In a sense, we'll never be ready to get married. We could always be a little more prepared, a little more mature, a little more stable. Marriage, if and when it comes, always draws our inadequacies to the surface. Marriage...when are we ready? Never.
Haha, clever, funny, but really, marriage...when are we ready? Never.
That question needs to be reshaped. It can carry a lot of weight and come with a lot of baggage. We may want help silencing the voices telling us (wisely or unwisely) to wait before getting married. We may want to make sure we know this person completely before we make this deep commitment to them. We may want assurance that our marriages will be easy or at least lasting. And this question is supposed to help with these wants.
But these wants present a problem for people who are considering marriage. At least, they certainly presented a problem for me. These wants represent our hearts' desires for a formulaic security. And there is no such thing as a formula for security!
Let's look at these three wants.
Silence the voices. I wish there was a formula to silence the voices that tell us to wait, especially when I see people in relationships and I think they're wisely headed toward marriage. But there's no formula to silence the voices telling you to wait. They are there, although they often distract and discourage, because you have loving relationships with people who are imperfect.
You, of course, have to ask "Is there wisdom in their voices to caution?" There may be. There may not be. It's possible that your family just isn't ready for you to grow up. It's also possible that your family sees some real potential for trouble in the relationship (he's already married, he's your brother, he's six years old, he's not a he...) that you don't see. You can silence the voices telling you to wait (or hurry up) only by cutting yourself off from imperfect people. But then you're left alone with yourself and without the wisdom those relationships also provide.
Next, know the person. It is great to know the person you're marrying very well before you get married. Great! Highly desired! Optional, according to the Bible. According to the Bible, your readiness for marriage has more to do with you than with the relationship and more to do with your call than with your readiness (oh, to be writing a book instead of a blog!).
On top of that, there's no way to know this person completely before you marry them (remember that intimacy and commitment are designed to go hand in hand, so there's an intimacy that you won't have until after you've made the commitment). If you are going to marry, you are going to marry a strange person, if not a stranger. You'll discover all sorts of stuff about them after you're married: some of it good, some not. Before you get married, you certainly need to ask "Given what I know about this person, is it wise for us to marry?" And you may need to know more to be confident in the wisdom of the decision, but there's not an absolute amount of knowledge that you need to have. How well did Ruth know Boaz or the Church Christ?
Lastly, ease and longevity. If you get married and your marriage lasts, it will not be easy. I guarantee it. If you want a formula for a challenging marriage, here it is: "Get married." (I'm happily married, by the way, this isn't me venting). Marriage is tough and there's certainly no way to time the start of a marriage to guarantee it's ease or longevity! It's the sin and otherness in a marriage that makes if difficult or makes it fail, not how it starts. We want secure, happy marriages and that's good. But that won't come apart from hard work and God's abundant grace. Instead of asking "When are we ready?" and trusting the timing, we need to ask "Would it be wise for me to marry this person now?" and trust God's grace when married life get's difficult.
Almost every day I uncover a new way that I was not prepared to be married to Amy. I don't think I am unique or that I married poorly. I just think that marriage is a relationship that requires growth and grace. I'm not ready to be Amy's husband. I need help to be her husband, help from her, help from my community, help from God.
If you're considering marriage, especially if you've already got the person picked out, I want to scare and comfort you. Marriage is a huge, life-altering experience. It's a huge commitment and if full of terrifying intimacy. Without God's help, you'd have to be crazy to get married. But God is gracious and compassionate, protecting and rescuing us when we don't deserve it or know we need it.
--- Now, I know I scared out more snakes than I could shoot in this post. This is a very general sweep. Shoot me an e-mail, post a comment or grab me when you see me this week if you want me to clarify something in particular. ---