[notice]Revivalist Shannon-Leigh Barry shares her wit and passion and the pursuits of her 20something heart in a monthly column that speaks to the desires of young adults in today’s Christian society. [/notice]
I have to start this column by saying I was raised as an Anglican and entered into the land of Charismatic Christians about five years ago. It would mean that I entered in my early twenties. Some things were foreign to me, such as “courtship, tongues, and the laying on of hands”. If someone told me they wanted to lay hands on me I would probably think of a much different scenario and courting to me sounded like something you would do in tennis. All this to say I write this from observation as well as walking through this journey with Christian friends who have gone through divorce in their twenty-something years.
Here are some reasons why they divorced
Lack of maturity
In Christian circles and especially Charismatic circles there is a pressure to get married young. Just the other day I heard a preacher speak about the struggle of being single at 27 in her younger years. I thought, “are you serious?” I am 27 and I can’t imagine myself married younger. Yes, I want to get married but at what cost? In America alone, the average age for marriage is 27 for a woman. In Christian circles it is much younger. To keep pure, meaning (I do not want to have sex before marriage) Charismatics endorse getting married younger. I believe marriage and purity should be endorsed and fought for in today’s society. However we can’t overlook the lack of emotional maturity and solidification of identity in Christ in our early years.
Something that I saw in the divorce patterns in my Christian circles is a dynamic that may occur when someone marries into a Christian household and has not come from a Christian family themselves. That person can feel as though he or she never quite measures up to what the family has already established in God. The family are long standing pillars in the Church and marrying into that was just too much. That person didn’t just marry the family, she (or he) married the Church and all its relatives. It becomes overwhelming for her and she leaves.
Finding the One; when expectations are put on one person the realisation that the person isn’t perfect could really hit you after your wedding day. One friend expressed how children are expected to come sooner after you get married and that adds even more pressure to the challenge of discovering the person you are married to while also running a household. Imagine my horror when one woman admitted to having sex the wrong way and that no one had told her what to expect. As well the disappointment of sex on the wedding night and that sex is not something you have every night. Its like sex talk has been taboo for Christians and media has been their only source of education.
I have heard the “don’t kiss before you marry” teaching. I pretty much only know of one couple who have actually done this successfully. Some couples complain that sex was just not what they thought it was made out to be due to the teaching they received. This goes back to false expectation. The “prosperity gospel” encourages both men and women to focus on material acquisition at the expense of their marriages. Young couples pursue wealth and end up divorcing because of their workaholic lifestyles.
Lack of sacrifice
You shouldn’t get married if you are not prepared to do die for your spouse says my pastor. What he is emphasising is that Christ died for His bride. There is a high level of sacrifice that is demonstrated in the life of Jesus. Today careers come before family and even church before family. One friend expressed how she was expected to go to college, get married and then quit it all and become a stay at home mother. She was tired of the box and saw her mother had been placed in the same position. Being a stay at home parent was not what she wanted. She switched Charismatic circles, is much happier now and no, she was not from a small town.
Cheating exists and it exists in Christian marriages. With misaligned expectations people go to other people to get their needs met. In your twenties you are probably still figuring out what your needs are. When pressure is put on one person to fulfil every need there comes a shortfall and people are tempted to look elsewhere. We have to ask ourselves if wholeness was promoted more than early marriage, would infidelity rates drop in the church and especially among young adults?
Marrying for potential
Many young people are faced with this challenge and it’s hard when it backfires. When people marry for potential we say that they are marrying with the future in mind. Yes, it’s a great thing but how does that person treat you and love you currently, right now, in the moment. My friend who happens to be really prophetic describes her struggle with this. She says that the prophetic nature of who we are as Christians will always want to see the gold in people. We see how God sees them and so we give grace to that person. Regardless of potential or spirituality people get divorced because the other person lacked character.
I don’t have solutions as I have never walked in these shoes. I do know that marriage is a beautiful thing and seeing restoration in the lives of my divorced friends has been something wonderful to witness especially after tears. If you had to endure a divorce in these years, you have time to work on yourself and find love again. You are not a failure. You probably dealt with a lot of people judging you in the church. I hope that you share your story with the rest of those around you to break dysfunction experienced in the church and combat the vast false expectations young people are bombarded with today, especially in Charismatic circles. Lets learn from each other’s mistakes. Share your story and try again.