I was wondering if you could offer some advice on a situation I am in at the moment. I am a Christian, I have a non-Christian girlfriend and just recently I found out she is pregnant. I hadn't been sleeping with her before hand; she fell pregnant pretty much the first time we were together (I've been lectured about the use of protection, but we didn't plan for it and were unprepared).
This raises so many issues for us like whether we should get married, where we should live, where we should live over the summer break (she needs me to be there for her while she's pregnant and it's my baby too), and how we are going to support ourselves once the baby is born. I've looked into a few things such as government benefits, what we should do about study loads, and I think we have a rough idea of how things will work out. Our families are very supportive although fairly concerned for us at the same time.
My main question at the moment is about marriage. I believe we should get married, not only because of the baby but because I love her a lot and I know she loves me too. The issue of her not being a Christian is fairly important to me, and I don't know how I'm going to tell my friends that I'm married and only 19 (although I turn 20 next month) because I slept with my girlfriend.
It seems as though there is no single correct answer, but I'd appreciate it if you could help me find the "most correct" answer. I hope you can help me out with some advice, or at least point me in the right direction to find the answers. I appreciate your help.
P.S. I'm sort of amazed at myself in some ways. I've read countless articles and books on sex before marriage (including the ones on the Boundless website) and firmly believe in the benefits of not doing it, but I chose to do it anyway. I guess even if we are fully aware of the consequences, some people still tend to make silly choices. I'm thankful for God's grace at the moment and try to make myself as humble as I can, although at the moment I feel kind of proud of myself. It's something like the feeling you get when you've been doing things without God's help for too long, and I don't particularly enjoy the feeling.
I really will answer your questions — but before you read further, let me ask you to do four things, because if you don't, the answers to your questions may not make much difference. Here's why the four things are necessary. You say you know you've "made a silly choice," but you don't acknowledge that you've sinned. "Doing things without God's help" comes closer to an accurate description, but it's not there yet. Sin is grave business. More than being imprudent, it's defying God.
FIRST, then, you need to call what you did by its right name — it wasn't an error but a sin, and it wasn't "being together" but having sex. While you're at it, notice that you committed two other sins as well. You shouldn't have set the young woman such a rotten example of what it means to follow Christ, and you should have been seeking a spouse who also knew Christ rather than getting mixed up with someone who didn't. What did you think dating was for?
SECOND, you need to repent of those three sins, before God, in the name of Jesus Christ. Repentance means more than being sorry — it means turning 180 degrees around, and going the other way. Among other things, going the other way means that you renounce having further sex with the young woman outside marriage; the fact that she's already pregnant doesn't give you a green light to continue. But listen to this: Going the other way does not mean that you should abandon her just because you shouldn't have dated or had sex with her in the first place. You have new obligations now. More about that below.
THIRD, when you repent, you must accept God's forgiveness. He promises it to those who genuinely repent and trust Christ as their sinbearer. This is a guarantee. It isn't godly to berate yourself for your sins and yet not accept His forgiveness; the idea is to repent, accept His forgiveness, and live henceforth on the path of sanctity.
FOURTH, you need to ask His help to do His will for the rest of your life, beginning with what lies immediately ahead.
Have you done these four things? If not, go back and do them.
Now prepare yourself. You ask my help for the situation you are in "at the moment." That is the wrong way to think of it. It isn't for the moment, but for the rest of your time on earth. I won't say "Your life is about to change," because it already has. You are now a father, and you already have the obligations of a father. The fact that the child is not yet born makes no difference. The fact that you didn't intend to become a father makes no difference either. You are one, and from now on your first earthly obligation is to protect the mother and the child.
Should you marry her? You say that you want to, not only because of the baby but because you love each other, but that you're concerned about your youth, what your friends will say, and the fact that she's not a Christian.
Let me address each of these issues in turn.
Marriage. Yes, you should marry her, and you should understand that marriage is permanent. "For better or for worse" means exactly what it says — if you marry thinking "so long as it works out," it won't. The reason you should marry her is that you are now a father, and God has already made a provision for fathers to protect their families. The marital bond is precisely that provision. If there would be grave impediments to a marriage — for example, if you had another wife, if she had another husband, or either or both of you were morally incapable of undertaking your marital obligations — then you and the mother should give up the child for adoption by a Christian husband and wife who can provide a good home. This would be a real sacrifice on your part; it is not easy to do. The alternative, however — relegating the young woman to single Momhood, with you merely making visits and paying child support — is unthinkable.
Love. Yes, you should love each other, but remember what love is: not a feeling, not an emotion, not a state of romantic excitement, but a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person. Such commitments are sealed by promises, and that's what the marriage ceremony is about. The feelings are just gravy, and they may come and go.
Youth. Nineteen is not too young to get married. My wife and I married at 19. Nor is 20 too young to have children. We had our first at 21. In our grandparents' day, young men and women married and had children much earlier than today. Our era has merely prolonged adolescence. People take longer to grow up, not because it has to take that long, but because not much is expected of them.
What your friends will say. When you get married, don't say to your friends "I had to get married because I slept with my girlfriend." Say "Guess what? I'm married!" What will they say? I hope they will say "Congratulations!" If they say something else, you need another set of friends. Which may very well be the case. You and your wife will probably find yourselves making your closest friends among other young married couples.
The fact that the young woman is not a Christian. It's true — barring other obligations — that Christians should marry other Christians. But that point is moot, because you do have other obligations now. You are the father of a child with this woman, and therefore your relationship with her has already changed permanently. You aren't like an uncommitted person considering whether to date a nonbeliever; you are more like a married person considering whether to divorce a nonbeliever — and I hope I don't have to tell you what God thinks of divorce. You are now the young woman's protector and the protector of the child, and as I said, God's provision for protectorship is marriage.
Now comes the hard part. To be a good protector — a good physical protector, and a good spiritual protector — you have to change. You weren't physically protecting the young woman when you had sex with her. (By the way, get rid of the idea that condoms are "protection." They aren't. The only protector is a living being.) And you weren't spiritually protecting her when you set her such an awful example of what it means to follow Christ. To be the protector of the mother and child, you must now become the man you haven't been so far. My recommendation to you is to get down on your knees every day and beg God to make you that man. So she isn't a follower of Christ? From now on, you are His earthly representative to her. If she does come to know Him, it will probably be because she sees Him in you. If she doesn't, it will probably be because she doesn't see Him in you.
One last point. Life has already changed, but it will change more than you think. You've spoken of government assistance. Are you in poverty? No, I didn't think so; not many poor people are in college. But if you aren't, it is shameful to seek government assistance. Are you able-bodied? I thought so. Then work. You may have to go to school part-time, or take a break from school. It isn't the end of the world; I did it. You will look back on it and say, "I'm glad I did that." Accepting help from parents is better than accepting help from the government, but remember that you are an adult now, the father of your own new family. So try not to burden your own parents either. My advice is to accept tuition aid from your parents if they offer it — they probably would have provided that anyway — but so far as possible, provide the living expenses for your new family by your own labors. Your parents may want to help you more than that. Love them for it, but don't agree; it wouldn't be good for you.
I have been tough with you, not from self-righteousness — God knows that I am a great sinner — but because you have a tough road ahead of you. Let me close with two thoughts.
First, you will not make the road any easier by imagining that you can choose another. Be a man of God now, a follower of Christ. Take up His shield and sword as His soldier, and face what must be faced with a song of strength and faith.
Second, if you do follow Him He will bless you. The Lord chastises those whom He loves, but He will not always chastise. If you accept his chastisement, He will use it to do you good which you have never imagined. Read these words of King David, who knew something about repentance and forgiveness.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Grace and peace,
Copyright 2001 J. Budziszewski. All rights reserved.