Note: On August 16, I posted "Early Marriage" which consisted of a lengthy quote of Benjamin Franklin on the benefits of marrying young. Several days later, I received the following E-mail from a brother in Christ who recently had become a friend. We talked by phone and I did my best to encourage him in his pursuit. But I also asked if I could use his E-mail as a post on the blog. He graciously agreed and edited what he had sent me to protect, as he put it, "the innocent and the guilty."
Your recent "Early Marriage" post struck me, and prompted me to write to you. Perhaps what I write can be fodder for a future post on your blog, or perhaps you may have some advice for me. I don't know - perhaps I just need to vent.
I just turned another year older, and it bothered me more than I'd like to admit. God's providence has not brought me a wife and covenant flock to call my own, a desire I have had for years now, and continues to grow. Especially as I have seen such admirable models of covenant households - including the examples you and David have been, as frequently seen through your blog - my disappointment grows, as I feel I am missing out on such a wonderful blessing as the "Early Marriage" train leaves the station in my life.
Often I feel that no one understands. "Oh, you're still young! You have so much freedom to enjoy!" Oh, yes. The freedom to come home to an empty house every day. The freedom to see my friends get married, leave my life, and establish their own homes. Glorious freedom, indeed. Look, I have great gratitude for my family, my church, and my job. But I'm not going to care about the fruits of my capitalist toiling on my deathbed. Even immersing myself in the Bible and theological literature, while edifying, is not an end in itself. As a man, I feel hardwired to serve someone else, not myself. My attempts to bring more meaning to my life - by getting more involved in my hobbies, or hanging out with other brothers in the Lord, while profitable, leave me empty.
I am no fool, and I know marriage is hard...
I don't have fanciful ideas about it being a sexual utopia, or believe that I would never be lonely again. My own sanctification is hard enough - I imagine that trying to sanctify 2 people at once is much harder. I know women well enough, firsthand, that I also realize how difficult they can be at times. And I have the good sense to tremble at the thought of the difficulties that accompany raising children. But I've never been afraid of doing hard things. You can probably imagine how often I was tempted to drop out during the rigorous studies I endured in college. "You can just switch to an easier major!" But I did it because I knew it would be rewarding - and it has been. I'm sure, for you, this probably conjures up flashbacks to those Advanced Hebrew classes you took - no small feat, eh?
As you may recall, I attend a faithful [Presbyterian/Reformed church]. But I think that our churches don't really know what to do with post-college singles. They are great at ministering to families, and to children. But for those who come out of college and aren't married, they kinda shrug their shoulders at us and say "well, don't have sex before you're married." So that's who we are in the church. The "Don't Have Sex Before You're Married" ministry. How very empowering.
Now, I love my church dearly! But I am afraid that the Spirit of the Age has infected her to some degree. 2-income families where the wife works are the norm ("how else", they reason, "can you keep up with the normal standard of living?"), daughters are expected to go "make something" of themselves by going to college, and, with a few exceptions, family sizes are limited to only 1-3 children. There are some in the congregation who do home schooling and family worship, but not many. And they are usually around my age, so there are only a few older models around to follow.
Anyway, my current state is not for a lack of trying. Ever since I started my career several years ago, I've done everything within reason to find an eligible presbyterian or reformed girl. I'm not a shy person, nor am I a stick-in-the-mud bean counter. Here is a rundown of the recent prospects:
Girl #1 - attractive girl who sits with her family in church. Turns out she is still in high school! (10 year age gap). Wow - I wouldn't have guessed. Oh well.
#2 - girl from another family in the church, stunning good-looks, full-time waitress. But around the time I was going to chat with her, she decides to start seeing the older, grizzly, unemployed fellow in our congregation. Huh. Oh well, again.
#3 - blonde girl from our church, college student. Several months into the relationship, things are "clicking" and, after gaining her family's approval, she abruptly decides that her studies and career must take priority and breaks things off. Double ouch.
#4 - this was an arranged, long-distance courtship around a year ago, 24 y.o. red-head. Via phone and e-mail communication, things were clicking well enough. However, neither the girl nor thefamily wanted her to leave their postmillennial utopian community (I'm being humorous here, although perhaps with a dash of cynicism). They were not willing to part from their churches, family, and friends. Ah, yes - "Patriarchy: Except When It's Hard [And My Little Princess Wants a Pony, Too]".
There were, of course, pleas for me to relocate. The family even offered to give me a local job. There were two problems with this. First, I would be trading away the very financial and job security I would need to raise my own covenant flock.
The second problem is that having me move seemed wrong-headed. Not intrinsically wrong for me to move to where her family was, mind you. But it seemed wrong-headed and backward to me. Look, I realize that patriarchy does not entail a pig-headed "my way or the highway" mentality, but it does mean that the woman leaves her family to be a helpmate to the man, in HIS calling in life, and establish her own family with him. I am certainly sensitive to the valid difficulties and emotions involved in a woman's attachment to her family. That must be accounted for and dealt with sensitively. But I don't think the solution was to reverse this order. It just got to the point where I was getting the feeling that I was being brought into their postmillennial compound to donate my income and seed (chuckle, chuckle). Maybe you disagree with me here, but the situation at least didn't strike me as wise.
I do wish I would have married younger, and perhaps I shouldn't have waited as long as I did to start looking. But I do hope that the Lord will grant me a wife and, at least, my first child within the next few years. But there is nothing I can do to just "make" it happen. There is no "Reformed bride" section at the local drug store I can pick up on my way home from work. I suppose the only advice you can probably give me is the obvious - keep trying, keep praying, and keep waiting. Yes, I know that that is true.