I am writing this in tears. My story is long, but really, details don’t matter anymore. What I must know is this: What is my responsibility as a 20-year-old female college student, paying her own way for everything, to my parents? My fiancé is in the military (also 20) and is coming home this Christmas. We want to get married, and have been talking about it with my parents for a year now (we’ve dated for two). My parents disapprove, and say they will only give their blessing when I am finished with school. (They say we are too young, too immature, and need to wait; God doesn’t rush things, and that if us being together is meant to be, then our separation will only make us stronger.) I must have my education first — those are their terms. No compromise.
I didn’t agree with this and neither did my fiancé, so when we found out he got to come home this Christmas and that after marriage I could transfer my credit to a school in CA where he’s stationed (right now I’m in school in the Midwest), and that this really is the only time for several years that we can get married, we decided to move forward with wedding plans. I wrote my parents a long letter explaining why I thought this decision was best, and even if they did not completely agree if they would still support me. Well, now they’re furious. They hate my fiancé because they say he’s a jerk for manipulating me to go against my parents, and that neither of us have any respect or honor for them since we’re willing to go about this without their blessing.
I have support from my fiancé’s family, as well as many other mentors. On the other hand, my parents have people on their side as well. It depends on the people who have heard both sides and in those cases, they usually just throw up their hands, don’t know what to tell us to do, and say they’ll pray for us. My parents are telling me that if I do choose to marry now, I am cutting myself off from the family. That it would be my choice to tear the family apart, and my choice to be destroying those relationships. I know that things of God are not destructive and divisive, and that’s the reason my parents are using in why our marriage now is not God’s will, but I don’t understand why we can’t have reconciliation AND a blessing for marriage. Why must we wait and work on our relationships with my parents before marriage? I don’t want them angry and I do want them a part of my life, but they are wanting me to pay my own way through college and maintain my relationship with my fiancé long-distance for at least three more years.
I told my mom that I just didn’t think she understood, but she says that she understands perfectly, and that if we truly love each other it will work because love is patient and kind, and God blesses those who wait. I am so torn, and don’t want to pick between my parents or my fiancé. What do you think, where is wisdom and truth for my situation?
Thank you for writing. I am so sorry to hear of your distress and can only imagine the turmoil you must be in. It is an honor to be a go-to and I pray my response will shed light on your situation.
You write that details no longer matter. Although they don’t matter as much for the purposes of this answer, they do still matter to your situation and what you ultimately decide. They’re quite important to whomever you’re going to for wisdom, prayer, and guidance. So don’t discount them.
You’ve said you are independent from your parents; want to marry a man they say they will eventually approve, but only after you’ve finished college; that some of the mentors in your life do think the marriage is a good thing, and that you don’t want to be forced to choose between your parents and your future spouse.
Let’s take these in turn, in light of the source of all truth: God’s Word.
Colossians 3:20 and Ephesians 6:1-3 admonish children to obey their parents “in the Lord, for this is right” and “in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” These go hand-in-hand with Commandment five in Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
I looked in the John Macarthur study Bible to see what he has to say about these complementary verses. About the fifth Commandment, he writes, “The key to societal stability is reverence and respect for parents and their authority.” About the Ephesians passage, he says, “The child in the home is to be willingly under the authority of parents with obedient submission to them as the agents of the lord placed over him, obeying parents as if obeying the Lord Himself.” He also says that while verse 1 is about action, verse 3 refers to your attitude toward your parents. Finally, regarding Colossians, he writes, “The only limit on a child’s obedience is when parents demand something contrary to God’s Word.”
I believe scripturally, the starting point is your (and your boyfriend’s) attitude toward your parents. You must continue this conversation and make your decision from a position of honor and respect. They are due that, at a minimum, even if you don’t think they deserve it and regardless of what you decide. If you have any doubts about your attitude toward your mom and dad, ask your pastor or mature Christian mentors what they think about your attitude. Is it godly?
Second, your independence: Are you still living at home? Do they contribute financially to you, at all? If they are still in a position of provision, you are still under their authority and have an obligation to obey. If, however, you are completely financially independent and living on your own, that requirement isn’t as obvious.
By refusing to bless your marriage at this time, promising to bless it only after you’ve graduated from college, are your parents demanding you disobey God’s Word? Do they have legitimate concerns about your maturity or other issues that you need to be working to resolve? Or are they convinced by our culture that education is pre-eminent over all else? Is there any chance you are missing something they see that makes it wiser to wait? If you honestly don’t see anything that should prevent you from marrying this year, ask your pastor or mentors if you’re missing something. Consider meeting with your parents along with your mentors to discuss their reservations. Are there hurdles they want you to clear to prove you’re ready to marry? If so, find out what they are and start working to clear them. Hopefully, if this is their rationale, addressing their concerns will allay them.
Practically, it makes a lot of sense to honor and obey your parents. They are, after all, your parents. They will be part of your life for as long as you and they are alive. They will also be the grandparents of your children. These are not roles to discard lightly. I know three years sounds like a long time, but it’s not forever. Jacob worked seven years before marrying Rachel. The worse case scenario may be that you wait. If marriage is meant to be, it will still make sense in three years, and the rest of your life together is a long time.
If, however, after getting wise counsel from older, more mature believers (see Titus 2) you are convinced your parents’ reasons for asking you to wait are nothing more than personal preference, then you do have the option to proceed without their blessing. Although Scripture defers to parents and requires you give them respect, it doesn’t say you must never make a decision contrary to their advice. When you turn 21 you will be of the age that you can legally decide to marry against their wishes (and depending on the state where you marry, that age may be younger). But keep in mind the long-term implications of such a decision. Their relationship is lifelong and important to the health of your marriage.
Though it would be tragic to marry without their blessing, if they are being truly unbiblical — as testified to by two or more witnesses — it may in the end be your only option. It’s certainly not ideal, but is at least consistent with the principle of leaving and cleaving.
The main point I’d leave you with is that if you decide to proceed, do so prayerfully and fully aware of what you’re walking away from. As much as possible you want to enter marriage with no regrets.
Regardless of what you decide, be above reproach in how you relate to your parents. Remember, even if they wrongly prevent your marrying as soon as you’d like, God sees. He will reward your faithfulness.
I sincerely hope this advice helps and encourage you to pore over the Scriptures for wisdom, keep seeking the counsel of Godly mentors and above all, pray. God can change hearts and minds (yours and your parents) when human efforts at persuasion fail!
Copyright 2006 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.