Dude, where’s your bride?
As I speak at different venues across the country, one of the recurring questions I get comes from women, young women in particular. Their question usually goes something like this:
“What is up with men?”
These aren’t angry women. Their question is more plaintive than petulant. I’m not quite sure why they ask me. Maybe because they’ve read Just Do Something and figure I’ll be a sympathetic ear. Or maybe they think I can help. They often follow up their initial question by exhorting me, “Please speak to the men in our generation and tell them to be men.”
Boys aplenty, but where are the men?
They’re talking about marriage. I have met scores of godly young women nearby and far away who wonder “Where have all the marriageable men gone?” More and more commentators – Christian or otherwise – are noticing a trend in young men; namely, that they don’t seem to be growing up. Recently, William Bennett’s CNN article “Why Men Are in Trouble” has garnered widespread attention. The point of the post is summarized in the final line: “It’s time for men to man up.” Sounds almost biblical (1 Cor. 16:13).
Virtually every single single person I know wants to be married. And yet, it is taking couples longer and longer to get around to marriage. Education patterns have something to do with it. A bad economy doesn’t help either. But there is something even more befuddling going on.
Go to almost any church and you’ll meet mature, intelligent, attractive Christian women who want to get married and virtually no men to pursue them. These women are often in graduate programs and may have started a career already. But they aren’t feminists. They are eager to embrace the roles of wife and mother. Most of the women I’ve met don’t object to the being a helpmate. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of mates to go around.
What’s going on here? Why are there so many unmarried, college graduated, serious-about-Christ, committed-to-the-church, put-together young women who haven’t found a groom, and don’t see any possibilities on the horizon?
Women can make things more difficult...
Maybe women have impossible standards. That is a distinct possibility in some circumstances. I’m sure there are guys reading this thinking to themselves, “I’ve pursued these young women, Kevin! And they pushed me over the edge of the horizon.” Some women may be expecting too much from Mr. Right. But in my experience this is not the main problem. Impossible standards? Not usually. Some standards? Absolutely.
On the other end of the spectrum, some women may be so over-eager to be married they make guys nervous about showing any signs of interest. There is a fine line between anticipation and desperation. Men don’t want to spot the girl they like inside David’s Bridal after their first date. The guy will panic – and be a little creeped out.
...but there's a serious problem with the guys
This path of prolonged singleness is a two way street. But I think the problem largely resides with men. Or at least as a guy I can identify the problems of men more quickly. I see two issues.
1. Where's the drive?
First, the Christian men that are “good guys” could use a little – what’s the word I’m looking for – ambition. Every pastor has railed on video games at some point. But the problem is not really video games, it’s what gaming can (but doesn’t always) represent. It’s the picture of a 20-something or 30-something guy who doesn’t seem to want anything out of life. He may or may not have a job. He may or may not live with his parents. Those things are sometimes out of our control. There’s a difference between a down-on-his-luck fella charging hard to make something out of himself and a guy who seems content to watch movies, make enough to eat frozen pizzas in a one room apartment, play Madden, watch football 12 hours on Saturday, show up at church for an hour on Sunday and then go home to watch more football.
I don’t think young women are expecting Mr. Right to be a corporate executive with two houses, three cars, and a personality like Dale Carnegie. They just want a guy with some substance. A guy with plans. A guy with some intellectual depth. A guy who can winsomely take initiative and lead a conversation. A guy with consistency. A guy who no longer works at his play and plays with his faith. A guy with a little desire to succeed in life. A guy they can imagine providing for a family, praying with the kids at bedtime, mowing the lawn on Saturday, and being eager to take everyone to church on Sunday. Where are the dudes that will grow into men?
2. Where's the commitment to Christ?
The second issue is that we may simply not have enough men in the church. Maybe the biggest problem isn’t with nice Christian guys who lack ambition, maturity, and commitment. Maybe we have lots of these men in the church, but they’re all married and there aren’t enough of their brethren to go around. I don’t know which is the bigger problem, the lack of good men or the lack of men in general. It’s probably a combination of both. The church needs to train up the guys it has. And by “training” I don’t mean “clean ‘em up, plug ‘em in the singles ministry and start matching them up with a spouse.” I don’t believe most unmarried Christians are looking for a church community full of Yentas. But a church full of godly, involved, respectable, respected, grown up men? That’s a project worth undertaking.
What we can all do to help
So, what can be done about the growing tribe of unmarried women? Four things come to mind.
Everyone, pray. Pray for a joyful accepting of God’s providential care, believing that godliness with contentment is great gain. If you are single, pray more for the sort of spouse you should be than for the sort of spouse you want. Pray also for the married couples and families in your church. If you are married, pray for the single people in your church, for those never married and those divorced or widowed. All people everywhere, pray for ways to start serving the Lord now, no matter what stage of life you are in or wish you were in.
Women, don’t settle and don’t ever compromise on requiring solid Christian commitment in a husband, but make sure your list of non-negotiables doesn’t effectively exclude everyone outside of Mr. Darcy.
Churches, don’t make church one giant man cave or machismo, but think about whether your church has been unnecessarily emasculated. Do you challenge and exhort? Do you sing songs to Jesus that men can sing with a straight face? Does “fellowship” at your church always focus on activities men don’t typically excel at, like sitting around and talking about how you feel? Does your church specifically target the discipling of men – particularly young men in high school and college? Grab them young and get them growing up in their teens instead of their twenties.
Men, you don’t have to be rich and you don’t have to climb corporate ladders. You don’t have to fix cars and grow a beard. But it’s time to take a little initiative – in the church, with your career, and with women. Stop circling around and start going somewhere. It’s probably a good idea to be more like your grandpa and less like Captain Jack Sparrow. Even less like Peter Pan. Show some godly ambition. Take some risks. Stop looking for play dates and – unless God is calling you to greater service through singleness – start looking for a wife.
This article first appeared on The Gospel Coalition blog is reprinted with permission of the author.
Two qualities dads should look for in boys who want to date our daughters ***** Here's a topic that's best to get to too early rather than too late ...
The pros and cons of online dating
I first wrote on online dating more than a dozen years ago, back when the Internet was still young, and people still called it the “information highway.” A lot has changed since then – Facebook groups, smartphones, and apps, have increased the number of online dating options. But it’s still strangers trying to get to know each other via long distance communication so a lot remains the same. When I started out, being rather new to computers, I had to be taught the basics of how to get online. Through this cyberspace navigating I came across various ads for "Christian" dating websites. I paid my fee and began to browse many profiles with a particular Christian service. Over time I discovered many familiar faces I knew from various locations. I also discovered some of the pros and cons of online dating. Watch out for weeds! Over time I soon noticed that many on this site who claimed to be Christian were not necessarily so, and that there was a real need to test the spirits (1 John 4:1). That might seem a given. After all, God says there are weeds mixed in with the wheat in the Church (Matt. 13:24-30). But it took me time to realize, and after I did, I had a lot of online correspondence with people on the site trying to warn them to be careful and not trust every site or person who claimed to be "Christian." God can use the “friend-zone” During my first paid term on the site I met a dear sister in the Lord. After a while of encouraging one another by writing on the site we began encouraging one another with email exchanges using our personal email addresses (all the while still cautiously using our aliases, rather than giving our real names at this point). From that, more trust began and in time the next step was undertaken and we exchanged telephone numbers and snail mail addresses, and new correspondence again was initiated. Over time the limitations caused by our distance from one another became obvious and an in-person meet-and-greet was arranged. This was somewhat nerve-wracking – I certainly made a point of being on time for our "date”! We met, spent a few days together, and in parting ways both of us agreed to remain as friends. While our relationship didn’t go any further, our correspondence and encouragement continued until one day she informed me that the Lord had led her to a godly man she had begun to court. They soon got engaged too, and shortly after I opened my snail mail to find a wedding invitation. This was to be a Reformed wedding, as their relationship had become one built on the Reformed faith. They have built their marriage on this and the promises of God’s infallible word. This was the doing of the Lord and she credits me for being used by the Lord as to the one who introduced her to the riches of the Reformed faith. And how rich they are! A need for more than generic “Christian” At this same time the Lord had begun to stir an interest in someone I’d soon get to know. This brother in the Lord saw the need to create not only a truly Christian online singes website, but a specifically Reformed Christian online singes website. And it came to him as he was on a fishing trip! So in 2005, Dean Scott had SovereignGraceSingles.com (SGS) up and running. Once it was, many friends who had been on the previously mentioned "Christian" website were alerted about this new Reformed website – a site that would be specifically for us who were different in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ than those in mainline churches. I prayerfully decided to try it out. I’m very thankful for the sister in the Lord who led me, and many others, to it, as I soon realized this site was indeed legitimate. It was a great environment in which to meet godly sisters and brothers in the Lord. Try and try again It was then that I met a sister on the site who, at one point, I thought was to be my life partner. But that’s not how things went. After this second “failed” online relationship, I began to get rather disillusioned with online dating. And in response to this disappointment I reminded myself, as I have various times through my life, “You will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." But I took this passage more seriously than perhaps I had ever done before in my life. Recalling someone’s wise advice, I considered how I was to surrender all of my desires to the Lord and delight in Him, “and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). I knew I needed to make the Lord’s priorities my own. Instead of impatience, I would be content, knowing He was in charge. So I went back to my computer, but with a very different mindset, and heart. In browsing the SGS website I noticed the profile of someone new. I did not know it then, but the Lord had also placed it on her heart to wait on the Lord and let “His will be done," as well as to give “cyberspace relationships” one more try. When I came across her profile I prayed once again "Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven" and I initiated contact with her. Not expecting anything from it, I once again was put to the test, and called upon to practice the gifts of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Two days later, upon revisiting SGS’s website, I noticed there was a message in my mailbox from her (we did not know one another other than our aliases). And we both, having sought God’s will, began encouraging one another. Our communication became more regular, and we began to focus on really getting to know one another exclusively. Praise God! Today as a married couple we are united as one in Christ. "For nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). Ask, ask, ask In addition to my gratitude to God, I will always be grateful to Dean Scott and for SGS, for how they helped bring my wife I together. But am I trying to say that you shouldn’t use any other "Christian" or singles websites? Not quite. But the problem that comes with these other sites is the constant temptation to compromise your faith – compromise your relationship with God – because most of the people you meet are not going to be a spiritual match with you. And God should never be second. So I’ve seen people become willing to compromise, and they have either left the Reformed faith, or been misled by not fully understanding their mate by not watching for red flags. So, the only way to use a secular, or generically Christian site, is if you are willing to ask tough questions right away, and ruthlessly weed out anyone who does not love the Lord as you do. Even on a Reformed site, you need to be cautious. Much grief can be avoided by observing potential life partners very carefully in their natural habitat and immediate surroundings in meet and greets. Also, never presume something – when in doubt, ask! You should also get to know his/her pastor, elders, or deacons. Ask them for a character reference or referral, and take time to get to know your suitors’ family, closest friends, and congregation. When appropriate ask about how they handle their finances. And most of all - ask yourself serious questions. If it is a long-distance relationship, ask, am I prepared for long intervals apart? Am I prepared to be faithful, both mentally and physically? Conclusion So...are you considering looking for a mate online? If so, the very first thing to do is get your relationship with God right. Spend time praying and in His Word. Enjoy time with and serve your local Body of Christ. Do the work the Lord has given you for employment or vocation with all your heart. And pray. Wait on Him and ask for healthy relationships. One of them – whether online or not – may just turn out to be a lifelong love, blessed by God and truly joyful. A version of this article first appeared in Christian Renewal back in February of 2009. Peter's wife Robin shares her side of their story here....
Dating, Gender roles
Faint heart never won fair maiden
On dating, Ephesians 5, and being a man A serious conversation requires serious chairs – the sort to sink down in and get properly settled. But for the setting to be ideal there also has to be a reason to get up and walk about for a bit, to allow time for serious thoughts to settle. That's why, when Tom phoned up George needing to talk about “girl problems,” they agreed to meet at the Corner Coffee House, with its large leather wingback chairs and coffee so good refills were a requirement. ***** “We’ve had this conversation before you know.” Tom’s coffee was gone and he was staring blankly into the bottom of his espresso cup. “What do you mean…when?” “The last time you had girl problems. A couple of months back when you were trying to figure out if you wanted to ask Amy out. We were even sitting in the very same spots. You wanted to ask her out, but you were too scared. And now you’re scared again.” “I wasn’t scared George. I was just…” “You were just trying to figure out a way to ask her out without really asking her out. You even tried to get me to ask her to the hockey game the group was going to. And do you remember how I responded to that idea?” Tom looked up from his empty cup: “You told me to be a man and ask her myself.” “And?” “And I did… it took me a few more days to work up to it, but I asked her out. And she said yes and it went great and we’ve been going out two months now. But three days ago we had a bit of an argument and since then Amy hasn’t called. She used to call me every day but now she isn’t calling at all.” “Slow down for a second Tom. I told you to be a man and I told you to read Ephesians 5. Did you read it? I don’t think you did.” “I’ve read it before – that’s where it tells women they have to be submissive to their husbands. But I don’t know what that has to do with me and Amy.” George stood up and grabbed his coffee mug: “Tom, no offense, but you’re a goof – you read the part of the chapter that’s addressed to women. Here’s my Bible. I’m going to go grab another mocha and while I’m away how about you read the part of the chapter that’s addressed to us men, verses 25-32.” ***** Two minutes later George returned with his mug full. “Okay, what did you find out Tom?” “Basically those verses just tell a husband to love his wife.” “Sure, but they also say more. Take another look at verse 22 and read it out loud to me.” “It says, ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.’” “That’s the key. Do you understand what this verse is saying? Men have to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Men are supposed to love sacrificially, to put the needs of their wives first, to protect them and guard them and sacrifice for them, just as Christ offered himself up for the church.” “Okay... but what does this have to do with me and Amy?” “Well, if a husband is supposed to love his wife sacrificially, when do you think he should start acting that out? Is this like sex – something you only do after marriage – or more like the kindness and care you try to show right from the first time you meet a girl?" "You're thinking it's right from the start?" "For sure. Do you know why guys are supposed to open doors for women and give up their bus seats? Is it because women can't open doors, or are too weak to stand up on the bus? No. It's all about practice – it's about a guy learning to take up that protective role. Now consider this: a godly girl should be looking for a guy who'll love her this sacrificial way, but how can she know if a guy is going to be like this if she doesn't already see it happening when they're dating? It can't wait until they're married! So when it comes to dating and who should make that first move, if someone has to sacrifice their pride, or at least risk it, doesn’t it make sense it should be the guy? Doesn’t it seem like it’s the guy’s job to stick his neck out?” “But what if the guy sticks his neck out and the girl lops off his head?” “Well, that would hurt. And hopefully a Christian woman is going to do what she can to let a guy down easy. But even if a guy gets his head handed to him every time he asks a girl out, he can at least take comfort in knowing he’s doing his part the right way. It is a sacrifice to open your heart up to someone and risk getting hurt. But God says guys are supposed to love sacrificially.” Tom put the Bible down slowly, and reached over for his coffee cup. “That’s an interesting idea George, but I need a refill. Let me think about that for a second while I grab another coffee.” ***** Tom returned with his coffee and a question: “You definitely have an interesting way of looking at Ephesians 5. But I’ve already asked Amy out, so what does this have to do with my situation now?” “Well, you told me you’re back to wondering how Amy feels about you… and you’re scared to call her and hoping that maybe she’ll call you. But if you’re willing to love her with a sacrificial love, isn’t it clear what you should do?” “You’re saying I should make the first move.” “Right. Phone her up and let her know how you feel about her, that you want to see her some time very soon. This sacrificial love isn’t a one-shot thing. You’re going to have to stick your neck out again. And again and again.” “And if she lops off my head…” “Then you’ll still know you did things the right way, like a real man, acting just the way God wanted you to. Even if you feel foolish, you'll know that's not how God is thinking about you." Tom was once again staring into his empty cup. “That’s a comforting thought.” “Isn’t it?” “But it also seems like men have an almost impossible task – to imitate Christ’s love. Can we really manage that?” “No, not perfectly. But we can try, and we can ask God for help. And then we can trust the outcome to Him. God gives us men a pretty weighty task in Ephesians 5, but it is wonderful knowing what He wants us to do. And right now I think He wants you to call Amy. What do you think?” “Thanks George, I'm going to do that… right after I polish off one more espresso.”...