“Hitting the wall” is a phenomenon that happens to marathon runners somewhere around mile 20. They have trained hard, kept their pace, and are running well. But now, with the finish line so close, they start to falter. Some runners lose focus. Some lose energy. Some even stop running.
A similar phenomenon can occur for young couples on the cusp of marriage. After months (years?) of dating, engagement presents couples a new set of challenges. Here is my pastoral advice to engaged couples:
Engagement should be a time marked by godliness. God designed marriage to be a covenant between a man and a woman who are working together to fulfill God’s purposes in their life. In what was probably the shortest engagement in history, God created Eve as a spouse for Adam so that they would be able to subdue the land and care for it in a way that honors the Lord through both work and family. Once two Christians have committed themselves to becoming husband and wife, they are committing themselves to help one another fulfill God’s purposes in godliness and holiness together. The engagement is a unique opportunity for this couple to start working to draw each other closer to the Lord. So, take this time to pray together. Read Scripture together. And above all, use your engagement to draw each other closer to Christ—not further away.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of purity during engagement. Many Christian couples fall victim to a variety of misconceptions that sacrifice purity on the altar of licentiousness. Perhaps the most common goes something like this: “Well, we’re going to be married in a few months anyway, so what does it matter if we go ahead and start having sex now?” Of course, that same logic works in reverse: “well, you’re going to be married for the rest of your lives, so what does it matter if you start having sex now or in a few months?”
But of course, it does matter. Simply stated, sexual purity is a matter of spiritual leadership. The man who is willing to rationalize sinful sexual relations for the sake of sensual expediency is not likely to stop once the marriage bed becomes an option. If he likes to sin sexually now, he will like to sin sexually after he is married. Christian couples who are engaged need to commit themselves to honoring the Lord with their lives, and this includes their sex lives. This is an issue of spiritual leadership, and as the incoming spiritual head of the household, it is the man’s responsibility to set the example for godliness and holiness in your relationship.
For those engaged couples who have experienced failure with regard to purity, here is my practical advice.
- First, stop. Past sin is no pass to continue sinning.
- Second, demonstrate spiritual leadership by making changes. Get accountability and learn from your mistakes. If you know that you lack self-control, stop placing yourself in situations where temptation flares. No more late night movies on the couch. Romantic trips up to Lovers Point can wait.
- Third, if sexual sin continues to permeate the engagement, take some time to reevaluate what you’re doing. Ladies, if your fiancé is unwilling to lead you in a way that honors the Lord during your engagement, you should strongly consider the direction he will lead you in marriage.
This would be a good time to remind engaged couples that your wedding is not the most important thing in the world. I know that between catering menus, dress shopping and venue selection, planning a wedding might seem like a full-time job. This is all the more reason why I encourage engaged couples to maintain a relationship that is independent of wedding planning. In the grand scheme of life, the six months you spend preparing for your wedding are only a fraction of the time you will spend together, so run the race with endurance.
Here is a practical tip: if someone asks you how you are doing, and your answer revolves around wedding-planning (“terrible! Because can you believe that the coordinator agreed to white chairs and now suddenly she wants ivory chairs!”) then it might be time to take a step back.
(Don’t mock alliteration!) Connected to this idea of perspective comes the exhortation to have fun. Your engagement is just a season of your life, but it should be a season of celebration. Enjoy all the wedding cake samples, laugh about the seating mix-ups, and have fun together. Being engaged is like getting ready to board the plane before an awesome vacation. You can either take the time to look forward to the fun on the horizon, or you can stress out about what will happen when your luggage gets lost. It won’t make the plane go any faster either way, so you may as well enjoy the ride.
- Pre-marital Counseling.
Every Christian should be in a discipleship relationship, but this is particularly true in the engagement stage. Find an older couple who has a marriage you want to imitate, and have them prepare you for yours. Use a book that facilitates your conversation and ensures you hit major topics (I use Wayne Mack’s Preparing for Marriage God’s Way).
The main point of pre-marital counseling is forging a connection with an older, mature Christian couple that will likely be the source for counsel and encouragement after the marriage. This is why the couple doing the counseling should be a couple you want to emulate. A good pre-marital relationship will provide a resource for your own marriage long after the flowers have wilted and the cake is eaten.
What advice do you have for an engaged couple? Let me know below: