Much of our family news has already been posted on Helen's Journal throughout the year. If you want more details on our family life, have a look over there. You can even Sign Up to be notified by e-mail whenever I make a new journal post on my farm site. I love hearing from so many of you and enjoy reading your comments on my journal updates.
Note that there was no Update 2012 due to Rachel's wedding last Christmas.
As more and more of my children leave home and and become young adults (I now have eight children over the age of twenty!), my updates becomes less about my children and more about passing on the wisdom I have gleaned from almost forty years of mothering ten children.
I thought this time around I would post an article that I wrote several years ago.
Yup, some of our children were young when they got married. (Rachel, our most recent and youngest to get married --- with the full support of both sets of parents --- was 18-1/2.)
Yup, we get criticized for it. But not from our own young adult children! They are battling uphill against worldly cultural norms both inside the church and out, and they are most grateful for the support we give them.
Three Hypothetical Scenarios
Most Common Scenario:
A Christian young couple has been dating for a few months, she is 17 he is 19. They fall in love, long for physical union, and eventually begin sleeping together. (Did you know that the statistics for when Christians lose their virginity is no different from the world? Did you know that the sin of fornication is still in the Bible, where it is most certainly not treated lightly? Check out Hebrews 13:4 and 1 Corinthians 6:9, for example.) They think no ones knows. Everyone plays the game and pretends not to know. The couple doesn't move in together, because then everyone will "know". The parents look the other way. The elders and pastor look the other way. No one gets involved. "It is none of our business", they say. The couple remains sexually active covertly for many years until they both have graduated from university, have good-paying jobs, and are able to purchase a house. At ages 28 and 30 they announce their "engagement". Everyone cheers. Both sets of parents give their blessing. They marry. The bride wears her white wedding dress and white veil as she walks down the church aisle. Everyone smiles and claps and gives their blessing and says, "My, this couple has it all together."
But what does God think?
Next Most Common Scenario:
Same as scenario one, but after a time of sleeping together, they slip up and the young woman becomes pregnant. She is 20 and he is 22. The parents, elders, pastors, and church friends say, "Isn't it wonderful that she is keeping the baby and that they are getting married?" All agree it is time they were married. The pending wedding is announced in the church bulletin and from the pulpit. No one blushes as the pregnant bride walks down the aisle in her white wedding dress and white veil covering her face. Everyone smiles. Everyone is (sort of) happy.
But what does God think?
Rare Indeed Scenario:
A young couple has been dating, with parental blessing, for a few years. They have fallen in love. They wish to get married. She is 18 and he is 20.
They are aware that the Bible condemns sex outside of marriage. They are also aware that the Bible teaches that marriage is a good thing, something God created for our well-being. They know that to delay marriage is to walk headlong into serious temptation. (Remember those days of high passion?) They want to do what is right before God. Physically speaking, they know that the time has come to get married. They are planning a deliberately short, six-month engagement.
BUT! One set of parents (or both) refuse to give their "blessing". They think it would be "wise" (or at least "better") for the couple to wait a few years.
The couple are committed to each other. They are well past the infatuation stage. Their relationship has had time to work through some differences, and to survive a good fight or two. They both love the Lord and want to please Him. They read their Bible and pray together. They have sought wise counsel. They are listening. They are as committed to honoring their parents as they are to honoring the Lord in their physical relationship.
After much prayer, tears, counsel, talking, and more prayer, despite strenuous opposition, the young couple announce their engagement, following what they believe to be God's will for their lives.
Well you would think the young couple had committed a crime! (Think ten exclamation marks!) Many uninformed or misinformed people seem happy to get involved. You would think young marriage was a dread disease. They heap their unsolicited and unwanted advice on the young couple, usually having cornered one of them alone. "Why in the world would anyone in their right mind want to commit to this horrible act of marriage at such a young age? Do you mean to ruin your life?" They quote Bill Gothard and invoke his "chain of command".
Six months later, having weathered a hellish storm of opposition, the blushing bride walks down the aisle in her beautiful gown, her white veil and white dress unhypocritically representing her sexual purity before God and man.
The dissenting parents may be very unhappy, even furious. They may refuse to help with the wedding costs. They may even go so far as to cut the young adult out of the family will.
Many shake their heads and cluck their tongues at the young couple's "foolish" choice.
But what does God think?
But What About Honoring Parents?
I'm glad you asked that. Now, before you start writing an email to me, please understand me on this next point. I am totally in agreement with young couples (and also of not-so-young couples) seeking guidance and weighing carefully the counsel of parents, pastors, and others of maturity and experience. And I am totally in agreement that young adults should honor their parents.
But "honor" is not a synonym of "obey". All of us are required by scripture to honor our parents all of our lives. Check out the Ten Commandments. But nowhere are we required to obey them all our lives. Children are required by scripture to obey their parents. Adults aren't. Don't confuse obedience and honor. They are separate words, meaning different things.
So what does honor of parents look like?
Honor is an attitude of the heart.
Let's take this back to an earlier time when honor was a more common concept. Imagine I were a subject during Queen Victoria's reign in England and she came to visit my home. How would I treat her?
I would treat her as her office and station deserves and demands --- whether I agreed with all her policies and politics or not.
I would give her the very best I had to offer, with joy and not grudgingly. I would clean my house, put flowers in the living room, and take her Corgi for a walk. I would serve her entourage tea.
I would show her preference. "Here, sit in my chair. It is out of the hot sunlight. "
I would do my utmost to meet her requests. "Could I have British tea rather than American tea?" "Most certainly, Your Highness."
I would grant her loyalty. "Under God, I am with you and for you, Your Majesty. Just let me know how I may help in any way."
My speech would be respectful of her. No unkind words, gossiping, talking back, yelling, correcting, arguing, complaining, bossing, slandering, finding fault, sassing, scolding, reproving, exhorting, demanding, interrupting, criticizing, passing on bad reports (with or without relish), angry outbursts, ...
I would assume the best about her. "Of course we know you didn't mean to run over my cat with your carriage. Think nothing of it. It was an innocent mistake, and please don't mention it."
I would talk well of her to everyone I meet, even though I know and they know that the Queen isn't perfect. "The Queen was so sweet and kind to us. She even brought me marmalade from her own private kitchen!" The fact that her carriage ran over and killed my much-beloved cat, though personally painful, will never be shared by me with anyone.
Now suppose the Queen says she wants me to shoot my children. I will, of course, need to tell her that I am unable, before God, to do as she wishes. But I will, of course, be able to do this in a way which still honors her as my queen. While it may be necessary to disobey her, it will not ever be necessary to dishonor her.
Working on an apron.
I Have Spoken!
But Mom and Dad aren't ready for this yet. The chosen mate isn't the one they had imagined, or the timing isn't what they had always assumed it would be. So they invoke the extra-biblical rule that young adults must not marry until they have both sets of parent's blessings. And they invoke the unbiblical rule that young adults must obey their parents.
This seems to me to be a lazy way to opt out of doing the hard work of parenting --- a way of doing as the parent pleases, while putting the blame for what is fundamentally their own choice on God.
The parents say, in effect, we will just throw this problem onto God. "We will let you know when God has spoken to us and when He has given us the green light. Then, and only then, will we give you our blessing."
The parents, who are supposed to be the mature ones, move glibly on with their lives, having dropped a bomb on the lives of the young couple who are trying to do what is right in God's eyes. The young adults will just need to make the sacrifice.
Let Them Eat Cake
Let me digress for a moment.
We are very good in our culture at making our children make the sacrifices, and sometimes even in the name of God and religion. Let me point out three more instances where this is commonly seen in our culture.
Abortion. The ultimate horrendous, most selfish of all parental choices.
Detached parenting. Ezzo: "Babywise: Raising Kids God's Way." Someone has aptly retitled it, "How to Let Your Kids Cry All Night, God's Way."
Daycare. Letting the little ones battle life out for themselves, at the ripe old age of twelve weeks.
Could I climb the highest place in Athens,
I would lift my voice and proclaim,
'Fellow citizens, why do you turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth
and take so little care of your children
to whom one day you must relinquish it all?'
But What About the Young People?
The young couple tries to explain to the parents that this is God's will for their lives. They are mocked, belittled and laughed at.
"Sure, it is God's will. We've heard that one before. Honey dear, we know God's will for your life. Thank you. Don't question authority. You don't need to think for yourself or even have a spiritual walk, because, we will take care of you and direct your life as God tells us what is best for you. No more talking about getting married. Wait until we give you the go ahead. "
The young couple tries again. "We've been dating for three years now. We are very much in love. We want to be together all the time. We have physical passion for each other. The time has come to get married."
"Tut! Tut! (Fingers pointed into face.) You mustn't have those desires. It isn't that hard. Just wait and hold hands for another five years. What is the problem? What is wrong with you that you have such strong desires. You are sick. You are bad. Sex is bad. You are wicked to have such thoughts. Here is what we suggest. If you are that bad that you can't behave, you should go to Africa for five years and work in a mission there. Your "friend" (ever notice how some mother's call their child's boyfriend or girlfriend "friend"? A big clue that mom is in denial!") can go to Siberia for five years too. The five years will just fly by. Trust me. After five years if you still like each other (they don't use the word "love" either) and you have regained some sanity, you might think about, maybe, if you both have at least a bachelor's degree and very good jobs and saved up enough money to buy your first house, and all of our other conditions seem right to us as parents, we might think about letting you get engaged, and maybe after two years of engagement, if we haven't decided to add five or so more conditions (you may still need to improve) you can count on our blessing."
How easily we forget what it was like when we were young and in love, reading Song of Solomon in our bedrooms after dark...
And so the young couple has to agonize over what to do. They battle with questions of why God seems to be saying "yes" to them and simultaneously "no" to their parents. They struggle with false guilt.
Family wars develop due to gossip, slander, pride, spitefulness and just plain hatefulness. People take sides. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. People can't wait for a tasty morsel of gossip. Individuals the young couple haven't seen or heard from in years come out of the woodwork to tell them how to run their lives. Those who have an axe to grind happily confront with mean-spirited attitudes, platitudes and scripture.
Church wars can even develop. And did I mention that gossip and misinformation abounds?
All because two young adults are in love and want to honor God in marriage! All hell, literally, breaks loose.
After some very hard praying, counsel and more praying, a few young couples make their very difficult choice to get married, with or without parental blessing. But MOST cave to cultural pressure: the "Most Common Scenario" is just so much easier...
But what does God think?
Can You Give Me A Biblical Example?
Glad you asked!
Genesis 24. Abraham has his servant go the land of Mesopotamia, to find a wife for his son Issac. The servant says to Abraham, "Suppose the woman is not willing to follow me to this land?" It does not say, "Suppose the father refuses to let his daughter marry Isaac?" Further in the passage the family says, "We will call the girl and consult her wishes." Rebekah had a choice. It was her life after all and her father knew that.
Samson. Samson wanted to marry a Philistine girl. His parents flipped out. Can't say as I blame them. But check out Judges 14:4, "However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord...."
I always feel bad for Samson. He gets a bad rap for wanting to marry a Philistine girl. People forget this was God's will for Samson. He had a plan for Samson. Certainly God was doing something unusual here with Samson. But the fact that it is possible for parents to not know God's will for their children in relation to marriage is clearly shown.
What about Mary, the mother of Jesus? Notice the angel came to Mary (who was probably 15 or 16 years old!) to tell her she was going to have a child. He didn't go to her parents first to see if it would be fine with them so they could pass on God's will to her for her life. And when the angel is finished giving Mary the message, does she say, "Hang on there, angel. I need to talk to my parents about this." No. She says, "Behold the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word."
Can you imagine Mary's mother's reaction when Mary tells her what the angel told her? Remember that Mary's mother was a normal mom just like we are. Let us not super-saint her.
"Hey, Mom. It was kind of like a dream, Mom. This angel came to me and said that the Lord is with me, and that I have found favor with God, and that I am going to have a baby, the Son of the Most High, and that the father of the baby is going to be God."
How would you react if your teenager daughter came to you with such a message?
"Suuuure this is God's will. Slow down here. Are you pregnant by Joseph? Is that what you are trying to tell me here? Don't tell me this is God talking to you. I think it is someone else whispering in your ear."
I bet Mary's mother cried her heart out that night.
Again, notice that Mary's parents are not given any supernatural information regarding God's will for Mary.
Hosea is another example. God tells him, "Go take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry." And he obeys God's voice. What a life of heartbreak this was for Hosea. He even knew ahead of time what that meant for him! But he obeyed. I cannot even begin to imagine what Hosea's mom had to say about this. I doubt she understood.
It is not difficult to find biblical examples in which young people married in accordance with God's will where parental blessing was conspicuously absent.
I love my fresh lilacs!
Delayed Marriage Means Delayed Childbearing
For the most part, our culture still supports and approves of women waiting to get married before having children. So if a couple delays marriage, that usually means delayed childbearing.
Women's bodies were designed by God to have a child every 2-4 years. If a women is nursing her baby at least every 2-3 hours day and night (yes, baby sleeps with mom), menstruation is delayed until the child naturally weans himself, usually between 3 and 4 years of age. Once mom's body gets the idea that the baby doesn't need mom so much in the nursing department any more, that is the signal for menstruation to begin again. After a few cycles (early ones often being anovulatory), the woman will conceive again, and will be blessed by another pregnancy and baby. And the cycle starts all over again.
When we delay having children there are many more repercussions of that action than just not having a baby. When you tinker with God's design the effect is quite generally negative.
Delayed childbearing means that every month a women will have her menstrual period, with production of all its associated hormones, particularly estrogens. Science is now showing an increase in breast cancer due to delayed childbearing or not having any children at all. This kind of information doesn't make the news because of its politically and socially incorrect conclusions, but there are articles on the topic in medical journals. Here is an example:
Delayed Childbirth May Increase Lobular Breast Cancer Risk
Regular monthly menstruation for years on end just wasn't part of God's design.
My strawberries cooling under a shade tree.
The Heart of the Matter
What does a parent do if they are in a situation where they have grave concerns, for whatever reason, about their young adult daughter or son marrying?
The advice given by a veteran ER doctor to new interns is apropos here: "STEP 1: check YOUR pulse."
When it has gotten back within the normal range, then it's time to do the difficult task of working through the issues with (not for) the young couple, to try to figure out which of you may be missing God's will in this decision, making it clear at the outset that this is their decision not yours, that you are only in a position of counselor, not commander, and that you are fundamentally on their side.
Ask the young couple to work through a few questions with you designed to see if they are ready to get married. Ask them to get counsel from others that know them well, to see if there are areas of concern they should take time to work through.
Some Possible Right Questions for the Couple:
Do we each try to obey the First Commandment (Thou shalt love the Lord thy God...)?
Can we handle responsibility?
Do we show up for work on time?
Are we in love and do we want to get married?
Can we keep a job?
Can we follow rules?
Do we follow instructions?
Are we humble and respectful of authority? (opposite of rebellious)
Are we easy to get along with? (opposite of contentious)
Do we show the fruit of the spirit in our lives? (Opposite of just "pretend Christians?")
Are we kind and compassionate?
Do we treat the elderly, children, animals, the handicapped with kindness and respect?
Do we speak well of the authorities in our lives (opposite of critical, slanderous, mocking, lack of loyalty, etc.)
Are we able to work through conflict?
Do we honor and respect our parents?
Do we fellowship with other Christians?
Do we listen and think about counsel from those older than ourselves?
Are we having trouble controlling our sexual passions?
If the answers to these questions are mostly yes, then there is really no reason not to support the young couple.
If the answers are mostly no, then it probably won't make much difference how you counsel them because they aren't godly young people to begin with.
The Wrong Questions:
How much money do we have?
Do we own our own home?
What is our weekly pay check?
Are we still in school?
Do we have our birth control well in hand?
Do we both have good paying jobs?
Do we each have at least a bachelor's degree?
Do we have the blessing of the authorities in their lives?
Are we perfect and have life all figured out? :)
In our Home
Gerald and I figure it is our job to prepare our children for adulthood and marriage during the first eighteen years of their lives. Most young adults go to college or enter the work force near age eighteen, at which point our job as parents is pretty much over.
During those eighteen years Gerald and I have diligently trained them. I have made it my full-time career to love, train and be on the job 24/7 to prepare my children for the adult world. Gerald has made it his top priority to be there for his children, to daily read God's word to them and to teach them what it means. He has prayed with and for them, and talked with them about the truly important things in life.
We have trained them to work hard, to be honest, diligent, kind, pure in a unholy world, how to balance check books, how to drive---all those things that we responsible parents do, day in and day out, to empower our children to go out into the world and succeed. We prepare them for all aspects of life, including and of utmost importance, how to have a walk with God, including by role-modeling, as best we can, that walk ourselves.
Parenting is not a crash course taken a year or two before our children turn eighteen. It happens every day, from day one on.
It is especially difficult for us moms to let go of our ''babies." Gerald will often remind me that my adult children are now grownups and need to be treated on a par with other adults. They are no longer our babies. They are completely able to take care of themselves.
In our family, once our young adults are over eighteen, and have found their one and only love (God's only requirement is that their one and only must be a true Christian [a true Christian is one who exhibits the fruit of the spirit in their lives]) and our young adults come to us talking about getting married, we freely offer counsel and guidance. We may advise against, we may advise to wait, we may advise to go for it. But fundamentally, we see our role as one of helping them make their dreams (not our dreams for them) come true. We're cheerleaders, not dictators.
By the way, as you can probably discern, I am not one of those parents who believe they must choose their young adults' mates for them. I would no more do this than choose their life career, where they should live, or how many children they should have! Mercy! I sure don't want my older children coming back to me and telling me that I made a terrible mistake and they now want out of their marriage and it is all my fault! We have told our children as they have grown up that they had better think long and hard and pray fervently long before they take the step of marriage because marriage is for a long, long time and they are the ones who must live with the consequences, not us.
Gerald and I view ourselves as instructors/teachers/trainers during the first eighteen years of our children's lives. That is the time to teach on preparing for marriage. We tell them over and over and over that when they become young adults they are accountable to God and not to us parents any longer.
After eighteen their training is pretty much over. In practice we have found that our young adults are pretty much done listening by that point anyway. They can marry, legally, after eighteen, to the mate of their own choosing. Which is fair enough---if they are then unconditionally old enough to fight and die for our country on the front lines, then they are surely old enough to choose whom and when to marry. And if they can handle the front lines without me there holding their hand and making their choices for them, they likely can handle starting their own home before God on their own as well.
My summer dill plants.
Our children are not objects, at any age. Our children are real people with feelings. We need to be sensitive and reminded of that in our self-absorbed culture. They aren't here to fulfill our dreams. They have dreams of their own to go after.
Gerald and I view parenting as about them, not about us. We are cheerleaders---as in "You can do this! Go for it! I'm proud of you! I believe in you. I know you will make us proud! Good for you! Seek God and His wisdom. He will guide you. We're praying for you. We're here whenever you need us."
We try to practice the Golden Rule with our children, from newborns to young adults, and ask ourselves, "If I were them, would I want to be treated that way?" We don't want to be over-bearing or self-centered in our parenting.
They belong to God (remember those baby dedications?) and our young adults need to figure out and follow God's will for their lives. Gerald and I do not want to be responsible before God for stopping our children from following God's will in their lives. We do not want to discourage them in their spiritual life. We do not want to be responsible for breaches in relationships because we could not let them grow up and live their own lives.
Our goal as parents is to empower them to follow God wherever He wants to take them.
Does this mean that life will then turn out to be a bed of flowers for them and for us? Hardly! It means only that we as God-appointed parents can have every expectation of hearing the Judge say, ``Well done, good and faithful servant'' when we stand before Him at the end of our journey.
Bread ready for selling in my store.
Here are two interesting articles on marrying at younger ages rather than waiting until it is socially correct to do so.
Say Yes. What Are You Waiting For?
Early Maturity; The Blessings of Young Marriages
A parent writes and asks Focus on the Family this question.
At what point does an adult child become fully independent of his parents' control? Great food for thought for those of us who need to let our young adults spread their wings and fly away.
(When The Mother's Companion links to an article on another website, it does not necessarily mean that we endorse the content of the whole page or site.)