by Bronwyn Lea
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
Getting married brought so many new things into our lives. Not just new dishes and linens from wedding presents, but new living arrangements, new routines, and lots of invitations to join new groups. In particular, we were invited to join several specifically geared for young married couples: camping groups, cooking clubs, and bible studies – all populated by excited newlyweds just like ourselves.
At first, young marrieds groups seemed to be exactly the kind of thing we needed for this new phase of our lives. However, we decided to forego the young marrieds groups, and almost twenty years later, I am still so glad we did.
Here’s why. As much as we enjoyed the company of other newly married couples, those Young Marrieds groups, by definition, excluded two groups of people that we desperately wanted to stay connected to: singles and older married couples.
The church already honors and highly encourages marriage (Hebrews 13:4). My husband and I had spent more than a decade in the church as single adults before marrying, though, and as much as we honored marriage, we also knew first hand that sometimes single people were left feeling like second-class citizens in the family of God. We had both experienced the pain of having close friends who, once married, seemed to have no space for us at their dinner table unless we had a plus-one.
When the time came for us to move from singleness to married, we both wanted to make sure we left space to affirm and celebrate our friendships, both with single and married friends. We chose to stay in a bible study with a mixture of single and married people, and wanted to avoid ever having to say to a single friend “sorry, I can’t invite you – it’s a young marrieds dinner/party/study.” It was a deliberate choice to put into practice what Hebrews 13 says just before the “honor marriage” verse: “let brotherly love continue (verse 1) and “Do not neglect to show hospitality” (verse 2).
Almost twenty years later, I still treasure some precious friendships with those single friends I had to specifically make time for in the early days of marriage when double-dating other newlyweds was so exciting. Some of those friends are now married, others remain single; but what’s important is that they are still friends.
The second reason we decided to forego the young marrieds group was that my husband and I realized early on that we desperately needed some people-who-were-not-our-parents who had more experience in wedded-land than we did.
Our first year of marriage was hard. We took it in turns to be unemployed, we moved half way around the world, we were broke and lived out of suitcases in friends’ living rooms for more than two months in our first months of marriage. As if circumstantial tension wasn’t enough, we also had vastly different communication styles and ways of handling stress (me: talk about it, him: talking makes it worse).
We needed support and encouragement, but we knew we needed more than other newlyweds who could offer no more than a sympathetic “us too!” as we all pooled our marital ignorance.
We needed older, married couples who could say to us “yes, us too… and this is how it worked out years later”. We needed the “yes, we also faced that, and this is what we learned over time.” We needed someone who could discern between a “honey, that’s a minor issue you’re crying over, just let that one go” kind of issue, and a “whoa – you need to address that thing and do it NOW” kind of problem. We needed older brothers and sisters in the faith who could teach us how to be self-controlled, love our spouses, and be sound in faith, love, and steadfastness (Titus 2:2-4). Those who have loved a long time have a great ministry of encouraging *hope* among those starting out on a bumpy road.
We deliberately prayed for and sought out the company of older couples. Our criteria at first were pretty simple: find people at church who look like they like their spouse, then have the courage to talk to them, and if it seems like there’s a conversation there – PURSUE IT! We invited couples twenty years older than us over for dinner. We boldly invited ourselves over to their homes. We asked them questions, we invited their advice.
For life-on-life mentoring to take place, we had to make an effort to build intergenerational friendships. Friendships with other young marrieds came easily: dinner invitations and game nights and double dates all flowed from regular church life. Friendships with older, married couples – those with kids and history and grace for each other – THOSE friendships required more deliberate invitations.
Four years into our marriage, we had a troubled season. Graduate school, financial stress and the ever-present “should we have kids?” dilemma was hanging over our heads. My husband was withdrawn, I was distraught. In that season, God used one married girlfriend, two beloved single girlfriends, one wise widow, and the loving and prayerful counsel of an older married couple to walk us through those tough months. It took the whole village to raise us in our marriage.
In the end, our decision not to join a young marrieds group was not primarily a NO to young marrieds fellowship. Rather, we decided to forego those early group invitations so that we could say YES more often and more fully to two other beloved and necessary groups: our single friends and our new-older friends.
We’re so grateful we did. Tempting as it was to climb into the cocooned community of couples; the counsel, love, perspective and fellowship of our single and older-married brothers and sisters in Christ were instrumental in helping us start our marriage well.
Bronwyn Lea is the author of Beyond Awkward Side Hugs: Living as Christian Brothers and Sisters in a Sex-Crazed World, where she shares many more stories about marrieds and singles living well in the church. She is a pastor, editor for Propel Sophia, and sought after speaker. Sign up for her monthly-ish newsletter here, and find her on Instagram.
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