I recently read a rather insightful article by Vanessa Elizabeth titled “23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23.” It was insightful not because I agreed with it, but because it seems to very eloquently summarize the mentality of many of my twenty-something peers. Vanessa cleverly and entertainingly speaks of what she perceives as a growing trend of young twenty-something’s who have gotten married young to their own detriment. They have, in effect, missed out on life experiences, self-development, and, ultimately, happiness found only in the freedom of singleness. The millennial generation, after all, is not its parent’s generation, as she points out. Marrying young, she asserts, is something of a crutch for those who have been overtaken by the weight of life’s transitions and social pressures. This crutch, however, only serves to kill the internal animal of wanderlust desperately clawing itself away from the locked cage of matrimony.

I stand in agreement with Vanessa on at least a few (implied) points. There is no doubt that many people get married before they are ready and would have done well to use some time to work on their own issues and work to see their relationships mature. Amen and amen and amen. Moreover, she’s right that divorce is a real threat. Unfortunately, it should be guarded against by every couple in our culture. (I actually would argue that it is precisely this mentality which she advocates that helps fuel the fire of divorce in a spouse who buys into these premises. But that’s a topic for another time.)

I have to say, however, she’s got the rest of this all wrong.

Yes, she’s coming at this from a different worldview than me. Yes, she’s single and I’m married (a fact that has no bearing on the truthfulness of her or my argument, by the way). But, even still, she’s drawn a false dichotomy between what a married person can do and what a single person can do. News flash—married people can still travel and start a band and get a tattoo.

I know that’s not her point though. Her point is that single people can do all of these things without the restrictions of another and they are free to do whatever their heart desires without the responsibility of having another person rely on them. My generation would often rather live an egocentric life than a life that is dedicated to serving another. And what’s more is that we call that finding happiness!  

...in these so-called restrictions, I find beauty.

Well, in these so-called restrictions, I find beauty. When two people have a healthy biblical marriage, they learn to serve one another and to put another human being above themselves. They find out what it means to grow together, serve the church together, demonstrate Christ’s love together, complement one another both physically and spiritually, potentially raise a child together, and find joy that surpasses circumstance together. This is not to say that marriage is the instant bliss that is marketed to us on TV either. Marriage is a choice, a daily choice, and in that choice there is a most profound love that is displayed.

Sure, you can wait to get married later in life or you could just as well choose to be single, but there’s nothing in this world wrong with getting married young either. In the spirit of this, I want to propose 23 things to do in a biblical marriage that you can’t do in an egocentric life:

  1. Go on a mission trip together in another country.
  2. Find “our” thing.
  3. Experience the intimacy of being with only one person.
  4. Start a family.
  5. Massage your wife’s feet and do all the laundry for her as a surprise.
  6. Eat her food even when it’s not that good.
  7. Share your day with her at night. Carefully listen to one another.
  8. Start a website with your wife called “On Truth and Love.”
  9. Go to work to provide for your spouse, even on days you don’t want to get out of bed.
  10. Dress up for a rare and special date.
  11. Tell her you love her. Every. Day.
  12. Save on your budget (which is really small) so you can give more to others during Christmas.
  13. Get into a fight. Apologize. And have make-up sex with your life-long partner.
  14. Get involved in a ministry at church…together.
  15. Hold her hand even when you don’t want to because you had a long day at work and would rather not be touched.
  16. Watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” with your wife…for the twentieth time.
  17. Sit with him when he’s in the hospital and you get uncertain news.
  18. Don’t go anywhere when he/she hurts you. Work it out before you go to bed.
  19. Find contentment in just being together—no gimmicks.
  20. Rebuke him in love when he’s being hypocritical. Listen to her.
  21. Write an anniversary card thanking him for being a God-honoring man.
  22. Tough it out even when there are tears.
  23. Magnify the love of Christ so that others ask how you’ve made it work for so long and you can only answer by giving the Gospel.

Praise God for those among us who have the ability to be single! May they learn and know, along with us married folk, that Jesus alone brings joy. It is a blessing to be able to devote a life of singleness to His purposes. However, for me, it’s not either/or; it’s both/and. I find the beauty in both singleness and in the blessed institution of marriage that, when done right, exemplifies true sacrificial love. That love trumps a life of selfish experiences every time. 

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