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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Boundlessly Confusing

I've been reading Boundless.org, a Christian site run by a well-respected conservative psychologist, Dr. James Dobson, who founded the well-known organization, Focus on the Family. The thing is, they can't seem to get their story straight, give conflicting advice and don't realize how infested with post-modern societal neurosis they truly are.

One article says on thing, and another totally conflicts with it. In Office Hours, a fictional character named Katie talks to her professor about not being sure she is ready for marriage. The professor asks, "Why are you so sure that you're called to marriage in the first place?" Katie then reveals she's been considering consecrated singleness--like a protestant nun--so that she can work for a medical mission. Well that's very interesting. I mean, if you're going to be single for the rest of your life, make it consecrated singleness so that you can wear a habit or a robe. In fact, I'd rather be Catholic in that case. They get a wedding ceremony where they marry Jesus and wear a beautiful wedding dress. I've never been to one, but if you really want to get married to God, do it in style before they cut your hair short. (To the nun, hair is vanity.)

The next article is a complete contrast saying that we are avoiding growing up. We are now "kidults" or stuck in "adultescence"--adult teenagers, or extended adolecents.

"This is the one time of their lives when they're not responsible for anyone else or to anyone else," says developmental psychologist Jeffrey Arnett. "[Kidults] have this wonderful freedom to really focus on their own lives and work on becoming the kind of person they want to be." His advice to kidults? "Enjoy it.... Once it goes, it ain't coming back. Sooner or later, you'll have a family, a mortgage and a retirement plan."

You can't read very far in your Bible before God addresses two things at the very heart of the kidult controversy: living with your parents, and getting married. In Genesis 2, we read, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (ESV). The biblical pattern is for young people to leave their parent's household in order to begin their own.
So wait--is marriage a given or not? Huh? One article tells me that marriage, and "responsibility" go together. But what if I never marry? I'm not meeting the kind of guys I even want to marry. (One doesn't have to read far on my blog to realize that!) I only ask that he be Christian, intelligent, educated, halfway decent looking, interested in music, have a personal scent that I find attractive and be interested in me. Oh it would be nice if he didn't have 3-4 children because that's more than I could handle and I would really like to have one of my own if it pleases the Lord--however, why wouldn't it?

I'm just wondering what exactly Boundless would advise me to do? I want to be married, but if I'm not going to be, I need a better career than teaching music. Guys are taking longer to decide to marry and they might overlook me as I go on in years. Dating becomes more complicated, and even Boundless acknowledges that in My Single Identity Baggage. It's true, the older we get, the more accomplishments we have. We look for someone who matches that, but are dealing with both positive and negative baggage--the author hardly addressed serious baggage--as if we are all chronically single, so I will. There are divorces, children, alimony, players, users, all manner of accumulated items like couches, dishes, full apartments worth of things, a full trouseau of items just waiting to go with the bride or groom that isn't and bitterness to contend with--from the divorces, chronic breakups or the wait. As more guys in my age bracket are getting divorces, will they look to me to heal their hearts but not marry me? Will single Christian men seek me out for company because they are lonely and after dating awhile realize that we aren't compatible? Great, just what I need, another Non-Dating Dude! All right, so this one is fictional. I'm just anticipating because I never want to fall into that trap again. On the other hand, it's so tiresome to be solicted for sex on dates, or random men I meet as I go about my day--I don't mean at bars. One time I met a man at my local supermarket, gave him my number, but decided not to go out with him because I didn't feel comfortable. Instead of reassurance that we could just be friends or meet in a public place, he became incredibly angry at me and spewed his frustration about being single and never meeting the right person. Gee, I was just saying I didn't feel comfortable. He could have handled it better, but perhaps that's why I was uncomfortable.

Boundless recently posted another aritcle, Defending the Cost of Delaying Marriage. I have to know, are we supposed to have a life or not? Just curious. So no one comes along--who says we can't go to school while we're waiting to meet the right person. I met someone in grad school who wasn't the right person. We broke off our engagement. After that, I didn't meet anyone else from school. One the one hand, singles are told to wait upon the Lord. On the other hand, we're told:

It's not about identity. It's about obedience. When it comes to marriage, we don't need a burning bush to know if it's God's will. He's already told us it is. If we're not specially gifted to be celibate, we're called to marriage. There's no third option; no lifestyle choice to remain single because it's more fun or more fulfilling or more spiritual than being married. (Or a marriage strike, Triton.) Yes, if you're gifted with a calling to celibacy, a la Paul, then that is your duty. But if you're not -- and Scripture is clear that most of us aren't -- then our calling is marriage. Defending The Cost...
Several women in my family married late (30s to early 40s) for a variety of reasons and all had children with one exception.

Instead, she must confront the sad possibility that she might never have what was the birthright of every previous generation of women: children, a family life and a husband who – however dull or oppressive he might have appeared to feminist eyes – at least was there. The Cost of Delaying...
Yikes! How comforting! I don't want a husband who is just there, I want a man who cares about me. And honestly, in years past, the impetus to marry was enforced by parents and society--not so much today. Ladies were guarded much more carefully--if a man wanted a good wife, he had to look her mother and father in the eye and be a man--even the not so attractive ones or the slightly odd bachelors.

But if a woman remains single until her age creeps up past 30, she may find herself tapping at her watch and staring down the now mysteriously empty tunnel, wondering if there hasn’t been a derailment or accident somewhere along the line. When a train does finally pull in, it is filled with misfits and crazy men – like a New York City subway car after hours; immature, elusive Peter Pans who won’t commit themselves to a second cup of coffee, let along a second date; neurotic bachelors with strange habits; sexual predators who hit on every woman they meet; newly divorced men taking pleasure wherever they can; embittered, scorned men who still feel vengeful toward their last girlfriend; men who are too preoccupied with their careers to think about anyone else from one week to the next; men who are simply too weak, or odd, to have attracted any other woman’s interest. The sensible, decent, not-bad-looking men a woman rejected at twenty-four because she wasn’t ready to settle down all seem to have gotten off at other stations. The Cost of Delaying...
Did we really reject so many at 24? You would think that we had proposals galore. I only rejected one and that was because he was not the right man for me. We had different morals. I've since heard that he flirts with all the other teachers and has cheated on his wife--the woman he left me for as I tried to break up with him. Sounds to me like nothing changed. I thought there would be others, a Christian one instead of a lax Catholic. Nothing of the kind happened. I don't have an elaborate career. In the absence of anything else, I decided to get a master's degree. I could have met anyone at any time. No one came along. When I first tried online dating, one of my friends told me it sounded desperate. But then again, she met her husband when she was 17. After they married she said she wouldn't have married him if he had known more about him.

For crying out loud, there have even been books--Christian ones--that recommend cleaning up your life first before seeking a mate. So should we deal with our issues or not? I've always said that some could be dealt with while married. Cleaning up your financial situation first before getting married is no guarantee that there won't be financial trouble later on. Perhaps we should counsel people to look for someone who is willing work through these things; to change and to grow in partnership. Maybe what Christian authors have been writing all these years has only contributed to the problem. We've kissed dating goodbye, delayed marriage until we're financially sound, etc, etc, to what end? The results are clear, now ain't they?

And then Candace Watters wants us all to get Botox for ourselves and our bridesmaids if we are older than what, 35? As if late marriages haven't happened throughout history.

I have to stop. I'm Boundlessly Confused!!


single/certain said...

i'm curious... why do you need a better career than a music teacher if you're not going to get married? do you love teaching music? then do what you love. i'm actually preparing to leave my decent paying job as a web designer to go back to school and become an art teacher. scary? oh hell yes. but i know it's what i'm supposed to do. i also know i want to be married, and i trust god will take care of that. he knows i want to be married, but he's calling me to pursue teaching first. it's tough to jump into this, because through my eyes, school is delaying marriage even more. but god is saying, hey, i've got a plan. just trust me.

bottom line... advice from places like boundless is well and good, but what are you and god talking about? are you telling him what you want, and what you're afraid of? he cares about you, and has a plan for you, but more than anything he just wants to spend time with you, to have a relationship. if you put that first, i think you'll be amazed by how other things start to come together.

i dunno. just some random thoughts/observations.

The Learner said...

Savvy, my sister, this is exactly why I rarely read Boundless! All of the contradictory messages annoy me. I also stopped reading books about singleness a number of years ago for the same reason. Instead of looking to "the experts" for what to do I look to God. Of course that doesn't mean that God has told me directly what to do either LOL! :) But, I trust that if I am in prayer and submission to the Father about my single state that He has promised to direct my path.

SavvyD said...

Y'all both asked some very good questions, so my next post will respond to that. Too long to be a comment. :)

SavvyD said...

PS The jury is still out on being a music teacher. It's just that music is the first thing to be cut in an unstable economy.

Amir Larijani said...

Savvy: I've gotta hand it to you. That is a fine case that the folks on which the folks at Boundless/FOTF ought to provide some clarity.

I get the impression that Ted is not in the marriage mandate crowd, not by any stretch. On the other hand, he and Candice seem to emphasize that if you aspire to marriage and put it off too long, the odds are increasingly against you.

That seems to be more of a warning to those who are career-firsters than to those who--like you and me--are single for longer than we would have liked to be, due circumstances for which we did not ask.

Still, it behooves them to provide some more clarity in their message.

SavvyD said...

Hmmm, you know, the Bridal Botox article really bothered me too. The whole thing was so misanthropic.

I think alot of people focus on career first because that is what they are TOLD to do. Boys are told not to get involved with girls. In the 30s, young people used to marry WHILE they were in college or right after high school.

SavvyD said...
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