I can see it now…
A father and daughter holding hands outside a church. She’s in a long white dress, and he’s in a new suit. Just before the doors open and she walks down the aisle toward her soon-to-be-husband, her father looks at her and asks, “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
It’s a familiar scene, right?
But I can tell you that if that question outside the church on her wedding day is the first time a father talks to his daughter about whether she’s ready for marriage, he’s too late.
He’s even too late if he waits until his daughter comes home with a ring on her finger, or until she’s head over heels in love with a guy. He’s too late if he waits until his son finds the one, or even starts looking for the one.
Setting up your children for a godly marriage starts in the tiniest little hearts and minds—informing them through words and example of what a marriage is and what it is not.
It has to start when he or she is 7, 8, 10 and 12 years old when they’re still developing. It’s then you should begin to talk about it. And as they go through those difficult years of changing from boys to men, or girls to women, you speak of marriage in terms of holy reverence. If those conversations don’t happen until your son or daughter is 21 years old, you’ve missed an opportunity.
Let me share with you a number: $32,641.
That was the average cost of a wedding in the United States in 2015. I’m not sure what it is today, but I am sure it has not decreased. The fact that people are spending $32,641 on a 30-minute ceremony and a reception they may or may not remember is a perfect example of how our culture has become infatuated with the wedding but forgotten to prepare people for the marriage.
Read the words of Christ in Matthew 19:4-6…
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Marriage is not about bouncing through life to find somebody who makes you happy. Jesus is saying that when God sees a husband and wife, he sees oneness. It’s about entering into a covenant in front of God Almighty.
There are three parts to parenting your children toward healthy marriages:
1. Giving them an example
2. Giving them an explanation
3. Giving them an expectation
The way you commit to your own marriage covenant gives your child or children the example that you’re part of a sacred, holy union. But then you have to tell them that too. You have to tell them that marriage is a covenant relationship in which you join your mind, soul, heart, and body to another person for the rest of your life. And then you have to expect it from them.
Simply… marriage is a big deal.
And the truth is that marriage causes great amounts of frustration, along with great amounts of joy. There’s room to laugh and room to cry. It’s not always joyous. It’s not always exciting. Sometimes, marriage is just plain difficult.
With all this in mind, I don’t want my children coming to an altar thinking it is a mutual arrangement that makes them happy. Because what happens when the happiness is gone, and the warm feelings of romance grow cold? I can assure you these days will come.
It will be the covenant that keeps your child in their marriage. When things get tough, they won’t stay with their spouse because a document says they have to, or the preacher says they have to. They’ll stay because a holy God made them and their spouse one, and what God has joined together, they will not be a part of separating.