Flying home from a trip to see my fiancée, one man turned to me and said, “Wow, that was a long goodbye you just had.” I smiled and said, “Yes it was. It is always hard to say goodbye. We just got engaged and are a long-distance couple.” Eyeing me more, he sarcastically replied, “You look a little young. You don’t see that very often.” Disgruntled by his comment, I held back my retort and let the subject end.
This man is not alone. Many have shared similar remarks when my fiancée and I express our relationship. But this raises the question whether it is acceptable for college-age youth to engage in marriage. Many of these relationships are taken lightly by the observer and meant for fun by the couple. This leads to the impression that young relationships will not last, and only when youth grow older can they engage in the marriage covenant. But why is this? That is, why is the youth culture as a whole stereotyped as not being fit for marriage?
Youth at the age of 17 can enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces and put their lives at risk with the embrace and celebration of many; yet numerous youth have trouble attempting to find support when seeking marriage. People my age can sign on to assume large amounts of debt and it is considered acceptable; yet the idea of wanting to marry at the same age is often frowned upon. For the full context, and to help you understand my perspective in this article, I was engaged at 17 years old. I have made it a personal goal of mine to defend young marriage in our culture in an attempt to encourage my generation to grow up and end the extended adolescence that has become so popular.
Enjoy Life Before Settling Down
There is a prevailing mindset, sadly even among Christians, that life is meant to be lived to its fullest prior to getting married. You travel, become your own person, and once you have spent years pursuing your desires, it is acceptable for you to think about settling down. Is there biblical support for such a view? Noted pastor and speaker Voddie Baucham says we as a culture do not value marriage. This is evidenced by the importance culture places on so many other things, especially self-gratifying pursuits.
I currently travel with my fiancée and while I enjoy doing so, I am looking forward to traveling together as husband and wife. Getting married young doesn’t keep you from enjoying the company of your spouse, but rather, it gives you more time to “rejoice in the wife [or husband] of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18). Traveling, sharing hobbies, and serving the Lord in ministry together are ways a married couple can spend time with one another while still working in life. For any married couple, regardless of their age, choosing to make time for one another must be a top priority.
You Are Not Mature Enough for Marriage
One person challenged my perspective of young marriage by saying people change over time as their experience broadens. Because of this, we should only pursue marriage after our identity and interests have matured enough to find lifetime compatibility in a partner. Using this to explain youth have not matured enough in this area, they argued that marriage should be reserved for older people.
I agree youth have less life experience than adults, but why should that keep them from marriage? Anyone who goes into marriage believing they have perfect experience will come back thinking otherwise. As Wesley Wildmon describes in his article The Sanctification of Marriage, marriage is designed to sanctify us and bring us closer to Christ by revealing our faults to us. So because no one can have enough experience to enter into a perfect marital relationship, we should all be open to change and growth.
Your Identity Has Not Fully Developed
With regards to the previous misconception about maturity and how it ultimately brings about change in our life, we can change in two ways: positively or negatively. This is where finding our identity comes into play (as mentioned in the previous misconception). The Bible talks fervently about finding our identity in Christ, such as being a “new creation” in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). So if we continually “grow in the grace and knowledge” of God (2 Peter 3:18), because our identity is in Him, why should we focus on negatively asserting someone will crumble and begin to change for the worse? Has it happened before? Sure. But this is not the story for everyone. We will fall and fail in life, but we are told to “rise again” because “the LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads” (Proverbs 24:16, Psalm 145:14). Change is not based on age, it is based on character.
Furthermore, another way of answering this objection is recognizing that the error lies in the assumption that most everything about a person is radically changed negatively. That is not the case for all people. What generally changes are our perspective and priorities in life. We are designed to change throughout our lifetimes. We change when we take on the responsibilities of being married, becoming homeowners, parents, or healing from the loss of family members. And as Wildmon described, becoming more Christ-like through sanctification. Being young does not prohibit me from recognizing core values and qualities in my fiancée that I admire, respect, and love. I know we will both change, but we are choosing to face life together, allowing the changes to grow us closer together, not apart. It's a choice. It's a commitment.
International marriage speaker Mark Gungor says one reason people are militantly against young marriage is because our culture has changed and we delay adulthood. During the 18th century, adulthood began much earlier, often in early teen years. In our society, Millennials are living at home well into their mid-twenties. People tell us (youth) all the time we are not mature and not ready to commit. What happens when you stereotype all young people with such negative comments? You will have those who believe you and will not take their relationships seriously because that is exactly what they are being told: "You're not capable of it." Instead, youth delay commitment in romantic relationships, but are not delaying sex. That is disastrous for young people and sets them up to enter into their future marriage relationship with a lot of baggage.
Marriage is something God has given to all mankind to enjoy, embrace, and love, and He never put a minimum age limit on it. That is why as Millennials, whether marriage ready or not, we must be informed of the truth of marriage and God’s plan for it.
This part one of a two-part series. The conclusion will be linked here when it is posted.