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 naïve, 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.

13 comments:

@ Home Mommy said...

Hi Kara,
Thanks for your thoughtful response to my book. I suspect you're among the few (if any) readers who willingly went through it a second time in order to give the message another change. I'm just so blessed that you were encouraged by it and pray God will continue to work mightily in your life.

Sincerely,
Candice Watters

kara a. said...

Thanks, Mrs. Watters. I'm honored you took the time to read my review.

Kara A.

Mark said...

Kara,

I haven't read the book, but I do enjoy reading the occasional article by Steve & Candice. The book sounds good!

In general, I think there is a tendency to get "tunnel vision", perhaps because our experiences and the experiences of our close peers dominate our perception. We buy into some of the stereotype about the opposite gender, use it for various selfish purposes, and remain largely blind about our own contribution to the problems at hand.

I think the headings you outlined from the book can be easily applied (perhaps with a few modifications) to guys as well. And I think its good that we all take a step back and find some personal applications rather than finding a framework for blaming others. I like how you take the points and apply them personally. I think more of that needs to be done across the board.

Often guys will say that the ladies are too picky, too feminist, too independent, etc. True in some cases..but true or not, most often the motivation for that assessment is selfishness and evading personal responsibility. Ladies can point to the guys and say that they are too juvenille, immature, cowardly, non-initiating, etc. Often quite true, but the motive for that assessment is often selfishness and an evasion of personal responsibility.

This may apply to the lady who balances her time between lamenting about the lack of initiating young men and gleefully ridiculing young men as they try. Or it could apply to the guy who spends so much time lamenting about how picky the ladies are nowadays, that he doesn't have enough time to make any effort to become worthy of what he is asking for. For all the lamenting going on, though, the situation isn't being addressed because we're always imputing pure motives to ourselves and impure motives to others!! The problem may lie with others, but the solution will rarely be pointing out other peoples problems! And no mistake about it, negative attitudes toward the opposite gender doesn't help in bringing them together!

So maybe we should aim for a posture in which we are aware of the problems from various perspectives, but recognizing our complicity in the problem. And we should be most seriously disturbed by our own failures. It seems, from your review that this book has some good advice for the ladies (in terms of personal application instead of finger pointing). And I'm know guys need the same sort of advice, although perhaps from a slightly different angle.

I think reading some stuff targeted at the opposite gender (such as the stuff the Mr and Mrs Watters have written on Boundless) might be a good start in sympathizing with the "other" perspective and gaining insight that will help us to view things more realistically.

Well.. sorry for the long rant "springboarding" off your post :> Hopefully its somewhat helpful and relevant.

Mark said...

Quick formatting note.. It seems like you're missing a Italic tag somewhere near the bottom (making your comments hard to distinguish from the quote)

kara a. said...

about formatting--

yes, I'm having some troubles. I used to be able to copy and paste from Microsoft Word, but ever since I switched to Word 2007 and Vista, I've had to deal with this sort of thing.

Aack. More fiddling with HTML...
but I'll see what I can do!

kara a. said...

Mark,
Thanks for taking the time to comment. Let me try to summarize what it looks like you’re saying: (tell me if I missed something)

*Effective change for the better starts by realizing that both men and women have contributed to the state we see marriage (or lack of marriage) in today.

*Pointing out others faults/laying blame is largely ineffective because it can blind us to our own shortcomings and encourage a bitter spirit.

*It is helpful to hear the perspective of the opposite gender in order to avoid the tunnel vision of self-pity.

I agree. To expand a little…

It is consistent with Scripture to deal with our own faults before pointing out those of others. (Luke 6:39-42) There are times when it is appropriate to rebuke, but there are some prerequisites, such as personal involvement (offense towards you) and jurisdictional authority. In this instance, while I am greatly concerned over an apparent lack of conformity on the part of many men to God’s requirements, I have no authority to effect immediate change. I accept this as right, and part of God’s design. However, I still have to deal with the emotional frustration of protracted singleness. That is why I am thankful to know that there is one thing I can do to help: encourage the men in my life. (father, brothers) This is harder than pointing out faults!

It is much easier to have a critical spirit. But as you point out, it is rarely effective. (Except in breeding an attitude of self-righteousness.) Instead, I must ask how I have contributed to the problems I see around me. It’s easy to say, “I’m not a feminist! I don’t hate men. I know there are differences in design.” But growing up in a family that faithfully taught me the biblical roles of men and women didn’t make me immune to subtle messages from the culture. I’ve had to deal with a lot of mistaken ideas about womanhood during the past few years. I’m thankful for a God who continually conforms me to his will, and who doesn’t give up on me!

Were there any specific articles you were referring to from Boundless? It is helpful to know at least a little of what men have to deal with in an anti-marriage culture, if only as a way to be more specific in my prayers for others.

It did not occur to me that the 4 cultural traps Mrs. Watters mentions could apply to men as well. After you mentioned it, I could see a few parallels. Except for “Hyperindependence”. How would a man apply that caution to his life?

Lastly, on the charge that women are too picky. It’s true that it can happen. Mrs. Watters addresses it somewhere (don’t have the book with me to look up exactly where), and talks about the myth of the soul-mate and how it has caused women to place expectations on men which are inconsistent with God’s design. That’s why I’m taking a step back and studying exactly what God does say husbands are to be.

kara a. said...

ok, well maybe I expanded a LOT! It didn't look that long in Word. ;)
LOL.

K.

Mark said...

Kara,

I think you've summarized what I was trying to say well. Some of it was from "the tips of my fingers", so it might not be completely systematic and a bit rambling :)
Good point about personal involvement and jurisdiction when rebuking. And you are right about encouragement too. It works towards a solution. That, and it is very attractive and appealing!

Unfortunately, I can't think of any particular boundless article that stands out at the moment. Next time I'm on the site, I'll look. (Also, I do remember reading something about the underestimation of the effect of protracted singleness on men somewhere on there. Either an article or a comment on an article)

I think the hyperindependence one does apply (at least your summary of it), though perhaps in a modified way and in a qualified sense. Yes, independence is a good trait for a guy in some limited sense (1 Th.4:11-12 comes to mind). However, an independence which drives a man away from his family in a bad sense, away from accountability, into a self-centered, unrelational existence is just as much a pitfall for men as hyperindependence is for women.

The negative sense of independence really isn't that difficult to fall into. A guy has a good job, spends a lot of time (at work) with people he doesn't know well. He can buy just about whatever he wants and feels little connection to others. He feels unattached and non-needy. He gets used to not only living for himself (selfishness) but also an exaggerated sense of autonomy (hyperindependence?) He also gets into the rhythm of not being dependent on others in every area of life.

I think this also hinders good opportunities.. And I don't think the man's form of hyperindependence can always be explained completely by immaturity, sometimes it could be pushing in the right direction, but perhaps a little too far?

Also, suppose there's a single man in his 30's (I'm not quite there yet.. though not that far either :>), who has a good job, a house, no debt, and not much of a family network to surround him. And suppose also that he made a genuine effort to be married, but thus far nothing has come out of it. He probably won't have much of a struggle having the good type of independence (He simply wouldn't succeed in this world if he didn't). However, it isn't hard to imagine that he might have to struggle to avoid the negative sense of disengaging, non-relational independence. Of course, he would not likely be actively avoiding marriage, but there is a way that going about our independence that distracts us from marriage (in a way akin to the way a woman can be distracted from it..)

The wrong independence (or independence in the wrong proportion) takes us away from living a godly life and distracts us from the model of Biblical manhood. I think in the church we find a good remedy for this. The guy who hasn't much of a family, finds in the church a family. And the whole the church shows us a model of interdependence. No doubt.. its a good thing to teach young men to stand on their own two feet and be independent in a sense, but in light of this and many Biblical teachings, it probably needs to be very heavily qualified.

Thanks again, I think you've very much clarified what I said and added many great points. As usual, I haven't had much opportunity to re-read this, so I hope its somewhat coherent..

(Perhaps you'll have to change your margins in Word to match Blogger so you'll know when you're writing a novel in the comments section :> Or maybe the answer is to use OpenOffice instead of Word :>)

kara a. said...

Mark,
Thanks for the elaboration on what hyperindependence might look like for a man. You made some really good points, and have definitely given me some food for thought!

I think a key in combating this tendency, for both men and women, is the realization that every decision we make has long-term consequences. One of my elders said something at church Sunday that was apropos in this regard. He asked the congregation what our lives might look like if we had a plan for, say, the next 200 years. What changes would occur in our everyday lives? What things would become insignificant? This was in regard to family discipleship, but as I’m learning, the preparation for that starts now.

When you said, “in light of this and many Biblical teachings”, to what were you referring?

This is a bit controversial, but another thing which can lead to an unhealthy independence (or at least a lengthened immaturity) is the culture of most college campuses. I am speaking not of the content of the classes, (another subject altogether!), but of the school structure. The very nature of college today encourages almost exclusive contact with our peers, and can provide a counterfeit family atmosphere not conducive to preparation for life outside the campus. This pitfall can be avoided, (as I have seen some do), but nonetheless is a very real concern.

Lest I write a novel, I will stop there. :) (Your idea for margin change worked!)

Kara A.

susanne24 said...

Personally, as a married woman, I think men's dependence on their family is a big reason that marriage is put off (too much dependence on the parents can provide a strain in a marriage by both husband and wife, imo). I don't think one should promote hyperindependence in men, absolutely, but that dependence in an *adult male* should be on Christ, not his parents.

Mark said...

Kara,

By "this" I was just referring to what I said about the wrong sort of independence. By "many Biblical teachings", I was referring to the explicit teachings about interdependence in the body of Christ, and perhaps it could be further derived, by implication, in what the Bible teaches about family.

Susane,

Good point.

But..Could you give specifics as to what you mean by dependence on family.. Do you mean dependence in terms of finances or other provision, or moreso in terms of advice, counsel, and allegences?

I'm sure you aren't saying that adult males shouldn't depend on their parents in no way whatsoever. From my vantage point, just like independence, dependence needs to be there in some degree, but could be taken to far.. Could you clarify what you mean? I guess if you give some more specific applications, it would be helpful.

You aren't saying an adult male disregard his parents counsel before marriage and completely disregard their counsel and influence afterwards? (I don't think you are, I just want to make sure..)

kara a. said...

Yes, Susanne, some clarification would be helpful. Dependent in what sense? For what?

Kara

kara a. said...

General announcement:

This has been a good discussion, but I need to move on to other things. So if you're dying to put in your two cent's worth, now would be a good time... :)

I'll leave comments open for a day or so yet.

Kara A.