What does a young man miss out on if he stays "alone" even though his body and heart pull him toward marriage?
It's the most inspiring 60 seconds in American culture today. Slow-motion combat, exploding rockets trailed by plumes of white. Men paying the ultimate price for a greater cause. Valor, vigor and victory. So what are we speaking of? A montage from military history? A call to join the armed forces in service to a nation in peril?
No. We are speaking of today's greatest mini-artistic production: the trailer for that epic video game everyone's talking about. It's all fake. Yet it's powerful and seeks to entice young men to buy, literally, into its alternate reality.
I should know. I used to play video games like the ones I'm describing. Maybe you're like me in this way. You're young, you really enjoy fun things, and sometimes, you're glad to tune out the world and just, you know, escape.
You like being alone.
Called to Wed
There's nothing wrong with having some fun pastimes and enjoying clean fun. We all need enjoyable endeavors whatever age we are. But here's the thing: If our hobbies (whatever they are) occupy us for hours, they're keeping us from serious things.
Let's zero in on marriage, for example. If, in God's time, we're called to marry, and if we're at an appropriate age for it, we've reached the point where it's no longer good to be alone. If we're letting games or unserious pursuits occupy us for large chunks of time, and if these hobbies are contributing to a lifestyle that delays marriage, then we're missing out on some profoundly good things.
To understand my argument, we have to go back to the very beginning of the human race as recorded in Genesis 1 and 2. God, the one who is eternal, decided in His kindness to make a living, pulsing place, and He made Adam, the first human being, the crowning jewel of His creative work. In Genesis 2:18, the Lord looks down on Adam and says, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." This is noteworthy. In the midst of unspoiled Eden, this is the first "not good" we hear from God. Why does the Lord say this? Because Yahweh, the true and living God, wanted Adam to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Genesis 1:27). Enter Eve, the helper and lover of Adam.
The Lord took Adam's rib and made Eve out of it. Genesis 2:25 gives us a sense for how this whole pattern is supposed to play out beyond the garden. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."
Men are called to take initiative in finding a wife. If called to marriage — and most men are — they should, when mature and ready, leave their childhood home. They should pray to God for a wife, and they should seek one with a balance of wisdom, trust and assertiveness.
So this is it. This is God's good plan for those called to wed. It's not always easy. It calls for courage, and it contrasts sharply with the life script many American 20-somethings are following today. It is, however, a far better plan than the cultural one, as the text of Scripture shows.
Consequences of Aloneness
What do we miss out on, then, if we don't follow this plan? If we stay "alone" even though our body and our heart pull us toward marriage? Let me suggest several consequences.
First, we miss out on maturity. Whatever state we're in — single or married — we're called to pursue maturity. Maturity, not immaturity, is fun. It's like a lifelong quest. It's most enjoyable not when you kick against it, but when you embrace it and make it a personal challenge to yourself: "Today, how can I possibly grow in character and strength and holiness?"
The Holy Spirit loves to address a prayer like this and lead us to greater knowledge of God and greater conformity to Christ (John 14; Romans 12). This is true of every believer, married or not. We all, through the Spirit, have access to world-changing power and thus the ability to experience profound growth in grace (Philippians 2:13). When we work this out in the context of a local church, with support from fellow members and Christian friends, we're truly calibrated for change.
It is also true that one of the most — though not the only — profitable catalysts for our sanctification is marriage. Being joined to a sinner, and having one's own sin so closely witnessed and experienced, is humbling and convicting. Like close friendships, this bond places us in the regular position of either denying our sinfulness and sliding into it further, or confessing it daily and experiencing mastery over it by the power of God (see Romans 6:6). Ideally, marriage grows you, stretches you and changes you. It's kind of like your favorite extracurricular activity. Whether you liked sports, drama or music, I'm guessing you found that some of the most challenging experiences in your past were also some of the most impactful. You did something hard — you ran a 10-miler, for example — and doing so stretched you and opened your eyes to your God-given potential. Marriage is like that.
So you want to pursue maturity before marriage. But you also need to know that maturity will come through marriage. You'll miss out on a ton of exciting growth and character development if you keep to yourself when you're being called to something tougher and greater.
Second, we miss out on companionship. God has structured marriage so that we can enjoy great happiness and togetherness and unity in our union with a spouse. There are many women today who are alone and don't want to be. They were made to be wives and mothers. Yet young men are struggling to know how to win their hearts; many guys weren't trained to do this, and even though they have good intentions, they're not sure how to get started. In such instances, young men need to identify godly men in their church or school and seek them out in order to gain wisdom. It's out there!
Young men stand to benefit in incredible ways from marriage to a woman possessing "a gentle and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4). Here are a few of these ways I know of personally and from other marriages: Godly wives encourage their husbands in holiness, edify them by cultivating their own spiritual life, bake delicious food for them day after day, care for children, contribute to the economic well-being of the home through countless creative endeavors, wash their clothes, clean the house, pay the bills, type their papers, share wisdom on big purchases (and small!), make them laugh, make them think on a deeper level, and so much more. Companionship is a tremendous blessing, in both large and small ways.
Third, we miss out on pleasure. Some young men love the world of graphic novels and fantasy worlds. Others devote themselves to football teams and intramural leagues. Still other guys flirt with girls and goof off at the driving range. Whatever we end up doing, in all of these activities and others, we're doing this: pursuing pleasure.
Pleasure isn't wrong. God is the one who created it, not ESPN or movie directors. The Psalmist exclaims to the Lord, "At your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11). Christians aren't anti-pleasure or anti-happiness.
But we do recognize that because of the fall of Adam and Eve, we're all sinful. That means that our natural appetite for pleasure will be drawn in many cases to unhealthy and even sinful things. We'll train ourselves to get lost in fantasy worlds, for example, when there's a real world full of God's goodness waiting to be discovered. This is true of marriage, which is the place God has designed for sexual pleasure — the obsession of our modern society — to take place. The apostle Paul recognized that "it is better to marry than burn" with desire (1 Corinthians 7:9). Too many young men today are letting themselves burn by delaying marriage (and therefore delaying sex). As a result, they're falling prey to pornography, which promises gratification but offers a counterfeit version. God has designed sex to be far more satisfying and other-centered than pornography allows.
Fourth, we miss out on exhilaration. This point is closely related to the last one. If you're getting lost in the exhilaration of hobbies and pastimes, you're going to miss out on even more exciting and meaningful things. The culture wants you to devote yourself to winning a virtual war. The Lord God wants you to devote yourself to a real one, a spiritual war between light and darkness.
This is what is truly exciting and pleasurable: leading a holy life that blesses others. It's not that games are wrong. But instead of devoting yourself to them, plan to win a young woman's heart, build a career, and bless a church by joining and serving it for decades. The greatest joy in life is found in the hardest, most durable things, not the easiest. You may not be a world-class athlete, a famous director or a professional gamer, but here's one thing for sure: Like every single or married Christian, you can pursue a big, God-honoring life. In doing so, you will find that you are increasingly focused not on yourself, which is the way a kid thinks, but on blessing others, which is the way a man of God thinks.
The most stirring scene in all of human history was not developed by video game programmers or wildly creative engineers. In the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the miraculous occurred. Sin, Satan and death were defeated, and life — eternal life — was purchased for all who believe in Christ as Lord and Savior and repent of their sins (Romans 10:9-10).
Jesus, we see, did not live selfishly. He did not sequester himself. He took a bride for His own, loving her sacrificially. This is the call of many young men today (Ephesians 5:25-28). There's a greater cause to serve than that epic mission unfolding on a Hi-Def screen near you. It's costly, it's deeply rewarding, and it's never carried out alone, for the Holy Spirit is with every godly young man who goes wholeheartedly after the glory of God.
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Copyright 2013 Owen Strachan. All rights reserved.