I recently read an article about a young man who wasted away his twenties in selfishness and narcissism. He got married later in life and only then began to mature. His stated that ultimately marriage was the cause of him becoming a better person; that in trying to “find himself,” he found there was nothing to find and ends with the advice that we should push our children to get married younger. He had a very imbalanced approach to, “the call to holiness” (-the call for all of us to be Christ regardless of our state in life.) Below are some of my thoughts in regards to his article.
Marriage is a difficult vocation to live well and preparation for it is a wise approach and should be thorough if possible. I believe that two people staying together for life isn’t the lone definition of a successful marriage. I believe we are all put into this world to become Christ and strive to attain perfect love regardless of the vocation we choose. Whether or not we become Christ and have allowed Him to perfect our love is the definition of success in any vocation.
Marriage is simply one of the paths to that goal.
The Church is cautious about teen marriage – talk to your local Canon Law lawyer. If an individual wants to get married before they are 20 years old the Church requires a psychological review and then permission from the Bishop. The very fact that the Church requires this speaks for itself and should cause all to understand why this is and heed Her wisdom.
It is sad that many people waste the decade of their 20’s in selfishness and narcissism, which is the lifestyle the man who wrote the article claimed for himself. “Finding oneself,” according to the world’s way of doing that, can be fruitless. However, “finding oneself in Christ” is very beneficial. This is how I was raised. Marriage wasn’t encouraged until we were at least 21 years of age. College was encouraged even if it was just a two-year course to learn a trade. But ongoing education in our faith was strongly encouraged whether it was for college credit or not. The years between 18 and marriage (or whatever vocation) are very important years that provide an opportunity to form one’s character. It’s a time when one is pulled out of their secure environment and challenged to grow. Instead of clinging to another person for security it’s admirable and even more beneficial to use those years to learn to cling to Christ. It’s a time to learn to be attentive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings so one recognizes the difference between His voice and others, even one’s own.
It takes great courage to take that deep breath and say, “Okay Lord, I surrender to You. What is Your Will in my life?” and then to have the spiritual maturity to act on it.
It takes time and energy to attain an intimate, personal relationship with Christ. This period in ones life is perfect because of the freedom that comes with it. One is able to focus in a way that is very difficult to achieve once a marriage has begun. I say this from my own experience and many others I’ve witnessed. I didn’t get married until I was 29 years old but not one of those years was wasted. I attended a 2 year college and then worked at a Newman Center for 10 years. We helped young adults “find themselves in Christ.” We helped them to become more complete individuals so they would be better spouses, priests, nuns or single and help set the world ablaze for the love of Christ.
For me and for many of the students I worked with, we were able to live a very intense spiritual life of daily Mass, bible studies, ministries in the Church, missionary work, community volunteering, retreats, catechetical growth, philosophy and theology classes, etc. -in addition to school, giving 100 percent in a way that I can’t now as a mother and wife. At that time it was just Christ and me. He was/is my best friend. Christ now helps me in a very personal way to give my 100 percent to my family. I have never regretted those years I gave it my all and would encourage anyone to do the same.
I love being a wife and mom now, but I had so many wonderful experiences during those earlier years before I got married that I look forward to encouraging my children to take the same opportunity and have at least three or four years away from home to have a similar experience before they get married. I hope they too “find themselves in Christ,” and create a solid spiritual relationship with the person of Jesus Christ so they can better live out their vocation, whatever that may be. If this is in practice, the practical will naturally follow. It’s a spiritual maturity that many miss out on and many may never experience. None of us will make it but for the grace of God but I think there are some more prudent ways than others, provided we embrace it and not let that opportunity and time slip away.
“In all the years I have worked with couples, I have never heard a successful and happily married couple say “I wish we would have rushed into marriage.” (Couples councilor for “How Not to Marry a Jerk or Jerkette”)