Use this Parent Conversation Starter to begin age-appropriate dialogue with your children today about God’s good gifts of Christian marriage and vocational singleness. Click here for Parent Conversation Starters on other topics like sexual ethics, preventing homophobia, family & intimacy, and more.
Valentine’s Day. Pink and red hearts. Cupid. Roses. Candy. Romance. Love.
This season celebrates many of the beautiful things about Christian marriage, but it also makes obvious the idolatry of romance and marriage in our culture and in many of our churches. Case in point: how many of your churches host a Valentine banquet that is exclusively for couples or begin a sermon series on marriage in February? And how many of your churches do something similar to celebrate and lift up those who are committed to celibacy for the sake of the kingdom?
Our kids are primed by American/Western culture and by cultural Christianity to assume that they can take romance when and where they want it, that marriage is for the taking if they want to be married.
God has a preference
But the Bible says we don’t just take what we want. We’re to ask God because God chooses which gift He wants to give.
How do we know that’s true?
Let’s look briefly at two passages of Scripture (emphases mine).
11 He answered, “This statement is true for some, but not for everyone—only for those who have been given this gift. 12 There are different reasons why some men don’t marry. Some were born without the ability to produce children. Others were made that way later in life. And others have given up marriage because of God’s kingdom. This is for anyone who is able to accept it. (ERV)
11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it. (ESV)
In essence, Jesus says, “Yes, some of you should give up the prospect of marriage because God gives some of you the gift of celibate singleness.” Jesus says that only those to whom the vocation of marriage has been given will be able to accept His teachings about marriage (and Jesus has some pretty high standards when it comes to marriage!).
1 Corinthians 7:7
7 I wish everyone could be like me. But God has given each person a different ability. He makes some to live one way, others to live a different way. (ERV)
7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. (ESV)
Paul was permanently celibate after his conversion. We see in this verse that he has a preference for vocational singleness, saying he wishes everyone was called to it, but he recognizes that each person has his own gift and that the gift is from God. God gives the gift. Note that Paul doesn’t say God offers both gifts and we choose. No, God offers some people one gift and others another gift.
This is good news!
Because a good, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-loving God took the time to see which relational vocation would be better for your child and wants to share His preference with your child. Knowing this, our kids can rest in their surrender to God’s plan. They don’t have to spend their time worrying whether they’re on the right path or try to figure it out alone or second-guess their relational decisions. There’s a relational vocation that’s right for them and their good Father wants to communicate that to them.
Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to highlight the paradigm shift we need to help our kids make. To help them move from “I can take what I want” to “God has chosen a gift He wants to give to me, and it would be best for me to ask Him which one He wants to give.”
When are kids most likely to accept a gift? When they know that the gift-giver is good and has their good in mind. We can’t force our kids to accept the relational vocation God wants to give them, but when we help our kids understand that God is good, that He always gives good gifts, and that whichever relational vocation God chooses to give them is a good gift, they are likely to accept it with joy.
God also gives each person who commits to and steps fully into their vocation a gift, a provision of grace, that enables them to live out their vocation well and thrive there. Something else we know about gifts – We are more likely to accept the gift and open it with joy when we know that what’s inside the gift is good! So what’s “inside” the gift of a relational vocation? The grace to accept the gift (which we fully receive when we take hold of the gift) and the grace to live out the vocation well. It’s really hard to use a gift that we won’t accept or open. In the same vein, it will be hard for our kids to “do” Christian marriage or vocational singleness well if they refuse to take hold of the gift and the provision of grace God gives to those who commit to the vocation He has picked out for them.
Let’s be patient
Most of our kids won’t discern their relational vocation until their 20s or even 30s or beyond. We must be patient and continue to support them for as long as it takes them to discern with God which vocation He wants to give.
Our focus with our young kids and teens should be helping them resist the idols of romance and marriage and live with open-handed expectation and confidence in God’s plan.
Teach your kids about God’s good gifts
Read a kids’ book about Valentine’s Day or make Valentine cards with your child, and use the examples below to start a conversation with your kids about God’s gifts of Christian marriage and Christian vocational singleness.
Say, “Look at all these pretty hearts! Valentine’s Day is coming up soon. It’s a day many people celebrate some of the beautiful things about Christian marriage: love, family, hugs and kisses. Sometimes married people even give each other gifts of chocolate or flowers on Valentine’s Day.
Say, “Did you know that God has already decided one of the gifts He wants to give you when you’re older? Yes! One day you’ll get to ask God whether He wants to give you the gift of Christian marriage or the gift of Christian singleness. Both gifts are wonderful, and God knows which gift is best for you.”
Say, “In a few days you’ll exchange Valentine cards with friends and classmates. You might even get some Valentine candy! What’s Valentine’s Day all about? It’s a day many people celebrate some of the beautiful things about Christian marriage: love, family, hugs and kisses. Sometimes married people even give each other gifts of chocolate or flowers on Valentine’s Day.
Say, “Did you know that God has already decided one of the gifts He wants to give you when you’re older? Yes! One day you’ll get to ask God whether He wants to give you the gift of Christian marriage to someone of the opposite sex or the gift of Christian singleness. Both gifts are wonderful, and God knows which gift is best for each person. Can you think of some ways the gift of Christian marriage is a good gift? Can you think of some ways the gift of Christian singleness is a good gift?
Say, “Sometimes, Christians want to take the gift they want most instead of asking God which gift He wants to give them. But God knows us best, and He knows which gift is best for us. We’ll enjoy life most when we follow the path He has for us.”
Say, “In a few days you might exchange Valentine cards with friends and classmates. You might even get some Valentine candy! And you’ll probably see some people get flowers or other gifts from their spouse or their boyfriend/girlfriend. Most people consider Valentine’s Day to be a time for celebrating romance. What do you think Valentine’s day is all about?
Say, “For some people, Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate some of the beautiful things about Christian marriage: love, family, hugs and kisses. With all the hearts and cupids and romantic cards, you might be tempted to think that you can have romance and marriage whenever you want it. But I want to remind you that God has already decided whether He wants to give you the gift of Christian marriage to someone of the opposite sex or the gift of Christian singleness, and He wants you to ask Him about your gift when you’re older.
Say, “Let’s read a couple of Bible verses.
Read Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7:7 together.
Say, “This is good news for everyone! God knows us best and knows which gift would be best for each person. When we ask God about His preference, and then take the gift He offers us, we’ll enjoy the most joy and goodness in this life.”