Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

4.23.2010

The Foolish Virgins

A girl is born, red with a shock of hair. Slowly, day by day, she grows older, maturing along the way. Walking, braces, driver’s license, graduation, college, a few years of indecision about what she wants to be when she grows up, and she finally lands the perfect job. Now, at 24 or so, she has finally arrived—dragging mountains of student debt and years of bad dating experiences behind her. With this baggage, she decides she is finally ready to fit a family into her life, and she does just that, marrying at 26 (the average age of marriage for women today), only to realize after the fact that nothing she did in the previous 26 years prepared her for the years “After I Do”. In fact, she may even regret getting married so young, wishing she had had a few more years of experience under her belt before she walked down the aisle.

Granted, this is a sweeping, tongue-in-cheek generalization that many would protest is not their way of life, but the fact is that something is causing the average age of marriage to increase throughout the years. In the early 1800s, women married around the age of 20, but men were often older. In 1890, the average age for women was 22, and for men it was 26. These numbers decreased to around 20 years old for women and 23 years old for men in 1950, and then increased steadily to the current averages, the highest in history. I suggest that the breakdown of traditional marriage, misplaced priorities, and lack of preparation are mainly responsible for the increase in age of a newlywed couple, for although a woman may be 26 when she gets married, she is likely even then far less prepared than the 22 year old newlywed in 1890.

Please remember that God in His Providence has the perfect age for each of us to get married, regardless of how prepared we are. For some, He may desire according to His perfect plan that you not get married until you are in your thirties (yes, I said perfect plan :-), but for others, He may have you marry at an early age or not at all. Regardless, frantic preparation on our part is not for the purpose of marrying earlier than God has designed. Instead, preparation is for the purpose of being prepared (genius, I know) for marriage in whatever time-frame God has for us.

That said, I pray that we are all on the same page in regards to traditional marriage and the importance of preserving that. Furthermore, I hope you could not read this blog for long without gaining some perspective of the right order of priorities. That leaves one area that stares all of us in the face: preparation.

Preparation for marriage is preparation for courtship. We’ve all laughed at stories of women who got married and could barely boil water, but what skills do we really have? The finer art of food skills are a necessity: meal planning, nutrition, and a wide and varied experience in creating meals. I could go on and on with the list of practical skills needed before beginning a courtship: budgeting, shopping well, house cleaning, sewing, experience with children, teaching skills, and thriftiness are just a few. These are the obvious and exterior aspects of preparation, in a way the easier ones to develop.

But what about preparing your beliefs? As I read through John Piper’s list of questions honestly, I realized that some of those difficult questions I would expect a prospective suitor to answer were questions I had not yet even fully developed a belief on! Part of my problem is pure laziness—although I had opinions on many of these subjects, I had never stopped to crystallize those opinions into beliefs. What do I believe about how many strikes before disciplining a child? What do I believe about entertainment and how much time and money it takes from my life? What do I believe about working outside the home after children grow up and move out? What do I believe about divine healing and how that relates to medical attention? What do I believe about specific curriculum and teaching methods for homeschooling? Developing beliefs, not just opinions, about crucial things is vital before beginning a courtship.

Preparation for marrying one man only is also key. Keeping your heart pure, avoiding relationships that are not God-honoring, and staying under your father’s authority are all great ways to do this. Helping your father in whatever way you can and treating him with the same respect and love you would give to your future husband will help any girl to learn submission and other qualities essential for a successful courtship. Furthermore, since courtship is in the beginning stages orchestrated by your father, this will ensure that submitting to your father’s wisdom is not a foreign concept when the time comes for him to evaluate suitors! Being open and honest with your father about the young men around you is essential. When I have had a young man who simply did not understand my beliefs and was too forward, I talked to my father about it, and he was able to take care of the situation in a way I could never have done. Our fathers are great blessings to us!

Furthermore, we must prepare by using this time as the most invaluable season of our lives for maturing spiritually. If I don’t have time for devotions with God now, how will I have time when I have fifty kids looking to Mommy for spiritual guidance, peanut butter and jelly, and kisses for their “owies”? Now is when I have the time to read child training handbooks and learn from the wisdom of others. Now is the time when I can engraft much Scripture into my heart. Now is when I can learn from the wisdom of my mother and other wise people around me. If I misuse this time, I may find myself woefully unprepared for courtship, marriage, and motherhood.

Remember from the last post that a key difference between courtship and dating is that courtship is moving towards marriage. I ask you, then, how can you move towards marriage if when the suitor rides up you yell, “Just a minute!” and run back into your house to frantically begin cooking lessons and Bible studies on godly womanhood?

This may sound ludicrous to you, but it was precisely the position of the five foolish virgins in Matthew 25 who did not prepare themselves with oil in their lamps for the bridegroom, and when he came at the unexpected hour of midnight, they panicked. They had no choice but to go and buy oil at the last minute, frantically trying to find an oil peddler at midnight. By the time they returned, it was sadly too late, and they were left out in the dark by the bridegroom.

Do not be the foolish virgin! Develop your skills, beliefs, and spiritual maturity like a muscle, and you will be a strong woman of God, perfectly prepared by Him to take the position of helpmeet—in God’s time.

3 comments:

  1. Another wonderful post by the one of the sweet twins. :)
    This series has really blesed me, girls. I really appreciate the time and effort that you put into each of these posts/writings.
    What you said about the ages of women and men during the 1800's were 20 and the men were 'often older'...I'm not trying to contradict you in any way, but I did a short study on that once, and women were actually, as young as 14 and men were 18 and older. Just caught that in the reading of this post. :)
    All of the 'we must prepare' paragraphs were very inspiring and encouraging! I've, lately, really been diving more into sewing and embroidery and have so enjoyed it! And can't wait till I can do it for my future family. :)

    Blessings to you both, dears!
    ~Miss Raquel

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  2. Thanks, Raquel! I'd be really interested to know your sources--would you mind passing them on? History from that period fascinates me! From my own research, technical records weren't kept until 1890, which you can see here http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/ms2.pdf
    Before that, records weren't really kept, so any numbers we find are simply estimates, from my understanding. And I'm sure people married as young as you said, but perhaps that was the extreme rather than the average. Thanks for your input!
    And yay for sewing! Keep up the good work!

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  3. I couldn't agree more. It is sad to see the careless attitude with which marriage is viewed by much of our society. It is reflected in the morality of our nation and, sadly, the carefree mentality is being adopted by many within the church. By God's grace, I hope that those who are waking up to this reality and seeking to take marriage and family seriously can strongly influence our culture for good.

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