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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just How Engaging Is Engagement, Reflections

One of the biggest decisions one will ever make in one’s life is that crucial question every girl waits to hear: Will you marry me? Yet, for far too many young adults, this question is answered without serious regard for what such a commitment really means. Marriage is a life-time of compromises and sacrificing of one’s own individual desires in favor of the better good for the couple. Truly, how many kids are ready to leave the rules and regulations of their parents’ home and step into a marriage, which, by its very nature, carries with it some rules and regs of its own? When, as young people, we decide to enter into a marriage covenant with another person, are we considering what we can do to make life better for our spouse or what they can do to make life better for us? Or, as was the case for me, are we not thinking about any questions or answers because, well, it is just the next step in a relationship? The natural thing to do. You meet, you date, maybe you break up and get back together again, then you get engaged.

During the engagement period, the couple should be putting more serious thought into the relationship… is this really the person with whom I want to spend the rest of my life? Some pastors have pre-marital counseling courses that help the couple discover the strengths and weakness in the relationship and future spouse. How does your future spouse deal with conflict? Does your future spouse include you in decision making? How does your future spouse handle money, budget, etc… you know, the financial stuff of which life is made? What about child-rearing practices? Are you on the same page when it comes to how to discipline kids? The answers to questions like these can be very helpful to see if one is really making such a commitment with one’s eyes open or just ignoring warning signs and pressing on because it feels right at the time… no thought to the future consequences at all.

I know that at age twenty, I gave not a lick of thought to any of these things; it was my hormones ruling my decisions. Plus, I just liked the guy a lot. He was a ton of fun to be with and we had so much in common. I know that I loved Curt as much as any twenty-year-old knows about what love means, at least. I was very comfortable around him and, until that point, we had had no real conflicts. It was true, I was just looking at it like the next step in our relationship... We had known one another since we were ten years old and I knew he had a good character. Why shouldn’t I marry him? It was the next step.

Well, to answer my own question, because we had only known one another as children. I had not really spent any time at all getting to know the comfortable, long-time friend as an adult with whom I was planning to spend the rest of my life. Were our aspirations in life the same? As children, it was our parents and then part-time jobs that provided funds for school and personal spending. When the whole upkeep for the household depended solely on us, how would we deal with joint finances from both of us working? And, when both of us couldn’t work because of small children, what then? Would I lose all independence in spending because it wasn’t my paycheck I had just cashed? Really, none of these questions ever came up in the course of our dating or planning for a permanent future. No, it was just the next thing to get engaged and then married.

Many of my friends saw it that way in their own relationships with “steady boyfriends,” too. I’m not sure any of us were mature enough to have done anything differently, even if people would have warned us to look at things through the eyes of an adult and not as someone having just left the teen years. The pre-marital course or counseling offered from some Christian pastors, committed to their young flock seeking to have a wedding ceremony, can be extremely valuable in spotlighting these areas to which we need to give some thought.

At the very least, these sessions and the questions that participation will answer for the couple, help ease the soon-to-be newly-weds into the lifelong commitment they are planning to make. At the most, they may actually prevent marriages that shouldn’t have been in the first place or, at least, at a time too early for the maturity of those involved.

One thing I would have liked an opportunity to do differently is to first get involved in a church family with a pastor I knew and respected. He would be a man who knew God and sought Him for answers and direction. One not afraid to tell me when I was doing something wrong or pre-maturely. I know a number of such men now but was really too busy to even think about it way back then. In fact, I never even asked God if Curt was the man God had wanted me to marry in the first place. Can you imagine? Yet, we asked God to give us a date for the wedding! It just never occurred to me; it was just so obviously the next thing to do. We were just too newly-born to really be ready to be newly-weds!

Looking back on the engagement period, I would have to say we didn’t take advantage of it at all. The intention of the period of time was totally lost on us. It should have been called “Arrangement” more than “Engagement” since planning the wedding was with what I had been totally engaged. Had I been engaging in the serious considerations that would either confirm or deny the correctness of the path on which I was headed, things might have ended differently.

Often today’s young people, and some not-so-young, think it is far better to just live together until one of the couple says they want to move on. No need for an engagement period to be sure of anything. No license needed, no planning or ceremony. When things get tough or boring for one or both of the couple, just split. No fuss, no paperwork, no lawyers, just move along. Tragically, this attitude is also found inside the church. What does the Bible say about this casual practice of co-habitation amongst Christians? Check the next post for Sojourner’s findings.

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