Valerie is a 42-year-old, single, Reformed Christian lady who lives in Baltimore. She doesn't remember a time
before she knew and loved Jesus, but she does remember accepting John Calvin into her heart in March of 2000.
Valerie is a member of Christ Reformed Evangelical Church in Annapolis.
Though her career aspiration is to be a housewife, Valerie has not yet found anyone suitable who wishes to hire
her for employment in that field (or, more properly, anyone suitable has not found her), so in the meantime she
earns her daily bread working in communications -- editing, writing, print design and website management.
I spend so much time -- both online and IRL -- with Christians who have a high view of the church that I forget how many Christians there are in our culture that have a low view of the church...a view, sadly, that they have often learned in the church. I'm also spoiled to spend much time with Christians who have a high view of marriage, of childbearing and childrearing, of education, of discipleship, that I forget the poverty of most of the American church's thinking on those matters, too.
The comments that appear on Debbie Maken's blog often remind me of this disparity of thinking. The following is a comment I wrote this evening in response to some other comments on this post. (My comment hasn't been published yet.)
Some responses to the last couple Anonymouses...Anonymi?...Anonymice? ;-)
1) Re preparing for a career: Spending tens of thousands of dollars, often including taxpayer money, oftener still incurring debt, just to have a "fallback" position seems silly. Our culture has a distorted view of education in that we see it primarily as a path to money-making rather than as a means to develop God-given interests and abilities. If the vast majority of women are called to be married (as I believe), and if their husbands are called to be the providers for their families (as I believe), then it's foolish for the vast majority of women to pursue career-oriented education. However, I don't see any problem with a woman pursuing education for the aforementioned purpose of developing her interests and abilities if they run along academic lines. Her education will be a genuine asset to herself, her husband, her children and her church.
2) Re marrying weak Christian men: No, this isn't forbidden by Scripture the way marrying an unbeliever is forbidden, but it is foolish. A husband should be the spiritual leader of his home, and a Christian woman who marries someone incapable of leading her is asking for marital challenges. If she thinks she can change him, then she's approaching marriage with the mindset that she will be the leader, and that is sinful.
3) Re looking outside the church for a husband: This betrays a low view of the church that is one of the hugest problems for professing Christians both inside and outside of the church. In the book of Hebrews, God commands everyone to submit to leaders in the church. Anyone, man or woman, who claims to be a Christian but refuses to submit to the leaders of a local congregation does not have a trustworthy testimony -- he is in rebellion against God -- and no Christian woman should seek out such a man for a husband.
4) Re "one advantage", a technical point: The first Anonymous didn't say it was the one advantage. "One advantage" = "an advantage."
5) Re anger at church leaders: Again, we are called to honor and submit to the leaders God has ordained to rule over us. Are they perfect men? Of course not. Are we never to disagree? Of course not. But when we do disagree, we should be respectful about it. This does not exclude speaking strongly and prophetically, but it does exclude speaking bitterly or contemptuously.
6) Re men "working things out": I agree that growing up is what's really called for. If that's what a man means by "working things out" -- if there's really a level of immaturity that would make him an unfit husband -- then yes, he should delay marriage until those issues are resolved. But he should diligently and tirelessly work toward that end rather than using his sin as an excuse for more sin. The church as a whole desperately needs to encourage maturity in both men and women by a serious approach to biblical discipleship. That would go a long way toward reversing the damages of a few generations of lax, permissive parenting. Sadly, highly qualified Titus 2 older men and women -- those who are able to teach and train younger men and women to live godly lives -- are few and far between. So even with a concerted effort, it might take us a few decades or generations to climb out of this pit of lazy, undisciplined self-centeredness, but I can think of few things more worth the investment than intentional personal discipleship.
7) Re long-term dating without a commitment: How 'bout we avoid such scenarios altogether? How 'bout men and women not getting themselves into the quagmire of amorphous attachments, but rather pursue exclusive relationships only if the clear intent of both parties is to determine whether they are well-suited for marriage or to amicably part ways if they are not.
On October 5, 2007 11:31 AMAnonymouswrote... Right on. The problem with Christendom's present low view of the church is one to which I myself am only just waking up. And I am at a loss as to how to present it to my children, whom, I am ashamed to say, are victims.
This is certainly a matter for earnest prayer in all faithful, concientious churches. ~Eleanor
Unrelated PS, what exactly is fondant? Can you provide instructions?
Something about "you can't do the right thing until you're already better than you are" doesn't sit right with me, theologically. I DO understand, and agree with, a lot of the underlying reasoning, but it seems to come out wrong, somehow.
On October 5, 2007 12:49 PMValerie (Kyriosity)wrote... Jane, as the story of my whole life is the catch-22 of "you can't do the right thing until you're already better than you are," I understand your frustration. But I don't think point #4 in your scenario is quite what I have in mind. I don't think anybody who is struggling with being too flawed should just "suck it up and grow up"...I think they should repent of their sin with the strong, intentional help of the church.
A glib "suck it up and grow up" is the discipleship equivalent of "go in peace, be warm and be fed," pronounced by those who won't give to the needy. It is a Pharisaical disservice to the believer who is struggling with sin. It is breaking a bruised reed.
So many people in our society are utterly clueless about how to be mature adults, because they were raised without any discipline whatsoever. They are the product of parents who desired their death. And all the church can generally do is say, "Stop using your parents as an excuse." Well, it's true that we are responsible for our own sin, but bad parenting isn't just an excuse -- it's a reason. And the church as the repentant sinners' new covenantal family needs to be seriously committed to helping them recover. In many cases we need to look at discipleship as remedial parenting.
For the past seven or eight years, my goal has been to become the sort of person who would make a really good wife and mother, even if I never get to be one. I thank God that I'm finally in a church where I'm making significant strides toward that goal. And it really hasn't taken all that long. If I'd been in a congregation like this 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, I might not now be beyond reasonable hope of actually getting to fulfill my desires for marriage and motherhood. Younger men and women who seriously want to overcome their impediments to marriage could do so in time if more churches had a vision of maturity that went hand-in-hand with their understanding of marriage, and were deliberate about leading individuals in that direction.
On October 5, 2007 1:44 PMpentamomwrote... Okay, I stated it too baldly, to be sure. I understand that the help, and mutuality, and all that is involved. I didn't mean to imply that they're not. What I meant to emphasize was the ways in which "suck it up and grow up" accurately reflects what's being said, not the ways in which it doesn't.
But it still boils down to: you can't be good enough over here, until you're good enough over there. You're doomed to persistently being out of the will of God until at least these particular ducks are in a row.
I do understand that the idea is to spur people on to becoming what they need to be, not to condemn people to futility for not being that. But the fact of the matter is, if the entire world undergoes revival tomorrow, and the church begins to teach and practice everything perfectly, one hundred years from now, there will be lots of immature men, because people are born immature, grow up at a given rate, are sinners before they are converted, and remain so afterward. And there's something that doesn't fit with telling them that there are hurdles to jump through before other Christians can regard them as fit subjects to engage in something that all Christians are supposed to do.
Like I said, I understand that it's about spurring people on to become a certain kind of godly person. And that's good. But it creates a conundrum in light of the fact that the "immature, the weak, the foolish you will always have with you, and they're God's children, too." Even if 100% of them grow up, at any given point in time, there will always be those who are subject to this kind of "you're not good enough for me yet" message.
Another thing that kind of bugs me is the position it puts the woman in -- of 1) assessing her own high degree of spiritual maturity to make sure she's ready for marriage herself, and then proceeding to look for a man worthy of her (even if she doesn't mean to do that, how can she do your #2 if she doesn't?) and 2) going around judging all the men she meets as to whether it's proper to get involved with them, on the basis of her estimation of their spiritual maturity.
Okay, I'm not saying that "marry a man without regard for his maturity" is the way to go. I guess what I'm saying is that the underlying ideas here are all good, but maybe precisely because they've been neglected, it's really, really, really, really important that we think through what it means when we put them forth, and how they're to be implemented. So I'm not saying toss them out, I'm saying be really careful handling tools that there are very few masters left who can teach us how to handle them, due to the craft having going into disuse. I think we need to be careful about glomming on great "new" rediscovered ideas without realizing that our hands are covered with ham with respect to them, and proceeding cautiously from there.
On October 5, 2007 2:12 PMValerie (Kyriosity)wrote... Perhaps we have different things in mind when thinking of the sort of weakness and immaturity that might make us say a guy should put off marriage 'til things improve. If he can't hold down a job or can't kick his p0rn habit, he's not ready to be a husband. If he's undisciplined with daily devotions or spends a little too much time with his Xbox, marriage might be an OK context for him to be working out those issues.
Ideally it will be the man's elders or the woman's father who will be doing the evaluating of a potential suitor's suitability, so there shouldn't be the woman who's giving the "you're not good enough for me yet" message, or running around judging available men. And her authorities ought to be assessing her, as well. The idea isn't for the potential couple to both be spiritual giants -- this isn't an elder examination -- but for everyone to have a reasonable sense that utter disaster is not in store if they were to marry. And if there's a dramatic disparity between the woman's and the man's level of maturity, that should at least give everyone pause.
I agree a thousand percent with your last paragraph. There is much to think through, and I'm sure I haven't gotten all of it clear in my head yet, but I hope I've got more clear than the sketchy outline in this post. I just couldn't say it all!
You're saying you want me to comment more on your site aren't you? :D
I think I resent the use of high here. If you're not willing to say "a right view" (and I'm glad you're humble enough not to do so), I don't think that "a high view" is all that much better. Unless, of course, all you mean to say is "Christians who think highly of..." And then, that would add a completely different flavour to your post than the one I inferred.
On October 5, 2007 3:19 PMValerie (Kyriosity)wrote... Yeah, I mean something more along the lines of "think highly of." These are important issues -- not to be considered lightly or tossed aside despite the priority Scripture places on them -- and we ought to think seriously about them.
Even though you and I have differing views on how to work out the details of some of these subjects, I consider you to have a high view of them -- you are thoughtful about these issues; you don't just carelessly go along with the status quo of the general culture. And I can't imagine you advising a single woman to marry some guy who thinks the church is optional or unimportant.
On October 5, 2007 3:45 PMAnonymouswrote... On the whole subject of maturity and a high view of the church: I also wanted to say that I had brought up the former issue with my pastor last Sunday. His response was that he truly believes that the realisation that the Church is a partcular instrument of God (as opposed to mere "CHristian fellowship" or "parachurch" organisations) is essentially a work of the Spirit. And I think this goes with Christian maturity in both men and women. Not that they should not be taught, but that the *progress* in knowledge and maturity is a work of the Spirit, not of man.~Eleanor
On October 5, 2007 4:34 PMThe Danewrote... What if that girl was my enemy and the advice was part of some grand Montecristian plot for vengeance? I think I could imagine it then. But yeah, probably not otherwise.
On October 5, 2007 7:39 PMpentamomwrote... "Ideally..." but there's that word again. I hardly have to point out the painfully obvious reality that that ideal is unachievable in many cases -- and that's another one of those things that wouldn't change even with worldwide revivals and generations of faithful families.
I think where it rubs me the wrong way is how my generally happy, really well-suited, godly marriage would have been impossible under these strictures, and so many of the idealistic rules for how marriage should take place being promulgated by Christians these days, since we didn't have it all figured out by the time we were twenty. If one of us had had it "all figured out" by these standards, the other would have been left out in the cold because the other one wouldn't have measured up due to issues of upbringing, length of time as a Christian, lack of parental interest in doing things that way, etc.
OTOH, "If he can't hold down a job or can't kick his p0rn habit, he's not ready to be a husband. If he's undisciplined with daily devotions or spends a little too much time with his Xbox, marriage might be an OK context for him to be working out those issues" is helpful to clarify that we're not so far apart after all.
On October 5, 2007 8:22 PMValerie (Kyriosity)wrote... Don't you think we need to start with the ideal, though, and then work out the details in the un-ideal situations? If we don't know what the ideal is, how can we know where to say, "OK, that's not going to work here. What's plan B?" IOW, I don't think of these thoughts as "strictures" but as...well..."ideals" is perhaps the best word. And the more we push for the ideal, the more churches and families will wake up and say, "Hey, what can we do to make our covenant communities work better with regard to bringing about godly marriages?" I don't expect 20-year-olds who haven't been brought up with this view of things to suddenly have it blossom full-formed in their heads. I do expect godly parents and church leaders (both officers and informal leaders like spiritually mature older women) to think about not abandoning the clueless 20-year-olds to their own devices.
Thanks be to God that He is gracious to lead young people like you and Ray were into matches that grow into "generally happy, really well-suited, godly marriages"! But working through His favored means of covenant families and communities, how many more marriages would get off to a good start?
On October 9, 2007 2:59 PMpentamomwrote... I think we agree a lot more than we disagree. Starting with the ideals is good. However, having been a 20 year old and having seen 20 year olds from the vantage point of 30 and beyond, my concern is precisely that 20 year olds WILL get these ideas fully formed in their heads, and think of them as "strictures" rather than ideals. The word sophomore didn't come from nowhere, and it wasn't applied to people emerging from their teens by accident. And that's where I'm counseling caution. I'm not suggesting that any of the ideals outlined here are bad ones or best left alone -- it's precisely the distinction between strictures and ideals I'm concerned with.
I agree that the elders and parents and all should be involved and guiding this process and thinking these things through -- but my thoughts are aimed more toward those of us who will be in those positions proceeding with caution, not toward pooh-poohing the whole idea of having ideals and standards. And my concerns is also about, not cutting off people like I was 20 years ago who, given these "ideals," would have no way to proceed or no one willing to marry us if the ideals ARE treated as strictures.
So it's not the ideals I'm complaining about at all, I'm just thinking about those hammy hands and urging caution.
Besides that, I'm still open to the idea that there might be some young men out there for my daughters, and young ladies out there for my sons, who neither have been exposed to these ideas, nor will be in the next decade, but who might nonetheless have the underlying "right stuff" to make godly spouses for my kids. I don't want to ace them out of the process by making the process itself too important. At the same time, if someone shows up for one of them having all these wonderful ideas in mind, that would be a good thing, too.
On October 14, 2007 5:18 AMAnonymouswrote... I really appreciate this dialogue, and am very glad I've been scrolling down here. My elder daughter is at just such a chapter in her life. She's 24, she's had one extremely long heartthrob in her life, with a young man with whom she broke up because he wasn't a Christian (and then proceeded to not get over it for the next five years), and now there's someone else interested, apparently very interested. She likes him too; he shows signs of having become a Christian, but that would be only in the last month or so. Or maybe it's been a slow-process conversion over a period of four or five months. In any case, they now must figure out how to conduct the relationship, not having had any experience in the world of no dating, but wanting to get to know each other. I too have no experience in these things, Maria doesn't have a Christian father to guide her/them, and we're hardly surrounded by lots of examples of how it's done. I'd appreciate your prayers! It's definitely true that the only way communities can go from having no Christian presence or a very skant one, to having a good, strong Christian presence is through people who want to follow God's ways and His will for each step, but have not got experience in doing so. As Eleanor pointed out, God Himself has got to be in the maturing process, or this would be an impossibility. Gilda