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First came love, then came marriage, then there I was, standing in the middle of the common room, trying to explain my life choices to an academic registrar who just wasn't getting it.
"Married?" she said. "You're just a child!" She sounded genuinely horrified, as if I had admitted to willfully sabotaging the rest of my life. I wanted to say, "Twenty-one is not a child, thanks," but I refrained. Regrettably, I didn't pursue the conversation at all. Instead, I deflected her comment with an attempt at humor. "I didn't want her to get away," I said, at which the registrar sniffed and called me "charmingly American."
Living the Truth
That was a little more than six months ago. The more I've thought about the registrar's words, the more I've realized the extent to which we Christians have failed in our duty. Society has forgotten what marriage means, and it's because we Christians—especially young people like me—have abdicated our responsibility to tell the truth about marriage with our lives as well as our lips.
Living out the truth about marriage will mean different things for different people. For some, it will mean lifelong celibacy. For others, it will mean abstaining from sex until marriage. For married couples, it will mean being open to the possibility of children. And for my wife, Brittany, and me, part of telling the truth about marriage meant marrying early.
I don't pretend this decision was due to any wisdom, maturity, or expertise on our part. In fact, our marriage was driven more by desire than by some enlightened sense of doing the right thing. But it was a desire constrained by faith. We wanted to formalize and declare our love for each other. We wanted each other's "mutual society, help, and comfort," as the Anglican service has it. We wanted to express our love sexually, according to God's natural and beautiful design. And as Christians, that left us with one glorious choice—marriage.
Part of the Package
For us, living out the truth about marriage has also meant being open to children. I recognize that there are cases in which couples cannot, or must not, conceive. Further, I'm unwilling to say that family planning, natural or otherwise, is wrong. But permanent, deliberate avoidance of children in marriage is a denial of the truth. Openness to children is part of the package.
Recently, Brittany and I announced to our family and friends that we're expecting our first child. It's hard to describe the range of emotions I still feel. I'm joyful and thankful, certainly, but there's a fair sprinkling of anxiety mixed in as well. How do I know that I will be able to take care of my family? How do I know that I will be a good father? But joyfully receiving children as God's gift, and trusting him to provide, is a blessing, not a burden. And it's what we signed up for when we said our vows.
A Gift, Not a Liability
If I could revisit my conversation with the registrar today, it would go differently. I would forgo the jokes, the deflections, and the easy answers. I would tell her I married at the age of 20 because I fell in love, because I'm a Christian, and because marriage, sex, and openness to children are all part of the same package. I would want her to know that marriage is a gift, not a liability, and that for me, it was worth not waiting for. •
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