FINDING A MATE
A few thoughts on ideas raised about finding a spouse at New City.
By Randy Nabors
(These are just my very earthly opinions, with some Scriptural thoughts thrown in, so feel free to disagree and criticize with my very man centered observations.)
As a pastor it has always been a concern of mine about the ability of our young people to find a godly spouse and to marry. Marriage is under attack in our society and New City is affected by the reality of that attack.
· In poor communities the rate of marriage and the model of marriage seems to be negative. Although the statistics show that most people in the world will find a spouse, our American inner city context is a marriage wilderness.
· The availability of “good” men is low, due to poor education, dysfunctional behavior, drugs, prison, and early death. Homicide is still one of the leading causes of death for African American males under the age of 30. The rising rate of homosexuality is also a factor.
· A good man might be one who treats himself and others with respect, who has the ability to work, works, and is faithful when he makes a commitment.
· Finding a straight good man who is also a Christian, and thus qualified to marry a Christian woman, is even harder to find. Finding such a man who is also a leader is an even greater challenge. One word of hope, they are out there, and even some who are not ready are going to get saved and made ready.
In addition to the endangered species of marriageable men is the complication of being in a place where they can be met, and where a relationship might begin, and where such relationships lead to marriage. This of course is not the primary function of the church, and no matter how the discussion goes that principle must be kept in mind. Our culture in general finds it hard to create safe places for relationships to begin and be nurtured. School, work, social activities, relatives of friends, the military, church, and even the internet are all places where people meet but they don’t have the coherence traditional societies used to have for courtship and marriage. As a pastor this has caused me to pray for good match-ups. As a father this has given me great concern and pushed my prayers for my children, especially my daughter.
Believe me, many older people notice those who are single and pray for them to find a good spouse. Some of us have actually tried our hand at match making, with decidedly mixed results. Nothing could horrify my own children more than that. Some of us have felt pretty frustrated especially when we see a not only good, but a great young woman, who wants to get married and eligible men seem to do everything but pursue them. Men walk around treasure and don’t see what they are missing and too often choose cosmetic jewelry instead of diamonds. We can and do pray, we might even try set ups, and we sometimes have been more direct and made suggestions. As I said, the results have been mixed. My point is that this is not something only the singles have noticed. I grant also that some don’t seek marriage, nor do we suppose that they should, if they have the gift to remain single.
Churches are problematic in being the place of meeting a spouse. Many traditional churches especially in the black community have more women than men, and this of course reflects the realities mentioned above. This gives the advantage to men of course in being selective for a mate. Churches are also very much like small towns or small colleges, where once a relationship is begun everyone becomes aware of it. This creates pressure against anonymous or deliberate pursuit of a relationship since the penalties become high for failure and once it has failed a lot of people will know. This certainly affects men who are afraid of commitment and who would rather have the deal settled in their own minds, and within the relationship, before they feel pressured to be public about it. This is one reason young men in our church often look outside of the church for a prospective mate. Not always, but often.
Young men in the church tend to look on young women, if they look on them without objectifying and lust, as sisters. Men are visual creatures, they can’t help but look for whatever their estimation of beauty might be, and being a friend or having a good personality will not automatically make them think romantically. Guilt about women not finding mates will not make them look on young women as potential mates for marriage. Some of these things are more biological than intellectual.
Another cultural reality is the delay many young adults experience in marriage. This was not always so, but today many people are pursuing education and careers, and marriage is put off. Unfortunately the statistics are not good for women who wait on those relationships. In the meantime young men are suffering in this culture with a heavy dose of ego weakness in an American world of female competition. Men have an emotional challenge is relating to any woman with whom they might feel is competitive with them. They tend to walk away rather than engaging in any head on competition. Men naturally take competition as a precursor to violence and it takes maturity not to give way to it.
Our culture, and African American culture in particular, has a great many very strong women. They are encouraged to be so in this culture. In contrast we have an overabundance of very insecure men. What is ironic is that many of these seemingly competent and assertive women don’t necessarily feel as strong as they appear. Wouldn’t it be great if women could be as strong, and ambitious, and successful as they dared and hoped while good men never felt intimidated by them and could love them while cheering them on?
We are in the context we are in and getting mad at the church is not going to change that. In a church that celebrates marriage and family it can tend to make singles feel even worse. One of the dynamics of the modern church, and Chattanooga in particular, is the whole tendency for young adults to rush to new churches where they think they are going to meet other singles like themselves. They leave the churches of their parents and create new “generational” congregations, where they will all grow old together unless they learn to be multi-generational. New church plants are to some degree “meat markets” for singles, like a new bar or club might be. This is crude but I think it has an element of truth to it.
Another tendency is the temptation to just let go, find somebody, have sex and have a baby, then repent and get back in church to raise that child. The biological urge is incredibly powerful, and it keeps pastors working overtime due to sin, relationships, guilt, etc.
One dynamic in an inter-racial church like New City is the reality of seeing inter-racial couples. Most people will marry within their race, though the rate of inter-marriage between various races has skyrocketed since I was married in 1971. It was about 1% of the population then and it is a bit more than 10% of the population today. However, the chagrin and anger from black women when one of our black young men becomes attached to a white young woman is real, no matter how wonderful that woman might be. Even black women married to white men don’t like it as black men (in this particular instance) are seen as community assets, not simply as individual agents.
Getting past the flirting game, getting past a sense of competition for dominance in a possible relationship, sometimes deceives men into thinking the demure polite young woman is not actually as opinionated and willful as every other woman might be. My observation and opinion is that loud, verbal, and unintimidated women can be just as needy, lonely, and even as ready to be led as the quiet ones if they are convinced a man loves them and respects them. However, the outer shell of looks and personality are what men tend to deal with more than anything else.
I have seen men and women in our church who were (or are) desperate for a relationship. The more desperate they get the greater rejection from those they might feel acceptable seems to be the case. Obviously one of the spiritual struggles here is idolatry as the wrong response to the Biblical mandate to multiply and replenish the earth. We have a God given desire and it can’t be met, so a very good and wonderful thing becomes an idol. Now, at the same time I have met women who wanted to be married and succeeded, yet couldn’t get pregnant. That desire has sometimes been even more overpowering than the desire to get married. Probably no anguish is so clearly exampled in Scripture and mirrored in life.
What happens when you achieve your idol, your desire is satisfied, and the reality is corrupted, evil, and disastrous? God forbid, but it is a caution about any idolatry. It is like the rape of Tamar, whose rapist had to have her but after he did he despised her. Let it not be for those who earnestly, sincerely, and from a God-given desire want a godly spouse.
So let me ask, if you are tired of waiting, what options do you have? Wait on the Lord! If you are mad at our culture, what options do you have? Seek to change the way our people think, seek to change the statistics, point out the truth. And, wait on the Lord! If you are not content, you haven’t learned to be content, and are mad at the church that it can’t deliver up what you need then it might be an option to go find a church that gives you better options. Okay, but I surmise you might still need to learn contentment even if you don’t really want to, as you would rather apprehend what you think you need. There is no escape from what God wants you to do and learn. You must learn to trust him, you must learn to pray, you must learn to stop complaining, you must pursue godliness and not sexual immorality, you must give up your grip on your idols, you must learn to wait on the Lord. And, as you seek his kingdom, may God give you the desires of your heart.