Each stage of life is unique. I'm only 34 so my perspective is limited. But on the eve of having our fourth kid, I figured I'd share a few thoughts about some common stages many young Christians face.
First, I just want to offer the obvious caveat that not everyone follows this path from being single to married to having kids. This is just the path I've taken and so this post is for others who are on a similar journey.
The greatest challenge of being single is the propensity for selfishness. When we live in our own apartment and set our own schedule, we are in control. This means commitment is tough because with commitment comes that awful 12-letter word, restrictions. If we sign up for a church event but find something more appealing, we can cancel and move on to something more exciting.
That said, the Apostle Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 7 that there are many advantages to being single. One of these is the ability to take on tough commitments that others cannot. The more faces you add to a household, the more perspectives you need to consider. But when you're the only person, you're able to bless others at a high level without thought of how your sacrifice will impact those closest to you.
If I were to look back and talk to my single self, I would say three things:
First, don't be in such a rush to move to the next stage. It's OK to want to get married, but marriage doesn't make me any more whole. I have everything I need in Christ.
Second, focus on doing a few things well. In my early twenties, I struggled to pay attention to detail. I wanted to do everything. But this often meant I dabbled in many things without doing any of them very well.
Third, spend less time overthinking what others say. Sometimes when you're single, it's easy to overthink conversations. Because you have more time to think, it's easy to get back to your room at night and work through all the ways others must be plotting against you. But the reality is most people live busy lives and spend most time thinking about themselves. So don't be too hard on yourself. :)
I love this comedy bit from Jerry Seinfeld where he talks about the difference between being single and married. He says,
"When I was single, I had married friends. I would not visit their homes. I found their lives to be pathetic and depressing. Now that I'm married, I have no single friends. I find their lives to be meaningless and trivial experiences. In both cases, I believe I was correct."
The obvious challenge with being newly married is trying to combine two selfish people into one household.
Several months ago Dave and I interviewed Rob Shive on how to revive a marriage. During this conversation, Rob shared that when he got married, he had this internal thought that his wife was so blessed to marry a mature man like him. But as he quickly discovered, this wasn't quite how she viewed him. The reality? Rob was proud and kind of a jerk and it took being newly married to discover this.
That said, being newly married is awesome. So embrace it and don't let the negativity of someone else's poor marriage drag you down. In your honeymoon stage, you will probably have lots of people say things like, "Just wait till this phase is over." And then when it is and you're still happy, you'll hear comments like, "Yeah, but year three is the toughest." Then the goalposts continue to move and it becomes year seven or year ten. (Janan and I are at year 11 now and I can only assume year 15 is when it gets really tough)
When you are newly married without kids, take time to travel, go on adventures, and do recreational activities that will be tougher to do with a few kids in the mix.
Kids are wonderful. And every time I'm tempted to complain, I think back to those three years we prayed for kids and saw none. They were painful. And if you're in this position today, my heart goes out to you.
Bringing kids into this world is a bit overwhelming. I remember bringing Zoey (our oldest) home from the hospital and thinking, I'm responsible to keep this thing alive!
And like many young parents, we went through all those moments of helicopter parenting and thinking, we're going to do this the right way. But add a few more kids to the mix and you lighten up and take yourself a little less seriously.
The greatest challenge to having young kids is the unexpected invasion of time. When you're newly married, you can tell your spouse, "I just need some space," and they'll listen. Kids? Not so much. It's astonishing how they just migrate to whatever room you are in. Sitting on the back porch? They're there. Working out in the garage? Yup. Escape to the bathroom for a few minutes of silence? You'll soon hear some knocks on the door.
Nothing quite prepares you for this.
But on the flip side, I wouldn't trade having kids for anything. I love spending time with them. Just this morning before work, I sat out on my back patio with my two-year-old sitting in my lap and the other two kids playing a few feet away. It's wonderful. And if there is one piece of advice I've tried to adopt from older parents, it's to enjoy these years because they pass quickly.
There is one common denominator to being single, newly married, and having young kids all have in common. In each stage, the goal is to better conform your life to the image of Christ. In Romans 8:29, the Apostle Paul says, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."
This is wonderful and it adds tremendous perspective. The reality is that:
- Being single is a tremendous opportunity to understand who you are, be comfortable with yourself, and find your full sufficiency in Christ. (2 Cor. 3:5)
- Being newly married is a great chance to confront your deepest areas of selfishness and love others as Christ loves us. (1 John 4:19)
- Having young kids is a chance to put our faith into action and say, "Follow me as I follow Christ." (1 Cor. 11:1)
And in the words of Jim Elliot, "Wherever you are, be all there."
Are you at a different stage of life? If so, what is God teaching you through this season? Login to leave a comment below. Also, consider supporting TMC at $5 a month to help offset some of our costs.