My eldest son, Zachary, is getting married tomorrow evening. At nineteen apiece, he and his beautiful bride, Rebekah, are almost exactly the same age that LaRena and I were when we got married on June the 15th in 1985. We were young and in love and pretty green about life, the universe and everything. Of the two of us, there's no doubt that I was the greener, but we both had lots to learn along the way. By all sorts of standards, we were too young and not ready; though I am not sure what real "readiness" would ultimately look like. The sort of advice that many young people are getting these days, sometimes even from their parents, is patently false. By way of example, "shacking up" is a bad idea, because it is sinful and wrong, and because it is a huge strike against the foundations of a good marriage. The fact that ostensibly Christian parents have not only tolerated such perversity, but have in some cases been guilty of advocating it, is as close as anything I've ever seen to causing the little ones who believe in Jesus to stumble. Somebody tie a rock around that wickedness and drown it in the depths of the deepest sea. It is infinitely better and wiser to get married young and naive than to live together outside of marriage. It is, in fact, the difference between that which is righteous and holy, on the one hand (because it is sanctified by the Word of God), and that which is sinful and unclean on the other hand (because it is contrary to the Word of God).
There was an awful lot that LaRena and I didn't know, yet, when we got married. As far as that goes, we're still learning as we go along. There's wisdom that derives only from trial and error; and you can't short-cut that. A few more years would have given us greater knowledge, experience and maturity, but it is ever the case that even the best of plans and preparations may go awry. One should not rush into marriage unadvisedly or lightly. It must be taken seriously and entered into soberly and deliberately. This is where parents and pastors are such a significant factor; for they are the instruments through whom the Lord God speaks His Word and reveals His will (which is why they dare not contradict His holy Word). Praise God for His Third and Fourth Commandments. Apart from that guidance, to suppose that a few more years will make for a better marriage, may be a failure to take sin and mortality seriously. Waiting indeterminately until "the time is right" for marriage is flirting with temptation. Too often, what couples learn with a few more years of experience prior to marriage, are things better left unlearned.
Getting married young is no guarantee of a good marriage. Nor is it adequate to "live on love," though there is something refreshing about the optimism of young love, especially when it leads to marriage as opposed to reckless abandon. Whatever a couple of nineteen year olds lack in experience, they make up for in eagerness, energy and enthusiasm; not only for the honeymoon, but for life, the universe and everything. But the only real key to a successful marriage, which is necessarily to speak of a godly and Glod-pleasing marriage, irrespective of anything else, is a mutual commitment borne of faith and forgiveness from the Word of God.
Looking back, it was the Word of God that LaRena and I had going for us when we got married at nineteen. The odds were stacked against us, frankly, in all sorts of different ways that we were too naive even to realize. But even in our youthful ignorance, we were brought to marriage and united to each other by the Word of God. Our commitment to each other was rooted in our commitment to that Word of God; and that commitment, more importantly, grew out of the faith which the Lord worked in us with His forgiveness of all our sins. It has always been His commitment to us in Christ, and His faithfulness toward us in the Gospel of the Cross, that has strengthened and sustained us. We shall spend our whole lives on earth being catechized by Christ and His Cross, but even as a couple of starry-eyed teenagers, He had taught us to follow His Word in faith. It was precisely that, as much as anything, that prompted us to get married when we did. From the beginning, therefore, our marriage and our commitment to each other have gone together as an objective fact, an inviolate given, which we simply have no prerogative to undo or break, even if we wanted to. That solid fact has enabled us to weather the trials and tribulations of the past twenty-three years, as well as sailing along under the blue skies and sunshine of many great days and weeks, among which this one will surely rank pretty high.
Zach and Bekah are reminiscent of LaRena and me in the June of 1985. Nineteen and green in lots of ways they have yet to learn. But that is not the decisive fact. They, too, have taken their cues from the Word of God, and they are staking their claims upon it. They're going to have ups and downs, good days and bad, joys and sorrows, successes and failures, and all of that matters, but none of it matters nearly so much as their faith and life in Christ Jesus. I trust Him, and I know that Zach and Bekah do, too. They have both been well catechized by His Word, and they are more pious and faithful than I was at their age. They also love and honor their parents in an exemplary way, and there is nothing more significant in a young person's life than that. All of these things point to their reliance upon the Word of the Lord, which is a greater wisdom than the world will ever know. It will guide their footsteps in the way of truth, not only by the commandments of the Law, which are the good and acceptable will of God, but especially by the Gospel of Peace. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.