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Monday: Preparing for Marriage — 19 Comments

  1. No doubt those of us who have been married for a long time are full of advice for young people who are about to get married. We eloquently point out the qualities we should have and the processes we should go through to choose the right partner. We even have a treasure-trove of Spirit of Prophecy quotes and Bible principles that we would like young people to listen to. However, young people being young are not prone to take our advice and often end up in a marital mess and unfortunately, we are all too often full of condemnation when that happens.

    My own grandmother on my mother’s side used to give me long lectures about what I should do and not do, until one day Dad heard her. He asked her how old she was when she got married. Grandma shut up tight like a clam and that was the last time we heard anything from her about marriage and girlfriends. I learned much later that Grandma was nearly 18 years old when she got married and was heavily pregnant with my mother. Another relative was interested in ancestry and had been tracing back our family for about 14 generations. He said to me one day when we were discussing the family tree that the gestation period for the oldest child based on marriage dates and the birth of the first child was remarkably shorter than the usual 40 weeks.

    And that brings me to the point that I want to make. We are full of advice about sex and marriage and we condemn those who disobey the rules. I sometimes wonder what happened to our compassion. I have heard so many sad stories about how young people have felt rejected and disenfranchised by their church because they have had a child out of wedlock, or because their marriage has ended in an early divorce. Fortunately, that is not always the case. I think that we are learning that compassion is more compelling than condemnation. Working with young people who are in the process of “falling in love” and choosing life partners I saw several cases where family. Church and even College have gone out of their way to ensure that single-mothers and those in the process of sorting out their marriage relationships have been supported with love and understanding without condemnation. (I cannot tell their stories here because someone may recognize who I am talking about.)

    I think of those who have divorced for whatever reason. The tragedy of many divorces is that the estranged couple often finds that their church only provides condemnation. Our focus is often on assigning blame, metering out discipline and shaming the sinner. Marriage breakdown is painful for all involved and irrespective of who is right or wrong, there is a need for compassion and healing.

    We should remind ourselves that the Children of Israel were condemned by the prophets of old for their treatment of those who were poor or disenfranchised in their community.

    O evil men, you make “justice” a bitter pill for the poor and oppressed. “Righteousness” and “fair play” are meaningless fictions to you! Amos 5:7 TLB

    Tell them to stop oppressing widows and orphans, foreigners and poor people, and to stop plotting evil against each other. Zech 7:10 TLB

    Christ himself set the example:

    But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Rom 5:8

    We need to practice compassion before condemnation. And if compassion is our approach then maybe it is easier to talk to young people about preparing for marriage.

    • To be married is not a social rule, but it is also the result of choice. Circumstances can keep a relationship, and perhaps even responsability! But maybe the most important reason to keep people hanging on to each other is love.
      "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." (1 Cor. 13:7-8).
      Nevertheless, the way we perceive love can change! (And thank God for the changes we go through! We do need to change!). But God, who is defined by being love, the most perfect state, does not! So let us focus on what is to last forever. Love does not only keep us connected to others, but with ourselves too.

    • You are so right about what you say. I got divorced before I became a SDA. Unfortunately I know that many female sisters in Christ who are married have felt threatened by my presence while some brothers act like I am loose. I have felt very uncomfortable at times and definitely seen the lack of compassion and understanding. Sad

      • Laura, how would you suggest we use what you have experienced to educate church members on this issue and how to minister to others in the same position as you?

      • Laura I can strongly relate to that. It is a shame especially within our church when the secular people become more understanding than the church. I think we need to get back to basics like Maurice said. We need to show compassion before condemning others. I have learnt to talk to people in those difficult moments and remind them kindly that in Christ we are one and relation breakdown is a loss that one may not understand if they hadn't been through it. We need to at least trust God if we can't trust a fellow church member.

    • I think that compassion goes both ways. I think it is a pity that your grandmother felt she could no longer give any advice. Her own experience probably led her to feel anxious about your experience. She didn't want you to make any mistakes. Those who have made mistakes in their lives should be listened to and not judged. Their mistakes have often taught them many valuable lessons that they wish to share with others. Perhaps they don't always go about sharing that experience as diplomatically as they could, but understanding and a humble heart for both parties can bring better communication, and these only come with practice.

      • For whatever reason Grandma did not choose to tell a lot of her story with us, and it only long after her passing that my cousins and I have discovered many of the events that affected her life. One of my cousins remarked that it would be great to dig her up so we could ask her all the questions we did not ask when we were kids. She was a really great Grandma in so many respects and I am only sorry that I was too young to realize the wealth of information she had. She was a youth when Ellen White visited Kaeo, New Zealand and converted the Hare family. I understand that my Great Grandmother became an Adventist as this time also. So, in many respects, Grandma is a family link back to early Adventist beginnings in New Zealand. Sadly that whole generation passed before we had even an inkling of all the information we could have mined from their experience.

  2. I would suggest that one needs to understand ones own temperament and your prospective partners temperament. What does it mean if I am a concrete thinker and he is an abstract thinker? What if I am an introvert and he is an extrovert?
    We need to be prepared to compromise, to negotiate, to take turns choosing what to do, where to go, what to eat.
    What can be fascinating at first in the short term can be annoying in the long term.
    What I believe is most important in a marriage is a commitment to maintain a sacred circle between the two of you, do not bring others into your relationship, you may disagree in private but always stand up for your partner in public, never run them down to others. Your partner should always feel safe to expose their innermost thoughts and feelings to you.

  3. I have to say, I'm really frustrated by this quarterly. Last quarter was Revelation, and that was fine. Everyone can get something from that. But not all of us are married, or ever going to marry. Not all of us have kids, or ever will (or in some cases, ever can -- my heart goes out to those people).

    I'm single, and it's already tough going to church. Maybe it's just the culture around here (in the US Bible Belt), but I'm always made to feel like a second-class citizen at church when I come alone. I certainly don't think it's an intentional slight, but the focus is definitely "all family, all the time."

    It's even tougher when hardly anyone between the ages of 25-55 show up for the lesson, even though we're near Southern Adventist University. I respect my elders, but sadly we don't have much in common (not blaming them! it's just the way things go). Not having anyone there within a quarter-century of my age is really rough sometimes.

    And now the church hands out a quarterly that basically says "come back in three months." Thanks, but I'm tired. It makes me wonder if I want to come back at all.

    Am I the only one who's really struggling with this?

    • Have a quick look at next week's lesson Mitch. It has a whole week on "Being Alone". I hope that you can contribute something to that discussion. A couple of our SSNET team are long-term singles too and I will try and get them to join in the discussion as well. I would like to hear how you see singles as contributing to church life.

      I am well aware of the challenges of being single in the church. One of my family members is a gifted mathematician and software engineer and has never married. He prefers his own company rather than facing the challenge of mixing with other people. Our response has simply been to ensure that he is always included in family events.

      Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    • You are not the only one struggling. Every evening I sit down and read the lesson and just feel beat up. It's just family, family, family. I'm 40 and never been married. I'm open to the possibility of marriage, but realistically know that it may not happen and I'll probably never have children. For the most part I am at peace with this and I have a great church that really does include me. I am active in ministry in the church in ways that would not be possible if I was married. And yet these lessons just make me feel like I'm second class and even make me question whether God is pleased with my life. I hope I can get through this quarter because it is really getting to me. I'm not really close to my siblings or parents so I don't even have that to really call family. I know they do have the lesson on being alone next week, and that's better than nothing, but it really is marriage and children centered. The least they could have done is put in a week about the church as a family - isn't it our most important family? But nothing about that. Anyway, sorry for the rant, but no, Mitch, you aren't alone. I'm glad to know someone else feels as I do.

    • Mitch G. Please don't feel bad about this. How about those of us who has been in several situations lately. Been in several marriages and still have not gotten things right? Take heart! God is not finished with you or anyone who trusts and believes in Him.

    • Mitch, My Daughter would describe her situation very similarly to yours. She is 27, single and lives hundreds of miles from us. When she has gone to church it has been a similar experience. As a result, she has stopped going. I pray for her every day. When we talk ( serious talk) it is evident she still has a heart for God. I just reinforce her faith and I never bring up the church going unless she does first. It sounds like your relationship with God is intact. Stay focused on that aspect of life and pray for a solution, whether it be finding a mate or just a church family that takes you in as family. God is faithful and He will sustain you. She just invited me up the other day for a weekend to go to a church or two near her to check them out.

    • Mitch: Walla Walla Univ. has a weekly radio & online broadcast where 3 of the Professors from the Theology Dept. have a 13 min conversation about the current weeks lesson. Then you may also click where it says "read more" & the host has written a good blog on that weeks lesson. Next week when it is on the singles, they have asked pastor Brant Berglin to lead out as he has been single for a number of years but is still fairly young. He has a fresh and helpful way of looking at various issues. https://goodword.wallawalla.edu/category/lessons/
      PS I understand where you are coming from as I had an early marriage, no children & have been single for the past 45 yrs, & you are right we aren't always included. I too find these lessons a bit of a let down and not applicable to my life.

  4. How does the verse  Prov. 1:14, support the statement: "How do my family and friends feel about my future spouse?

  5. Hi Mitch, I quite understand you. I notice that you are nearby Southern University. It might be a good idea to visit sometimes or other churches.You have to mix to meet people and multiply friends. Do things for or with students or others. Your life will soon blossom to a continual happiness. I lived on a campus for ten years so I do know that there is always something happening. Get involved. Join a group to sing or dance, create something, teach a skill or plan to eat with people once a month. Don't hesitate to initiate some projects not only for Sabbath but in the week. Use your talents. Be inquisitive about your world and hungry to participate in your environment. I tell you being single is not at all boring. Before you know it your calendar will be full. I promise you. Just don't wait for things to happen. Your phone will ring. I have three youngsters (2 boys), so this is real experience shared for free. "Smile".


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