Saturday, September 20, 2008

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

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