the age

29 May

“Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you.  What people don’t realize is how much religion costs.  They think faith is a big electric blanket when of course it is the cross.”

I came across this brilliant observation by Flannery O’Connor in a piece about how Dan Quayle was right about Murphy Brown’s decision to have a baby out of wedlock.  The opinion said that the media must not glamorize single parenthood.  That poverty is most easily avoided if people will do just three things: finish high school, work full-time, and wait until they are married before having children.

I have done all those things, and it works.  I do not live in poverty.  But neither am I rich.  In money anyway.  I am very rich in love.  And in experiences.  And opinions.  And memories and ideas.  I am also rich in material goods.  They may not have much value in the marketplace, but I have all I need and then some.

My children are rich in grandparents, travels, summer plans, imagination, parental attention, and education.  We are also rich in pets.  And legos.

Having affirmed all of the ways in which we are rich so that you won’t think me a whiner, I am here to tell you that having children who were born into a family with a mom and a dad and now live in a home with just a mom, visiting dad on weeknights and weekends, is really, really hard.  Not just on me, but on the children.  If I were pecuniarily impoverished, I would be sunk.  And if I sink, we all go down.

That is why I believe firmly that marriage is the correct and God-ordained place for the care of children.  Because I have seen one alternative, and it is not ideal.

There is no substitute structure that combines what is best for the child with what is best for society.  Yes, one parent is capable of doing the job of raising them, just like one pilot is physically capable of flying an airliner.  Yes, it can be done.  But it’s  a transatlantic flight, and if you get a little sleepy or lost or sick or need to leave your post to visit the restroom, what then?  Not to mention that it’s lonely looking into the blackness of the night knowing that you are the only person keeping watch and that if you give up or give in to your fatigue, it’s a steep drop into the ocean for all of you.

So if I were not somewhat mature and holding a job made secure by the certainty of criminality and didn’t have a  larger perspective than just what gets me through today, it would be easy to deviate from the task I am given to place their interests first.  Not their desires or their whims, but their best interests.  If I’m not too tired to determine them.

I wish marriages with children didn’t fail.  If I could fix the world, I would require of every potential bride and groom a course in real Christianity.  I don’t care what world religion they profess.  Or even which denomination.  A little Christian fundamentalism would benefit every marriage.  Which is to say, mandatory self-sacrifice for the good of another.  Not the whims or desires of another, but the good.

And in my school of real Fundamentalist Christian marriage, both parties would have to compete with each other to see who could out-give the other: “You take the bigger piece.  No –  You” and “Let me help you with that“.

Because that is what it is all about.  Marriage, like faith is not the cozy blanket — it’s the willingness and ability to sacrifice oneself that will preserve a marriage and provide a safe home for children.  If you have the right kind of mate, you get the warmth of the security blanket even as you offer it.  But even if your recipient is acting a little prickly today, you still have to offer it.  That’s how you will make an A in my class on Christian fundamentalism.  Extra credits if you wash the wounds of the lepers or the feet of your intended, as the case may be.

Jesus said that the two great commandments are to love God, and love your neighbor.  While inside your house, your first neighbor is that person you chose and who chose you, and to whom you said “All that I have I share with you and all that I am, I give to you.”

It isn’t optional to love.  It isn’t predicated on what you’re feeling or getting.  Now sometimes you can love more safely from a distance, but that’s not a Christian marriage.

The age that is pushing on us says that children can grow up well with any adult who loves them.  That’s true.  They can.  But it’s not ideal, and it’s not what God ordained.  The age tells us that having two parents of the same sex is just as good for kids as having parents of opposite sexes.  That isn’t accurate.  Any adult willing to place the child’s needs first can be a good parent.  But what is best is for children to be raised in a home that features a parent of each sex  and the different kinds of love and play and discipline and wisdom that each brings into a family.

The age says that if a woman wants a baby, and she isn’t married, that she should have one without a husband if she wants to do so.  The age tells us a lot of things that are simply not true.  All of these arrangements have their merits.  One such benefit is not having to edit or change yourself for the benefit of someone else.

Sometimes moms or dads don’t have spouses because of death or divorce.  I’m one of those.  It can be done.  But it’s harder than I have words to describe.  And when it’s hard on me, it’s hard on my children.  That’s why widows and orphans are protected classes in the Bible.  They are needy by definition.

As a Christian, I can’t be afraid to push back on a world that tells me something is just as good when I know from my experience that it’s false.  I must stand firm in my faith that there is a right way to do things.  If God’s word weren’t enough, there’s my own daily struggle to convince me.

The Christian model of marriage is the only one worth aspiring to, in my opinion.  The first requirement is to be the kind of person who can give without needing reciprocation.  The second is to find another who is  inclined to give away what doesn’t benefit the union.

I know some people like that.  Some of them are married to each other.  Those homes are wonderful places to visit.  The very atmosphere is different.  You know upon walking in that there is unity and some certainty of who they are to each other and to their families.

It may not be the most modern of arrangements.  But I have seen little in modern marriage to convince me that it’s a model worth preserving.  It’s an instance where the old way works the best.

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