Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thoughts on Get Married by Candice Watters, Part 2

Read Part One

The rest of Get Married can be summed up in three imperatives: “Live like you’re planning to marry”, “You need a network”, and “Pray boldly”.

It is easy to slide through our single years thinking there is all the time in the world. But, as Mrs. Watters points out, how you live now deeply effects your future: “To suggest that regardless of how you live, God will bring the right man along when the time is right if marriage is His will, is at best na├»ve, and at worst presumptuous….Women must do all they can to prepare. Then we can trust God for the rest, knowing we’ve been faithful to do our part.” (p. 71,77)

She lists four hindrances to good opportunities for marriage that women need to be aware of: procrastinating, aiming too high, hyperindependence, and avoiding risk.

Procrastinating

God designed us with a prime time for marrying and having babies. That may be controversial but it is indisputable: Our biology, fertility, sexuality, energy, and beauty all reinforce that we have a window of opportunity to form a family well. This is not to say that if you are past a certain age, God can't bless you, but there is a season when some things--especially children--are more likely. Tragically, in our current culture, many women don't realize it until their window starts to close. (p. 134)

Aiming Too High

“We’ve lost our perspective of what a reasonable opportunity for marriage is….We may think what we want is a male version of us, but that’s not what God designed men to be. …I’m not saying you should lower your expectations; I am saying you should realign them.” (p. 136, 137)


This point has prompted me to take a fresh look about what God has to say in His word regarding the qualities a good man should exhibit. I realize that my expectations have been shaped more by the culture around me than by the Bible.

Hyperindependence

Even women who deeply desire marriage find themselves pouring themselves into their life as a single woman with little thought or planning for their future as a married one. They're hard at work on their careers and financial goals--their "Plan B" as many call it--just in case Plan A is delayed or never happens. It's understandable, and in our culture, praised, to make the most of your singleness. The problem is that Plan A requires moving toward oneness--interdependence--with another person in marriage. Plan B finds you becoming increasingly independent so you don't need another person. It's easy to see how actively investing in B could undermine A. (p.139)

This is something I’ve had to seriously consider as I choose how to spend my time.

Avoiding Risk
"It's tempting to wait until there is no risk, until there is no chance you could be hurt. Or hurt again. Your fears are real, but you can't let them have the last word. To live like you are planning to marry is risky because love is risky." (p.141)

“Living like you’re planning to marry means intentionally resisting these cultural traps and instead cultivating community, stewardship, and purity—the elements of Christian discipleship that can best help you recognize and embrace opportunities.”(p.141)

I found much food for thought in chapter five, “You need a network”. I’d never considered the idea of formal mentoring. Yet it makes sense to ask for help from those who are older and wiser. If what you’re after is a strong, healthy marriage relationship, strong healthy relationships within your Christian community are the best way to get there.” (p. 90) If I make any big changes in my life because of this book, most likely they will be in this area.

The book concludes with a chapter devoted to what I am learning is one of God’s greatest gifts: prayer. The simple act of prayer is a powerful reminder to me that I am not in control. It focuses my thoughts on Another’s power and Another’s purposes. God is the source of all that I have—even my faith. I was reminded in this chapter of my great need for faith in prayer. And as we ask in faith, Mrs. Watters gives a timely warning to remember what it is we’re asking for: “Asking God to help you find a mate is asking Him to take you from a place of single focus to one that will require selflessness. Far from being the answer to all your dreams and fantasies, marriage will be a crucible for making you more like Christ.” (p. 152)

It is exciting to look forward to God’s work: Imagine in the midst of our postmarriage culture, small countercultures springing up where marriage is honored, men are respectfully motivated, women are cherished, mentors are working on your behalf, purity is esteemed; in short where everyone is striving for the set-apart life Paul described in Thessalonians 3:11-4:8.”(p.150)

If you wonder whether it’s right to desire marriage, read this book. If you’re a single woman, wondering if waiting is the only thing you can do, read this book. If you’re actively preparing for marriage, but losing hope as you see nothing on the horizon, read this book.

You’ll be encouraged.

Thoughts on Get Married by Candice Watters, Part 1

Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen
Candice Watters
Moody Publishers, 2008

I wonder if I’m doomed forever to the task of reading through a book twice before I learn something from it. When I saw the initial promotional literature for this book, I was excited. Having recently read Debbie Maken’s book Getting Serious About Getting Married, I was in serious need of some encouragement! But perhaps my expectations were too sanguine, for after the initial read I felt more frustrated than anything. I wasn’t exactly hoping to find a quick and easy 10-step marriage plan, but I was hoping to gain more insight into what my life should look like now in preparation. The book almost got left in disgust, but because of my friend Lydia’s enthusiasm over it I had the nagging feeling I should give it a second chance.

So I did. And I found that, while I may not have gained any bright new ideas, what I have gained is something worthwhile: a reaffirmation of the truth that the desire for marriage is God-given and that intentional prayer and preparation are not wasted efforts.

In chapters one and two, Mrs. Watters covers the origin of marriage as God’s gift to man. She addresses the need for Christians to rethink their attitude towards this gift, to honor rather than disparage it. She also outlines the Biblical doctrine of celibacy, and examines what prominent Biblical singles had to say about marriage. (E.g. Christ, Paul, John the Baptist)

Chapter two concludes with a rather shocking perspective on the common fear that a strong desire for marriage could turn into idolatry. Here’s what she says: “Where we most often sin in our desire for marriage is not in worshiping marriage itself, but in doubting God’s ability to bring it about.” (p. 48) And if that isn’t shocking enough, Mrs. Watters goes on to say that, “Not only is it unlikely that a godly woman’s desire for a biblical marriage would become an idol, biblical marriage is the antidote to much of the idolatry—‘Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed’—that plagues our culture…our desires for biblical marriage, if anything, aren’t strong enough.” (p. 51, emphasis mine)

In times past, I have fallen into the trap of a debilitating focus on self, learning firsthand that, “Idolatry has everything to do with our earthly nature, evil desires, wrong motives, and pursuit of our own pleasures.” (p. 50) It is freeing to know that, when my focus is back on God and my motives are realigned with His design, my desire for marriage is good. I like this quote: “‘Marriage’, writes [C.S.] Lewis, ‘is the proper reward for the real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it.’” (p. 51)

Chapter three is one of the main reasons I initially left this book frustrated. Here, Mrs. Watters catalogs how far both men and women have fallen from God’s standards as a consequence of the Original Sin and the resulting anti-marriage culture:

How do women, in their fallen state, react to the damage? Instead of relating to men as their helpers, they view them as competitors; instead of viewing home as a noble responsibility, they shun it and look to the workplace as the only legitimate arena for their talents; instead of embracing their fertility, they debilitate it; instead of heeding wisdom’s call, they hear only folly; and instead of becoming like a crown of glory to their husbands, they are a disgrace. (p. 60-61)

This we need to hear. These are things, with God’s help, I can turn away from. But it was the next problem she mentions that left me feeling very helpless: men who do not embrace their role as leaders, men who have no apparent belief in the need for personal initiative in finding a wife. It is a problem that Mrs. Watters says is due in part to the lack of Biblical teaching in many churches today:

It’s one thing to tell a woman to stop looking for a husband and just trust God to bring you one, but to tell a man to stop looking for a wife is a big part of why so many singles who’d like to be married aren’t. To tell a man “stop looking for a wife and then she’ll appear,” is like telling him to stop studying , stop looking for a job, and stop house hunting in order to get a college degree, land a job, and buy a house. Sentiments like these may be well-intentioned and even sound spiritual, but they’re not biblical. (p. 63)

If I’m honest, my feelings of frustration have nothing to do with the book. They have everything to do with my tendency to become pessimistic when confronted with difficulties, rather than seeing them as opportunities to call out to God. It’s not all hopeless: there is excellent advice later on to become an encourager: “What men need is to have someone who believes in them more than they believe in themselves. They need women who see in them, and encourage, what God designed men to be before the fall.” (p. 98)


Read Part 2