I took a bite of crock-pot spaghetti, enjoying my church’s weekly potluck. Little did I know the conversation I was in for.
“I read a blog by a pastor this week, who was advocating for young marriage,” David said.
My ears perked up, and the rest of us at the lunch table turned toward him.
“Yeah, he was quoting statistics on how people who marry before the age of 26 have the lowest divorce rate,” David expounded. He sighed, “I’m 24, so I guess I have only a year or two to find a wife.”
My immediate response was one of offense: “How can that pastor say that? How can he tell me, a 27-year-old single woman, that I’m doomed for divorce just because I didn’t find the right man by now?”
The other people at our table jumped into the discussion, and I sat there a little bit horrified as people of all ages ended up agreeing with the pastor that David had mentioned.
I drove home from church, fuming. In my head, I railed against the statistics that said I was destined to get divorced or marry a divorced man or be utterly unhappy or fail to conceive, just because I happened to be in the wrong age group.
The potluck conversation stuck with me, and over the next few days, my thoughts/emotions on this topic ranged between two extremes:
- It’s stupid, the whole thing is stupid. Who cares anyway?
- IT’S NOT LIKE I HAVE HAD A CHOICE, PEOPLE!!! You act like I consciously made the choice to wait until my child-bearing years are almost over before I think about getting married. I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT GETTING MARRIED, SINCE I WAS THREE YEARS OLD! Don’t quote stats to me and tell me I’m doomed, unless you’re going to personally go out there, find my man, and point him in the direction of my pre-planned wedding.
I settled myself down throughout the week, telling myself, “It’s okay, the statistics have nothing to do with God’s plan. That pastor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Calm down, Charity; you’ll probably be married by age 30 anyway.”
The conversation that Sunday genuinely scared me, and my subconscious fears stuck with me for years.
- I was afraid that it was too late for me to have a happy marriage – or maybe even a marriage at all.
- I was afraid God had forgotten about me, and now He had to scramble to make up for lost time.
- I was afraid that God had lost my prayers among all of the supernatural voicemails and emails of everyone who had actual problems.
- I was scared of getting to 30, childless and manless – or, worse, divorced because God had chosen for me a crap man as an afterthought.
In my research, I’ve found that 2009-ish was the beginning of a trend of blogs, research, and web sites dedicated to studying the effects of early vs. late marriage, and their conclusions are almost unanimously the same: get married early, have babies before you’re 30, and you will have a better life.
A major Christian magazine published on this topic in 2009. One well-known, oft-quoted web site is dedicated solely to proving that delayed marriage is harmful. This blog post is pretty typical of what you find when you Google “The Case for Early Marriage.”
It seems like everyone (Christian and secular alike) is chiming in to spout the line about how wonderful it is to marry in your early 20’s. My friend re-posted this link last year, and it made me process this idea more logically and less emotionally than I did a few years ago. I’d like to respond here to that post.
The author, a man who married in his early 20’s, is basically trying to say that Christians should support young couples who want to get married. Yes. I agree. (Not that experiential arguments are the most sound, but my own sisters married at 23 and 20 years old, and it worked out great for them.) But the way he says it comes across as judgmental to anyone who didn’t marry young like he did.
He has three points to support his “thesis”:
- Marriage is a gift. “Marriage is not something to be avoided, but something that should be sought after by young people.”
My response: Singleness is also a gift. And seeking after something does not necessarily mean attaining it. Do you mean that I have failed, just because I’m still seeking after marriage in my 30’s?
- Marriage encourages people to grow up. “Marriage pushes young men out of the nest to spread their wings and fly under the windy pressures of life.”
My response: So does a steady job. So does international travel. Some of the single men I most respect are still living at (or have moved back) home, fully embracing the call to love their biological families even when it’s hard. Moving back in with my family was one of the very hardest, most character-building things I’ve ever done. So was international travel. As opportunities to grow up go, marriage is only one (very limiting) option.
(Incidentally, single parenthood also encourages people to grow up. I don’t see anyone advocating that for 20-somethings with a choice in the matter.)
- Marriage protects from sexual immorality. “Young Christians seeking to be obedient to abstain from sexual relations outside of marriage will collapse under the weight of their optimal sex drive and the influence of an obseessivly sexualized culture.” [sic]
My response: So, since I’m 31, I’ll probably start losing my self-control any day now? Thanks for the heads-up. Look out, San Diego! Charity is going to snap any minute and start sleeping around due to the fact that she’s never had a boyfriend.
I believe that the blogosphere needs to stop projecting doom and gloom onto people who don’t have the opportunity to marry young. We only need to look at Jesus:
Jesus didn’t weigh the statistics of crucified vs. non-crucified Jews when He decided to come to earth. He didn’t look at the statistics of people who had been able to raise themselves from the dead (the stat was 0, by the way). He didn’t analyze the data of how many people He’d be able to save and take with Him to heaven, vs. how many people would reject the salvation He offers (John 3:16).
Instead, He prayed a lot, did the will of His Father (John 5:19), and saved the whole dang world (Matthew 1:21). He had the gift of singleness, matured okay, and managed to not sin sexually. I think if He were writing an article or blog post about when is the best time to get married, He would say something like…
The best time to get married is when you find the right person. The best age at which to marry is the one God pre-ordained before the foundation of the world. And the best person to marry is exactly as old as (s)he’s supposed to be.
Besides, someone has to be the good statistic.