Volume 13, Number 1, May-June 2009

Young People's Plan to Build Strong Relationships

By Norman Edwards

 

Five photos of young people at the Lake Geneva, Wisc 2008 Feast of Tabernacles site. The second photo was taken at the baptism of one of the teens. The third and fourth photos were some of the many seminars for young people at the Feast. And of course, a good meal. Click here for information on the 2009 Feast.

Photos from www.feast2009.org and Norman Edwards.

 

If one believes modern TV/movie/novel nonsense, two individuals can “fall in love” knowing little or lies about each other, have sex the same day, go their separate way, and feel they had a meaningful relationship. Most people who have tried that lifestyle learn that it does not satisfy their eternal desires for companionship and love, but it produces horror and heartache, from which they need healing. At the opposite extreme, those who believe and practice the Bible teachings of life-long marriage are spared from ever starting down that raunchy road.

So in this world of mass-marketed, often fake, male-female relationships, how does a single person progress to a godly, life-time marriage?

Many sincere Believers do not have a clear answer to that question—neither the young people; nor their parents. Some will say “we simply must trust God to provide a mate at the right time.” Indeed, parents and young people should be praying for that very thing. But how many parents take that same approach to their young person when it comes to finding a job? How many parents encourage their young high school graduate to hang around at home trusting that at the right time, “God will provide them a job”?

I don’t think so. We parents encourage young people to think about what kind of work they like, to go to school to prepare for a job, to visit businesses and see what happens there, and to try their hand at working. Some parents have told their young adults, “If you don’t find a job, I will find one for you”.

If parents are this diligent to help our children find a job, how much more diligent should they be to help them find a life-long spouse? After all, jobs come and go—there is nothing unscriptural about having many different jobs throughout one’s life. But we really hope that our children will have only one good marriage. How much more attention is needed to get this right?

The patriarch Abraham, called the father of the faithful (Rom 4:16), was a man of faith and works (Jms 2:21). He wanted a wife for Isaac that was “from his own people”, but he did not want Isaac to return to their land and its religion—God had called him out of that. Isaac was 40 years old, and neither Isaac nor God had provided him a wife, so Abraham sent his servant to “find one for him” (Gen 24). Abraham invested many $10,000s worth of gold and other precious things to make a good impression. Abraham’s servant took his responsibility very seriously and asked the Eternal for a miraculous sign—that the woman he would approach would say exactly what he prayed she would say. The servant received the miracle and successfully completed his mission. But this successful marriage was initiated by Abraham’s original plan (Gen 24:2-9), Rebekah’s agreement to the marriage (v 58-59) and the physical union of Isaac and Rebekah (v 67).

Parents in the small, Sabbath-keeping congregations today face a situation similar to Abraham’s. We want our children to marry somebody “from our own people”—somebody to whom they are attracted and with whom they are compatible, but we do not want them to go back to the religion from which the Eternal has called us out. Like Abraham, parents need to help their children go outside of their geographical area to find someone who is compatible with their son/daughter, and also of similar religious beliefs. Unfortunately, parents are frequently preoccupied with the world’s overemphasis on college and jobs and do not imitate Abraham’s commitment of time and money to help find the best mates for their sons and daughters.

Both parents and young people are frequently affected by popularized philosophies of  “falling in love” with someone, rather than the biblical teaching of a complete package: simple friendship, physical attraction, a planned-out working relationship, spiritual compatibility and lifetime commitment.

While parent-arranged marriages were certainly common in biblical times and while there is much that parents can and should do for their sons and daughters today, parent-arranged marriages are not commanded in Scripture. The scripture clearly lays the responsibility for choosing a mate on the young people:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24).

The young man is given the responsibility to leave home. The young man and woman are responsible for becoming “one flesh”—the sexual relationship consummating the marriage.

The Bible gives many clear examples of righteous men who chose their own wives: Abram (Gen 11:29), Jacob (Gen 29:15-18), Moses’ father (Ex 2:1), Aaron (Ex 6:23), Eleazar and (Ex 6:25) David (1Sam 25:39-43). While the Bible also records examples of parents who chose good spouses for their children, sometimes it ended in disaster (Gen 38:6-26). The biblical laws about who can marry whom are all written in terms of the individuals who are marrying. No laws are addressed to parents who are arranging marriages for their offspring.

So what can Sabbath-observing young people and their parents do to help them make happy marriages that will last a life-time?

We asked some young people at the Feast of Tabernacles in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin—and we received some good answers. About 70 young people attended, from ages 13 through their late 20s, about 40 men and 30 women. The first two questions were asked to the entire group. The second set was asked to men and women separately.

Question #1: How do you build relationships with the opposite sex?

1.  Find common interests with other young people.

2.  Get involved in group activities where one can build friendships without pressure.

3.  Be outgoing, initiate conversations and ask people to sit down and talk in small groups. Saying, “hey, do you want to hang with us for a while?” can go a long way.

4.  Make it a priority to make yourself available when others ask you to do things—even if it is not something you ideally would want to do. You do not always know how it will turn out.

5.  Go to church together.

6.  Be honest: Do not be pressured to agree with others; do not hide who you are or what you feel.

7.  Respect boundaries: Do not pressure people to talk about things that they do not want to talk about; Do not pressure people to go places or pair-up when they do not want to; Do not pressure people to go against parent/school/work imposed schedules and rules; Do not pressure others for physical intimacy they do not want.

Question #2: You meet some great people at the Feast, then what?

The young people said:

1.  Continue to communicate with them via:

a.  Phone

b.  e-mail

c.  texting

d.  FaceBook

e.  IM

f.   video conferencing

g.  postal mail (especially to Elyse)

2.  Plan future meetings:

a.  Find various weekend and summer meetings for independent Sabbatarians.

b.  Plan your own road trips to visit friends.

c.  Take an active part in making plans, do not wait for parents or others to do it.

3.  Learn to talk about significant things with others, not just about the movies, music, mall merchandise and other mess that marketing men use to mesmerize and make money from you.

a.  What are you passionate about?

b.  How has God helped you this week?

c.  What is Christ doing in your life?

d.  What are you studying in the Bible?

e.  What are you planning for the future?

f.   What do you hope to accomplish with your life?

4.  Talk to your parents about the people you met at the Feast and what you learned at the Feast.

Question #3 to Women: How would you like men to approach you? What could they say?

Men should:

1.  Approach with confidence—women are more likely to be attracted and say “yes”.

2.  Be friendly and “break the ice”.

3.  Be polite and respectful—even chivalrous.

4.  Relax—it’s not that big of a deal (a dance is not a marriage).

5.  Take it slow—don’t expect a mega-relationship to develop in 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days.

Question #4 to Men: How do you want women to respond (whether they are interested or not)?

A list of points will not do justice to the way the young men answered this question. As soon as the question was asked, nearly every man in the group enthusiastically said something like:

“We want to hear, ‘Yes!’”

After that initial unified outburst, more consideration was given and various men said that they wanted the truth with no pity, but a definite, blunt and honest answer—which is actually somewhat contradictory to the above. After more thinking, it became clear that they really hoped for a “yes” answer, but they realized that “no”s do come about in life and when they do, they hope that women will be “short and sweet” about it. In other words, please say “no” nicely, and do not launch into a long explanation of why—especially one that only women could understand anyway.

 Question #5:
What are some female roles?

Men's Answers

Women's Answers

Balancer of relationship, Provide stability, Take an active and contributive role, Respectful—especially in disagreements

Nurturing: spend more time on building a relationship

Supporter, Helper

Supporter, responder, comforter

Home-maker

 

Child bearing, Child nurturing

 

Secondary provider

 

The above items include everything that the men and women put on their lists. The order has been changed to group similar concepts together, with the similar men’s and women’s categories lined up across from each other

This writer found it interesting that the men listed the traditional women’s roles of home-making and child bearing/rearing, as well as the modern roll of “secondary provider”. The women left out those things. It is not that they are opposed to them in any way, but they did not ask to put them on the list. While the “women’s lib” movement has certainly opened up opportunities for women to do many kinds of work that were once reserved for men, it has also done them a disservice by falsely trivializing the role of home-maker and mother. This has affected what we, as Christians, expect of Christian young women, and how they respond to our expectations.

Today, if a Christian young man says, “I am planning to have a good job so that when I get married and my wife can stay home and raise our children,” we usually encourage him. But if a young woman says, “I am preparing to be a good mother and an efficient homemaker, and marry a man who wants me to stay home and raise our children”, we usually consider her naive and encourage her to start a career.

Where are these hard-working Christian young men going to find their stay-at-home wives if no Christian young women are prepared to do it? Christian parents need to teach their daughters that the role of motherhood is a very worthwhile thing to do with their lives. Certainly, many Christian women will have major and/or minor careers as well. The woman in Proverbs 31 did. But from this writer’s experience, there are far too few Christian young women, when asked what do they plan to do with their life, that mention motherhood as a part of it. Most women only talk about a career. We at least need to recognize that a home-maker/mother is a full time job, especially if there are several children, home schooling, or a substantial garden/barnyard involved.

Question #6:
What are some male roles?

Men's Answers

Women's Answers

Spiritual Leader, Vision for relationship, Source of stability,

Leader

Provider

Provider

Source of strength—can take it when things get tough.

Protector

Leader in simple things, such as a dance

Initiator, Chivalrous—to family, mom & sisters as well

An Important Message to Parents

Nearly every parent works hard to encourage and help their older children get a good education and a good job. That is good. But should their selection of a spouse be left to someone whom they happen to “fall in love with” when they were lonely or bored? No. The selection of a spouse should be thought out and prepared for just like a job.

A lot can be learned by comparing a young person’s need to find a job with their need to find a spouse. There are many similarities along with major differences. Certainly love and emotion play a major part in marriage. But if both parents and their adult children will begin thinking of finding a spouse as an important task, comparable to finding a job, it will be better for both of them.

The table below various characteristics of find a job with finding a spouse. Studying it can cast a new light on how parents can help their young adults.

“Help” does not mean doing the job for them. A parent who does a child’s homework is not helping them be ready to work. Similarly, a parent who wants to tell a young person how to dress, what to say, where to go and who to like is not preparing that person for marriage. Parents much respect their children’s life decisions, even though they do not agree with all of them.

Adults need to lift up good marriages as a Biblical ideal and encourage young people to prepare themselves, and passionately pursue it. When the young people are ready to talk, be ready to listen!

Characteristic

Job

Spouse

Personal preference

Neither parents nor anyone else can make a young person like a specific job. They have to decide that they like it and want to do it.

Neither parents nor anyone else can make a person want to marry someone else. They have to want to do it of their own accord.

Introduction

A parent can research and introduce a young person to certain types of work—for them to make up their own mind.

A parent can consider and introduce their young person to other young people they think might be good for them. The young people will have to take it from there and make up their own mind.

Aptitudes

People need to find a job for which they have the right aptitudes—the necessary physical and mental abilities. There is rarely a “perfect match for a job”, but some jobs are far better suited for one individual than they are for another.

People need to marry someone whose characteristics are a good match for theirs. While there are rarely perfect matches, a person who hopes to spend their life living outside on a ranch or mission field should not marry someone who feels they must live in a normal house.

Paying their Way

Many parents save money to help their children get a job-related education or to help them start a business.

Parents save money for their children's weddings, but few spend money to help them find a Christian spouse. Sponsoring youth programs is all that many do. Should not parents consider funding good relationships that might lead to marriage—just like the fund education that might lead to a job.

Education

Some people acquire good jobs by being alert and diligent, “working their way up” as they go. Others  require certain education before one is able to begin them.

Some people seem to naturally do well in relationships—figuring them out as they go along. Others are not gifted in this area at all and they need a lot of teaching and help from others to learn to relate to a spouse.

One or Many?

Some people start in a job they like and keep it most of their life. Others try several jobs before they find one that they like and that will support them. While bosses don’t like to lose a good worker, a peaceful transition can be made when the person changing jobs gives proper notice and  takes care of loose ends.

Some people marry the first person with whom they have had a serious relationship. Others, including this writer, have a succession of serious relationships where marriage is considered, ending with the one they marry. The secret to this is to follow the Bible teaching against physical intimacy before marriage. When this is followed, nobody carries the emotional scars that are usually present when a sexual relationship breaks up.   — NSE

 

There was much more unity of understanding on the men’s roles. Everything was made to fit together above, but the women’s word “protector” is probably stronger than the men’s “source of strength”—women really want somebody who will protect them. Also, the women’s request for men to be chivalrous to them and other women in the family is a lot more developed than the men’s “leader in simple things”.

Question #7: How does a woman know that a man is interested in her?

The young women said that a man who is interested in them will:

1.  Be intentional in seeking her out.

2.  Work hard to get the woman’s attention—try to impress her.

3.  Be thoughtful and remember the little things.

4.  Be intentional in asking her questions—he will really try to get to know her.

Question #8: How does a man know if a woman is interested in him?

This question was reminiscent of question #4, above. At first, nearly all the men gave the same answer: “There is no way to tell”. It appears too many women try to appear to be interested when they are not; while others who are genuinely   interested pretend that they are not—so as not to scare the man off. After some discussion, the men put forth some other answers that might work. An interested woman might:

1.  Show it by her body language—lean toward him, make more eye contact, sit or stand in relaxed and informal postures around him. However, the man agreed that women are in general much better at detecting and expressing body language than men.

2.  Invade a man’s personal space—touch or brush up against him.

3.  Look at a man differently.

4.  Tease a man.

5.  Attempt to communicate frequently with a man.

6.  Watch him often and talk about him to her friends.

The men also came up with four pro-active ways they could try to find out if a specific woman was interested in them. They said they could:

1.  Ask the woman’s friends. This is likely to yield some answer—as many people have opinions about these things—but it may not yield a correct answer.

2.  Ask the woman directly. Besides taking a lot of courage, this also has its drawbacks. The woman may not answer, may give an evasive answer, or may answer based on how she feels at the moment—the answer could be different only a little bit later.

3.  Pick a flower and pull the petals out one at a time, reciting “She loves me” and “She loves me not” on alternating petals. Take the result from the last petal. Mathematically, this has a 50% chance of being right. While the odds here are not great, they may not be much worse than some of the previous methods.

4.  Pray and ask God to reveal if a specific woman is interested in you.

Summary of young people’s answers

The above answers show that there is a lot of good thinking among the 70 Christian young people who contributed to these answers. This writer, who was present with the young men for the entire study, was very happy not to hear a single sexually degrading remark about women. This is better than some Christian adult studies he has been to.

These young people know that most of the popular media’s approach to male-female relationships is trash. They know that they want real relationships based upon Christian principles. The men want to be men and the women want to be women; they want each other to be who they are. There writer did not hear one word about “there should be no difference between male and female roles.”

They also know that these things do not come easy and that the temptation to slip into the world’s ways are great. They have the same struggles with surrendering to God and growing in His grace and knowledge that we have. They have the same struggles that we had at their age to grow in confidence and in brotherly love for others. Many struggle with overcoming difficulties from their family life. God wants them to overcome in all things. We should want the same for them.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2Pet 1:2-4).   &

 

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