Should Getting Married Before 25 Be Illegal?

A recent article in the Huffington Post tried to make the argument that getting married before 25 should be illegal.

should getting married before 25 be illegal?

Note: This post was originally published in June 2012. I thought it was time to get this out of the archives to help squash the young marriage myths!

Jennifer’s argument revolved around her own personal experiences. She met her husband at 19, was married at 24 and was divorced by the time she was 29. She begins by saying, “Age is just a number… except when it comes to marriage.”

She says that “I was enjoying the freedom of drinking and partying legally for the first time  (I live in Canada where the drinking age is 19).” She didn’t know who she was or what she wanted in life and ultimately this is why her marriage ended.

I read articles like this and my first reaction is anger. Don’t they understand? But then I realize, no, they don’t understand. And then I feel sad for people who criticize young marriage like this because they didn’t get to experience the wonder and blessings that I have. 

I see why, to the world, young marriage seems a bizarre and immature thing.

For the writer, she was busy drinking and partying at 19. What was I doing at 19? Not partying, and not drinking. I was finishing up my first year at a Christian university while my husband to be was finishing his junior year. I was planning my wedding and preparing for the future. I was learning and studying God’s word as to what it means to be a Godly wife. I was married when I was barely 19 and my hubby 21.

The writer states, “I had yet to figure out who I was or what I wanted in my life. I was naïve and impressionable…” The writer looks back when she was 19 and feels that she had no idea who she was. She was partying but really didn’t know what she wanted with her life. I have heard this argument before and I think it is simply a cover up for selfishness.

You don’t know what you want with your life? You don’t know who you are? Well, at 19 I knew a lot about myself. I knew that I was a daughter of the King. I was a Christ follower and that was the most important thing in my life.

I knew God was calling me to be a Godly wife and hopefully future mother. I knew the Lord was calling me to serve my family and that He was calling my husband to provide and lead our family.

Did my husband know exactly what career path or employer he would eventually work for? No. Do we each have some interests that we didn’t have three years ago? Of course. But what is all this nonsense of not knowing who we are? The only important thing in our lives is that we are Christ followers.

Everything else is just likes and interests. Well, why can’t we grow in those likes and interest together? I didn’t blog before we got married. It is a love that I developed after we got married. That doesn’t mean I am a different person than when I got married. I simply developed a new interest, and you know what? My husband developed that interest as well.

He spends time learning what is exciting me this week. He takes the time to hear me tell him all about my blog world. He has learned to love blogging and I likewise, do the same with his new interests.

Many times I wonder and think about what is wrong with our culture. Since Adam and Eve, the “norm” wasn’t to get married at 30. The “norm” was to look for a spouse in your teens. I am not advocating that we should be marrying 13 year olds. BUT it has only been the past 20-30 years of ALL of  history that we decided that 20 was too young. 20 year olds are babies now. Little more than children, they can’t possible make important life decisions.  But other places in the world today, and throughout history have considered 20 year olds adults. Why are we making a society of children adults? But I digress…

The writer of the article also shares that after the excitement of planning a wedding they settled into married life and “because we had started dating at such a young age, he [her husband] was marrying someone who had absolutely no idea who she was and what she wanted in her life. In short, it was a recipe for divorce.”

Can I just ask…how is that a recipe for divorce? So you didn’t know what career you wanted to go into? I know that for my husband and I, we have grown up together! We have learned what it means to actually have a little extra money coming in! We have learned together what it means to be careless with our money and also what it means to figure out how to save money.

We have learned through tears and fights what it means to work things out. We have learned together what life is like graduating from college and starting careers. And know we are learning together what it means to be parents and eagerly anticipate the arrival of our first bundle of joy. And you know what? I am 22 years old.

I know my husband and I both have a lot of learning and growing to do in the years to come, but we are excited to walk that journey together. I can’t wait to see how the Lord molds my husband into an excellent father and leader of our home. Will we change over the years? Of course. God calls us to continually grow in Him and walk in Godliness.

I know many 19-year-olds who are NOT ready for marriage, but I also know selfish immature 30-year-olds who are not ready for marriage either. So in all, yes, marriage IS just a number. And I am so thankful that the Lord brought us together at such a young age. We have a strong and solid marriage and can’t wait to welcome a new addition to our family later this year. I would’t have it any other way. If the author of that article had her way, I wouldn’t be married for another 3 years. I would have missed out on 6 fabulous years with my husband, that is something that makes me very sad to think about!

You can read more posts I have done about young marriage {It’s somewhat of a passion of mine}

Should Getting Married before 25 be illegal

Photo by Marta Starbucks ♣

What Modesty is {and isn’t}: A Practical Approach

In our A Modest Heart series, we have been reviewing what the Bible has to say about modesty and what is really at the HEART of modesty. Now I would like to shift the attention a little bit away from the heart of modesty to the practical application of modesty.

What Modesty is {and isn't}

My Modest Journey

The idea of modesty didn’t really click for me right away. In middle school and high school I didn’t really hear a word about modesty. I wasn’t taught about it in church or youth group, and I wasn’t actively ignoring the Bible’s teaching on it. I just was ignorant to what the Bible had to say about modesty.

I think that a large amount of the women in the modern church are this way too, not blatantly ignoring God’s teaching on this subject, but rather ignorant to what it Scripture really teaches about modesty.

It wasn’t until I started hearing solid teaching from Scripture on modesty that the Lord started to change my heart and mind. But it still didn’t seem like that big a deal to me.

Because really, the term “modesty” seems so ambiguous. I didn’t wear mini skirts or walk around with see-through clothing or anything. It seemed like such a hard concept to nail down.

That is, until I started studying about what modesty means in relation to the men around me. 1 Corinthians 8: 9-13 teaches that we are to not be a stumbling block to those around us. If we have it in our power to help weaker Christians in their walk with the Lord and not to stumble into sin then we need to be doing that. 

“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:13

We are also called to serve one another in love. Maybe we don’t feel convicted that our dress is immodest and we can live in Christian liberty, but we should not live in the flesh. We should serve those around us, and that means serving our brothers.

“:For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” ~ Galatians 5:13

I have heard the argument before that it’s the man’s fault that he is lusting. That is his sin to deal with. I completely disagree. Now I’m not saying that if one man can’t look at a woman’s face without lusting then all women should cover their face up, of course not. But rather, within reason, we should help the men in our lives. {And yes – of course the lust is indeed the man’s own sin to deal with, but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to help protect our brothers from sin either}

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” ~ Mark 9:42

When I started to see that a big part of our responsibility with modesty is in our relationship to our brother’s in Christ, things started to click. I could finally see some guidelines forming in my head about modesty.

Open and Honest Talks about Modesty

I heard a college pastor talking openly with the women one Sunday morning. He asked all the men to leave after he had given his sermon on modesty. The next ten minutes were spent discussing what is appropriate dress and what isn’t. This helped open up my eyes to what men really think about clothing and modesty.

They surveyed dozens of men within the church and asked THEM what made them stumble when it came to how the women in the church were dressing. Some of their biggest stumbling blocks were in seeing cleavage of any kind, midriff showing, short shorts, and more. Finally, someone had come along and TOLD me what causes men to stumble (from the men’s own mouths).

Women’s brains work so differently compared to men’s. And for young women especially, who are not married, it is often very hard to know what causes those men in your Bible study and church to stumble.

This is where asking the men in your congregation and household what is modest is an excellent way to help guide those in your church on modesty.

Another excellent resource is The Modesty Survey. In this 148 question survey, over 1600 Christian men (ages 12-50) submitted their answers to what they felt was modest and what was not. The survey covers everything from  swim suits, to dresses, to pants, and more! I would take a few minutes and sit down and look over this survey yourself. Encourage any other women in your life (daughters, sisters, friends) to look it over as well. {Note: This post was originally published in August 2012 – the links to the modesty survey are not working right now but I’m hoping they will be again soon!}

So What is Modesty {and what isn’t it}?

Some of their results were surprising to me, and others were eye opening. Here are a few thought provoking results from the study.

What men think about modesty in general:

Guys notice whether a girl dresses modestly or not ~ 66.9% strongly agree and another 29.4% agree. {96.3% Total}

Despite rampant immodesty all around us, girls who choose to dress modestly do make a difference. ~58.5% strongly agree and another 33% agree. {91.5% Total}

Girls can dress attractively without being immodest. ~ 78.3 strongly agree and another 19.1% agree. {97.4% Total}

A guy can consider a girl attractive without thinking about her in an impure way. ~ 66.4% strongly agree and another 29% agree. {95.4% Total}

A modestly dressed girl can still be a stumbling block because of her attitude and behavior. ~53.5% strongly agree and another 40.3% agree. {93.8% Total}

Practical Tips from Men on Modesty:

Showing any cleavage is immodest. ~36.6% strongly agree and another 33.8% agree. {70.4% Total}

Bikini swimsuits are immodest. ~59.3% strongly agree and another 25% agree. {With 6.8% feeling neutral on this, only 8.8% of men disagree with this, or only 93 men out of over 1600 surveyed. This is eye opening!) {84.3% Total}

A two-piece swimsuit consisting of a long tank top and skort is modest. ~19.1% strongly agree and another 52.5% agree. {71.6% Total}

It is okay to show cleavage when wearing a swimsuit. ~34.6% strongly disagree and another 35.7% disagree. {70.3% Total}

Jeans are generally immodest, even if they aren’t tight. ~41.6% strongly disagree and another 35.9% disagree. {I find this one very interesting in the debates between skirts only vs. pants} {77.5% total}

It is immodest for a girl to expose her legs up to mid-thigh. ~28.6% strongly agree and another 35.9% agree. {64.5% Total}

Miniskirts, long shirts, or short dresses over leggings are a stumbling block. ~26.4% strongly agree and another 38.5% agree. {This one is becoming more and more common} {64.9% Total}

 My Standard of Dress:

Yes, this is a lot to digest and I only covered a couple of the questions they asked the men. Some of the questions are open ended as well, so it’s really eye opening to see how they responded to those questions.

I did want to share what my personal standard of modesty is. And it seems to always be changing as I get older and more convicted by the Lord. But please note, I do not think this should be the standard for everyone! In fact, my sisters and I (who all hold to a really high standard of modesty) can tend to disagree sometimes on what is modest and what isn’t.

But I thought it might be helpful to share my own personal convictions.

1) Cleavage: I don’t show my cleavage. As a general rule, I wear shirts that are high enough to cover my cleavage OR I wear cami’s underneath (they are my best friend!!).

2) Sleeveless: I will wear sleeveless shirts/dresses depending on the style. Some clothing is tight fitted or really open around the arms. But generally I will wear sleeveless that covers my entire shoulders. But I do not wear spaghetti strap shirts by themselves.

3) Midriff: I do not show my midriff. Period.

4) Shorts/skirts length: This has changed over the years a bit. But in general I do not wear anything above the knee. I do have one pair of jean shorts that just barley reach to my knee, but because they are not very tight my husband and I determined that they are just fine. The same goes true for dresses. I generally do not wear them above my knee. Sometimes this rule is flexible because even a skintight dress that goes to your knees may be very immodest whereas a very flowy dress that reaches just above the knees with tights on underneath may be modest.

5) Tightness: This is a hard one for me to judge sometimes. I do not want to wear skin tight clothing but sometimes it’s  a hard line to walk. This is where my husbands valuable opinion matters.

6) Bathing Suit: I like tankinis because in general I don’t think they are as tight as one pieces. My tankinis always reach past my stomach so even if I move around my stomach isn’t exposed. I also wear a skort or shorts with my bathing suit, always.

I hope you found this encouraging and not legalistic. Ultimately, what is important to the Lord is what is in our hearts. But we are also called to humbly serve Him and serve those around us. God commands us to live modest lives and we cannot ignore that command.

What Scripture Teaches about Modesty

An honest and open talk about modesty must begin with the Bible.

As Christians, the Bible is our ultimate authority for what we say, how we dress, how we act, and how we live our lives. It doesn’t matter what I have to say on the subject or what the world has to say. Ultimately, the only truth in this world is what Scripture teaches, and its teachings are all we need to run our lives.

What Scripture teaches about modesty

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~2 Timothy 3:16

God’s Word is truth. He gave us His holy Word so that we could learn how to live lives for Him. By reading and studying God’s word, the man (or woman) of God may be complete, and ready to handle EVERY good work. Scripture is sufficient to teach us all that we need to know about living a Christian life, parenting, work, ethics, morals, and yes, even how to dress. We must first know and grasp that before we can delve into how the Bible handles modesty and dress.

Scripture does not go into every detail. It doesn’t talk about hemline lengths or how tight is too tight. But it does give general principles on how to live a Godly life. From there we must go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to convict our hearts and show us His way for modesty.

1 Timothy 2 9 - 10

 

Modesty is an attitude

While Paul does not speak to specific guidelines when it comes to dress, he does call women to be modest and to have self control. The New Testament church, hearing this for the first time, would not have been confused on what Paul meant by modest dress. Many in the church that Paul wrote to were copying the fashion of the Roman ladies, which was provocative and extravagant. They dressed to seduce. In contrast, the woman of the church were expected to wear modest clothing that did not draw sexual attention to themselves.

Essentially, modesty is putting on an attitude of humility. Humility in dress, in speech and in life. A humble woman does not draw unnecessary attention to herself, but rather serves her brothers and sisters in humility.

Part of our modest and humble heart is serving those around us. The Bible commands us to not be stumbling blocks to one another. You may feel comfortable wearing a mini skirt, but chances are, it is causing a brother around you to stumble.

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?  And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. 1 Corinthians 8:9-13

This verse is talking about eating food that was previously forbidden under the old law, but is now acceptable under the New Testament covenant. But, even in this context, where eating the food is acceptable by God, if it makes your brother stumble to eat it, then don’t. God clearly commands this, if it is causing your brother to stumble then it’s not okay.

Modesty from Time Warp Wife

Image from Time Warp Wife

We need to be careful to not take this to the extreme. Some men have such a problem with lust that looking at any woman in any condition will cause them to lust. We obviously cannot base modesty on them. But we should be concerned about the teenage boys in our youth groups, and the men across the pew, and the pastors in charge of our congregation. Are we making it difficult for them to stay pure at church and at Bible study?

And unfortunately, our modern fashion and clothing are designed for just that. Sex appeal. We must be careful to not buy into this fashion crazed culture. We can have some fun shopping and enjoy being trendy without causing our brothers to stumble or not being humble and modest in our dress.

C.J. Mahaney said it well:

Modesty means propriety. It means avoiding clothes and adornment that are extravagant or sexually enticing. Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It’s a desire to serve others, particularly men, by not promoting or provoking sensuality. 1

Likewise he shares what immodesty looks like:

Immodesty, then, is much more than wearing a short skirt or low-cut top; it’s the act of drawing undue attention to yourself. It’s pride, on display by what you wear.

Scripture commands that we dress modestly. God wants women to learn to be modest, self-controlled, and humble in our dress and how we act. We are also commanded to not be stumbling blocks to our brothers. This means wearing clothing that will not cause them to lust. Clothing that emphasizes cleavage, is too tight, too short, shows too much skin, too much leg, etc. Specific modesty guidelines will differ from household to household based on how the Lord convicts each person individually. 

But a good starting place is to read C.J. Mahaney’s God, My Heart, and Clothes. His wife, Carolyn Mahaney wrote an excellent pamphlet, the Modesty Heart Check, which helps outline certain styles of dress that may be less modest than others. Another excellent resource is to ask the men in your life.

Do you live at home still? Ask your father before you buy a new outfit or leave the home. I know, this sounds extreme if you are not used to doing this. But your Dad can give you an accurate idea of what MEN are thinking of when they see you in an outfit. What seems cute and innocent to us, can drive men wild. My husband greatly helps me with this. My husband can give his opinion and share how men might be seeing my outfit.

More in this series:

Cultivating a Modest Heart Series

1. C.J. Mahaney, God, My Heart, and Clothes Page 2.

A Modest Heart ~ A Biblical Approach

Modesty. Some of you who grew up in conservative churches and homes will roll your eyes at this one little word. “Oh no, not this again.” “Yeah yeah yeah…modesty, we know! We don’t need to hear it anymore!”

But I think a very large portion of the church has never had a real honest and open discussion about modesty. Maybe my perception of this is due in part to the fact that I just spent 4 years living in Southern California, but I don’t think so.

Cultivating a Modest Heart Series

I think that the modern American church has largely lost what it means to dress and act modestly.

I went to church as a kid. I was part of an active and thriving youth group in high school. But I had never had someone teach me about modesty.

I was not walking with the Lord in middle school, and God pulled me back to him during early high school. At that point, I knew I had to put away the miniskirts, but largely my dress didn’t change.

I never thought twice about my cleavage hanging out, or about what my appearance was saying about myself. This was not because I was blatantly ignoring the teaching of my youth group and church, or even living a crazy life while claiming to be a Christian.

No, I was genuinely trying to live for the Lord in high school, and yet I had never studied or been taught about modesty. Slowly the Lord took a hold of my heart and encouraged me to look into modesty. He showed me books to read and sermons to listen to. Little by little my heart was convicted of what modesty means and what it looks like.

As a result, I have a passion for sharing what the Bible teaches about modesty and encouraging ladies to look into the subject for themselves and to ask the Lord to convict their own hearts about their dress. But I of course do not have all of the answers.

I do not look at modesty in a legalistic way, and I pray that you do not either. I understand that some can take modesty and make it legalistic and turn many away from it. But Scripture teaches that we are to have a modest heart and appearance, and it’s not something we can ignore just because someone we know took it too far.

Modesty usually looks different for different people depending on how the Lord has convicted them. During this series I hope to cover the basics of modesty and also give some practical tips on how to dress and act modestly.

Are you ready to dive in? Read the rest of this series on dressing modestly below. And join in our discussions on Facebook!

More in this series:

A Heart of Modesty Series

I hope you will join me on this journey. And I want to hear from you! I know my own journey to modesty and my sisters’ journeys. But what about your journey? Did you grow up (or are currently in) a church that encourages modesty? What are your initial thoughts on Modesty?

Praying for our Husbands

Praying for my husband is something that I am good at sometimes, and terrible at other times. And yet, prayer in marriage is vital. It’s vital for our lives as women, it’s vital for our roles as wives, and it’s vital for the life of our marriages!

Learning how to pray for our husbands!

Prayer as a habit

When I worked full time, I made it a daily habit to turn the radio off in my morning commute and focus on some time for prayer. But now as a stay at home (and work at home) mom, with two toddlers under foot, I hit the ground running in the morning and don’t slow down until my feet hit the bed at night.

I still do make time for prayer, but it’s usually prayers filled with “Lord help me get through this day without losing my temper again!” or “Lord WHY can’t my twins learn how to share?” It’s not often that I slow down enough to take intentional prayer time for my husband.

Life can get so busy and chaotic that such a vital thing as praying for my husband gets lost in the shuffle. Slowing down long enough to take some intentional time to pray for my husband takes the focus off of me and helps me to appreciate and love my husband more.

It’s an intentional time that I can unselfishly come before the Lord and focus on my husband. So I am challenging myself to pray more for my husband and to make it a daily habit.  And you know what? I have noticed a pattern.

The results of prayer

Prayer works!! Yes, my prayer for my husband actually works and has tangible outcomes. Please hear me say that I am in no way implying that God is manipulated by our prayer, or that prayer always gets me what I want. Okay now that’s out of the way… When I pray and ask that the Lord mold my husband into a leader of our home, over time, I notice small changes and ways that the Lord is molding him into and encouraging him as leader of our home. The Lord listens to our prayers.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. ~Matthew 21:22

Do I think that the Lord will give you ANYthing you ask for? If you ask for a million dollars and a new car will they be on your door step tomorrow? Probably not. But if you seek salvation and the good things of the Lord then he will supply all your spiritual needs. By praying for our husbands each day we can  encourage them and help them. How does our praying for them help them?Praying for our Husbands

Our Prayer Helps Our Husbands

1) They know we are praying for them

That right there gives my husband encouragement. It warms his heart to know that I am taking the time to think about and pray for him. It also encourages him to pray for me! 

2) Praying puts me in the right frame of mind

When I am constantly trying to be in deep prayer for my husband, it helps me to be thinking right thoughts about him. When my husband forgets to pick up the milk I asked him to get after a long day at work, it’s easy to get frustrated with him (which is just code for angry with him, which is sin). But if he has asked me to pray for him that morning because he has three stressful meetings and a busy day, then I can be more understanding of him when he forgets the milk.

3) Praying for my husband draws me closer to God

When I am intentional about praying for my husband, this is linking me deeper with the Lord. Most of the time I start out praying a quick prayer for my husband and before I know it I have spent 20 minutes praying for others in my life.

4) God listens to our prayers for our husbands

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great as it is working. ~James 5:16.

When our husband feels safe to come to us and admit his sin or shortcomings, we have the beautiful opportunity as wives to pray for them. When we ask the Lord to lead our husbands and mold them into men of God, He listens to that. The Lord knows the pure desires of our hearts {Psalm 37:4}. Will you join me in intentionally making time for praying for our husbands. It won’t happen by accident and it does take work and making time for it, but in the end, it’s so worth it for our marriages and our walk with the Lord!

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. ~Colossians 4:2