I'm single but hope to marry someday. You said to look to married friends for encouragement in that goal. I'm in a small group with several married women who are older than me.
When I asked them about marriage, and told them of my dreams, they said, "Honey, it's better to be single and wish you were married than be married and wish you were single." They seem to spend a lot of time complaining about their husbands — often in the cloak of "prayer requests" — and have a negative outlook on marriage. Surely this isn't the kind of encouragement you had in mind.
Well, not exactly. I think it's safe to say this group of women is not the place to look for a marriage mentor.
I've been in groups of women like that before and their conversations always made me squirm. It's especially disturbing when such slanderous talk is between believers. It's easy to forget that gossip is no small sin. Paul includes it when describing those who deny God. It's a symptom that someone has been given over to their sin:
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips.... (Romans 1:29)
Proverbs tells us to avoid such "friends": "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much."
The point of mentoring is to find someone with godly character in the area you're hoping to work on. If you're trying to make big decisions about education or career, you look for someone who has wisdom in those areas. And if you're hoping to find encouragement toward marriage, you need to look for someone who esteems it as well as models a healthy relationship with her own husband.
The Titus 2 prescription for mentoring requires no less. It says,
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God (vv. 3-5).
Being mentored means being vulnerable enough to allow someone to speak into your life. An essential precursor is trust — trust that the woman giving you feedback and advice is solid in her own faith and understanding of God's Word.
It's not just gossip about spouses that can be a red flag. My mentors, Hu and Mary Morken, once commented that they have a commitment to avoid all coarse joking about marriage, divorce, sex and other topics that relate to male/female relationships.
When I first heard them say that, I thought, of course, that's a given. But then I started noticing how common such jokes are. It took a little effort to be faithful to that rule. And a few times I risked embarrassment with friends when I upheld that standard. But once I got married, I realized how much I benefit when people around me respect marriage in their conversation.
It's not enough that the women in your group are married. What you need are women who model vibrant, healthy marriages — marriages that not only acknowledge the importance of Ephesians 5, but live it out.
May God lead you to such a group.
Copyright 2007 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.