Marriage for the Waiting

Vaughan Olman of Perserveronews.com writes “True Love Doesn’t Wait,” an interesting exposition of and response to Gracefortheroad’s popular memoir, “I Don’t Wait Anymore.” Olman and Grace harmonize on a singular point well: the “True Love Waits” movement, complete with chastity rings and holiness-for-husbands roads, misguide teens (particularly young women) into thinking that it’s better to wait for the perfect husband than simply marry a Christian man as early as possible.

As early as possible, as in, “Not later. Now. As soon as the “burning” starts and you are of age, get married.”

As Ohlman quotes, Martin Luther makes this point well:

To sum the matter up: whoever finds himself unsuited to the celibate life should see to it right away that he has something to do and to work at; then let him strike out in God’s name and get married. A young man should marry at the age of twenty at the latest, a young woman at fifteen to eighteen; that’s when they are still in good health and best suited for marriage. Let God worry about how they and their children are to be fed. God makes children; he will surely also feed them. Should he fail to exalt you and them here on earth, then take satisfaction in the fact that he has granted you a Christian marriage, and know that he will exalt you there; and be thankful to him for his gifts and favours.

At the end, Ohlman ties it all together:

True love doesn’t wait. It marries.

If we as believers make that our message, things could be drastically different for a lot of girls wondering why the God they think they learned to follow doesn’t compute.

[Grace for the Road] It doesn’t necessarily stop the desire for a husband or end all feelings of loneliness, but it does show a God who provides, loves and gives infinite purpose even to our singleness rather than a God who categorically denies some who pray for husbands while seemingly giving freely to others.

Our culture, our church, our fathers, have placed our young women, especially, in the position of blaming God for a fault of the church. They were taught to wait, to pray. And then, when the husband they were praying for didn’t come, they were taught, and taught each other, to be content… to find contentment in Christ instead of a husband.

That’s good stuff. Or, rather, it would be good if it were true. If getting married was really supposed to be a thing of waiting and praying instead of a going and doing. I don’t blame these young ladies, I don’t blame this young lady. But I do blame those that failed her. I blame us. We taught her, we taught them, that true love waits.

But true love doesn’t wait. It marries.

So what are our local churches, propelled by gospel love, doing to make this understanding become an expanding reality for our young people? How many would have been saved years of heartache, trouble, doubt, and unbelief in Christ were we to simply teach the Scriptures?

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Your Job Doesn’t Care About Your Family

Exposing a Popular Lie

I’ve been enough swanky, avant-garde offices to know that the new buzz-phrase is “we care about our employees.” It’s still chic for many companies to provide their employees exercise, health, counseling, and family services.

And everyone pays lip service to that most important of personal areas: the family.

Companies might have a family day (or they might, like one recent employer, even ban spouses from attending a company ballgame outing). Schools want teachers to care about and focus on their students’ respective families, but they often fail to provide the space for teachers to focus on their own families. More corporate-stye jobs are well-known for over-(yes, over)-working their employees, some past the point of even being able to see family members during the workweek.

So my thesis remains: when the rubber meets the road, your company doesn’t care about your family.

If your company, your manager, or your coworkers cared about your family, they’d act like it. But they don’t.

However, I know my readers are employees, managers, supervisors, coworkers, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, and grandparents, so I don’t want to end here but instead give some tips to those of us (all of us) who can change this:

  1. Make and seek clear employee expectations. Hours, pay, and any expected extra duty must be spelled out and agreed upon. Don’t be like the supervisor who once asked me why I wasn’t coming to an optional, after-hours get-together. I told him I was going home to be with my family.
  2. Past 40 hours, consider telecommuting or even reduced-pay options. Encourage prospective and current employees to think of the literal toll their beyond-full-time hours will take on their families. And, yes, it takes a toll. Both employer and employee must be honest about that up-front. Do you want employees who hate their jobs for asking too much and destroying their families? Didn’t think so.
  3. Take stock of the family life among your company’s leadership. If most of your managers are single, divorced, or headed for it, beware. Companies that place such people in supervisory roles implicitly value singleness over marriage. There’s a reason those people tend to be leaders, and they will lead out of their own view (or anti-view) of family.
  4. If you require weekends or holidays, make sure your employees get that time back with their families. Who wouldn’t want to be home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and summer vacation? You do, so treat your employees and teammates the same. Often companies act like this is “just part of the job;” it isn’t. It’s asking for more.
  5. Actually care for your teammates’ family lives. This doesn’t mean passing conversation. This means helping each other see that families are more important than companies. Always, always, always remember that. No two-decade career is worth missing your son’s childhood.
  6. Understand that a company’s pride will constantly strive against employees’ families. When a boss asks her employee to come in on Saturday or stay late on a weeknight, she is saying, “The company is more important than your family. If you don’t do this, you could lose your job.” Such situations always present difficult decisions, so think ahead.

Does that mean you can’t work extra? No, but it does mean that your company may well misunderstand the work/family balance. Such a work environment, while not initially toxic, is always unhealthy and may well toxify your marriage and family.

Every company’s view of family is being lived out in its employees right before you. If many employees have unhealthy/dying/dead family lives, chances are that the company aids that. Don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. No job is worth your precious family.

Child Labor, Entitlement, and the Lost Gulf in Between

Yesterday, we took our high school students to the local museum of history. An exhibit on the third floor decried the supposed atrocities of children working in North Carolina factories and farms early in the 20th century. But, like most strange, side-angled pieces of quasi-socialist art, it got me thinking: are our children really better off today than 100 years ago?

To wit:

  • Would you prefer a young man or woman with an inbred work ethic, or an inbred entitlement ethic?
  • Which group is more prepared to succeed in adult life, premature adults or grown children?
  • Which generation is better prepared to run and lead our country, the former child laborers or the former child slobs?

Don’t misquote or misunderstand, I’m not advocating child labor or the repeal of child labor laws. But wonder with me for a moment: when we gained a supposed “fair treatment” for children, what did we lose?

From working with children and adolescents for the last 14 years, I’d say we lost a lot.

Son, Get Ready to Carry a Load

Ten Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me, Pt. 2:
Son, Get Ready to Carry a Load

In part 2, we turn to finances. Working at home for an allowance and getting a high-school job are just baby steps, and living as a single college student and then a grad is kindergarten stuff. Providing for an entire family is the real deal (I’m assuming here that, for the health of your future marriage and family, you want your wife to work really hard . . . in your home).

Here’s what changes: when you’re a child and a young man living at home, you pay zero of your own bills. Your parents do it all (see where this is going?). When you’re a single man in college, and even after, you likely split your bills with your many roommates. Even if you don’t have roommates, it’s very unlikely that you’re supporting anyone else.

When you get married (“stop test-driving your girlfriend“) and subsequently have children (and you should), that all changes. All of it.

You are no longer “an army of one,” making cash and going out to play. You are now the captain of an army, all of whom depend on you to lead with love, provide with responsibility, and protect with thoughtfulness. Your home-army won’t be working jobs outside the home –  and, even if your wife does, it’s still your job to provide.

All of the financial responsibility for your wife, your children, yourself, and anyone else you should take in along the way now falls on you. Just you.

So what do we do? Three things:

  1. Ask God for help. We can’t faithfully lead and love our families without special grace. Unbelieving fathers may do it here and there, but they can’t even lead their own children to Christ. We need Jesus to help us, gentlemen. Learn that in prayer first.
  2. Be on the lookout for your calling as a worker. This is known as “vocation,” and you find it not by looking mainly inside but outside at the places and ways you can best serve. I used to be afraid of having a career, as though it would define me. Now I see it as a service to others.
  3. Mentally prepare yourself for raising a family. This takes deliberate thought and preparation. Am I going to spend this money on another movie or save it for an engagement ring? Am I going to buy another shirt or spend it on books for my son? Even if you’re young yet, these thoughts will help you prepare.

I could wish that I had known these things, but God has been gracious. Leading a family is a load of work, but it’s a happy burden when carried along by Christ.

****
Ten Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me:

  1. Son, You’re Going to Get Dirty 
  2. Son, Get Ready to Carry a Load

“A Vehicle for Profiting from the Misery of America’s Poor”

Over at George Mason University’s History News Network site, Professor Mark Naison explains “Why Teach For America is Not Welcome in My Classroom“:

Never, in its recruiting literature, has Teach for America described teaching as the most valuable professional choice that an idealistic, socially-conscious person can make. Nor do they encourage the brightest students to make teaching their permanent career; indeed, the organization goes out of its way to make joining TFA seem a like a great pathway to success in other, higher-paying professions.

Three years ago, a TFA recruiter plastered the Fordham campus with flyers that said “Learn how joining TFA can help you gain admission to Stanford Business School.” The message of that flyer was “use teaching in high-poverty areas a stepping stone to a career in business.” It was not only profoundly disrespectful to every person who chooses to commit their life to the teaching profession, it advocated using students in high-poverty areas as guinea pigs for an experiment in “resume-padding” for ambitious young people.

What Teach for America ought to do, in other words, is to call the best and brightest students to a lifetime of teaching. But, since TFA only uses the impoverished to advance short-term teachers’ power and other careers, Naison says that they have become “a vehicle for profiting from the misery of America’s poor.”

My Wife Does Work . . . In Our Home

In the past few years of schoolteaching, I’ve often been asked the backloaded question, “Does your wife work?” The mere posing of the question brings me half a laugh and half a gasp. I generally to answer pleasantly, “Yes, she does work, very hard, in our home, with our children.”

But the whole conversation goes deeper than two or three sentences can show. Like the well-written banter of a good drama, every phrase carries meaning:

Does your wife work?” The whole question assumes something, namely, that – lest they be left to gallivant around town on their husband’s money – every wife should be working outside the home. Let’s examine that biblically for a moment. Titus 2:3-5 says,

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

So Paul tells Titus to teach his church about their roles as older women, younger women, older men, and younger men. He tells the older women to disciple the younger, and in that discipleship to teach them to be the kind of family-first women that will honor “the word of God.” That’s a high calling.

So, the very question is at its essence anti-biblical: “Does your wife work (primarily outside the home)? Because she should.”

On the other hand, though, the “work” part of the assumption is a good thing. Proverbs 31 tells us that the excellent, hard-to-find wife is like an nocturnal ant-army:

She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens…
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.

So, yes, my wife should be working, but not mainly in the way this question means it. The Proverbs 31 woman works hard, mainly for her own family.

“Yes, she does work . . .” Of course she works. If she didn’t, if I didn’t, and if anyone doesn’t, that person is a sloppy, sluggish worm burping, grazing, and floating through life. They don’t deserve even to eat. So that can’t be the question.

So I try to both agree and disagree with the question. First, I’m saying, “Yes, you’re right. She should be working.”

But then I’m disagreeing. . .

“very hard . . .” Before I state my exact disagreement, I want the questioner to know something: my wife works very hard. Whatever you think about what she does, you need to know that she works as hard or harder than your or I do. You need to know that working in the home is no joke.

“in our home . . .” Instead of making my disagreement sound disagreeable, I try to phrase it as a clarification. “My wife does work – just not where you think she should. She works in our home, on our family.” The questioner needs to know that this work I’m describing is the work of a home-maker, and it’s not easy.

“with our children.” The final phrase is meant to point out that God means wives to truly build the family, and not just “keep house.” The excellent wife is the earthly glue that holds a family together. She doesn’t just “cook, clean, and do laundry;” she thinks, plans, acts, and oversees the family while the husband is providing for the family.

She is his vice president of operations; he authorizes her to do everything necessary to care for the family while he is gone. She is her family’s main lover, laugher, counselor, schoolteacher, organizer, purchaser, tailor, caterer, interior decorator, and on the list goes.

Conclusion
While none of this is meant to be a slam on the questioners or wives who work mainly outside the home, we must acknowledge that God’s plan is for the wife to work mainly inside the home, loving her husband so he doesn’t have to do the wife’s job and caring for her family by wearing a million feminine hats. The excellent, home-making wife truly is a gift. I know mine is.

The Slippery Slope of Success

Reading Hebrews 11:23-26 today, I realized something. I’m not like the Moses of these verses. Here, Moses chose rather to endure ill treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered Christ’s suffering greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking to the reward.

Far too often, we Americans wink at work-related sins in the name of “success.” But that “success” is worldly to the core. It is characterized by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life.

So I asked myself, “Did taking on Christ’s reproach and loving God’s people characterize my last year at work? Or did I rather work for the wrong reasons – the fleeting pleasures of sin and the treasures of America?”

Here are four handy ways to find out if you’ve slipped off the path of faithful reproach to seek after trophies of sand:

  1. Do you first look for your boss’ approval? You say, “But my boss should know when I do something good. It’s part of my job.” Maybe, but as soon as you did it, did you wish he knew?
  2. Do you love to tell other people about your work successes? When work comes up in a conversation, do you love to be defined by how well you’re doing at your job? If so, you have begun to use your vocation as your savior.
  3. Do you work more for money and gifts than to worship God and love others? Oooh, this one hits home. “But I am supposed to provide for my family!” You sure are, but you’re not supposed to do it mainly for money, or for people, but for God.
  4. Do you often choose work over being with God and His people? “Oh, but I had to be faithful at work.” You should absolutely work hard, for as long as you’re signed up to be there. But did you prefer to stay and work instead of praying and reading your Bible, loving your family, and serving your local church?
  5. Are you afraid to be bold for Christ? I have known very many teachers who were afraid to preach the gospel for fear of losing their jobs. Guess what – they’re losing their faith instead. They counted the treasures of America greater riches than the saliva-soaked hate-speech they’d get for preaching the gospel. They looked at the wrong reward.

So, when you get to work, are you working for the treasures of Egypt, or turning from false treasures to be called a fool for Christ? Too often, I’ve forgotten that Jesus calls us to lay down our lives – yes, even our work lives – for His sake.

Life Isn’t About You

David Brooks’ NY Times piece debunks the “go find yourself” message we preach to college graduates:

Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.

Help for Your Work

Talking to one of my buddies recently, I realized that I hadn’t publicized my favorite productivity site: What’s Best Next.

Run by Desiring God Strategy Director Matt Perman, What’s Best Next focuses on productivity as the product of faith in Jesus. In other words, Matt’s foundation is that knowing Christ makes us “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

Here are a few series I’ve found most helpful:

Matt’s writing is readable, clear, and helpful. Enjoy.

Leaders, Let Your Horses Run

Rutabaga president Darren Bush, in an interview on “The Best Jobs” at OutsideOnline.com:

At Rutabaga, I try to create an environment where people aren’t afraid to fail. You have to put the reins on people sometimes, but it’s better to rein in a horse that loves to run than have to use the spurs all the time.

Lessons on Manhood from the NC Tornadoes

Many of you know that this past Saturday (the day before Palm Sunday, one might note), several cuts of tornadoes ripped through central and eastern North Carolina. Sunday afternoon, several men, women, and families who love Jesus headed to downtown Raleigh. Men, women, children, and total strangers working together to help the neighborhood – it was a sight to behold.

But, while swinging a hatchet and lopping off branches, I noticed something . . . peculiar. While many people over the age of 20 came to help, I only counted one person, outside of our own church group, younger than 20 years old.

Let that sink in for a moment. Young people walked up and down the streets, playing with their friends and chatting on the phone, but one came to help. One young man for 4 blocks of city. One young man.

Now, for the young ladies, I understand the reticence. Most probably don’t feel the ability or desire to go haul off trees. Several young women from our church came to help out, but most of those were in college or beyond.

The young men, however, have more than a few advantages over other workers:

  • unbounded energy
  • younger, more injury-resistant bodies
  • an calling, of one sort or another, to work outside for the rest of their lives
  • lots of free time

All of this begs the question: where were Raleigh’s young men yesterday? Were they working (on a Sunday?), too busy playing video games (their most popular pastime), or just plain lazy?

To help my city, its young men, and the rest of its residents, here we offer a few lessons from the cleanup effort:

  1. Men run to the battle. Young me, run to the battle. When a tree falls, a man finds a way to help. When a child is afraid, a man comforts her. When an elderly woman is trapped in a house with a gas leak, a man gets her out.
  2. Men come ready to work. Young men, disaster cleanup is not the time for your gadgets and tomfoolery. Men bring their tools, their gloves, their goggles, and jump in. Which reminds me . . .
  3. Men take initiative. We don’t need to stand around asking what to do. We go find work to be done and do it. That’s why we’re there.
  4. Men are ready to lead. Sooner or later, every man will be called on to lead – a class, a group, his wife, his family, his business, his church. Young men, learn to think clearly and speak decisively now.
  5. Men know that we need women. This is all not to forget that not a few women made key contributions yesterday, from caring for us with food to offering an extra set of able hands to reminding us when and where to be careful. Young men, don’t forget the value of a good woman.
  6. Men look forward to growing up. That’s the difference between a boy and a young man. A young man, in one way or another, longs to move past his childhood and become a grown man.

[Photo: Nicole Wilson]

Vocation: Your Delights to Change the World’s Pain

From World Mag’s interview with Culture Making‘s author, Andy Crouch:

Should Christians think differently about vocation than non-Christians?

For Christians it can’t just be a self-discovery process of “What are my deepest desires and how do I fulfill those?” Not instead of that, but in addition to that, we should ask, “Does this vocation take me to a place where the world is in pain?” Christian vocation takes us to a place where our work intersects with the brokenness of the world. That contrasts with the Kantian idea that your vocation is what you least like to do because God secretly hates you and is going to send you to do the thing you most dislike. I don’t think that’s right. God does call us to place our delights in the context of the cross and to delight in living where the world hurts.

HT: Hermonta

Running from Writing

The Binging and Purging Continues . . .

So I went on a sprint in late January and early February, posting 2-4 times daily, seeing my blog numbers spike (at least, for my blog, that is), and enjoying all the writing I did.

The only problem? I don’t get paid for this. It’s a side gig, albeit an enjoyable one.

So I slowed down – to a halt, it turns out – only to find out something new: I love writing. I can’t stop writing. When I come home at night, I write. When I have something to tell someone, I write it. It just looks better on paper or even in an email. It sits there waiting to be read, chewed on, and answered. I love to write.

Learning how and when and where and what to write is hard, but I owe you this much: I’ll be writing. I love it too much not to.

Dear American Schools, Less is More

A Critique of American Schools
With Special Focus on the Administrators and Parents Enabling the Problem

[a re-telling of two previous posts]

The Problem Stated: More for Less
American parents and administrators tend to think that a school is a catch-all place for the surrounding community. A school can:

  • Make a name for itself in athletics,
  • Host all kinds of fundraisers and community events,
  • Have a fine arts program to rival Broadway,
  • Be known around the community for its excellent child care,
  • Host carnivals and celebrations,

but none of those things – none – is academics.

A school is meant . . . to be a school. Learning, the endeavor and focus of academics, is the sine qua non of any and every school. Athletics, community, parties, and day-care are tertiary to that job.

The Problem Spreading: More for Less in More Places
American schools have largely bought this summas scola philosophy. Our schools want to be the place where everything happens, they want to provide it all, they want to be the center of students’ lives. Yet they fundamentally, historically fail in the most important area of all: learning.

The well-documented downfall of academics in the American classroom can likely be traced back to this: schools no longer view academics as their primary, all-encompassing function. They leave academics nominally at the top, while becoming more concerned with chorus recitals, basketball games, community involvement, and various other extracurriculars.

Spread the Remedy: Less is More
The remedy is the simple clarity of focus. One thing is your job, schools. One thing is your job, administrators. One thing is the school’s job, parents. It’s called learning. Demand that your schools focus on this and only this. Send your students, parents, and teachers home after 8.5 hours and let them be who God has called them to be: children, parents, husbands, wives, neighbors, church members, friends. Your school isn’t the center of their world, so it mustn’t be the hub of their lives.

Let the Anonymous Speak Up

In Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page, author Larry Osborne counsels leaders to enact a “no-‘theys'” rule regarding anonymous influences:

Our “no theys” rule applies not only to the board; it also applies to every staff meeting and to all of my dealings with the congregation. Now whenever someone says that they’ve been talking to some people who have a concern, I always ask, “Who are they?”

If I’m told that they wouldn’t be comfortable having their names mentioned, I respond, “That’s too bad, because I’m not comfortable listening to anonymous sources. Let me know when they’re willing to be identified. I’ll be happy to listen.”

It seems that such counsel would solve a lot of anonymous problems, mainly because “they” don’t exist.

HT: What’s Best Next

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