"what is exalted among men..."

There were three weddings here this summer, another couple is getting married next month, and I recently heard another just got engaged. And of course everyone gets so excited and congratulatory with each new announcement and celebration.

But each new announcement has triggered an uncomfortable feeling in me. A feeling that I'm missing the boat, or being passed over and left behind. I've wondered at times if it's envy. But I don't think my feeling has much to do with these particular couples, though I do sometimes wonder about their decision, especially if the marriage seems rushed. There can be a lot of pressure to marry. I'm not thinking so much of social pressure to "legitimate" the relationship, like couples might face in other cultures (such as in Nigeria). I'm thinking of the pressure to "take the next step in life." I clearly remember one day in college thinking (with a twinge of panic) that I had better find a girlfriend soon, because college seemed like the most likely place for me to meet women and if I missed my chance there, I'd have a hard time getting married. Marriage seemed like the next big milestone in life (though Career was a big one too). And I didn't want to fail.

I felt the pressure coming from within me then. But I know I didn't dream it up myself. Society teaches us that getting married and starting a family is part of the normal course of life. It's expected. I remember talking with another unmarried friend recently, and she commented about how unmarried people don't seem valued as much (in her community). To not marry is seen as some sort of failure, an inability to progress as expected. And I wonder how much of that becomes internalized and influences young people's decision to get married. There are so many unfortunate marriages, I have to wonder.

Feeling this pressure again myself (because Heather and I don't know when or if we'll be able to get married), I was strangely comforted when I heard these words of Jesus read at breakfast:

"You are those who justify yourselves before men, but... what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God." (Lk 16.15)

Not that marriage is an abomination, of course. But that the social pressure, the social expectations that define the important milestones of life, that these are really nothing in God's sight. Or worse than nothing. I suppose Jesus' own indifference to marriage and family is worth recalling...

Far from being influenced by these expectations (or congratulations), we should become suspicious when society praises certain choices, or goals, or paths in life. As Jesus said in another place, "Woe to you, when all men speak well of you..."