Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

William Lane Craig: find a wife who is interested in your field of study or ministry

Don't marry a "follow your heart" woman

Blake sent me this question and answer from Dr. William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith web site.

The question is this:

Dear Dr. Craig,

As one who has recently discovered the realm of apologetics in the past couple years, you were one of the first I had come to know, and it has been a pleasure reading some of your material and watching your debates. I am currently only a junior in college and am studying philosophy and religious studies and love it, and hope to attend seminary in the future and get my masters in apologetics, God willing.

My question for you is not necessarily a theological or philosophical question but a question that I am hoping I could get some pastoral advice from you about that I feel you are perhaps the best suited to answer. I recently got married this past summer to an amazing woman I met at a one year bible college I attended a couple years ago and it has been great. But between transferring to a new (secular) school and being constantly busy with school and work I feel like my relationship with God is constantly on the backburner, as I am not getting into the word nearly as much as I used to and my prayer life is nearly nonexistent, and because of this my relationship with my wife is not where it should be either.

I love my major and I love my wife, but they don’t seem to overlap very well, as my studies are normally more time intensive than hers and also she see’s my talking about it more as an annoyance than anything. I guess why I am writing you is because I am getting so spiritually burnt out and need advice on how to ignite/maintain my relationship with God and keep a healthy relationship with my wife and if having an aspiration of being an apologist is worth it. Not only does everyone else not see why I have picked the path I have because they see philosophy as impractical and I won’t be able to support a family with such an aspiration, but the path itself is difficult as I do not have many other fellow Christians in my classes and so I am being practically scorned in all directions. I often ask myself if it is worth it and if I should find some other path that would be more conducive to married life and family life that her and I hope to start in the foreseen future.

Dr. Craig is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Even if I make it through my undergraduate years, will seminary be any easier? I hope to seek out a spiritual mentor in the future but am still getting acquainted with our new local church and would love to have some direction until then. Thanks for your help and your great ministry!

Wesley

I just want to quote the first part of Dr. Craig’s answer, then I’ll comment briefly below.

Obviously, Wesley, not knowing you or your wife, I cannot counsel you adequately. Indeed, I’d urge you to treat this crisis with the utmost seriousness by finding a pastoral counselor or older married couple whom you both trust who can advise you on how to go forward.

Before I respond to your concerns, Wesley, I want to alert other readers to the importance of what Wesley has to say. He has married a woman, who, though “amazing,” does not share his interest in or burden for philosophy and apologetics and so finds his talking about such things an annoyance. I strongly urge those of you who are single to make having a shared interest in your field of study and ministry a top criterion in selecting a spouse. It doesn’t matter how beautiful she is or what a great cook she is if she has no interest in your field of study and so sees talking about things that you are passionate about as an annoyance.

That’s enough Dr. Craig – now it’s time for my comments (which disagree with his in places).

First of all, if you are thinking of studying philosophy or New Testament, etc. then you either need to do it full-time and give up marriage and family, or do it part-time and make your main job a STEM job. I have a friend who has actually done the “full time STEM, part-time philosophy/New Testament” plan, and he has 3 Masters degrees (done part-time) and is completing a PhD (part-time) – and has not a stitch of debt. He is in his 30s. He does not intend to marry, so he is more focused on getting these degrees than saving up for his marriage. His first priority is to put points on the scoreboard, and he doesn’t see marriage as a way to help him do that.

Second, if you are a man with a plan whom God has invested with certain resources – degrees, finances, good health, etc. – then you cannot throw it all away for the wrong woman. Talk to the woman you want to marry, and see if she:

  1. has cultivated characteristics that are useful in a wife and mother (chastity, sobriety, self-denial, hard work, frugality, etc.)
  2. has rejected feminism and understands the roles, responsibilities and needs of men, women and children
  3. accepts that the purpose of the relationship is to pool resources and cooperate in order to serve God better – not her and not you
  4. accepts that following a plan is a produces better results than chasing culturally-determined notions of happiness
  5. is able to identify threats to Christianity in the culture and has studied and prepared to respond to them
  6. is able to acknowledge and understand what her husband is trying to achieve and respect his preparations and plans

One positive way to learn how to make good decisions about women is to take some time out to study economics, politics, etc. and develop a marriage plan that has realistic measurable goals and a realistic interim steps to reach them. That project plan enables you to prepare yourself for marriage and your male roles (provider!) by getting the right skills and resources. And it also allows you to lead a woman so that she can develop herself to be ready for marriage to you. I hope that she would already have done a lot of the work by herself, (chastity, STEM degree, debt-free, good job, apologetics, conservative politics), before she even meets you. Then what’s left is just the final alterations to each of you so the fit is hand in glove.

I have always believed that I could lead any woman and make her more suitable for being a good wife and mother, no matter how badly she had screwed up her life before. So long as she takes responsibility for her own decisions, does not blame anyone else for her mistakes, and is willing to grow. That is the only way that she will be a suitable helper and the mother of effective, influential children. I think the women I have mentored would agree that however far we got, I left them better than when I found them. But some women do not want to be better, and that’s the kind you need to avoid in order to avoid squandering your resources that God has entrusted to you to produce a return for him.

A good marriage cannot be finessed with emotions and intuitions and pursuing fun and thrills. It cannot be undertaken by people who refuse to grow up. It takes planning and work. You can’t go to an Olympic ski jump, put on skis for the first time and slide down the ramp and stick the landing the first time. You have to train and practice first – a lot.

Nobody ever showed up at the Olympics and got a gold medal by doing what was easy and fun at every opportunity, throughout their teens and 20s.

My courting questions would have been very useful for detecting whether a woman is willing to develop herself so that she will be a good wife and mother. I don’t think that the wife described in the original question above would have passed any of these questions. It’s not the time to start asking these questions after you are already married, either. It was a huge mistake to be swayed by appearance, youth and fun. It was the man’s mistake – he chose her. Don’t you make the same mistake as this guy.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , ,

Fertility and pregnancy: how long can a woman wait before having a baby?

This is from Aeon magazine. The author writes for several ultra-leftist publications, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Salon and Slate.

She writes:

Many studies show that women are not only woefully ignorant when it comes to fertility, conception and the efficacy of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) – but they overestimate their knowledge about the subject. For instance, a 2011 study in Fertility and Sterility surveyed 3,345 childless women in Canada between the ages of 20 and 50; despite the fact that the women initially assessed their own fertility knowledge as high, the researchers found only half of them answered six of the 16 questions correctly. 72.9 per cent of women thought that: ‘For women over 30, overall health and fitness level is a better indicator of fertility than age.’ (False.) And 90.9 per cent felt that: ‘Prior to menopause, assisted reproductive technologies (such as IVF) can help most women to have a baby using their own eggs.’ (Also false.) Many falsely believed that by not smoking and not being obese they could improve their fertility, rather than the fact that those factors simply negatively affect fertility.

Fertility fog infects cultures and nations worldwide, even those that place more of a premium on reproduction than we do in the West. A global study published for World Fertility Awareness Month in 2006 surveyed 17,500 people (most of childbearing age) from 10 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America, revealing very poor knowledge about fertility and the biology of reproduction. Take Israel, a country that puts such a premium on children that they offer free IVF to citizens up to age 45 for their first two children. According to a 2011 study in Human Reproduction, which surveyed 410 undergraduate students, most overestimated a women’s chances of spontaneous pregnancy in all age groups, but particularly after receiving IVF beyond age 40. Only 11 per cent of the students knew that genetic motherhood is unlikely to be achieved from the mid-40s onward, unless using oocytes or egg cells frozen in advance. ‘This can be explained by technological “hype” and favourable media coverage of very late pregnancies,’ the authors concluded.

[…]For a woman over 42, there’s only a 3.9 per cent chance that a live birth will result from an IVF cycle using her own, fresh eggs, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). A woman over 44 has just a 1.8 per cent chance of a live birth under the same scenario, according to the US National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Women using fresh donor eggs have about a 56.6 per cent chance of success per round for all ages.

Indeed, according to research from the Fertility Authority in New York, 51 per cent of women aged between 35 and 40 wait a year or more before consulting a specialist, in hopes of conceiving naturally first. ‘It’s ironic, considering that the wait of two years will coincide with diminished fertility,’ the group says.

[…]‘No one talks about fertility,’ said [reproductive endocrinologist Janelle Luk, medical director of Neway Fertility in New York City], who does not believe women are really open to hearing about it. ‘I don’t think women know that there’s a limit: the message is equal, equal, equal. Women say: “We want to go to college, we want to work on our careers, we want to be equal to men.” But our biological clock is not.’

[…]Another way women might even out the fertility playing field is by focussing on the so-called male biological clock. But is there one? Although there have been recent news stories about how advanced age in men (over 40 or 50) increases time to conception and the incidence of autism and schizophrenia, the absolute risk is negligible. ‘When you look at the numbers, you have to separate what the absolute risk and the increased risk is,’ said Natan Bar-Chama, director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. ‘The absolute risk is still really very small.’

I think if I ever have a daughter, I will be sure to urge her to be skeptical of her emotions and intuitions, to learn how to assess probabilities, to disregard exceptional cases when making plans, to resist the feminism in the culture, to get wisdom from older married women with children instead of young unmarried childless women, to accept that she is not so special that laws and rules don’t apply to her, and to accept that the universe is not malleable according to her needs and desires. I hope my wife will see the value of reining our daughter in before the catastrophes like infertility happen.

Where does the organized opposition to educating young women about fertility facts come from?

‘We feel that women should be able to talk to their ob/gyn about fertility,’ said Sandra Carson, ACOG’s vice president for education. ‘We certainly want to remind women gently that, as they get older, fertility is compromised, but we don’t want to do it in such a way that they feel that it might interfere with their career plans or make them nervous about losing their fertility.’ In other words, there are no guidelines for talking to a woman about her fertility unless she herself brings it up.

All this talk of ‘gentle’ reminders and ‘appropriate’ counselling has a history – a political one. Back in 2001, the ASRM devoted a six-figure sum to a fertility awareness campaign, whose goal was to show the effects of age, obesity, smoking and sexually transmitted diseases on fertility. Surprisingly, the US National Organization for Women (NOW) came out against it. ‘Certainly women are well aware of the so-called biological clock. And I don’t think that we need any more pressure to have kids,’ said Kim Gandy, then president of NOW. In a 2002 op-ed in USA Today, she wrote that NOW ‘commended’ doctors for ‘attempting’ to educate women about their health, but thought they were going about it the wrong way by making women feel ‘anxious about their bodies and guilty about their choices’.

We don’t want women to feel bad, so it’s best to let them follow their hearts. That view is not helpful to women! If we want to help women, we must tell them the truth, and take the consequences.

All this talk about fertility could be accompanied by a discussion of the hard fact that a woman’s attractiveness will decline as she ages. This is a troubling lesson that countless women have had to learn the hard way. When you are young, you stand a much better chance of finding a successful male with good values and who is willing to commit to marriage and parenting. Many women will testify that, as you get older, this convenience deteriorates quickly. The good men will be claimed by the responsible women who don’t waste their youthful years seeking thrills.  Men who are contemplating marriage value a woman’s appearance, fertility, vulnerability and submissiveness to his leadership. Women need to be careful not to embark on a course that will reduce their ability in any of these areas that are important to men, e.g. – careerism, premarital promiscuity, etc.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

34-year-old career feminist buys herself an engagement ring

Feminist career-girl traveler says: follow your bliss

Feminist career-girl world traveler: follow your bliss

This is from Marie Claire, a woman’s magazine. (H/T Dalrock)

Excerpt:

“I bought myself an engagement ring in Tanzania,” I emailed a group of my girlfriends, mainly for effect.

[…][My friends] particularly love to gossip about me, the last single woman standing in our group of college friends, the only one who didn’t get married last year.

[…]I’ve been the managing editor of Yahoo Travel since April, which is about how long I’ve been single. I love the idea of marriage. I love it so much that when I finally do it I want it to last forever. My ex-boyfriend was my best friend, but he wasn’t my husband.

[…]Now I am single and 34. I have my dream job, one that has allowed me to travel to 12 countries in the past nine months, telling stories all over the globe. It’s such a dream that some days I don’t even think it’s real. I’m convinced that I will wake up one morning and Richard Dawson will pop out of my closet to tell me this isn’t my life at all. Rather, I’ve been on a Japanese reality show for the better part of a year and now is the bit where I’m locked in a house with nudists.

Earlier this year I published an amazing nonfiction book about nuns called If Nuns Ruled the World, and in May I have a new novel coming out.

Like I said, it all seems like a dream. And yet, my friends are very concerned I will end up a spinster, and that has left a large black mark on my otherwise remarkable existence.

[…]I’m actually a hopeless romantic… somehow I still believe in the serendipity of locking eyes with someone across a crowded airport, bumping into him in the Acropolis, or being forced to share a cab in Mumbai. I actually have no doubt that I will meet my husband somewhere on my travels.

She buys the ring, and then seeks attention:

I immediately texted my ex-boyfriend. We talk every day. Like I said: best friend, but not my husband.

“I bought a fancy ring in Tanzania.”

[…]It’s a commitment to myself and a reminder that I’m not wrong, or crazy, or flawed to wait for the right person. I saw the sun rise over Mount Kilimanjaro this morning while writing this, looking at my ring sparkle as my fingers flew across the keyboard. I’m happy to just be with me for a little bit longer.

Four points:

First thing, the fact that she bought an expensive ring from a gift shop in Africa ($$$) on the spur of the moment makes me question whether she has the temperament for marriage. A woman who wants to get married has to able to delay gratification and be a good steward of family resources. Husbands prefer women who are not in debt and not wasteful. It’s an important way that a woman shows a man respect for studying hard things, building a good resume and saving his money before the marriage.

Second thing, many women like this one want to get married “some day”. Even many Christian women. It’s very important to understand that women who say they love the idea of marriage often do not love marriage as God designed it. Marriage is designed so that a woman will support her husband and care for her children. Men and children are not accessories that are acquired in order make women happy, or to make her friends envious. Marriage as designed respects the leadership-oriented nature of a man and the needs of young children. A woman who wants marriage must be prepared to accept responsibilities, obligations and expectations in the marriage.

Third thing, she texted the ex-boyfriend and asked for his approval of her impulse buy. The ex-boyfriend affirmed her by saying “Great!” – he wasn’t going to tell her the truth. Women today often pick boyfriends like this who will have sex with them before marriage because she can suppress his instinct to lead on moral / spiritual issues by giving him sex. Women like men who listen and affirm them, but they are fearful of responsible men who tell them right from wrong, truth from error. That’s why women today freely choose to give men premarital sex – to get the attention and acceptance of a man without having to care what a man thinks is morally right or true. Many men today would rather take the sex than tell a woman what is right and what is true – even to save her from disasters of her own making. A chaste Christian man who wants to make the marriage serve God by leading his wife and children is rejected immediately because he cannot be controlled with sex. Women have feelings that any restrictions on their pursuit of happiness is “controlling”. And often they don’t look to the leadership of a competent man as a positive thing, no matter how badly their own reliance on emotions, intuitions and peer-approval has failed them in the past. And of course should this immoral, deceptive man she freely chose disappoint her by being immoral and deceptive, then it’s the man’s fault. She is the innocent victim.

Fourth thing, when a woman says that she has a high view of marriage then delays it into her mid-thirties, don’t believe her. Marriage is about the joy and challenges of bonding to someone to accomplish shared goals. It is an enterprise all on its own. With marriage, you can do things as a couple that you could never do as singles. You can model marriage to others. You can have and raise children who will know God. You can work together as partners to achieve bigger things for God. Never believe a woman who says she values marriage who then puts it off for a career. I can understand a woman saying she wants to put off marriage by serving God in some way, but not for a career.

I can’t recommend that anyone marry this woman, because the risk of divorce is too high. A woman has to be able to be sensitive to the needs of those around her. She has to be accustomed to picking a good man who will lead the family, and to respect his leadership because he is the provider. People who reject the design for marriage are not ready for marriage, no matter how much they claim to be romantic and to love marriage. Seventy percent of divorces are initiated by women, most often for general unhappiness. Men – make sure you pick a woman who are focused on marriage as it really is, and not on her own happiness.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , ,

New study: children who grow up with single parents more likely to see domestic violence

Domestic violence least likely in married homes

Domestic violence least likely in married homes

This is from Family Studies. (H/T Brad Wilcox)

Excerpt:

In the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, conducted by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, parents of 95,677 children aged 17 and under were asked whether their child had ever seen or heard “any parents, guardians, or any other adults in the home slap, hit, kick, punch, or beat each other up.” Among children living with both married biological parents, the rate of exposure to family violence was relatively low: for every 1,000 children in intact families, 19 had witnessed one or more violent struggles between parents or other household members. By comparison, among children living with a divorced or separated mother, the rate of witnessing domestic violence was seven times higher: 144 children per 1,000 had had one or more such experiences. (See Figure 1.) These comparisons are adjusted for differences across groups in the age, sex, and race/ethnicity of the child, family income and poverty status, and the parent’s education level.

One might suppose that women who had never married would be less likely to get into violent arguments with the fathers of their children than separated or divorced mothers. Yet the rate of witnessing domestic violence among children living with never-married mothers was also elevated. It was 116 per 1,000, six times higher than the rate for children in intact families. (Some of these fights involved subsequent partners or boyfriends of the mother, rather than the father of the child.) Even children living with both biological parents who were cohabiting—rather than married—had more than double the risk of domestic violence exposure as those with married birth parents: 45 out of 1,000 of these children had witnessed family fights that became physical. Note also that a child’s family structure was a better predictor of witnessing family violence than was her parents’ education, family income, poverty status, or race.

Experiencing family violence is stressful for children, undercuts their respect and admiration for parents who engage in abusive behavior, and is associated with increased rates of emotional and behavioral problems at home and in school. For example, among children of never-married mothers who had witnessed family violence, 58 percent had conduct or academic problems at school requiring parental contact. The rate of school behavior problems for those who had not been exposed to family fights was significantly lower, though still fairly high (36 percent). Likewise, among children of divorced or separated mothers, nearly half of those exposed to family violence—48 percent—had had conduct or academic problems at school. Even among the small number of children in intact families who had witnessed family violence, just over half—51 percent—presented problems at school. This was twice the rate of school problems among students from intact families who had not witnessed domestic violence. (See Figure 2.) These figures are also adjusted for differences across groups in age, sex, and race/ethnicity of children, family income and poverty, and parent education levels. Children experiencing domestic violence were also more likely to have repeated a grade in school and to have received psychological counseling for emotional or behavioral problems. This was true in intact as well as disrupted families.

A good book to read on this topic is Theodore Dalrymple’s “Life at the Bottom“, which offered this memorable anecdote about about how and why women choose men who abuse them.

Introduction:

The disastrous pattern of human relationships that exists in the underclass is also becoming common higher up the social scale. With increasing frequency I am consulted by nurses, who for the most part come from and were themselves traditionally members of (at least after Florence Nightingale) the respectable lower middle class, who have illegitimate children by men who first abuse and then abandon them. This abuse and later abandonment is usually all too predictable from the man’s previous history and character; but the nurses who have been treated in this way say they refrained from making a judgment about him because it is wrong to make judgments. But if they do not make a judgment about the man with whom they are going to live and by whom they are going to have a child, about what are they ever going to make a judgment?

“It just didn’t work out,” they say, the “it” in question being the relationship that they conceive of having an existence independent of the two people who form it, and that exerts an influence on their on their lives rather like an astral projection. Life is fate.

Chapter one:

All the more surprising is it to me, therefore, that the nurses perceive things differently. They do not see a man’s violence in his face, his gestures, his deportment, and his bodily adornments, even though they have the same experience of the patients as I. They hear the same stories, they see the same signs, but they do not make the same judgments. What’s more, they seem never to learn; for experience—like chance, in the famous dictum of Louis Pasteur—favors only the mind prepared. And when I guess at a glance that a man is an inveterate wife beater (I use the term “wife” loosely), they are appalled at the harshness of my judgment, even when it proves right once more.

This is not a matter of merely theoretical interest to the nurses, for many of them in their private lives have themselves been the compliant victims of violent men. For example, the lover of one of the senior nurses, an attractive and lively young woman, recently held her at gunpoint and threatened her with death, after having repeatedly blacked her eye during the previous months. I met him once when he came looking for her in the hospital: he was just the kind of ferocious young egotist to whom I would give a wide berth in the broadest daylight.

Why are the nurses so reluctant to come to the most inescapable of conclusions? Their training tells them, quite rightly, that it is their duty to care for everyone without regard for personal merit or deserts; but for them, there is no difference between suspending judgment for certain restricted purposes and making no judgment at all in any circumstances whatsoever. It is as if they were more afraid of passing an adverse verdict on someone than of getting a punch in the face—a likely enough consequence, incidentally, of their failure of discernment. Since it is scarcely possible to recognize a wife beater without inwardly condemning him, it is safer not to recognize him as one in the first place.

This failure of recognition is almost universal among my violently abused women patients, but its function for them is somewhat different from what it is for the nurses. The nurses need to retain a certain positive regard for their patients in order to do their job. But for the abused women, the failure to perceive in advance the violence of their chosen men serves to absolve them of all responsibility for whatever happens thereafter, allowing them to think of themselves as victims alone rather than the victims and accomplices they are. Moreover, it licenses them to obey their impulses and whims, allowing them to suppose that sexual attractiveness is the measure of all things and that prudence in the selection of a male companion is neither possible nor desirable.

Often, their imprudence would be laughable, were it not tragic: many times in my ward I’ve watched liaisons form between an abused female patient and an abusing male patient within half an hour of their striking up an acquaintance. By now, I can often predict the formation of such a liaison—and predict that it will as certainly end in violence as that the sun will rise tomorrow.

At first, of course, my female patients deny that the violence of their men was foreseeable. But when I ask them whether they think I would have recognized it in advance, the great majority—nine out of ten—reply, yes, of course. And when asked how they think I would have done so, they enumerate precisely the factors that would have led me to that conclusion. So their blindness is willful.

The blindness is wilful, because the emotions cannot be corrected by evidence. And everything in the culture affirms women in this craziness, even after they fail over and over again with men – cohabitating with the bad ones for years, and then turning away from the good ones. They freely choose the wrong men, and freely pass by the good ones. And almost no one tells them that it’s entirely their fault. Everyone just tells them “follow your heart”. This emotional craziness causes harm to innocent children, and it needs to stop. We have to stop the man-blaming and hold women accountable for making decisions with their emotions and then expecting craziness to “work out”.

You can read the Dalrymple book online for free in this post.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The meaning of marriage: a lecture at Google by Tim Keller

Disclaimer: I have reservations about Tim Keller. I consider him to be too liberal for my tastes, especially on scientific (intelligent design) and political/economic issues. However, I think he did a good job explaining marriage in the lecture below.

Here’s the the video:

Details:

Timothy Keller visits Google’s New York, NY office to discuss his book “The Meaning of Marriage.” This event took place on November 14, 2011, as part of the Authors@Google series.

Timothy J. Keller is an American author, speaker, preacher, and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is the author of several books, including “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.”

“The Meaning of Marriage” touches on topics that all readers can relate to, starting with the role of marriage in our culture, its history and the pessimism that is often associated with it. The Kellers also discuss the feelings of and acts of love, romantic relationships, gender roles, singleness, and the role of sex in a marriage.

I saw a lot of things in his lecture that echo my own views. One point where we agree is on not just looking for traits and virtues in the other person, but in seeing how they handle conflict and solve problems with you.  You have to give the other person things to do and see if they make progress and work cooperatively with you. Wes, who linked me the lecture, introduced the link by saying that this is the way that Christians should explain marriage to non-Christians. I agree, and I’ve added the book to my cart.

Here’s an article entitled “You Never Marry the Right Person“, that discusses one of the points in the lecture.

Excerpt:

In generations past, there was far less talk about “compatibility” and finding the ideal soul-mate. Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for.

[…]The Bible explains why the quest for compatibility seems to be so impossible. As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” In response I always say something like: “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball’? Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative’?” The understandable retort is: “But this is not baseball or literature. This is love. Love should just come naturally if two people are compatible, if they are truly soul-mates. “

The Christian answer to this is that no two people are compatible. Duke University Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas has famously made this point:

Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

Hauerwas gives us the first reason that no two people are compatible for marriage, namely, that marriage profoundly changes us. But there is another reason. Any two people who enter into marriage are spiritually broken by sin, which among other things means to be self-centered—living lifeincurvatus in se. As author Denis de Rougemont said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love … ?” That is why a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess. Raw, natural talent does not enable you to play baseball as a pro or write great literature without enduring discipline and enormous work. Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature? Indeed, many people who have mastered athletics and art have failed miserably at marriage. So the biblical doctrine of sin explains why marriage—more than anything else that is good and important in this fallen world—is so painful and hard.

When you are courting, don’t worry about appearances and feelings and passion so much, because that is all subject to change over time, and those things won’t help you with the real challenges you’ll face in a marriage. Worry about whether they are the kind of person who can make commitments and love other people self-sacrificially – even if they are unlovable. In the long run, their ability to read and understand issues, to care for others and serve them, to keep promises, to be respectful and supportive, to argue respectfully and reasonably, and to solve problems constructively, will all be far more important than appearances and feelings and passion.

And let me be clear again: give them things to do that challenge them during the courtship and see how they handle being given responsibilities – giving a person hard things to do is a much better way to test a person than recreational nights out with recreational drinking, recreational dancing and recreational sex. Marriage means commitment and hard work, not recreation. And that’s what you should test for – the ability to work hard at the relationship and to keep promises and commitments and to communicate reasonably and to work through difficulties fairly. The most dangerous thing you want to avoid is self-centeredness. You don’t want someone who is primarily interested in minimizing your feelings, and then getting her friends to agree with her that this is legitimate for whatever reasons. You want a person who has had a hard enough life that responsibilities and obligations are natural to her, and who doesn’t try to wiggle out of self-sacrificial acts of love when she doesn’t feel like doing it.

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