I am unaware of any generation at any time in the last 6000 years that has done as poor a job at marriage as the baby boomer generation. They have the most staggering divorce rate in the world. So why do we listen to their advice when it comes to our relationships?
The typical baby boomer advice to young people is to set high standards for a future spouse. No standard is too high for our parents and in the communities where young people heed this advice the marriage rate is plummeting. In one generation, marriage has gone from the rule to the exception. The New York Times recently reported that according to census data 51% of American women are unmarried – up from 35% in 1950. This rate is especially alarming since we have had no major war that has killed off a generation of men.
The Broken System
The marriage gap is shown most drastically among young people in conservative evangelical churches. In my church, for example, we have between 50 and 60 college students. Of those students, I can think of only 5 or 6 who are in defined relationships. I can think of only one married couple under the age of 25. And my church is just representative of what I have seen among evangelical churches. The situation is even worse in homeschool communities.
Of the hundreds of homeschoolers I know I can think of less than five who are married.
The generations before us have poured out an unprecedented amount of prayer for our generation that God would use us to turn the nation back toward Him. But, if we fail to produce another godly generation, we will inevitably become another England. Like Europe authentic Christianity will become history instead of reality. We need to take our heads out of the sand and examine this issue while there is still time to fix it.
The Problem with High Standards
I believe our unreasonably high and misplaced standards help perpetuate this problem. Many singles think that marrying the “right” person will lead to happiness. So, they proceed to get out a piece of paper and describe an ideal person who may or may not exist in reality. But even if he or she did, why would they be interested?
If I want to marry someone who looks like Nicole Kidman I need to look like Tom Cruise. I don’t, so I won’t, end of story. But if my standards insist that I marry someone who looks like her, I will never get married. I use this outlandish example to make a point but if we are honest, our standards look like this more than we would like to admit.
This thinking is crazy in any other facet of life. If I refuse to go to college unless I get into an Ivy League school I will never get a degree. To get a college education I must come to grips with the fact that while I can’t get into Harvard I can handle UMHB.
The problem is not just that the standards are too high – they are also misplaced. Finding a wife is not like shopping. It’s not about comparing the features between disposable products. No one is perfect. Marriage is about finding someone to grow with, not someone to consume.
Paul Washer once said that God will give you a wife that is strong in all the areas she needs to be so that you are not tempted beyond what you care bear but weak in other areas so that you can learn to be more like Christ. If you ever find someone who meets all the conditions how can you ever learn to love unconditionally?
If you ladies want to marry someone as passionate for Christ as Eric Ludy you have to be as on fire as Leslie Ludy . It doesn’t matter how attractive Eric may or may not be, you won’t see him with Nicole Kidman because on a scale of passion for Jesus I would imagine she ranks around a negative zero.
The converse of this is true as well. If I am selfish and prideful, I will attract selfish and prideful girls. If am I unattractive, I will attract unattractive women. If I am emotionally unstable, the girls interested in me will likely be emotionally unstable as well.
Instead of focusing on external standards for who we want to marry we should focus on our internal standards for who we want to be.
My goal is to become the kind of man who will attract the kind of woman that I want to marry.
There is nothing wrong with high standards as long as we are first willing to live up to them ourselves.
Courtship is a lot like evangelism. Most Christians are so focused on getting “decisions for Christ” that they often overlook the plowing, planting and watering needed to bring about a plentiful harvest. Likewise, most singles are so busy asking, “Is this the one?” that they overlook the process of personal maturity.
What I am not saying:
I am not saying we should ignore the advice of our parents. While the baby boomer generation as a whole has blown it that doesn’t mean all the individual members of the generation lack wisdom. If there is one thing I have learned it is that I am not near as wise as I think I am and that age does not guarantee wisdom. Our self-centered humanistic culture makes it easy to grow old without ever growing up.
I am not advocating that singles should start slumming it and marry the dregs of humanity. I am calling for balance between external and internal standards. We must lower our external standards and raise our internal standards if we ever wan to walk away from this problem.
In response to the sins of our parents, we as a generation have made some drastic changes to our culture, most of which were wise and some were ill advised. It is time for a reevaluation. Feel free to join in on the conversation by commenting on my other posts regarding Christian Courtship .