I got married when I was 20. And barely 20 at that.
It was the summer after our sophomore year in college, and there we were, standing in the First Baptist Church of Canyon, Texas, making vows to one another and the Lord about our lives together.
I remember, then, not being able to rent a car on our honeymoon because we were too young. I remember having to have my dad co-sign on our apartment lease because of our lack of credit history. I remember the utter moments of panic in the weeks that followed as I tried to figure out these strange new terms like “electric bill” and “insurance” and “long distance carrier.”
When we talk to people now about how old we were when we got married, there are inevitably some questions that come from it:
- Um, now how old did you say your oldest child is?
- How did you manage to do that and go to college?
- What were your parents thinking?
I’ve wondered myself about that last one, because I was 18 years old when I drove to Clovis, New Mexico to have lunch with Joe Parker and ask him for permission to marry his youngest daughter. And he gave it to me without too much of a ribbing. I have, then, wondered why there was so little protest on the part of our parents who had both been together for quite long enough to know the challenges of marriages. Perhaps it was that they also knew that, though it would be difficult, there would be great things that could come from marrying at a young age.
I read this week that the average age of marriage is now close to 30 years old. We, as a society, are delaying marriage. And while some of the reasons why are legitimate, I for one would offer a counterpoint to those arguments, for there are some great things in our own experience about having married at a young age. Here are three of them:
1. We learned how to be poor.
And boy, were we poor. We still had two years of college to go before either one of us could work full time. So we had to piece together our standard of living from part time work and gracious parents and friends who fed us meals every once in a while. This was, I think, a very good thing for us because it forced us early in our marriage to have no other option than to learn how to enjoy simply spending time together. That’s because there was no other option.
For several years after we got married, we put each other on a monthly budget for each other. Jana and I each got ten whole dollars each month for our discretionary spending. The lack of money to spend on stuff like entertainment set us up to truly enjoy one another’s company in the future.
2. We became who we are together.
When you get married at 19, you are still really figuring out who you are – you don’t yet know exactly how the Lord has gifted you, what career you’re passionate about, or whether your even like living in the city or the country. You are still growing into your unique sense of self, and we were fortunate enough to do that together.
That’s not to say this wasn’t a challenge. Jana and I sometimes joke about our first year of marriage – that at least for me, it was 12 entire months of identity crisis. It was me trying to come to grips with the terrifying reality of what it means to try and be a godly husband. And then failing and trying again. Nevertheless, the Lord is faithful. And there is something very beautiful about growing into yourself… together. That we are a vital part of who each other currently is.
3. We can help each other remember.
Having gotten married at a young age, the vast majority of our memories involve each other. Oh sure – each of us remembers different things from our childhoods, but there is so much that we’ve seen, heard, and experienced together simply because we were together at a young age. This is a good thing because now we can help each other remember.
I don’t mean “remember” in the sense that we forget facts and stories and experiences; I mean that we can easily forget the significance of those facts and stories and experiences. In particular, we can easily forget all the times when the Lord has been graciously, overwhelmingly, and unceasingly faithful to us. Together.
This is what we can help each other remember.
Now please don’t misread me here – I’m not saying that an early marriage like this is the best path. Or certainly that it’s the right path for everyone. But if you are of the mind that says, I’ve got some living to do before I tie myself down, then consider these things. And consider what you might be missing out on.