Get married. Make babies.” That’s the annual clarion call from the Singapore government due to a declining population challenge. As a single woman living in this small country, I know the message is targeted at me.
A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.
This is the last snack I’m going to eat today, you tell yourself. Then 5 minutes later you’re looking for another one! Michael Moss, in his book Salt Sugar Fat, reveals how food companies study ways to “help” people crave junk food. Some of the food industry’s biggest names hire “crave consultants” to determine people’s “bliss points”—the conditions when food companies can optimize consumers’ cravings. One popular company spends $30 million a year to determine the bliss points of consumers.
I was 7 years old when I was first exposed to pornography. Some kids had found it, and I naively agreed when they offered to show it to me. In today’s digital world, the stakes are much higher. More than a frozen picture in time, the power of video erodes what little innocence remains in our world.
When we’re in love, we easily overlook the flaws in the person we hope to marry. This is good when the flaw is small, but it’s bad when the flaw is more serious—such as a habit of rudely interrupting people or of not going to church. You might put up with a future spouse’s shortcoming because you think that once you’re married you’ll change the one you love. Don’t count on it. Irritations often become worse after we’re married, for our spouse is no longer trying to impress us. They’ve already won our heart.
After recent trips to two different amusement parks, I realized that our broken sense of sexuality is most visible in public places, not our bedrooms. People are in love with their own nakedness. I live in a region known for its hot summers, but what people choose to wear is more about the dictates of cultural norms than keeping cool.
I recently heard a speaker who had engaged in an immoral lifestyle in his younger years, but later received Jesus as his Savior. He now oversees a thriving ministry. In his talk, he described “three Cs” that should comprise intimate relationships.
Nearly half of the children born in my country are born to unwed mothers. One million more are aborted each year. Teenagers can purchase over-the-counter “morning after” pills. Our Supreme Court has ruled that men may marry men and women may marry women, and anyone who says otherwise is injuring them. Few people think they should wait for marriage to have sex, and many who do marry still end up divorcing their spouse.
I recently officiated the marriage of a young couple. After the ceremony, the bridal party headed out for some photos prior to the reception. My wife and I were invited to the bride’s home for some sweet fellowship and treats on the family’s backyard patio. Suddenly, the mother of the bride emerged from the house with tears in her eyes. She held up her daughter’s purity ring and with a choked up voice and tender smile, uttered, “She left this on the kitchen counter.” The decision of the young woman to wear a purity ring had been an outward sign that she had vowed to remain sexually pure until marriage. Now, the ring was no longer needed.
A man knocked on my office door and asked me if I would officiate his marriage. I asked him to sit down so we could chat about his plans, timing, and spiritual life. “Oh, I’m not sure you understand,” he said, “I’d like you to marry me today, like in the next hour.” The story is complicated, but his fiancée was from a country in Asia and was living in the US with a short-term visa. For numerous reasons he wanted to marry right away, but he didn’t want a civil authority to perform the ceremony. He wanted a church and a pastor.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently. “Much preaching about women dressing modestly has been destructive,” she said, “because it subtly places the blame for men’s lust on women. Men should take responsibility for their lust, and women should be free to wear what they want.” My friend’s words got me thinking.
Renowned Christian writer Dallas Willard wrote: “The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons, with Himself included in that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.” Marriage is one way God continues to create this community.
At our high school reunion, friends were excitedly reminiscing about their past adventures and misadventures while I simply listened. I couldn’t join the conversations because most of my unscheduled school hours had been spent in the school library poring over one of Jane Austen’s novels! So it’s not hard to imagine that one of my favorite Old Testament books is Ruth.
In an online forum, one woman wrote: “I’m single, over 30, and under pressure from parents, friends, and just about everyone around me to get married. Haven’t met the right guy, but still praying to. I’m really looking for ways to cope with this and would really appreciate sound advice.”