This seems to be the burning question all around Christian websites these days, including ones for homeschooling families.
I have noticed this myself and have heard the sad tales of young single women from all sorts of backgrounds and theological persuasions. I have witnessed the self-indulgent lifestyles of guys who like women and seem to like babies well enough, as long as they belong to someone else. I have watched normal, rational moms turn into Mrs. Bennett overnight, sharing their frustrations with the lack of suitable men for their daughters who are prepared for and longing for marriage and children.
Most relationship pundits conclude that the reality of more and more young men delaying marriage is because of a latent adolescence, an inability or lack of desire to be responsible, resulting in 30-something men who are content to play video games and hang out at sports bars with their friends rather than to grow up and invest their time and money in family pursuits. I am not ready to go there and here is why.
While I do not presume to know what is going on in the minds and hearts of all young men who are not interested in marriage when they are old enough and financially prepared enough to be married, I do think the apostle Paul gives us some clues to why the body of Christ may be contributing to this phenomenon. 1 Corinthians 7:32-33 says, “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife.”
It seems to me that there are plenty of things that could cause a young man to be anxious about pleasing a wife, causing him to delay marriage. Here are just some thoughts I have had whirling around in my head of late:
~ Over 50% of Christian couples divorce and most recent statistics show that less than 45% of children grow up in intact families. Just the statistical odds of pleasing a wife aren’t in any young man’s favor and if he has grown up in a broken home, certainly it has tainted his view of marriage and family life. Is the body of Christ really honoring marriage? What messages are we sending, both in word and in deed?
~ Our society has a skewed view of what a woman should look like and I believe many young men are looking for airbrushed perfection. Why would we think Christian men are any different when Christian women attempt to compete in the same arena? One young man expressed his concern that if he were to get involved with a young woman, he might be sorry down the road if a “better one” came along. But, how can these young men think any differently when one popular evangelical pastor made derogatory statements about women’s dress, telling his congregation how he admonished his wife to go shopping for new clothes and to “stop dressing like a wife.?” Or how often is outward appearance emphasized in conservative circles, teaching legalistic standards of femininity? How often, for example, is Queen Esther’s beauty described as her most defining quality? Why wouldn’t a young man set his sights on physical beauty? On the other hand, betrothal advocates are now teaching that young people should deny physical attraction when entering into a relationship headed for marriage though I believe the “sparks” are a very important part of the equation. Is it any wonder young men are confused when they are being given too many mixed signals?
~ Recent teachings in homeschooling circles say that young men 13 years of age and older should only be taught and mentored by their fathers, excluding moms during the most crucial years of a young man’s life when he needs her wisdom and counsel the most. Remember it was King Lemuel’s mom who wrote her concerns to her son, resulting in Proverbs 31!
~ Ridiculous expectations on the part of young women. Sadly, many young homeschooled daughters have been brought up anticipating a Jane Austen novel, where older men win the hearts of young girls. In reality, they will most likely marry boys who will grow up alongside them and I don’t necessarily think that is all bad. Young men know they need to compete with this fantasy and aren’t interested.
~ They are being told that women have particular besetting sins as a result of the fall, that women desire to “possess and control” them, that women are ”Jezebels” at heart, that women are more easily deceived. And pastors who believe and teach this nonsense wonder why the young men in their churches find solace in Metal of Honor! How sad it is that young men are being trained to anticipate adversarial relationships in their homes rather than being encouraged to prepare to practice all the one anothers with their wives. Maybe more young men would be interested in being married if they could anticipate a true helpmeet who would come alongside them as a partner, as part of a royal priesthood in God’s economy (1 Peter 2:9)
~ “Godly manhood” is being defined in extra-biblical terms according to the preferences of man rather than by the example of Christ. Having 5 sons and 7 grandsons, I understand the sheer amount of energy and adventure that fuel boys. But I find it interesting that we don’t ever see Jesus exhorting his disciples toward the world’s “manly “ pursuits or read how he took them on perilous adventures to build their manhood. Rather, Jesus told them “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
In a few weeks I will be sharing a series of podcasts on raising boys and am in the process of organizing my thoughts and preparing to share an interview with another mom of sons. I welcome any thoughts and insights you all might have or even questions we might seek to address. Please leave those comments here!