A case for marriage…

I’d like to spend a few words building the case for marriage, because this institution, like all institutions (it seems) is increasingly regarded with both suspicion and cynicism by younger generations.   For this reason an increasing number (of both Christ followers and the general populace) are forsaking marriage, choosing instead to simply live together.

I understand the cynicism, but disagree with conclusion.  The cynicism makes sense because people are looking for something more substantive than some sort of ‘legally binding’ arrangement.  If that’s all a couple has, and they stay together for propriety, or reputation, perhaps even ‘for the children’, then they enflame the notion that marriage is meaningless.  After all, when a couple stands before God and their friends to make a vow, they don’t promise to live together; they promise to love each other through all the seasons life – and let me tell you, the latter is much harder than the former.

My wife and I have been married thirty years, and I don’t think I’m speaking presumptuously in declaring that we love each other deeply.  We’ve built a storehouse of adventures, laughter, child-raising, and braving challenges together.  Each of these marvelous moments seems to add a brick to the solidarity of our marriage, and each brick makes the notion of walking away from our commitment to love, all the more difficult.

God knows, though, there are moments when we’ve both wanted to walk away.  Between us, we know all the tricks – stony silence, careless disregard, hurtful words, manipulation, a fear of truth or confrontation that leads to perhaps the worst thing of all: the pleasantness of relational death.   We’ve never strayed very long into any of these arenas, falling in unwittingly, and then crawling out – but we’ve been there, and when one or the other of us is there, the grass suddenly looks greener elsewhere.  After all, we’re both competent and capable individuals, right?

I’ve a feeling we’re not alone in this.  But, in spite of the fact that our eyes have looked longingly at freedom once in a blue moon (ok, maybe twice), staying in the arena of working on the promises we made has always been the obvious choice.   And because of this, the bricks have continued to accumulate, until we’ve now, not a wall with a marriage contract tacked on to it; but a home of love and gratitude.

There are many reasons we chose to stick with the vows, but one of them is pretty simple:  We made a vow – and we made it before God, our friends, and our family.  It carried a weight for us (as I both believe and teach that it should for anyone who makes it), and this weight has always been lurking in the background.  But recall, as we have, that our vow wasn’t a commitment to stay together – it was a commitment to love each other.    Choosing to simply stay together, without comitting to the hard work of learning to love does two things:  1) It displays our obsession with appearances and our desire to please people, both of which lead to the charges of hypocrisy in the Christian community.    2) It helps create the disillusionment that leads young adults to avoid marriage completely, opting instead for ‘authenticity’.  That marriage and authenticity are thus juxtaposed reveals how wrong headed we’ve become.

The value is found in declaring a commitment to love one another.  Sometimes love might call for consequences, such as temporary separation or intervention.  But always, love is working for the good of the other, and the union, rather than retreating into a cage of selfishness in order to preserve one’s own fragile and wounded ego. But beneath it all, there’s a commitment to love that was public, personal, and had the effect of creating a sense of accountability

Ironically it’s that sense of accountability that is largely missing in the generation that’s must hungry for authentic intimacy.   Intimacy without accountability is a mirage, and boatloads of heartache and woundedness are waiting for those who try to create it.  Better to keep the accountability ingredient in the mix; and how is that done?

Simple:  marriage.

I welcome your thoughts.

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • CapernwrayAlum

    good call on pointing out that the vows were to love, not just to commit….

  • CapernwrayAlum

    good call on pointing out that the vows were to love, not just to commit….

  • Kevin

    Placing causality at the feet of those who would eschew the institution of marriage–even to cast them as being somehow deficient–seems to be a disservice to the generation that you seek to serve, even arrogantly so. The move away from traditional forms of accountability has as much to do with the institution offering as it does the individual receiving. When is the last time that the church truly regarded this generation, gave it ear and heart and actually sought to learn from it? Furthermore, and with that question in mind, when in recent history has the church actually sought to craft a compelling offer for marriage that engages the desires of this generation, instead of simply reasserting traditional modes?

    • graham

      Kevin,
      First, what are you finding to be a fruitful alternative form of accountability?

      To answer your question about the “last time the church sought to learn from this generation?” I’ve seen and lived wonderful trans-generational expressions of the faith in several different denominational contexts… the common denominator in each… our generation actively participating… most often leading, but still incorporating and valuing offerings from other generations…. not just selecting from the breathing contingency either. The participation I’m describing goes beyond exercising the voice of the prophet too, though, that perspective is essential to having a healthy church. I don’t relate to your question at all. That doesn’t mean your experience isn’t valid and I’m not interested, I just haven’t lived it.

      Lastly, In response to your last question about the Church “actually attempting to craft a compelling offer for marriage that engages the desires of this generation…..?” What desires do you have that are different from the values that R.D. spoke of in his post (love, vulnerability, truthfulnesst, a life built from moments and shared experiences, commitment)… that discounts this very blog post as an attempt?

      • Kevin

        Graham, thank you for your response. In addressing your first concern, I admit that I cast my net too wide in criticizing the churches inter-generational efforts. Were I to rephrase I would clearly state that my concern was located around the issue of marriage specifically, and not the broader relationship, generally. Like you, I have both witnessed and participated in the inter-generational efforts of the church and I am encouraged to see the ways in which wisdom flows between the successive generations. Around the subject of marriage, though, I see a stark rigidity and inability upon the part of the church to receive the wisdom of this present generation, and this is a very unsettling proposition. As Lauren commented below, “let’s be teachable” and let’s not forget that this process needs to be dialogic.

        As far as your second concern, I believe that this blog post fails as an attempt to recast a vision for marriage because at no point does it make an effort to do so. While what it does say is praiseworthy in its efforts to redirect and refocus the institution of marriage as it currently exists, it shallowly regards those who would reject it, restating only what marriage ought to be and neglects what this generation wants it to be. The opinions offered here come from what I would consider to be a centrist point of view, and regard myopically those who lie on the margins of the faith, and even moreso those who lie outside of it.

  • Kevin

    Placing causality at the feet of those who would eschew the institution of marriage–even to cast them as being somehow deficient–seems to be a disservice to the generation that you seek to serve, even arrogantly so. The move away from traditional forms of accountability has as much to do with the institution offering as it does the individual receiving. When is the last time that the church truly regarded this generation, gave it ear and heart and actually sought to learn from it? Furthermore, and with that question in mind, when in recent history has the church actually sought to craft a compelling offer for marriage that engages the desires of this generation, instead of simply reasserting traditional modes?

    • graham

      Kevin,
      First, what are you finding to be a fruitful alternative form of accountability?

      To answer your question about the “last time the church sought to learn from this generation?” I’ve seen and lived wonderful trans-generational expressions of the faith in several different denominational contexts… the common denominator in each… our generation actively participating… most often leading, but still incorporating and valuing offerings from other generations…. not just selecting from the breathing contingency either. The participation I’m describing goes beyond exercising the voice of the prophet too, though, that perspective is essential to having a healthy church. I don’t relate to your question at all. That doesn’t mean your experience isn’t valid and I’m not interested, I just haven’t lived it.

      Lastly, In response to your last question about the Church “actually attempting to craft a compelling offer for marriage that engages the desires of this generation…..?” What desires do you have that are different from the values that R.D. spoke of in his post (love, vulnerability, truthfulnesst, a life built from moments and shared experiences, commitment)… that discounts this very blog post as an attempt?

      • graham

        btw. I am 31. Am I in the generation that you are representing? I realize that as I age, I may not be anymore:)

      • Kevin

        Graham, thank you for your response. In addressing your first concern, I admit that I cast my net too wide in criticizing the churches inter-generational efforts. Were I to rephrase I would clearly state that my concern was located around the issue of marriage specifically, and not the broader relationship, generally. Like you, I have both witnessed and participated in the inter-generational efforts of the church and I am encouraged to see the ways in which wisdom flows between the successive generations. Around the subject of marriage, though, I see a stark rigidity and inability upon the part of the church to receive the wisdom of this present generation, and this is a very unsettling proposition. As Lauren commented below, “let’s be teachable” and let’s not forget that this process needs to be dialogic.

        As far as your second concern, I believe that this blog post fails as an attempt to recast a vision for marriage because at no point does it make an effort to do so. While what it does say is praiseworthy in its efforts to redirect and refocus the institution of marriage as it currently exists, it shallowly regards those who would reject it, restating only what marriage ought to be and neglects what this generation wants it to be. The opinions offered here come from what I would consider to be a centrist point of view, and regard myopically those who lie on the margins of the faith, and even moreso those who lie outside of it.

  • http://www.thediablogue.com/ James

    For a slightly different nuance we can reflect on what Bonhoeffer wrote from prison:

    “As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”

    I wonder if he was thinking of the accountability of which you speak?

    Regardless, intimacy is absolutely what humanity is starved for, and I strongly doubt that intimacy can ever be as rewarding as God has intended it to be outside of marriage.

    And thank you so much for contrasting the importance of just living together vs. loving one another.

  • http://www.thediablogue.com/ James

    For a slightly different nuance we can reflect on what Bonhoeffer wrote from prison:

    “As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”

    I wonder if he was thinking of the accountability of which you speak?

    Regardless, intimacy is absolutely what humanity is starved for, and I strongly doubt that intimacy can ever be as rewarding as God has intended it to be outside of marriage.

    And thank you so much for contrasting the importance of just living together vs. loving one another.

  • raincitypastor

    so… you’re implying that your generation isn’t “somehow deficient”, thus leaving the burden of deficiency only with my generation, and accusing me of arrogance? You’re entitled… but that declaration seems rather… um, arrogant.

    • Kevin

      Have you truly listened to this generation or are you offering a diagnosis based upon your own presuppositions and in defense of your own desires? If you truly considered this generation and you came away with “cynicism” and “a lack of accountability” as the root cause but gave no consideration to the church’s position and agency, then I would say that arrogance would be a fitting descriptor at most, ignorance at the least. My point is that this is an issue where focusing on fixing “problems” will only ever perpetuate them, and that focusing on the deficiencies of one group or another misses the point entirely. People don’t want to get married? Stop trying to discern the hearts of those who you would seek to serve and start asking questions about what it is that you’re offering them. If marriage is so vital and fundamental to faith and life then why would people turn away? Why would they–supposedly standing in darkness–turn away from the light? Is it because they are so thoroughly corrupted (“somehow deficient”) or is it because the light offered by the church on this issue seems to shine only as a guttering candle flame? It’s time to start listening to the experiences of this generation, it’s time to start sitting in silence with what they have to say, and it’s time to consider our own position before we speak to the position of another.

      • raincitypastor

        I’m astonished that you could say that I give no consideration to the church’s position when I say, in this very post, that “people are looking for something more substantive than some sort of ‘legally binding’ arrangement. If that’s all a couple has, and they stay together for propriety, or reputation, perhaps even ‘for the children’, then they enflame the notion that marriage is meaningless.” This complaint, it seems obvious, isn’t laid at the feet of your generation, but mine, and the institutional church.

        And, for the record, yes, I do listen to this generation. Wherever I teach, I engage students in a dialogue around the question: ‘why is your generation marrying less, and later’… their response are what I’m trying to represent. I ask for a simple reason: I want to know. I’ve asked hundreds of students over that past three years, and am trying to reflect what I’ve heard by writing this post. Maybe you should listen too, because they’rr part of your generation.

        When you say, “it’s time to start sitting in silence with what they have to say” you reveal that your question about whether or not I’m listening, isn’t really a question, but an accusation. Your accusation is presumptuous, and wrong.

        I’d listen to you too if you had something to say… but you’re only accusing – changing the subject from the message to the messenger. Such rhetoric accomplishes nothing. So please Kevin… make this about the topic, rather than me. Why, in your opinion, do people in your generation marry both less and later? That’s the topic here; not your presumptions regarding my pastoral motives and capacities.

      • Kevin

        I well understand the topic in question here, which is why I initially posited the questions that I did. However you may try to cast me as an agitator, I offered only question and observation, which only upon your interpretation became accusation and slander. Consider, I ask you to listen to this generation with new ears and you respond by mining my words for implications; have you heard me or are you now simply defending your own pastoral acumen, seeing only the glaring slight of the word arrogance and ignoring my questions? You welcomed my thoughts and here you now have them, however hollow you may feel them to be.

      • http://www.americanclarity.com Jeremy

        WHAT.

        Kevin, you have to be trolling Dahlstrom here, because his logic is so completely sound and obvious that any kid could recognize his statements as true.

        Are commitment and unconditional love better in a male-female relationship than non-commitment and conditional love? If the answer is yes, you agree with Dahlstrom.

        Is a trend toward non-commitment and conditional love for the purpose of chemical stimulation healthy for everyone involved? If the answer is no, you agree with Dahlstrom.

        Of course, my dad always used to say that if you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps loudest is the one you hit. Living with a woman out of wedlock, Kevin?

  • raincitypastor

    so… you’re implying that your generation isn’t “somehow deficient”, thus leaving the burden of deficiency only with my generation, and accusing me of arrogance? You’re entitled… but that declaration seems rather… um, arrogant.

    • Kevin

      Have you truly listened to this generation or are you offering a diagnosis based upon your own presuppositions and in defense of your own desires? If you truly considered this generation and you came away with “cynicism” and “a lack of accountability” as the root cause but gave no consideration to the church’s position and agency, then I would say that arrogance would be a fitting descriptor at most, ignorance at the least. My point is that this is an issue where focusing on fixing “problems” will only ever perpetuate them, and that focusing on the deficiencies of one group or another misses the point entirely. People don’t want to get married? Stop trying to discern the hearts of those who you would seek to serve and start asking questions about what it is that you’re offering them. If marriage is so vital and fundamental to faith and life then why would people turn away? Why would they–supposedly standing in darkness–turn away from the light? Is it because they are so thoroughly corrupted (“somehow deficient”) or is it because the light offered by the church on this issue seems to shine only as a guttering candle flame? It’s time to start listening to the experiences of this generation, it’s time to start sitting in silence with what they have to say, and it’s time to consider our own position before we speak to the position of another.

      • raincitypastor

        I’m astonished that you could say that I give no consideration to the church’s position when I say, in this very post, that “people are looking for something more substantive than some sort of ‘legally binding’ arrangement. If that’s all a couple has, and they stay together for propriety, or reputation, perhaps even ‘for the children’, then they enflame the notion that marriage is meaningless.” This complaint, it seems obvious, isn’t laid at the feet of your generation, but mine, and the institutional church.

        And, for the record, yes, I do listen to this generation. Wherever I teach, I engage students in a dialogue around the question: ‘why is your generation marrying less, and later’… their response are what I’m trying to represent. I ask for a simple reason: I want to know. I’ve asked hundreds of students over that past three years, and am trying to reflect what I’ve heard by writing this post. Maybe you should listen too, because they’rr part of your generation.

        When you say, “it’s time to start sitting in silence with what they have to say” you reveal that your question about whether or not I’m listening, isn’t really a question, but an accusation. Your accusation is presumptuous, and wrong.

        I’d listen to you too if you had something to say… but you’re only accusing – changing the subject from the message to the messenger. Such rhetoric accomplishes nothing. So please Kevin… make this about the topic, rather than me. Why, in your opinion, do people in your generation marry both less and later? That’s the topic here; not your presumptions regarding my pastoral motives and capacities.

      • Kevin

        I well understand the topic in question here, which is why I initially posited the questions that I did. However you may try to cast me as an agitator, I offered only question and observation, which only upon your interpretation became accusation and slander. Consider, I ask you to listen to this generation with new ears and you respond by mining my words for implications; have you heard me or are you now simply defending your own pastoral acumen, seeing only the glaring slight of the word arrogance and ignoring my questions? You welcomed my thoughts and here you now have them, however hollow you may feel them to be.

      • http://www.americanclarity.com Jeremy

        WHAT.

        Kevin, you have to be trolling Dahlstrom here, because his logic is so completely sound and obvious that any kid could recognize his statements as true.

        Are commitment and unconditional love better in a male-female relationship than non-commitment and conditional love? If the answer is yes, you agree with Dahlstrom.

        Is a trend toward non-commitment and conditional love for the purpose of chemical stimulation healthy for everyone involved? If the answer is no, you agree with Dahlstrom.

        Of course, my dad always used to say that if you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps loudest is the one you hit. Living with a woman out of wedlock, Kevin?

  • lauren

    thank you for this beautiful, truthful, and timely offering, richard. and in response to kevin above, i would simply say that as a 30 year old single woman, i’m not at all offended by richard’s insights into my generation (myself included). i appreciate them. sometimes we just need to hear the truth. and i know richard enough (through having formerly been a part of bethany community for six years and through this blog) to know that he doesn’t speak hard truths to this generation (or to anyone else, for that matter) to condemn us, but to encourage us to recognize some things and change. every generation has good overarching characteristics and negative overarching characteristics. let’s be teachable.

  • lauren

    thank you for this beautiful, truthful, and timely offering, richard. and in response to kevin above, i would simply say that as a 30 year old single woman, i’m not at all offended by richard’s insights into my generation (myself included). i appreciate them. sometimes we just need to hear the truth. and i know richard enough (through having formerly been a part of bethany community for six years and through this blog) to know that he doesn’t speak hard truths to this generation (or to anyone else, for that matter) to condemn us, but to encourage us to recognize some things and change. every generation has good overarching characteristics and negative overarching characteristics. let’s be teachable.

  • Andrew

    Kevin, as a 28 year old, I’m curious what our generation has to offer as a better alternative to marriage instead of apparently oft reasserted traditional definition? Further, is it the church’s roll to craft a compelling offer of marriage to each new generation as the tides of the culture changes?

    Sadly, I believe that Richard is right; many of our generation would rather hide in our own personal fortress of self-sufficiency than to experience true intimacy.

    • Kevin

      If the church is going to rail about a young generation eschewing the sacraments in favor of worship practices which fall outside of the tradition, then I think it worthwhile to level a weather-eye at our own traditions before lambasting the inadequacies of the generation in question. Sadly, it seems that the world can find no savor in the salt of our tradition, as it pertains to marriage, so I would say that it is definitely time to examine how we understand this time-honored, holy covenant, in order to ascertain the ways in which it can be offered up in new and compelling ways. This process of rearticulation seems to be intrinsic to the Gospel vision, as Christ didn’t tell one parable of the Kingdom but many, each one based not on some absolute ethical standard but on the contextual understanding of the listener.

      • Ryan

        So, Kevin, what you are saying is that Marriage’s “widow dressing” is “SO last generation” and needs new curtains in order to appeal to our generation?

  • Andrew

    Kevin, as a 28 year old, I’m curious what our generation has to offer as a better alternative to marriage instead of apparently oft reasserted traditional definition? Further, is it the church’s roll to craft a compelling offer of marriage to each new generation as the tides of the culture changes?

    Sadly, I believe that Richard is right; many of our generation would rather hide in our own personal fortress of self-sufficiency than to experience true intimacy.

    • Kevin

      If the church is going to rail about a young generation eschewing the sacraments in favor of worship practices which fall outside of the tradition, then I think it worthwhile to level a weather-eye at our own traditions before lambasting the inadequacies of the generation in question. Sadly, it seems that the world can find no savor in the salt of our tradition, as it pertains to marriage, so I would say that it is definitely time to examine how we understand this time-honored, holy covenant, in order to ascertain the ways in which it can be offered up in new and compelling ways. This process of rearticulation seems to be intrinsic to the Gospel vision, as Christ didn’t tell one parable of the Kingdom but many, each one based not on some absolute ethical standard but on the contextual understanding of the listener.

      • Ryan

        So, Kevin, what you are saying is that Marriage’s “widow dressing” is “SO last generation” and needs new curtains in order to appeal to our generation?

  • Michael Red Antelope

    Thank you Preacher for the Truths and as i look for answers on Marriage i take it personaly to love the one i’m with but both my parents who was married to one another didn’t believe in the love you saying. i once married but didn’t understand the line…Love.
    i do want to learn about that word and a healthy marriage for me someday. i hope that you will give me some sound advice. i think if i was in love with my wife then things might’ve been different.
    Thank you

  • Michael Red Antelope

    Thank you Preacher for the Truths and as i look for answers on Marriage i take it personaly to love the one i’m with but both my parents who was married to one another didn’t believe in the love you saying. i once married but didn’t understand the line…Love.
    i do want to learn about that word and a healthy marriage for me someday. i hope that you will give me some sound advice. i think if i was in love with my wife then things might’ve been different.
    Thank you

  • SK

    Thank you for this post. And thank you for the summer’s sermons on continually stepping into God’s plan. I have been in a marriage for 20 years and have experienced incredible highs and desperate lows. And it is exactly those bricks that you spoke of that have provided me an amazing intimacy, love and peace. But it seems to me that this has only been available to me when i have submitted, not to my husband, but to God — given Him my marriage. I do pray my children understand that while instant gratification is the motto of their lives right now — marriage is valuable not for the instant love but for the history, the patience, the submission, and the time earned love. Perhaps maturity and experience is the key to recognizing the incredible gift of marriage that God has provided.

  • SK

    Thank you for this post. And thank you for the summer’s sermons on continually stepping into God’s plan. I have been in a marriage for 20 years and have experienced incredible highs and desperate lows. And it is exactly those bricks that you spoke of that have provided me an amazing intimacy, love and peace. But it seems to me that this has only been available to me when i have submitted, not to my husband, but to God — given Him my marriage. I do pray my children understand that while instant gratification is the motto of their lives right now — marriage is valuable not for the instant love but for the history, the patience, the submission, and the time earned love. Perhaps maturity and experience is the key to recognizing the incredible gift of marriage that God has provided.

  • Jim Abbott

    Richard:
    Alice and I had this relationship discussion this past weekend. We have been together for 32 years and should celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary on February 23rd. Only we won’t get to because her father is having major surgery in his hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and she needs to be there for 3 weeks. So she leaves on February 13th and no amount of whining on my part will change her commitment to her father. I can only admire her, her values, her beliefs, and try to cut down on the whining. Self pity, I have learned, doesn’t work too well in your marriage or your relationship with God. Accountability to each other and others is something that is very difficult, but must be part of your relationship.

    Alice lived in New York City before coming to Seattle. She was quarantined at the Bronx Zoo for 10 months one time while she raised a baby gorilla born in captivity. I met her in 1978 and have been madly in love with her ever since. She was hesitant, but some say her raising a gorilla was good preparation for eventually agreeing to go out with me.

    We have been together since 1978. We married in 1980, raised 2 children, ran numerous businesses together, cared for family members, and laughed and giggled all the way. Our last child has bought a house, moved out, and left us in a large house. So we are embarking on our next adventure to “live simply.”

    Intimacy and accountability? You bet. I can only hope our kids will be so blessed. Last Friday night, for date night, we went to the Seven Gables and saw “Crazy Heart.” Take your bride; it’s a must see. It is about failed relationships, lack of intimacy, no accounability, and, eventually, redemption. Jeff Bridges channels Waylon Jennings and should get an Oscar. And, if after the movie, you stop by Dick’s on 45th and get her a cheesburger and fries, she will love you forever.

  • Jim Abbott

    Richard:
    Alice and I had this relationship discussion this past weekend. We have been together for 32 years and should celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary on February 23rd. Only we won’t get to because her father is having major surgery in his hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and she needs to be there for 3 weeks. So she leaves on February 13th and no amount of whining on my part will change her commitment to her father. I can only admire her, her values, her beliefs, and try to cut down on the whining. Self pity, I have learned, doesn’t work too well in your marriage or your relationship with God. Accountability to each other and others is something that is very difficult, but must be part of your relationship.

    Alice lived in New York City before coming to Seattle. She was quarantined at the Bronx Zoo for 10 months one time while she raised a baby gorilla born in captivity. I met her in 1978 and have been madly in love with her ever since. She was hesitant, but some say her raising a gorilla was good preparation for eventually agreeing to go out with me.

    We have been together since 1978. We married in 1980, raised 2 children, ran numerous businesses together, cared for family members, and laughed and giggled all the way. Our last child has bought a house, moved out, and left us in a large house. So we are embarking on our next adventure to “live simply.”

    Intimacy and accountability? You bet. I can only hope our kids will be so blessed. Last Friday night, for date night, we went to the Seven Gables and saw “Crazy Heart.” Take your bride; it’s a must see. It is about failed relationships, lack of intimacy, no accounability, and, eventually, redemption. Jeff Bridges channels Waylon Jennings and should get an Oscar. And, if after the movie, you stop by Dick’s on 45th and get her a cheesburger and fries, she will love you forever.

    • Graham C.

      Raising a gorilla as prepearation for dating and marriage. Awesome. Thanks for sharing your encouraging story Jim; congrats on your upcoming anniversary.

  • Ken

    A very interesting question in light of the message this past Sunday at the church I attend. Subject was Heaven, but a sub theme was what and when do we believe Heaven begins? Is our focus on God’s kingdom in this age, now. Or instead is it our present day’s latest craze best described in the word “spirituality”. That word spirituality representing mankind’s searching of our experiences to decide what is meaningful, important, current, valid, crucial, etc. Simply put, our focus is on what we choose according to the present standards of our peers, race, nation, generation, church, political leanings, whatever. We fail to look instead for a real defining beacon to direct our lives. As has been man’s way since our creation (and fall) we choose to define what is right and best, disregarding God’s guidance.

    Marriage is constantly used in the Bible as a picture of our relationship with God. Should there be any surprise that just as that relationship is best entered into as a commitment to CHOOSE to love God and stand in and with Him that the same idea of choosing to love a spouse (instead of just living together) would be the core of success. God promises trials and tribulations in our walk with Him. If we are not committed to reciprocate that love as He gives us the strength to do so, we will certainly fall. I am part of your generation, Richard, but my guess would be that the current delay or denial of marriage by the younger would be little more than another manifestation of individuals redefining the standards and guidelines of the Kingdom to there own feelings. Defining the current spirituality of the age to fit our own experiences and standards is business as usual. Nice to think that we would all seek the light, but the reality in this world is we overwhelmingly vote again and again for darkness. We choose our doom much too often even in the face of clear evidence of what God intended for us all along. We are always determined to “outgrow” God as it were. To “evolve” beyond the ancient ways. Look through all of Scripture and church history and it’s plain that there really is nothing new under the sun.

  • Casey B.

    A very, very interesting string. I think what Pastor Richard is expressing is very similar to what many laymen (and in particular, lay-women) have been wondering for the better part of a decade now. If we unwrap all the eloquent words, premises, and sub-premises, the basic question is this: why are so many marrying so late these days?

    Allow me the grace to post some quick thoughts without too much to back it up. Glad to do it later but I have but a few minutes and I want to jump in…..

    I empathize with what Kevin is expressing though. The church (as a whole, not a specific one) has generally treated single folks as the step child. They segregate singles and marrieds with singles-only bible studies, marrieds-only bible studies, the expectation for singles to serve others in the church at various events, etc. Yeah, you can make the argument that marrieds have less time on their hands; they have kids; they have obligations, or even that they DO serve along singles.

    On the flip side, some singles have embraced this lifestyle by serving with all their hearts, souls and minds. Many have become missionaries; others serving so much so that there really is no time to date.

    For them, to question their motives (“why aren’t you married yet?”) is to question their calling. Perhaps the younger generation, in part, is rebelling against what others are telling them they should do?

    The answer to the question is complex and perplexing. I don’t, however, buy into the premise that the rules or meaning of marriage have changed. We all long for the same things in marriage: companionship; love; relationship. Some seek it for the right reasons; some for the wrong reasons.

    Here’s the kicker: there are many great women out there who are ready and waiting for the right guy. Problem is, quite frankly, very few guys out there are ready to make that move. To this, I have long thought of a solution but have found none. Perhaps Kevin can enlighten us as to what he is seeking in marriage; or perhaps, why marriage isn’t what he’s looking for. Honestly, I’ll start with dating. A lot of my single women aren’t even getting dates, let alone marriage.

    But to presume that marriage is the end-all is also probably the incorrect position to take. The Apostle Paul, and a few great friends of mine are single. I don’t question their hearts or calling. Perhaps it is just for them and us to pray that they follow the Lord.

    Casey
    (married almost 2 years, 36 years old)

    • Kevin

      Good thoughts, Casey. You are correct in asserting that this issue is complex, and I think I’ll compound it yet further: Who’s to say that companionship, love, and relationship (as well as vulnerability, truthfulness, & commitment) can be found only in marriage, or that they only find their true meaning through marital covenant? As you have said, there are many virtuous people who remained single throughout their lives; did they somehow live a half-life for not being married? Were their relationships somehow less vibrant than married relationships, was the intimacy that they experienced any less meaningful? I, for one, don’t think so. I believe that all of these aspects can be found in any human relationship. So what are we talking about and what is at stake? Sex? Are we going to reduce the institution of marriage down to the physical act of intercourse? Is all that we are offering people a writ of permission to engage their sexuality without the burden of church guilt?

  • Davey

    I admire your commitment for reading this far down the page. Therefore, I’ll keep my thoughts brief.

    1. For those who have been dating for years, maybe even those who have been living together for years, what’s stopping you from pulling the trigger and launching into married life?

    2. For those single guys out there who picture themselves married someday, I agree with Casey. There are a LOT of quality single Christian women out there who would love to go on a date with a handsome, God-fearing, God-loving gentleman. Unfortunately, I’m not sure many of these exist. I think men out of my generation need to learn how to commit and be men. Who will teach them?

    3. As a newly-wed myself, who is willing to teach people like us how to not repeat the mistakes of the generation before mine, particularly with regard to marriage? We need commitment from the older, wiser generation to invest in us to ensure these mistakes are not repeated and our lives and families are not ravished by divorce and co-existence (which might be worse).

    Thanks for the post RD.

  • Davey

    I admire your commitment for reading this far down the page. Therefore, I’ll keep my thoughts brief.

    1. For those who have been dating for years, maybe even those who have been living together for years, what’s stopping you from pulling the trigger and launching into married life?

    2. For those single guys out there who picture themselves married someday, I agree with Casey. There are a LOT of quality single Christian women out there who would love to go on a date with a handsome, God-fearing, God-loving gentleman. Unfortunately, I’m not sure many of these exist. I think men out of my generation need to learn how to commit and be men. Who will teach them?

    3. As a newly-wed myself, who is willing to teach people like us how to not repeat the mistakes of the generation before mine, particularly with regard to marriage? We need commitment from the older, wiser generation to invest in us to ensure these mistakes are not repeated and our lives and families are not ravished by divorce and co-existence (which might be worse).

    Thanks for the post RD.

  • Linda

    The problem with marriage going down the tubes or people getting married at a latter age is that people do not love God. They only love they know is “self”, they are selfish. That is why there is so much fornication, adultery, and divorce.

    The marriage problem and all other problems are just symptoms of the real problem – we do not love God.

    The only solution is to preach the real gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, people will get saved, and lives will be transformed.

  • Linda

    The problem with marriage going down the tubes or people getting married at a latter age is that people do not love God. They only love they know is “self”, they are selfish. That is why there is so much fornication, adultery, and divorce.

    The marriage problem and all other problems are just symptoms of the real problem – we do not love God.

    The only solution is to preach the real gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, people will get saved, and lives will be transformed.

  • Ken

    Maybe I should have said been upfront earlier that I didn’t marry until just before my 30th birthday. Indeed as some others have stated I was privileged to serve the Lord as a single throughout my twenties in ways I have never been able to since. I know the separation that is the usual practice of church towards the single crowd, but now looking back it I can see what an opportunity it afforded me to serve and grow (and be a much better spouse when that finally came to be). After 25 years of marriage I should also point out that as much as I relate to the highs and lows which Richard spoke of, thinking of what a different impact my life could have made had I not married is equally appealing. We all make decisions throughout our lives and marriage is one that doesn’t simply change the course but more correctly sets our course. No longer are life’s decisions merely between us and God. Suddenly there’s a committee. The critical issue is as Paul said, serve God in whatever circumstance you’re in, whether married or single.

    But I think there may be a different issue here altogether. If the younger generation is delaying or foregoing marriage while indulging in all the “rights” of marriage, by which we often mean sex and co-habitation, then this would in fact be a sign of rebellion against not the church vision of marriage, but God’s. If the argument is that we need to adjust God’s opinion on sex and co-habitation to a “new” order, then we have clearly fallen off the rails and slid into dangerous waters.

    • graham

      Well said Ken. That last paragraph articulated a questions/concern I had.

      • Kevin

        And it provokes a concern of mine. Are we really comfortable with boiling marriage down to sex? Is that all that we are offering? I don’t think that we ought to reinterpret God’s will around sex but if sex is all that we can offer with marriage then we clearly need to rearticulate the institution, for ourselves as well as successive generations.

    • raincitypastor

      I agree w/ Kevin. If sex is all that we have to offer as a distinctive in marriage, we’ve missed the mark. Kevin has also challenged the notion that trust and vulnerability are relational elements that belong solely to marriage. So what is it, exactly, that we calling people when we call them to marriage? As I shared in the post; it’s more than a dogged commitment to live together. It’s more than a safe place for sexual involvement. It’s… well I have other thoughts, but I’m interested in what other’s might say.

      • Ken

        Just for clarification sake, I was in no way boiling marriage down to nothing but “legal” sex and co-habitation. The reality however, is that is often what becomes the wrongful focus of those that don’t want marriage defined for them. They want to rewrite the rules to suit their personal desires, whether that be sex or any other facet of life. Several years ago I read “The Purpose Driven Life” and this is not a comment about anything more than the first sentence of the book, because indeed it was THE most important sentence. It reads, “It’s not about you.” If anyone wants to even begin to unwrap God’s mystery for their life, begin with that thought, “It’s not about you”. That will change your perspective on everything.

  • Casey B.

    How to keep up with all these posts!?!…..

    First, I think we should afford Kevin the benefit of the doubt. Whether he is arguing from a position of sincere dissent and/or doubt (which I will assume for now) or from a position of defending “hidden sins” (which I read some posts here to imply since his is the main dissenting voice) we should tread carefully, as our words have the power of life and death. If I misread the posts, forgive me….

    To say that we have a “Marriage problem” is probably vague enough to cause confusion as to what we’re arguing here. As I read this string, it seems there are at least 2 different arguments going on at once.
    (1) Concern of the (s)lower marriage rates among Christians;
    (2) Frustration among younger Christians that marriage has been predestined for them without consideration to individual situations/needs.

    I may be off on the summation of what I’m hearing from Pastor Richard and Kevin, but I’m going on that basis.

    To Kevin’s question, “Who’s to say that companionship, love, and relationship (as well as vulnerability, truthfulness, & commitment) can be found only in marriage, or that they only find their true meaning through marital covenant….” I say that marriage is the ultimate relationship that God has set forth for man not primarily for our enjoyment, but as the prime and ultimate example of what our relationship to *Him* should look like: “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.”

    God, in his desire for marriage (for many but perhaps not all), is not saying that you will not have true relationship with Him without marriage. I think He’s saying the greatest manifestation of God’s relationship with us individually will/can be seen in a person’s marriage to another.

    But consider, then, whether a single person can have “ultimate relationship” with God “outside of marriage” (that kinda sounds funny, no?!). Certainly. It’s just that single folks will not have that physical relationship to a person that mimics our spiritual relationship to God. And that’s not at all to say that it boils down to sex. It says that the singular commitment to our Lord comes with its ups and downs. We fall, we fail, we anger, we forgive, we cry, we doubt, we do all things against the Lover of our souls just as a spouse would do against the lover of their earthly lives. But when we err or sin or wrong our spouse, God says, “Yo, love your spouse as I have shown my love to you in sacrifice to the church.”

    As a single person, we don’t have that type of intimacy with a single person. We have many great, close relationships, but I would argue that we have no single relationship so close and so intimate that we can ever mimic or strive to achieve that intimacy that we have with God — or *should* have with God.

    Certain areas, I would posit, are off limits to singles. And this is not just about sex. For example, I do not think that it is the responsibility of a boyfriend or girlfriend to grow the other spiritually. It is not the responsibility of the other to guard their hearts in dating. This is not to say we don’t treat the other with great respect, but ultimately, I tell my female friends in dating: “Guard your own hearts. That’s your job. It’s not the job of your bf to do that.” That’s not the covenant relationship God’s call bf’s or gf’s into.

    I don’t know if this creates more questions or answers, but I welcome feedback.

    • Ken

      Thank you, Casey. You have said much more eloquently and thoroughly what I couldn’t even articulate in my own head. I believe you have painted a very clear picture of the differences between a married relationship and singularity. Especially interesting the notion of guarding your heart as a single person. That is so true and I continually see devastation in the lives of those that throw their trust to another prematurely and perhaps even wrongly? Great thoughts.

    • Glenda

      Why is it that those outside of married relationships should guard their hearts? What do they have to be afraid of?

  • Casey B.

    How to keep up with all these posts!?!…..

    First, I think we should afford Kevin the benefit of the doubt. Whether he is arguing from a position of sincere dissent and/or doubt (which I will assume for now) or from a position of defending “hidden sins” (which I read some posts here to imply since his is the main dissenting voice) we should tread carefully, as our words have the power of life and death. If I misread the posts, forgive me….

    To say that we have a “Marriage problem” is probably vague enough to cause confusion as to what we’re arguing here. As I read this string, it seems there are at least 2 different arguments going on at once.
    (1) Concern of the (s)lower marriage rates among Christians;
    (2) Frustration among younger Christians that marriage has been predestined for them without consideration to individual situations/needs.

    I may be off on the summation of what I’m hearing from Pastor Richard and Kevin, but I’m going on that basis.

    To Kevin’s question, “Who’s to say that companionship, love, and relationship (as well as vulnerability, truthfulness, & commitment) can be found only in marriage, or that they only find their true meaning through marital covenant….” I say that marriage is the ultimate relationship that God has set forth for man not primarily for our enjoyment, but as the prime and ultimate example of what our relationship to *Him* should look like: “husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.”

    God, in his desire for marriage (for many but perhaps not all), is not saying that you will not have true relationship with Him without marriage. I think He’s saying the greatest manifestation of God’s relationship with us individually will/can be seen in a person’s marriage to another.

    But consider, then, whether a single person can have “ultimate relationship” with God “outside of marriage” (that kinda sounds funny, no?!). Certainly. It’s just that single folks will not have that physical relationship to a person that mimics our spiritual relationship to God. And that’s not at all to say that it boils down to sex. It says that the singular commitment to our Lord comes with its ups and downs. We fall, we fail, we anger, we forgive, we cry, we doubt, we do all things against the Lover of our souls just as a spouse would do against the lover of their earthly lives. But when we err or sin or wrong our spouse, God says, “Yo, love your spouse as I have shown my love to you in sacrifice to the church.”

    As a single person, we don’t have that type of intimacy with a single person. We have many great, close relationships, but I would argue that we have no single relationship so close and so intimate that we can ever mimic or strive to achieve that intimacy that we have with God — or *should* have with God.

    Certain areas, I would posit, are off limits to singles. And this is not just about sex. For example, I do not think that it is the responsibility of a boyfriend or girlfriend to grow the other spiritually. It is not the responsibility of the other to guard their hearts in dating. This is not to say we don’t treat the other with great respect, but ultimately, I tell my female friends in dating: “Guard your own hearts. That’s your job. It’s not the job of your bf to do that.” That’s not the covenant relationship God’s call bf’s or gf’s into.

    I don’t know if this creates more questions or answers, but I welcome feedback.

    • Glenda

      Why is it that those outside of married relationships should guard their hearts? What do they have to be afraid of?

  • Caroline

    I am in no way a theologian. I am, however, part of this generation that is being spoken of and would like to share. I am 25 and have experienced many different phases and opinions of marriage and relationship throughout my life. The idea of marriage and what it is and what sex is really all about has been something I’ve wrestled with my whole life really as have many of my friends. I grew up in a conservative Christian environment who taught no sex before marriage, period, and perhaps leaving out spiritual, mental, and physical reasons why. This did put a bit of an emphasis on the sexual side of marriage. With our whole world focused on sex through media, movies ect. I’m not surprised, however.

    The thought of being free in my sexuality and in relationship was really tempting and had an essence of independence and personal strength. Ultimately it was my own personal choice to lay aside my feelings of self-empowerment, rebellion, and personal independence and to humbly seek truth about relationship and marriage.
    What I have found, experienced and learned is this. The intimacy I’ve experienced outside of marriage has been hurtful. When I say intimacy I don’t simplify it to physical intimacy. I mean the trust and vulnerability I shared. To share these things in a relationship that ended, or to ever share these things in a relationship that has the possibility to end is ground shaking to the heart and soul. It strips away the trust we are to experience in a lifelong relationship that reflects the lifelong relationship with Christ. Also, an interesting fact…when a woman experiences sex she releases attachment hormones, the same ones she releases when breast-feeding. Pretty hard and devastating to lose a baby right? So, I definitely don’t think sex can be taken lightly as merely a physical act.

    By entering into open discussion with friends about love and relationship I began to see God’s beauty and mystery in relationship and marriage. It became less about me and what I wanted in relationship and more about God’s expression of his love through our relationships. Openness and freedom to talk about sex and relationship is so needed.

    I vowed to share my life with a man this past year. In marriage I have experienced freedom in relationship, and concrete trust. The covenant that we entered we believe is binding. This definitely helps in times of doubt…..and my generation is used to having so many options and being able to change our mind, so the covenant to keep us committed to our choice to love the other and to grow together is needed. Also, we have come away from our wedding day with a community of people who have witnessed our promises to each other and who vow to support us through life.

    The lifelong covenant creates an atmosphere of freedom where we can work towards sharing emotionally, spiritually and physically with complete honesty. It’s also a safe relationship where we are challenged severely and can grow and become more like Christ through these challenges of an intimate and committed relationship. Isn’t that what God wants? Trust, honesty and openness with Him? Lifelong commitment to Him?

    I really appreciate all of the discussion taking place. I do feel vows and a life-long covenant is needed in relationship. I also feel like people in my generation are tired of hearing the words marriage, covenant relationship, purity ect. and need engaging conversation about what marriage and relationship is in ways they can understand it and become passionate about the mystery of it. I think it also takes trust that God is good and has designed a marriage relationship for a good reason.

    Thanks for listening

    • Ken

      I must say, Caroline you did an amazing job of outlining the reasons for guarding yourself. I was trying to find the right words to address Glenda’s question of what is there to guard? without success. From the male perspective I just want to say that if guys deny experiencing the same loss to giving away intimacy without commitment, they’re lying. It takes a great toll on us as well.

  • Casey B.

    Glenda,

    The old adage that comes to mind is, “If you don’t do it, nobody will.” This tongue-in-cheek comment masks a simpler truth: in a marriage you can (and should) count on your spouse to guard your heart while you open up in vulnerability to all your faults, fears, dreams, failures, losses, etc. In a dating or otherwise non-marriage relationship, the fact remains that breaking up is a common end. In fact, it’s an accepted end. Not all relationships work. We all know that. So opening up in the fullest — sharing the deepest most intimate things with the other — and “trusting” that we won’t get crushed, is at best a temporal hope when we are dating. If the relationship ends, what happens to all that trust in being secure in our vulnerability ? It’s out the window.

    Granted, not all marriages work. That trust could just as well be shattered. True. But I would argue that that’s not because of God’s doing or His design. It’s because we (people) don’t understand the gravity to which it means to be in a marriage. You shouldn’t go into looking for the exits. We shouldn’t be thinking about how to get out. Or when. Or why. If you are, you probably shouldn’t be marrying whomever it is you’re considering marrying. Marriage should be your one “all in.”

    Of course, we see that not all marriage relationships work, but the key is that we all should be going into a marriage relationship with the same covenant that God has made to us: that we will never leave nor forsake our love. It’s all premised on a marriage being a reflection of our relationship with God. You don’t date someone with that same covenant.

    If/When you do decide to marry, whatever covenant you make at the alter should mean something. And if we are able to trust the word of the one we are marrying, then we should be able to open up and bring that vulnerability to the table in marriage.

    In a dating relationship, you don’t ask the other to never leave you (aka dump you) because you know it might happen. You therefore don’t open up in a way that is the highest levels of vulnerability, trust, etc.

    I have been most vulnerable only to my wife. It’s the truth. She knows things about me, my fears, hopes, etc that no one else does. And I trust her to be my iron that sharpens iron. I trust her to not manipulate and twist my words or fears or hopes in a way that is to her selfish gain. I trust her that when we next fight, she’s not going to stab me in the back with my vulnerabilities.

    Interestingly, too, in a marriage it’s a lot harder to walk away when you fight. In a dating relationship, it’s easy to go home and let off some steam. In that regard, marriage is so much harder than dating/single life. But that is exactly the reflection of what God desires for us: to be in a relationship that requires constant contact and refinement. He doesn’t want us to come to Him only in times of need. He wants us always and in every circumstance. Read .

    Caroline,
    Thank you for your perspective. I greatly appreciated hearing some of how the 20-somethings are thinking (man, I feel old saying that). I still would love a clear enumeration of some of the hang ups that single folks today have regarding marriage. Or perhaps pressures they feel about getting married.

    - Casey

  • katannette

    I’ve been thinking about this post and the responses, including Kevin’s, for several days. I’m not here to go into the reasons for marriage at length, I think that’s been done quite well. I do want to speak from the 20-something generation a bit. Varied as we and our experiences may be, we are the ones known for living together, divorcing early from “starter” marriages, or delaying serious relationships altogether.
    We are also the ones who have seen more examples of divorce than previous generations in America. More than half of us grew up in divorced homes. No one would argue that marriage can be trusted to succeed in the current age.
    However, I believe the problem in our discussions about it, and in the dialogue with the church, is in where we tend to place the blame. The church says, “don’t have sex until you’re married. so you should probably get married”. My generation says, “no thank you. i’ve already been failed by marriage once in my life growing up in a divorced home.”
    There is a disconnect between how the church discusses marriage and how we’ve seen it exemplified. The church praises marriage and the young people criticize it. But marriage is not worthy or praise or criticism, the way I see it. Marriage does not cause heart-break or euphoria. It has been some time since people were expected to marry when or who they did not wish to marry. Our parents and friends who have been heart-broken in and after marriage were not wronged by the institution of marriage itself. They were wronged by people. Until our parents and the church can have a transparent dialogue about the failures of people and, as Pastor Dahlstrom said, about their tendency to emphasize the wrong aspects of love, my generation will never believe in marriage.
    I recently read author Leeana Tankersley describe the most difficult thing about living under marital vows. She said it is not the commitment to love that is so difficult. It is the commitment to receive love from an imperfect lover that leaves us on our knees time and time again. I have found this to be incredibly true in my own marriage. It’s not just choosing to love over and over that gives us our increasingly beautiful history together, but in choosing to stay willing to receive love.
    Marriage has been often misconstrued as a right of passage in the church, and leaves those who sign up floundering and alone. We may not see a rise in the number of marriages in the next ten years. But I hope we will do everything we can to help those people to succeed in the complicated business of love. I think that is the only way marriage can be relevant again.

    • Casey B.

      Katannette,

      Thank you for that explanation from the 20-somethings perspective/experience. I’ve never heard that before and I don’t think it was what was the issue a decade ago when I was in my 20s.

      I hope we’re all getting to a place where we can agree on a few tenets here. This would be my hope:
      (1) Marriage *is* a sacred thing.
      (2) As a sacred “thing” don’t go into it lightly.
      (3) Perhaps we as a church community need to re-frame our conversation to the merits and pre-conditions (covenants to God and spouse) of marriage.
      (4) An understanding to marriage as a reflection of relationship with God first, and spouse second.

      Just my final thoughts. 10-4.

  • katannette

    I’ve been thinking about this post and the responses, including Kevin’s, for several days. I’m not here to go into the reasons for marriage at length, I think that’s been done quite well. I do want to speak from the 20-something generation a bit. Varied as we and our experiences may be, we are the ones known for living together, divorcing early from “starter” marriages, or delaying serious relationships altogether.
    We are also the ones who have seen more examples of divorce than previous generations in America. More than half of us grew up in divorced homes. No one would argue that marriage can be trusted to succeed in the current age.
    However, I believe the problem in our discussions about it, and in the dialogue with the church, is in where we tend to place the blame. The church says, “don’t have sex until you’re married. so you should probably get married”. My generation says, “no thank you. i’ve already been failed by marriage once in my life growing up in a divorced home.”
    There is a disconnect between how the church discusses marriage and how we’ve seen it exemplified. The church praises marriage and the young people criticize it. But marriage is not worthy or praise or criticism, the way I see it. Marriage does not cause heart-break or euphoria. It has been some time since people were expected to marry when or who they did not wish to marry. Our parents and friends who have been heart-broken in and after marriage were not wronged by the institution of marriage itself. They were wronged by people. Until our parents and the church can have a transparent dialogue about the failures of people and, as Pastor Dahlstrom said, about their tendency to emphasize the wrong aspects of love, my generation will never believe in marriage.
    I recently read author Leeana Tankersley describe the most difficult thing about living under marital vows. She said it is not the commitment to love that is so difficult. It is the commitment to receive love from an imperfect lover that leaves us on our knees time and time again. I have found this to be incredibly true in my own marriage. It’s not just choosing to love over and over that gives us our increasingly beautiful history together, but in choosing to stay willing to receive love.
    Marriage has been often misconstrued as a right of passage in the church, and leaves those who sign up floundering and alone. We may not see a rise in the number of marriages in the next ten years. But I hope we will do everything we can to help those people to succeed in the complicated business of love. I think that is the only way marriage can be relevant again.

  • Glenda

    Has anyone noticed how the very people who are deciding to not marry (or view marriage with suspicion and cynicism, as RD said), the people who this post was written about/for, are conspicuously absent from this dialog, perhaps with the exception of Kevin (who may or may not be married; he hasn’t said)? It seems like this whole thing has turned into an insiders forum, one which is excluding–most likely by accident–the group in question. I hope that we would hesitate to come to any kind of conclusion without their voice.

  • Glenda

    Has anyone noticed how the very people who are deciding to not marry (or view marriage with suspicion and cynicism, as RD said), the people who this post was written about/for, are conspicuously absent from this dialog, perhaps with the exception of Kevin (who may or may not be married; he hasn’t said)? It seems like this whole thing has turned into an insiders forum, one which is excluding–most likely by accident–the group in question. I hope that we would hesitate to come to any kind of conclusion without their voice.

  • Casey B.

    Last thought:

    I think the job of the church, in part, is to do exactly what you are asking of it:

    “….have a transparent dialogue about the failures of people….”

    Isn’t that what Pastor Richard does each week? One of the reasons that my wife and I started attending Bethany was because he does do this in such a challenging and thoughtful way. Perhaps he might be persuade to provide more context on how it relates to marriage, but I think he does talk about “failures of people.”

    In looking through my Bible, here are some notes I jotted down over the past year at Pastor Richard’s sermons. Just some ways I know I have been challenged to view my own failures (or faults), and how they’ve applied to my marriage….

    – Do I have the flexibilty to accept what God provides if it’s different
    than what I expected? (Acts 3)…
    –> Can I accept that how my spouse responds to me in love is
    sufficient even though I may have wanted a different one?

    – Fruitfulness will create complexity. Don’t complain about it, but
    manage it dutifully (Acts 5)…
    –> How will a growing family or business affect my relationship
    with Allison? Will I see the blessings or the obligations?
    Which perspective will drive how I treat her?

    – Involvement in relationship should reflect our gifts and commitments (Acts 6)…
    –> How have I utilized my (spiritual) gifts to honor Allison?

    – A church where disagreements exist is a sign of maturity, not
    immaturity.
    –> Do I allow my disagreements with Allison to be a manner by
    which iron sharpens iron (Prov 27:17) or a reason to anger?

    • http://www.arewehereyet.wordpress.com Katherine

      Casey B., I appreciate reading those notes and how you seem to be able to apply the teaching at Bethany so readily. My intent was not at all to take issue with Richard or his teaching. I meant to speak of churches in general, many of whom have not used their voice well to build people up in marriages and to represent love accurately. Not an easy task, I know, but one worth the investment of Christians across the globe. It is tempting for young people like me to defend our parents and loved ones after failed marriages (because we love them and they are heart-broken) and blame this thing called “marriage” unless people work hard, like Richard does, to help us sort through what is required of us as individuals v. what we are entitled to as individuals. I hope he will be encouraged to continue and you and I will be encouraged to keep listening.

  • Casey B.

    Glenda,

    Your last point is very much well taken. I should say that I never meant to co-opt this string. I just get passionate about certain things. And I’m not a church leader at Bethany at all.

    Perhaps I should not have even posted that last summary. I only thought it would be beneficial to find common ground.

    And I hope my posts have been for the benefit and not the detriment to those who are on the other side. In fact, it was Kevin’s first couple of posts that prompted my own involvement here. I wanted to hear his voice; not quelch it.

    Cheers! :)

  • Casey B.

    Glenda,

    Your last point is very much well taken. I should say that I never meant to co-opt this string. I just get passionate about certain things. And I’m not a church leader at Bethany at all.

    Perhaps I should not have even posted that last summary. I only thought it would be beneficial to find common ground.

    And I hope my posts have been for the benefit and not the detriment to those who are on the other side. In fact, it was Kevin’s first couple of posts that prompted my own involvement here. I wanted to hear his voice; not quelch it.

    Cheers! :)

  • Russell

    I am trying to decide if marriage is something I want for my life or if I want a more free life, as I consider being single to be. I do not agree that there is no (or inherently less) accountability for people who do not get married. I have very close friendships and find much of what I need with respect to intimacy and venerability in those friendship. I think the pastor has over-stated the difference between what one can find in marriage and what can be found outside of it. I am cautious of promising the rest of my life to someone, because I do not know who I will be or what the rest of my life might become. Why should one have to jump into blind commitments? I do not have ceremonies when i begin a friendship and promise to always love them. I do love my closest friends and family very deeply, but as we have all seen, friends separate and move apart. Sometimes this happens for no visible reason and other times it is very obvious. We might consider someone a fool if they promised their friends to never leave their side, but remain with them all through life. Why is this different for people considering marriage? They are friends, just as I am with my closest friends. But even with my closest friends I can not make the promise of commitment which marriage requires. Do we not mock “fate” or the unforeseeable future, if you will, by making such promises that we ultimately may have little control over?

    I think about the topic of marriage often, I hope this short comment might help to shed light on why one person (23 years old) is reluctant to marry.

    I value your comments.

  • Russell

    I am trying to decide if marriage is something I want for my life or if I want a more free life, as I consider being single to be. I do not agree that there is no (or inherently less) accountability for people who do not get married. I have very close friendships and find much of what I need with respect to intimacy and venerability in those friendship. I think the pastor has over-stated the difference between what one can find in marriage and what can be found outside of it. I am cautious of promising the rest of my life to someone, because I do not know who I will be or what the rest of my life might become. Why should one have to jump into blind commitments? I do not have ceremonies when i begin a friendship and promise to always love them. I do love my closest friends and family very deeply, but as we have all seen, friends separate and move apart. Sometimes this happens for no visible reason and other times it is very obvious. We might consider someone a fool if they promised their friends to never leave their side, but remain with them all through life. Why is this different for people considering marriage? They are friends, just as I am with my closest friends. But even with my closest friends I can not make the promise of commitment which marriage requires. Do we not mock “fate” or the unforeseeable future, if you will, by making such promises that we ultimately may have little control over?

    I think about the topic of marriage often, I hope this short comment might help to shed light on why one person (23 years old) is reluctant to marry.

    I value your comments.

  • graham

    Well said Ken. That last paragraph articulated a questions/concern I had.

  • raincitypastor

    I agree w/ Kevin. If sex is all that we have to offer as a distinctive in marriage, we’ve missed the mark. Kevin has also challenged the notion that trust and vulnerability are relational elements that belong solely to marriage. So what is it, exactly, that we calling people when we call them to marriage? As I shared in the post; it’s more than a dogged commitment to live together. It’s more than a safe place for sexual involvement. It’s… well I have other thoughts, but I’m interested in what other’s might say.

  • Ken

    I must say, Caroline you did an amazing job of outlining the reasons for guarding yourself. I was trying to find the right words to address Glenda’s question of what is there to guard? without success. From the male perspective I just want to say that if guys deny experiencing the same loss to giving away intimacy without commitment, they’re lying. It takes a great toll on us as well.


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