Question:Hello, I am in seminary in my first year. I'm 20 years old and I have been dating my girlfriend for 1 year and 3 months. We both want to get married, but my father believes that it is too early to get married because I need to focus my life in seminary. He says I need to get married after seminary, but that will not be until another 3 to 4 years. This is a long time for my girlfriend and I. Temptation is tough and we don't want to fall in Satan's traps. We are both learning more and more about temptation and what it can do to us if we don't watch and pray like Jesus taught his disciples. What do you think I should do? I know that marriage would require me to have many responsibilities and all and she would have to work to support us, and I would have to try to find a way to pay for everything -- my parents pay everything for me now. I don't work, at least for this first year I don't. I know my father has a great point. He is very wise and I love his advice, it's just that it will be so hard for us to wait 3 to 4 years. Maybe two is understandable but after that is just too much. Thank you and God bless you!
Our view of time changes drastically as we age. Your father is looking at it from the view of someone near 50. Three to four years out of fifty is very little time, but to a 20 year old you are talking about a fifth of a lifetime. To a 10 year old four years is other lifetime and to a five year old it isn't even possible to grasp. Yet it is still the same length of time. One thing that helps is to measure time against our length on earth. It doesn't solve the problem, but it does give it a better perspective. "LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am" (Psalm 39:4).
I'm glad to see that you have a sound look at the situation. If you decide to marry, then you are saying you are no longer under the care of your family. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). A part of your decision about marriage is the realization that you are then responsible for not only your own life, but also for the life of your wife and the children who will eventually come. Therefore, you cannot just pick the timing of your wedding based on the strength of your need for sex. You're signing up for a lot of things of which sex is just a fringe benefit.
But you have one thing backwards, you are saying that your wife would have to support both of you while you are in school. The responsibility of supporting a family falls on the husband's shoulders. There is a study on this web site that I want you to go through called Preparation for a Lifetime. In particular, I want you to focus on the section about the husband's responsibility to nourish his wife.
I'm not going to say when you should marry. Instead, I want you to prove to your father and I that you are a man. Lay out a budget that shows the money your future wife makes and that you make. Figure out what your expenses are going to be. In other words, you and your girlfriend need to go apartment shopping so you know what you will need to spend. Talk to your mothers and figure out what food is going to cost. Talk to both your parents and figure out the utilities, transportation costs, and your education costs. Then realize that it is your responsibility to see that enough money comes in to meet those costs. And if you are like most young men, you're going to forget about things like taxes or not realize that those CDs you buy add up so quickly. So when you get it laid out, go over it with your parents to figure out what you missed.
Next, if you are serious about marriage, then you need at least a part-time job while you are going to school. Yes, it will be rough -- so what, that is what life is about. Right now you need to be building up an emergency fund because once you are married you won't have spare cash for a while to handle emergencies. See "Planning for Uncertainties" for more details. The very fact that you are working is important for your development as a man. "Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return"" (Genesis 3:17-19). Like it or not, this is what we men face in this world. Your parents have shielded you from the worse of it so far, but now that you are ready to strike out on your own, you must face it as a man and not as a son.
Preaching doesn't pay a whole lot. As an example, I also hold down two part-time jobs in addition to preaching full-time to keep ahead of expenses. That's life. Two of my sons are going to school full-time and working full-time at the same time. One of them is married. So I'm not giving you advice that is any different from what I tell my own boys. It's past time you start living it.
Don't plan with what you think you might be able to earn or what you might be able to hold down while going to school. Work with what you are doing. And all this planning, make sure your girlfriend is in on all the plans because the two of you are going to be making a lot of sacrifices and choices to reach your goal. This is good practice for the two of you to start learning to work as a team.
Then put a time for looking at where you are, say at the end of this year. The two of you look at what you've earned and set aside for the future. Look at how well you handled school and work. Look at how well you handled not always having the free time you wanted. If it still seems manageable, then propose to her and put your wedding date on the calendar, say during the summer when you are out of school. And then keep going.
If it turns out that you didn't reach your goals and marriage isn't feasible yet, put another mark in the calendar to review the situation again in another six months. Eventually things will work out, but instead of looking at it as a three to four year project, you are dealing with only another six month delay. Those delays might add up to several years, but they won't seem so long when you are just thinking it is another six months.
But understand this, if you give in to temptation you are going to ruin all your plans. You will be telling your girlfriend that you can't keep your word and that you are not reliable. You will be haunt by guilt as you try to help other people with their problems, knowing you couldn't handle your own. Don't fall for that trap. People can overcome these major setbacks, but why add misery to a new life together?
Man, that is some awesome advice you gave me. I am taking a class in seminary now that talks about the Christian Family and I am learning a lot about love and marriage and stuff. My teacher told me basically the same thing. The only thing that should be holding me back is the question of whether I can sustain a family or not. I was thinking about different things I can do. God gave me the wonderful talent of making videos and before starting school, I used to work with making wedding videos and it pays very well. I was thinking about starting this up again but truly invest in it and try to make a living out of it. My girlfriend would also work so she can get a constant amount of money (because you know, there are wedding seasons and dead seasons ha ha).
Well anyway, I think I am going to go with what you said. I just feel bad to kind of go against what my dad said. Well, it's not really against because he told me, when you want to marry, I will support you 100%. He just gave me advice and he said, leave it in God's hands and pray about it. So I have been praying about it every day and I am definitely seeing things open for me.
My teacher told me that school isn't such a big pressure on my life. Like my dad said getting married would take my focus off of seminary, and in some cases that is true. Even Paul says this, because his mind will not only be on the Lord but in the marriage as well, BUT, do you think it can put a negative affect on my ministry if I get married while in seminary? It seems like marriage and seminary is a normal thing you know? So yeah, I think that's my only last question right now. You're awesome man. If you don't mind, I'll keep asking for help. You are a great source of help. I finally get unbiased answers. God bless you!
If you are serious about the video business, then expand your topics. If weddings are too seasonal, start putting together videos of people's lives for funerals (which appear to be getting very popular of late). And you do have the right sense, a steady income is better than a variable one even though it might pay less.
Another consideration is that you can't fully rely on your future wife's income. The possibility of pregnancy will always be there even when you are trying to put it off. You should have a Plan B in place for the steps you'll take if she finds herself carrying your child.
You can count on marriage being a distraction from education. If for nothing else, the issues you face in getting married and being newly married are immediate and your education is about your future. In a crunch, the future tends toward second place.
Let me reiterate, base the timing of your wedding on what you prove you are able to earn, not on what you think you might be able to do. When you choose to marry, you're leaving home. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). You're signing up to take on all financial burdens for both yourself and your wife. Your dad has it exactly right. Once you marry, the cost of your education becomes your responsibility.
You ask if getting married would impact your ministry. I need to explain something before answering. Among the churches of Christ we have no seminaries. We follow the biblical examples in the New Testament, "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:2). I learned from other preachers and in turn I teach young men how to preach. In this regard, most congregations tend to be more comfortable with a married man than an unmarried one. It is not a fair judgment, but it is human tendency.
You are very welcome to ask additional questions. I enjoy answering them.