As children of God we are not OF the world, but we are certainly very much IN the world, and the trends and events of this world have effect upon us. We are confronted with the situations of this present world. This is especially true in respect to our to-be-married or our just-married young people.
The housing shortage effects every one of us, but especially our young people who are planning to enter or have recently entered upon married life.
In rural communities it is perhaps the farm shortage, in the cities it is the housing shortage.
Time was when one could rent a farm or rent a home. Due possibly to our increasing population and due probably to no small extent to common greed, the for rent signs have almost disappeared from the scene. To get a place therefore which they can call home it becomes almost imperative to buy. These things affect our young people. Various alternatives present themselves. Let me name a few of them.
“Postpone marriage”. How often you hear of marriagably aged people, who would much desire to enter the married state and are ripe for it, but are compelled to wait it out until they find an opening here or there. These conditions exist. They are the facts of life today. If marriage were a cold business enterprise one could say: we have ample time, we will wait until the opportunity comes. But marriage is not like that. It is not something which will be indefinitely postponed. Yet if it has to be postponed and be long postponed, it sets up a situation which forms a trial for the young people.
Or they can marry and begin their united life submerged in mortgage. To buy a farm or a home costs a veritable fortune, yet, frequently, there is no other way out. There will always be those who have the cash or the collateral to finance a dwelling, but there are more who will have to assume a heavy debt if they will find a roof over their heads. Time was when a newly married couple could set up housekeeping with very little capital. And time was when one could find for rent signs in almost every block in the city. But things have change immensely. Generally speaking, we may say that marriage costs a fortune today, even if such a fortune can procure them a house.
Or they marry and become wards. Instead of having a place of their own, they live in with the parents or others and really become wards. Here in our big city it is nothing strange to read how three families are living in quarters originally built for one normal family. They are compelled to put up with cramped conditions, no room for additions to the family and no room for the normal expansion which married life naturally seeks.
Or they marry and, of necessity, strike out for some almost uninhabited regions of our country. The wide, unsettled, open spaces beckon them, and when the opportunity presents itself the news comes that John and Mary have gone to live in Faraway.
There then you have the various situations and I hope to show how each of these has a definite bearing on living in the fear of God, especially as it affects our young, just-married people.
Friendship between young people normally leads to courtship, and courtship advances into engagement, and engagement flowers out into wedlock. There should be a period of courtship and a period of engagement to the end that the parties may learn to know one another and ascertain whether marriage between them is proper. The period of engagement, being what it is, should not be long. They have pledged fidelity. Now they wait. They mature. They plan for wedlock. But, with the difficulty of finding a dwelling place, the wait becomes long. Marriage has to be postponed from one season to the next, and the period of engagement, instead of being a hopeful anticipation becomes an almost futile waiting for an opening. They are ready for marriage, and they know one another but there is no place to set up a home.
These situations are modern realities.
They are a discipline for the young people, a discipline in patience. It is the hand of the Lord that brings these things upon them, therefore they must exercise patience, not only in respect toward the common objective but also in respect toward one another. They must not become impatient toward one another and as a result fret at and nag each other. Be patient. Keep looking for an opening and meanwhile accept the discipline with Christian submissiveness. But while marriage is being postponed the engagement calls for marriage. Marriage is not a cold business affair, it is the merging of two lives, as Scripture speaks of it. While therefore marriage of necessity waits, the danger besets them of assuming marital privileges. The familiarity continues while marriage has to wait. And here again they must discipline themselves and conduct themselves chastely. The Lord, through circumstances, commands their marriage to wait, and therefore they must keep their familiarity within the bounds of chastity. This is the calling we have of the Lord. Receive it as a discipline, approach it as a challenge. A mutual love for God’s commands as well as a mutual faith will be the means to keep you while you are being thus disciplined.
Marriage Under Debt
Time was when one could set up housekeeping inexpensively. Today however we have a different picture. The possibility of renting a place becomes increasingly difficult. One almost has to buy if one will acquire a home. And that involves a vast outlay of money. For many young people this means begin their married life under a heavy mortgage, and this debt will have to be met. At least there will have to be regular monthly payments. They find themselves virtual prisoners. Marriage becomes an extreme attempt to meet the payments. As a result they will probably decide to both work, and pool their incomes. Married life is liable to become little more than a chase after material things. With such payments to meet there will be little left for church, school, charity, etc. But to facilitate these matters they may also decide that they cannot afford to have children. Having children would hamper their progress. If she is a wage earner, her wages, would cease if a child came, but at the same time the family expenses would mount. Thus they come into temptation in respect to the ordinances of God. If you see the houses which the contractors are building these days it is evident that men are not thinking in terms of families. And frequently, if there happens to be a house for rent, the owner looks askance at a family of children. He would rather you came with a kennel than with a baby buggy or cradle. These things present actual temptations and our young people much arm themselves with faith and righteousness, lest they become conformed to the world in their married state.
Here in Chicago it is nothing strange to hear about several families living in quarters fit for only one family. Some of the newlyweds, who enter marriage despite the fact that they can find no home, live in with the in-laws. This is a help out, but it is far from ideal. It is contrary to nature. It may be successful, but it may prove disastrous. We resent the stories coming to us from the world about the in-law misery, but even among Christians, where all of us are imperfect, in-law trouble can arise. And that makes for utter misery. It may even threaten to drive a wedge between the newlyweds or otherwise between the in-laws. Besides, they are faced with cramped conditions, no room for additions to the family, no room for the normal expansion of married life. Not ideal conditions for having children, for the birth of a baby may be interpreted as an imposition upon the generosity of the in-laws. In some circumstances it is almost an unwritten contract that the young people may share the home, but there must be no additions to the family. And again the newlyweds are confronted with the danger of violating the ordinances of God. Let’s remember that there can never be excuses for violating the ordinances of God as laid down in the married state. Times and styles and public opinions may change, but God is unchangeable and His ordinances are unchangeable. The psalmist prayed: let integrity and uprightness preserve me. May we desire that also.
And there are those who seek a solution to the situation by marrying and then moving far away from everything. This may seem like a solution, but for our covenant youth it is really a dissolution of covenant living. The danger is that they do what Lot of old time did. To move far away from the preaching of the truth, the sacraments, Christian discipline and Christian instruction is a reckless move. I know that our young people cannot all stay close in, they have to seek place elsewhere, and I know that there are few places in this land where the reformed truth is maintained. We have relatively few churches in this country. But let us beware lest we violate the covenant of our God and thus bring upon ourselves and our children desolation.
May God grant our young people wisdom, integrity and patience and may you seek it where it may be found.