Am I dishonoring my parents by desiring marriage?

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Am I dishonoring my parents by desiring marriage?

Sep 29, 2008 |Candice Watters
Question

I am a 22-year-old recent college graduate. I am involved in full-time ministry with my parents and siblings. I have never dated, and for years have prayed for protection from dating relationships until God brings someone with whom I can seriously consider marriage.

Over the past year, my desire for marriage has been growing stronger. This has turned my prayers into prayers for patience and that God would bring the right man in His timing.

My problem in all of this is that my parents are strongly averse to the idea of me marrying. They are afraid that marriage would interfere with, or even bring an end to, our ministry together. My hope, however, is that my husband will contribute to and enhance our ministry. My vision for marriage is that my husband and I will exemplify the words of Psalm 34:3: "Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together." I have no doubt that this verse applies to my family's ministry as well. I consider it a tremendous blessing to serve the Lord with my family, and my dream is to continue in this ministry even after marriage.

However, my mother has recently begun praying that I will not marry. Because my prayers are exactly opposite of hers, I feel as if I am dishonoring my parents. I also wonder if God is trying to speak to me through my parents, telling me that His plan for me does not include marriage.

Am I dishonoring my parents by desiring marriage? Will I ever be able to marry without feeling as if I am letting them down? Is my dream for an integration of marriage and ministry impossible?

Answer

Thank you for writing to ask about your desire for marriage in view of your role in your family's ministry, as well as your mom's prayers that you remain single.

In answer to your first question, I do not believe that you are dishonoring your parents by desiring, and praying for, marriage. While it's possible that you could dishonor them in the way you go about getting married, simply desiring it is consistent with how God made you as well as the path He set out for most believers. It's the rare Christian who is called to lifelong celibacy (1 Corinthians 7, Matthew 19:11-12). What's normative for most is leaving the home of your youth in order to cleave to spouse (Genesis 2:23-24, Matthew 19:4-6) and form a new family for God's glory (Malachi 2:15). Not only is it biblical to want to marry well, but for most of recorded history, it's also been encouraged by cultures the world over as the beginning of adulthood. (You can read more about that in Dr. Albert Mohler's "Reflecting on 'The Mystery of Marriage.'")

The answer to your second question may well be no. You can do much to help your parents understand your desire to marry — as well as the biblical support for doing so — and honor them at every step of the process. Even as you disagree with them, how you approach them will determine if you're being faithful to do what God requires of you.

How they respond, however, is up to them. Encourage them to search the Scriptures with you on this subject of praying against marriage. Ask them to read what you're reading in support of biblical marriage. Then, if they remain opposed to your plans for proceeding — as an adult — in Christian marriage, that's their decision. If that happens, it won't be you letting them down (assuming you are biblical throughout the process), but them refusing to acknowledge you as an adult with the adult responsibility to follow God's call on your life.

God will hold you accountable for how you relate to them: in dishonor or honor. But He will also hold them accountable for how they respond to you: in disappointment, manipulation, or support.

It's puzzling that they would oppose you having the very thing that brings them so much joy: your own family. It's not as if you're asking them to release you from the family ministry so you can pursue a solo career as a circus performer or an exotic dancer. What you desire — a godly family — is the institution God created and designed most believers to form.

I believe you can rest in the rightness of your cause. What matters now is how. How you go about leaving; how you relate to your parents in the process, and once you meet an eligible man, how you go about separating from your family — shifting from being primarily your parents' daughter to being your husband's wife.

This brings me to your third question. It may very well be impossible to integrate marriage and family ministry the way you envision it. Even if your parents change their minds and decide to support you in getting married, your future husband may not want to join the family ministry. What if you meet and marry an introverted engineer or a doctor or a pastor? There is no guarantee that your future husband would have the calling, needed talent, or desire to be part of your parents' outreach. That's not to say he won't, but that he'd be under no obligation biblically to do so.

When you marry, you form something new. And your primary loyalty shifts from your parents to your husband. Once you are married, you are called to submit to your husband's leadership, just as he is called to submit to the Lord and love you sacrificially (Ephesians 5). Once you are married, neither of you are called to submit to your father or any plans he (or your mother) may have for your (and your husband's) vocation.

And this may be why your mom is against the whole idea. Whether she's reluctant to lose your contribution to the family act, or she recognizes that your notion of marriage is idealized, you need to make sure your vision of marriage is aligned with Scripture.

Ultimately, you have to follow God's will for your life both in this and all decisions. Now that you're an adult, your relationship with your parents should look different than when you were a child. Although biblically your father remains your spiritual covering until you get married, the way you relate should reflect a more mature interaction between adults. Ideally, they will serve as wise advisers, not authoritarian decision makers. And in this case, where they're trying to prevent your marriage — something you're biblically not only permitted, but quite possibly called, to pursue — it may be necessary to bring in another trusted authority figure, such as your pastor and his wife.

I know this has the potential to produce rifts in your relationship with them, but as long as you disagree with them respectfully and maintain a posture of honor toward them, you are being faithful to do your part.

It's simply not practical, nor biblical, once married, to continue looking to your parents for their approval of your decisions. I love the way Michael Lawrence explains what it means to be "one flesh" in marriage:

This union of sexual intimacy, complete in itself, is also a sign and symbol of an even more profound union of lives in the covenant marriage, when a man leaves his father and mother, and is united to his wife, and the two become one flesh. Being "one flesh" with someone can refer in a secondary way to sex, but primarily it's just a Hebrew way of saying one family, flesh and blood. The union of marriage is not an alliance of families, with each partner representing a previous set of priorities and loyalties. No, and this was and remains quite radical, marriage is a union that dissolves the old bonds, the old loyalties, the old priorities, and creates one new family, with all that entails — one new set of priorities, one new set of fundamental loyalties.

I pray God will give you the wisdom to be gracious, as well as the courage to follow His call.

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2008 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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