I'm in a very tough situation. I've known this young woman from my church for several years and have recently begun to be quite attracted to her. I would love to pursue her, but my parents are strongly against it. They claim that we are not compatible on the basis of me being an extreme intellectual and she's not (though we do have many topics we talk about). They think a relationship with her would not be helpful in furthering my future academic and professional life; and what's more, since I will be starting college in the spring, they have said that they hope my moving away will expand my options by putting me around more "compatible" young women so that I will forget she even exists. I feel stuck. I've always obeyed my parents and always wanted to do what pleases them, but due to how much I care for this young woman, doing so in this case would make me resent my parents which I don't want. What am I supposed to do?
Thank you for writing about your competing desires to pursue a woman your parents don’t approve of, and to obey your parents. It does appear that these are incompatible, and in some ways they are. But time and circumstances are not static. At present, you are (presumably) living at home and relating to them as a soon-to-be-independent young man. But you are not yet on your own. For now, it is right that you should honor their wishes and pray against any sinful desire to resent their authority and their decision. But that’s not all you should pray. Ask God to help you trust Him and His timing and will. He is able to change their minds. If this young woman is a good fit for you as wife, He is able to enlarge their hearts toward her.
Colossians 3:20 says, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” This is the season for obeying because it is pleasing to the Lord, and also because God has given parents the responsibility for shepherding their children in the truth of His Word (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Ephesians 6:4) and in passing on wisdom for living (Proverbs 1:8-9). Rather than resenting their perspective, ask them to share more about what they want you to look for in a future wife. But don’t stop there. Ask them to help you understand more fully, from Scripture, what the biblical qualifications for a godly wife are. Maybe they haven’t thought about it from that perspective. It’s possible that they are focusing on your future academic and career success — both worthy efforts — but that they haven’t thought much about your spiritual flourishing.
I don’t know your parents, but I know as the mother of teenagers that I need to regularly measure my hopes for our kids against the truths of God’s Word. The pressure from the world, the flesh, and the devil, conspires to make the minor things seem major (grades, college entrance exams, extra-curriculars, sports scholarships, etc.), and to crowd out what is truly major: spiritual formation, faithfulness, Christian maturity. Would they be open to reading a good book about this topic and discussing it together? There are many biblical resources available to help you know what to look for in a wife (here are just a few: Guys Guide to Marrying Well, Her Hand in Marriage, Proverbs 31). How wonderful it would be for your relationship to grow in wisdom together.
How you talk to your parents about all of this will affect how they respond. If you approach them respectfully, genuinely wanting their input, and seeking wisdom, they will be more likely to relate to you as a near-adult. If, however, you give in to your belief that obedience to them justifies resentment toward them, and start acting cold and sullen, they will trust your judgment even less.
This is a great opportunity to look to Jesus. When his parents reprimanded him for leaving their group in order to go to the temple, He responded righteously. “‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’” His parents, Scripture says, “did not understand what he was saying to them.” Rather than try to persuade them, “he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them” (Luke 2:49-51a). This is how we are to respond to our parents when we are children living in their home.
Ephesians 6:1-3 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise— ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’”
You will not always be a boy in their home, however. One day in the near future, you will be a man, responsible for your decisions and accountable to the Lord for how you provide for and protect others. This will be a decisive season for making God-glorifying decisions about whom you pursue for marriage, and how you go about it. Now is the time to learn all you can from your parents, trusting that their decisions are rooted in their love for you, and, even if they sin in their responses, looking to the Lord who is sovereign over every decision and circumstance.
In the power of the Spirit, you have the ability to resist resentment, to obey, and to entrust yourself to the Lord. If this relationship is pleasing to the Lord, if it aligns with His will, you have every reason to hope that in time, your parents may change their minds.
I pray God will embolden you to walk by faith, not by sight.
By grace alone,
Copyright Candice Watters 2016. All rights reserved.