life. 
  • The satisfaction of a spouse and family: again, that same author raises a valid point in his #5 reason to get married young. You can want to travel the world, be successful in your career, and live life the way you want to live it all you want, but in the end you'll just feel empty. God has called us to living a life of sacrifice, placing the needs of others before our own. If we are supposed to do this in every area of our lives, a good place to start would be to make sacrifices and serve the needs of our spouses and families. Marriage and raising kids is not a simple task, young or old, but the rewards of being faithful in your service and selflessness are beyond any gratifications that money, travel, or material success provide. 
Summary: The ways of the world have, unfortunately, dominated modern thinking in the church and the family about the idea of marriage. People believe young marriages are ignorant, naive, solely for sex, and doomed to failure. God has blessed us with marriage, and wants to use marriage to teach us how to live our lives. We are called to be selfless, dying to self for the benefit of others. It is easiest to learn this skill with the wife or husband of our youth--someone you love, cherish, and respect--and then apply to all other areas of our life. It is nearly impossible to do the inverse, where you learn to be selfish by living independently and then must break yourself of your ways for your spouse and family. 

God encourages men to "rejoice in the wife of their youth" (and I am sure he encourages wives to do the same with their husbands). We must refocus, individually and as a society, on not condemning young marriage, but encouraging it for those who are ready to fulfill God's plan for their lives. We want to leave you with the following scripture as something to reflect on, as it is a scripture that we both are excited to fulfill through marriage: 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

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