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Raising Our Children to be Disciples, Not Spouses

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it,” reads Proverbs 22:6 (NIV).

We are supposed to teach children values, practices and ways that build their character and set them on the path of life. But what if the things we are teaching them aren’t always beneficial for their growth and maturity?

Within the modern church and Christian families, parents and culture are often shaping adolescents to view marriage as the end-all, be-all goal of life.

The other day in church, a pastor told the congregation about his two daughters. He said that his main goal of raising them was to teach them to be good wives.

My friend and I had the same thought: “Wives? Should this really be the main thing we teach our daughters to be?”

I understand the sentiment behind what he said. And from a father’s perspective, I can see how he would want his daughters to be good and loving wives one day. But can this mentality of marriage be detrimental to our children and their mindsets?

Marriage is not innately pursued, desired or set apart for every person on Earth–however, it is often portrayed as essential for absolutely anyone and everyone, especially individuals in the church.

Evan Wickham, pastor and father at Park Hill Church, put it this way: “We follow a single man, Jesus, who had single disciples. Jesus and his followers did not live a flourishing life by pursuing marriage, but by pursuing community.”

Jesus may have taught us about how good marriages operate, and he assuredly guides us with ways to become good husbands and wives, but the main purpose of these teachings is not actually marriage itself. He almost always uses these lessons as a metaphor for how the church should love and be in relationship with God.

Marriage within the church is a byproduct of an intimate relationship with God, but it is not the sole byproduct of an intimate relationship with God.

The PLNU community promotes this atmosphere epitomizing the pursuit of marriage, hence the very literal phrase: “Ring before spring.”

The rush for marriage and focus on becoming good husbands and wives creates a space that often strips holy confidence from Christians and instead instills in them a worldly confidence–one based on how close they are to marriage.

I can’t say that this culture is entirely bad or wrong, and it is definitely not ill-intentioned.

I hope to be a wife someday. I want to love my husband well and be a good wife, and I can certainly take steps in my life today to instill wife-like qualities in myself. But I don’t want wife-like qualities to be my main goal in life when I should really be calling them Christ-like qualities.

Preparing for marriage is as simple as following Jesus and becoming more like him in all that we do. As we become a strong, vulnerable and united church, we will represent ourselves as brides in the most pure and natural way possible. By learning to love God and his people, we are by association learning to love our potential future spouse. This focus does not guarantee marriage or make it an idol–it simply prepares us for the possibility.

Hoping to become a husband or wife is not a bad thing. It is the striving and heartache created by this push to marriage that is bad and can hinder our actual purpose in life: becoming like Jesus and loving his people.

Francis Chan, preacher and author of Desiring God, sums it up perfectly: “To live is not to marry. To live is not to raise children. To live is not to find ‘the one.’ To live is Jesus Christ.”

Maddy Garrett is a junior majoring in political science.

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Maddy Garrett

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