Today my pastor gave a sermon on the first chapter of a book I happen to own in my library here in Oregon but have never yet read, for reasons which will become readily apparent. The book in question is Before You Say, “I Do,” which happens to be a book I got as part of a large box from someone cleaning up extra books for the birth of a new kid, who is now an adorable toddler. Part of the reason the book remains unread, an unusual fate for books around me, is because I have not been in the sort of situation that would prompt me to feel that reading a book like that would be profitable. To be sure, I would like to be a good husband someday, but I have not been involved in a courtship for almost a decade, and I tend to find it frustrating to read books that would provoke a longing that brings me a fair amount of unhappiness in life as I currently find it.
So, such a sermon does not tend to make me feel very happy. I know, and just about everyone who knows me or reads my blog knows, that I was not someone put on this earth to be single. It is glaringly obvious that I have romantic inclinations, that I have a tenderness for women and small children, and that I have dreams and ambitions to be a good husband and father. It is something so obvious that toddlers ask me why I’ve never been married or had children, because it confuses them that someone like myself would be alone in a world that was created to go two by two. It confuses me too, but I do not feel myself competent enough to follow my own intuition and longings, because I am aware that my own competence in matters of the heart is not nearly good enough to protect me from disaster.
The message itself was sort of a good news, bad news proposition. On the good side, I listened to a lot of what he had to say from the first chapter of the book, and was able to nod my head and say, “I am glad I possess this quality at least in some way.” I tend to think of myself as at least somewhat adaptable, certainly someone who can solve problems, who is empathetic and makes a strong effort to communicate, to give but a few examples. On the other hand, listening to some of the reasons why someone should not marry was somewhat painful as well. Some of them, like the feeling of not wanting to be left out or left as an old bachelor, hit a little bit too close to home, not only for myself but also for my own father, who made some disastrous mistakes because of the pressure he felt to marry and start a family, even if he was not competent to do it well. Sometimes I worry that I am too much my father’s son in some respects. Other reasons made me wince at thinking about others I knew, particularly those who married because they were pregnant from someone they didn’t love, and felt pressured to marry to legitimize their baby .
I hope that my younger friends got a lot out of the message, even if its relevance for them would be different than it would be for me. I have at least some reason to hope this is the case. I was talking to a couple of young ladies at dinner this evening, and one of them mentioned that the message encouraged her to develop qualities for the distant future. This is good on two fronts, that a message of no immediate relevance nonetheless was an encouragement to her, and that she is thinking of marriage as something in the distant future, given that she is in high school and is certainly bright enough to deserve a good education, and a better life than dependence on someone else, especially as she has a lot to offer given her own talents and abilities. It is admittedly a small sample size, but it bodes well for others in similar situations. God forbid I would ever want to see any young men or especially young women pressured into marriage before it was the best time in bad situations. No, one should marry a companion one is genuinely in love with, where there is honest and deep and frequent communication, gentle affection, a shared commitment to virtue, and mutual respect and companionship. Life is too short to spend it trapped and frustrated and disappointed, and alone, whether one is with someone else or not.
 See, for example: