The sexual revolution of the 1960s was a Chernobyl-esque event, and you all now live in the radiation wasteland. Our culture doesn’t know what sex is for. They don’t know what gender is. And their definition for marriage is more like an “indefinition.”
To be counter cultural in this day looks like aiming your sexual desires to the end of a lifelong covenant marriage, which brings forth children by the half-dozen. But, for single men and women the question is to how to get from “here” to “there.”
To the Glory of God
But you don’t merely want to have marriage as your goal, for that is not the chief end of man. Your life––in youth and old age, in singleness, marriage, and widowhood––is to glorify God. Glorifying God is the end, not marriage. Marriage ought to be thought of as a means to the end of glorifying God.
That begins now, even in your singleness. Are you preparing to be a husband or wife in a way that honors God? This romantic sphere of your life has not been overlooked by the Lord. He can’t ordain the end, and overlook the means. As such, you first honor the Lord in the arena by trusting Him to bring you a godly spouse, and grant you grace to honor Him in that process.
I want to break this into three parts/steps which lead up to marriage. And this should be thought of as a helpful guide in preparation at each step. There are, of course, principles and methods. The methods may vary, but the principles ought to be consistent across all Christian relationships.
My Grandma would always sing some old-timey song that went something like, “A boy chases a girl, until she catches him.” There’s probably something there. Somehow or another a gal catches a fellas eye, and suddenly, almost inexplicably, they’re a “thing.” I want to give some admonitions to both young men and young women, respectively as to how to be cultivating themselves in order to catch the eye of a godly member of the opposite sex.
Young men, you will be a more compelling candidate to young woman if you are a man of gravity (Tit. 2:6-8). Such a man can lead a others well; he’s taking deliberate steps of getting his capacity to provide well under way; he has self-control––which is both seen (i.e. his appearance, manners, adornment) and unseen (i.e. daily prayer & Bible reading, a browser history that won’t make his mom blush). This is the sort of man which a godly young woman would be happy to be swept up into his orbit.
Young ladies, though the feminine role is a passive/responsive one (not active/initiating), this shouldn’t be confused with idleness. Proverbs 31 describes anything but idleness in describing a godly home-maker. Scripture would have you keep two things in mind, beauty is fleeting while fearing the Lord is praiseworthy (Pro. 31:30). Young women are likened to gardens (Sng. 4:12) and wives unto fruitful vines (Ps. 128:3). You must cultivate the garden. This means both inward and outward. Paul offers this reminder: “There is difference [also] between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please [her] husband (1 Cor. 7:34).” In other words, in a woman’s singleness, she must devote herself to both inward and outward holiness; and holiness is beautiful (Ps. 29:2).
Now, a warning to both sexes. Men, do not, under any circumstances, no matter how much you want to, be lazy. Not in your work, your appearance, your thought life, your investment in friends, your communication.
Ladies, do not be picky. If a guy asks you out to coffee––just because all your friends might have told you the dude was a dud––give him a shot. It is your prerogative to tell him (or have your dad tell him), “No.” But you might just be surprised if you give him a chance to impress you…if nothing else, you get a free coffee.
Now, once a fella has zeroed in on a gal. We begin to move to the next stage. She’s caught his eye. She laughed at his jokes, even the lame ones. She batted her eye-lashes at him, and he’s pretty sure she’s into him. Young man, you should not leave her guessing as to your intention with her. Men and women cannot be in a permanent holding pattern relationally.
Further, if you end up getting married, she will be obliged by Scripture to submit to your headship. So exemplify for her how to do that, by honoring her current head (her father). You should approach her father as soon as you think you want things to go beyond being merely team-mates at spikeball. Don’t sit on your hands. Ever. Your strength and energy, young men, are for something. Pursue her. Win her.
Once her & her father have permitted you to romance her, a few things are in order. You should figure out a few things really quickly and either break up or buy a ring. What follows is a series of topics which should be discussed.
Are there any red-letter sins? I’m thinking sexual sins, massive amounts of debt, a criminal history, a bad temper, a dead body in the trunk.
If not, is there anything in the extended family that is cause for concern? Can you deal with any drama that may arise from that corner? Is his uncle the head of the Bernie Sanders re-election committee? Make sure you understand each other’s family history, and if there are any cultural issues that could cause problems down the road.
Are you of one mind theologically? And if there are any differences, how substantive are they? Is the theological difference big enough to warrant breaking things up, or is it a matter which could be “back-burnered?” Really…how cute is he/she?
You should spend time with each other’s family. Make sure that there are no deal-breakers in that arena. Make sure that you can envision having Thanksgiving dinner with these people, for the rest of your life. Would you let these folks watch your children?
Men, you should be initiating conversations and making yourself an open book to her father. Ladies, you should evaluate how he speaks about and treats his mother.
If everything checks out––and this season of a relationship should generally cover only a few months––young men should ask her father if it is time to buy a ring. Spend as much as a you can. If she is a virtuous woman, her price is far above rubies (Pro. 31:10).
Planning a wedding need not be the $30k vanity event that modern Americans have turned it into. Modesty and moderation should mark the celebration. Many modern couples make up for having lived together for 5 years by doing a glitzy wedding. But while the celebration should be a wonderful and beautiful event, the focal point is the exchange of vows and the creation of a new family unit. This need not be excessive or sink the bride’s father into debt.
This is the hardest stretch for a young couple. Remember that sexual desires are good, just like bonfires are good. But bonfires make a terrible foundation for erecting a new home. She has agreed to marry him, but she is not married to him. Until the vows are exchanged and consummated, the marriage is not yet. Keep this phase of the relationship the sort of thing that, if it were made into a movie, you’d allow your grandkids to watch it.
Another thing that goes along with this “in-between” phase of the relationship, is to continue to honor your parents. While you will need to begin to establish clear lines between your new family and the two families which you both come from, you must not be the cause for getting those relationships off on a sour note. After marriage you are no longer required to obey your parents, but you still must honor them. This means you will need to work towards having the emotional and financial wherewithal to provide for them once they reach old age. It also means give them lots of cute grand-babies who love the Lord earnestly.
You must not think that marriage is just something that happens to you. It is something you must be readying for. You must be preparing for it (Pro. 24:27; Tit. 2:4).
This is imminently practical. In short, young men need to be demonstrating vigorous work towards being able to put a roof over their bride’s head, and she needs to be working to fill her table with glorious food.
You will not regret walking in purity. You will regret walking in shame. Purity is found by trust in Christ alone. It is by walking according to the word. Which means that by faith in Christ alone, you should get to work getting yourself ready to lead a home (as young men) and to keep a home (as young ladies).