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When are you ready to think about marriage?

I remember as a senior in college being greatly perplexed by the issue of marriage and its timing. Although I was head over heels in love with Karen, I spent three months in Thailand and, upon returning home, began making plans to spend the summer in Europe. Her response: “Go ahead and go, but I …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
I remember as a senior in college being greatly perplexed by the issue of marriage and its timing. Although I was head over heels in love with Karen, I spent three months in Thailand and, upon returning home, began making plans to spend the summer in Europe. Her response: “Go ahead and go, but I can’t promise I’ll be around when you return.”
Within a month, I’d asked her to marry me. As much as I enjoyed my freedom, I couldn’t risk losing her.
Things seem to have changed a lot in the way people think about marriage since then. Eph. 5:25 is the operative passage that perhaps has intimidated some into a prolonged bachelorhood: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.”
A young man who I respect wrote me this week asking for advice: “My mom told me that I should be in pursuit of a woman at my age (I am 25).  I haven’t dated anyone since freshman year of college. Sure maybe I am old enough, but I don’t feel like am.  I asked my friend about this question and she said, “Until you are ready to completely lose your life to a girl – what’s the point?” 
I wrote him back, telling him how unprepared I was for marriage. At 23, what I didn’t know about women was a lot. I was selfish and pretty insensitive. But looking back, I have to ask, “When was I ever going to learn to put someone else’s interests before my own? How else was I going to learn sensitivity?”
The one thing I had going for me was that I was hopelessly in love with Karen and I meant what I said about “till death do us part.” Divorce was never a consideration for me. And by giving her my heart, I gave her veto power over a lot of things in my life. Those commitments set in motion a process that gradually turned me into the man of God that she deserved.
There have been many tests along the way. At various times, the feelings for each other may have ebbed to the point where we wondered what in the world we were ever thinking when we made those vows. But the foundation of our commitment 29  years ago has always stood strong.
So, when are you ready to get married? Maybe when you’re prepared to commit to putting another person’s needs before your own. When you’re prepared to commit to becoming the man or woman that they need to realize their dreams. Not when you’ve arrived, but when you’re committed to not look back and to press onward together.
Marriage has been one of the two best things I ever did. My life is so much richer than if I’d stayed single. As a single guy, my habit pattern would be to put my own needs first. More people (guys especially) need to realize that they are probably as ready as they’re ever going to be to think about marriage right now. 

Comments (15)

  • Yes, that is it “not when you’ve arrived, but when you’re comitted to not look back and to press on together” is it. We never would have gotten married if we would have waited to “arrive” or have it all together. We had absolutely nothing financially or in any other ways for years, but it was good! Actually, we still have not arrived, so you can’t wait for that. My husbands parents are not believers, so were not supportive. We have had so many highs and lows, but our lives are so much richer because of our love and being commited to each other. We really had so many strikes against us in the worlds eyes, but like you said we were as ready as we were ever going to be and it was God’s perfect timing and will.

  • Seth, this blog will line up behind others you authored that I intend to revisit in my blog posts soon. This is a BIG BIG problem over here, especially with men from my tribe. The average age of those going into marriage from my tribe is 34!

    Like Wendy said, they all wait until they’ve “arrived” or as we say here, “are in things”.

    This blog has stirred me up again on an issue that has to be addressed by the Church in some way.

    Great blog Seth!!

  • i like this blog a lot pops; i think marriage is a good place to start learning what commitment looks like. and i agree with yesterday’s blog – my generation has got to learn how to commit – ashley was right, the root of it all is fear.

  • I was 24 when I got married. It was sometime in that first year of marriage that I realized I was selfish. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. My wife never had to tell me I was selfish. I could see it in me for the first time.

    I wanted the big potato and the last cookie and I took the big potato and the last cookie w/ little if any remorse. I was in construction at the time and if we worked til dark I worked til dark w/ no phone call and expecting supper when I walked in the door. These things are fine if you live in a dump w/ 3-4 other guys. They should rarely if ever happen in marriage.

    Aside from my salvation, my wife is the best gift God gave me. Had I known marriage was going to be half this good I would have married her a year sooner.

  • I’ve been thinking about marriage for a long time. What holds me back? Finances. I don’t know how I’ll provide for anybody other than myself on this missionary support-raised budget…

  • I love this blog…and the point made about how marriage helps us to become selfless….because it truly is a constant struggle….but God calls us to love our mate as Christ loved the church…completely selfless. Great blog!

  • Sounds like my hubby! He’s one of the most un-selfish people I know! Always encouraging me in my dreams and working hard so I can have the opportunity to chase them! And I agree – we’ve never “arrived” and it’s way fun to journey together instead of thinking you’ve got it all together on your own! We just have fun and laugh at ourselves (and each other) and enjoy the journey. It’s a lot of fun. Don’t be afraid to committ. It’s scary – scariest thing I’ve ever done – BUT BEYOND WORTH IT!

  • Focus on the Family has an excellent website (Boundless.org) with tons of relevant relational advice. One thing they say I agree with is, “Women have to trust God in waiting for a man to pursue them while men have to trust God in risking rejection as they pursue.” As an intentional single young man I’ll admit hearing, “Let’s just be friends,” is annoying.

    I keep coming back to how much I have to keep my eyes on Jesus and “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” God is my provider and I know He gives good gifts to his children in his time. Personally though… as I flit through the whirlwind of life I try keeping my eyes open, taking advantage of opportunities to meet other Believers, exhibiting initiative whenever appropriate, but above all waiting on God to lead and confirm as I prayerfully follow in His footsteps.

    Speaking of following in His footsteps, I’ve been thinking recently about Philippians 3:10 where Paul says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…”

    It hit home to me that when someone dies a martyr for Christ they are perhaps truly imitating His life in the closest form.

    So here’s a rhetorical question, “When are we going to become such on fire Jesus Followers that we wish our lives would follow Jesus’ to the extent we desire to have the opportunity to be ushered from this life as a martyr for Christ, becoming like him in his death?”

  • My dear friends Karen and Seth,

    I believe in marriage. I have been divorced twice. God hates that. I do too.

    Having been in your home recently I want you to hear me say again what has been said before.

    “You and Karen are special”.

    I wish that my life had the relationship you reflect with your wonderful children.

  • “Go ahead and go, but I can’t promise I’ll be around when you return.”…that sounds so much like something I said to Mike before we were married..after dating for 6 years, no wonder you married such a wise woman. 😉

    Seriously, something else you said about time for marriage being “when you’re prepared to commit to putting another person’s needs before your own.” That just hit me as why God set up marriage as the basis for a family…how else can you prepare for what it means to be a parent until you learn how to truly put someone else’s needs before your own? And as parents, spouses, and Christians, God is constantly teaching us that lesson.

  • This is sweet… even for us divorced folks.

    It’s good to see people who have pressed through the hard times and keep on making the commitment to stick together, to put each other’s needs before their own. I think Amy is right – this lesson of putting other’s needs before our own is something He keeps on teaching us as parents, spouses and in every relationship with every Christian. It’s a good one for today, in fact!!

    So nice to finally meet you and Karen … May the Lord continue to bless you and your family, this ministry and all the many people you influence for the Kingdom of God!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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