We conclude our conversation with Heather Platt talking about motherhood, marriage, and missions. (Catch up on the conversation: bio, part one, part two.)
What do you enjoy most about being a mother?
Snuggling with my kids! I love reading together on the couch, playing out back, laughing at their many antics and funny sayings. I love watching them grow and seeing little bits of fruit being produced in their lives through much prayer, teaching and training. The days feel long sometimes, but the months and years seem to be flying off the page. I want to take a deep breath and savor these sweet moments with everything that is in me.
Who is a godly older woman who has influenced you and what is the most important thing she has taught you?
My friend and mentor Debra Shaddix, whom I mentioned earlier, has influenced me in profound ways. If there is one thing that she has modeled and taught me over the years, it is to love my husband. Love, respect and honor him in front of my kids and in front of others. I also have several friends who have modeled this, even in some very difficult situations and circumstances. I respect them for their courage to love their husbands, even when their husbands have acted pretty unlovable. I am so grateful for the grace of God in their lives.
Your husband is well-known for his passion for global missions: in what ways are you able to support and share in this burden for all people in every nation to hear the gospel?
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that what I do at home enables my husband to do what he does all over the world. We talk about this often and David encourages me constantly in this. He is quick to remind me that we are a team, and that although I might not be with him on many of these trips, the Lord is using both of us for His glory in the roles He has called us to. At home, we constantly pray as a family for missionaries around the world and various people groups. We learn about different cultures and have even had the opportunity to travel overseas with our children on several occasions. Although it is difficult and requires much planning and an army of help, I believe it’s important for me and for my family to see me traveling overseas with David and sharing the gospel with those who have not heard. But just as important, they need to see David and I sharing the gospel right here in our neighborhood as we serve others and teach the word where we live. As the children get older, we look forward to taking family mission trips together and serving in various contexts around the world.
What are you currently studying in your times with the Lord? What is one aspect of God’s character and the gospel you’ve learned about this past year?
Currently, I am studying about “taking every thought captive to Christ.” I am doing a study by Jennifer Rothschild called “Me, Myself and Lies”. I have a tendency to be a worrier. I feel it even heightened now that I am pregnant with our 4th child! So many “what ifs” surround each day. The Lord is teaching me to think on things that are excellent and praiseworthy, not all the endless possibilities of “what ifs.” I am so thankful for a gracious God who meets me where I am and takes me into a deeper love relationship with Him. HE is my everything…
Heather, your passion for Christ shines through in everything you’ve shared with us. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your life and walk with the Lord. And congratulations on your pregnancy! May God continue to richly bless your growing family and your ministry to others. We look forward to meeting you in person some day soon!
Today we are excited to continue our conversation with Heather Platt about how God used Hurricane Katrina to bring the Platts to Brook Hills, and about adoption, being a mom, and helping her husband. (If you are just joining us, read Heather’s girl~to~girltalk profile and part one of our three-part interview.)
After the devastation of Katrina, how did God lead you and David to The Church at Brook Hills?
We were not able to return to New Orleans till about 2 months later and found very few things salvageable. I wasn’t able to get anything out of my school classroom. I of course lost my job, David began teaching seminary classes online, and he continued to travel and speak at various churches and events. The first few months we spent trying to figure out what in the world to do with ourselves. Ironically, we had been trying for years to have kids and during this time of complete uncertainty began the adoption process! It was amazing how the Lord opened our hearts to adoption during such an interesting time. I figured, no home, no job, hey, let’s adopt! Seriously, the Lord had been changing my heart to see that He was calling us to this blessing of adoption and that this was how he was going to expand our family. We started the adoption process to Kazakhstan, lived in a condo that my brother in law owned, a church donated two rooms of furniture, and we completed our homestudy! The Lord was so gracious to provide in every way.
Around the beginning of January, David was asked to speak at Brook Hills. It was only for “one time” while the church was without a pastor. After he spoke the first time, they kept inviting him back until finally one day the pastor search team contacted him and asked if we would meet with them. We were pretty set on going back to New Orleans, so David assured me that this was no big deal. At the end of the meeting, they looked at us and said, “We think you are going to be our next pastor.” I cried! Not tears of joy, but tears of sadness and fear. We wrestled with the decision for many weeks, our hearts torn, wanting to go back to New Orleans but wondering if this was a new direction the Lord was leading us. As always, the Lord was so gracious to make us ready for a new adventure! We moved to Birmingham in June of 2006 and have been at Brook Hills for 6 years. The Lord has done far more than we could ask or imagine. It’s not been easy, but wonderfully worth it.
You and David now have two sons, and just recently adopted your little girl from China (Congratulations!), but you faced setbacks and delays along the way. What is one lesson God taught you through that process and how would you encourage other couples currently pursuing adoption?
Adoption is not for the faint-hearted. There are always many ups and downs and twists and turns in the process. We started an adoption to Nepal about 4 years ago that never came to fruition due to the country closing to international adoptions. Along the way, the Lord changed our direction to China where we went this last fall and adopted a 16 month old girl. She is thriving beautifully in a family and is loved dearly by her older brothers. Adoption has taught me many things about the heart of God. In His strength, adoption is not easy, but it’s worth it.
What is one of the greatest challenges being a mother of young children and having a husband who pastors a large church?
Brook Hills has been an amazing encouragement to David and me from the beginning. They have allowed me as a mom and wife to fulfill my roles at home with little pressure to “be at everything” or “do everything” that is on the church calendar. I am grateful for that. Any family in ministry knows the tension that is there between your husband’s demands at work and the need to be available for family. We are constantly working on that balance and asking the Lord for wisdom and grace. Our family is young right now and has many needs. Brook Hills has been incredibly gracious to allow us to embrace these crazy “younger” years, and they are cheering us on along the way!
What is one piece of advice would you give to other pastors’ wives on loving and helping their husband?
Be available. He needs your love, your words of affirmation, and most of all your unconditional support. Be there when he needs to talk, when he needs some TLC and even when he needs to simply veg out and do nothing! He wants to know that you will follow his lead, no matter what. Not easy as a wife, but absolutely essential. We are in a fight for our marriages and husbands, and our husbands are worth fighting for! God’s name and glory are worth it!
Today we welcome back Heather Platt for part one of a three-part interview.
Can you tell us a little about your parents, your siblings, your growing up years?
I have 2 sisters, one older, one younger. We are very close to each other, although we are spread out in age. There is 17 years between my oldest and youngest sister. I had two incredibly loving and supportive parents as I grew up. My dad is a believer and my mom just recently became a believer before she passed away this past August. The Lord was so gracious to save her before she died. Her faith in Christ challenged and inspired me.
We would love to hear your conversion story—when and how did God reveal Jesus Christ to you?
At the beginning of my senior year of high school, my best friend invited me to go to youth camp with her church group. The first night of camp, the Lord began to do a work in my heart that would transform me from the inside out. I realized that I was deep in my sin and I couldn’t change on my own, I needed a Savior to cleanse me from my unrighteousness and fill the empty places in my heart. I confessed my complete surrender to Jesus and asked Him to take control of my life. The Lord began his transforming work in my heart that night that continues day by day.
When and how did you meet David? Can you briefly relate the story of your relationship from the time you met until you were married? Are there any funny or memorable moments you’d be willing to tell us about?
I met David at that same youth camp where the Lord saved me. I thought David was really cute and I was trying to get his attention so he would notice me. I was throwing the football with a friend, trying to get him to look my way, while he was on the stairs behind me memorizing the book of 2 Timothy! Typical! I got him though! We dated through some of high school and all of college and got married the day he graduated from the University of Georgia in 1999.
You and your husband lived in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina. Can you briefly describe your life and ministry there?
After we were married, we lived with David’s parents for 8 months to save money before we headed off to seminary in New Orleans, LA. I was hesitant at first about living in New Orleans. It seemed like such a crazy place, but the Lord changed my heart and made me ready for our new adventure. We LOVED living on campus at the seminary, making life long friends, and ministering in the city. It became an important part of our spiritual journey and marriage. David was mentored by an amazing professor, Dr Jim Shaddix, and I was mentored by Jim’s wife, Debra. The Lord used this family to teach us much about ministry, parenting, and marriage. They are still some of our closest friends. I taught school the whole time we were in New Orleans and truly enjoyed the path the Lord had set us on. David finished his masters then went on to complete his PhD and finally came on faculty at New Orleans Seminary. It was a sweet time in life and ministry.
What are your memories of living through Hurricane Katrina and how did God use the events following Katrina to lead you and your husband to The Church at Brook Hills?
I taught public school Pre-K while I lived in New Orleans. It was the Friday before my kids were supposed to arrive for their first day of school on Monday and my principal made an announcement over the intercom to put all our furniture in the middle of the room. She said there was going to be a storm over the weekend and some of the rooms flooded if it rained really hard. As a teacher, I had spent countless hours preparing for my new students and making my classroom look perfect! I grumbled as I moved all the furniture around saying to myself, “Who cares about a silly storm?” I got home that night and Dave and I watched the weather, questioning if we should evacuate or not. We decided to wait until the morning and make a decision then. By the time morning came, it was clear that evacuation was necessary, but we had already evacuated several times that season for possible hurricanes; this was no big deal. I threw in 3 days worth of clothes, my bag of jewelry, my wedding album, and my school bag to finish up some last minute work. We left Saturday morning, spent the night at a hotel in Lafayette and headed to a conference center in central Louisiana where David was scheduled to preach later that week. I’ll never forget, Katrina hit and all had seemed to go better than predicted. We were serving at a shelter that Monday night and David and a couple of guys were asked to hook up a video feed to the news so everyone could see what was going on. The TV turned on, and the Levees had just broken. We saw immense flooding throughout the New Orleans Metro area. The camera flashed scenes from all over the city, including the gas station a half mile up the road from where we lived. The water was up about 8-10 feet high in our area. We knew at that point that we had lost everything. It was a devastating and humbling time. We were grateful we had evacuated and had a place to go, but we watched in horror as people were stranded for days and weeks, waiting for someone to rescue them. We headed to David’s mom’s house in Atlanta and moved in with the Platt family once again!
(Tomorrow: part two of how God used Hurricane Katrina to bring Heather and David to Brook Hills.)
It’s been a few years, but we’re excited to bring back our girl~to~girltalk interview series. In the past, we’ve been privileged to give you a glimpse into the lives of women such as Noël Piper, Mary Mohler, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss. We have several interviews planned for the next few months and today we are very pleased to welcome Heather Platt to girltalk. Heather is the wife of David Platt, Senior Pastor of The Church at Brook Hills and author of the book Radical. Heather serves David as he leads the church and travels internationally. She is the busy mom of three young children. We have not yet had the privilege to meet Heather personally, but have been so blessed by her godly character that shines through in this interview. We are sure you will be blessed as well. We asked Heather to answer a few brief questions to help us get to know her. More of the interview will follow in the days ahead.
You probably know me as: David Platt’s wife
I’ve been married for: 13 years this December
My children are: Caleb - 6, Joshua - 4, Mara Ruth - 22 months, and one on the way, Lord willing, in November
I was born/grew up in: Atlanta, GA
After the Bible, the best Christian book I’ve ever read: That’s a tough one because I love to read. I have loved many books, but Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp and Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers are two of my favorites. I also love reading Christian biographies.
Currently I am reading: The Well-Trained Mind (it’s a homeschooling book so I can learn what in the world I am suppose to teach my kids for 1st grade!)
The movie I’ve watched more times than any other: It’s a Wonderful Life
The music you’re most likely to find me listening to: praise and worship
My favorite food: seafood
My favorite morning beverage: coffee
The household chore I most enjoy: cleaning and de-cluttering to make things more organized
If I have free time, you’ll most likely find me: reading or exercising
My favorite place in the world: the beach!
The Bible verse I return to most often: Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Today, we conclude our interview with John Ensor…
Is there any truth, any bit of advice you wanted to include in the book but just didn’t fit? Would you mind sharing it here?
One thing I couldn’t seem to integrate into the book very much because it always appeared a bit off topic, but is certainly related to the whole, was the role of the local Church and active ministry in a local church in doing things right in matters of the heart. The book is aimed at individuals (since that is the nature of a book). But the truth is the local church plays a vital role in proclaiming a vision for mature manhood and womanhood and providing a healthy setting for matches to occur. My pastor, Dr. Gordon Hugenburger at Park Street Church in Boston gets silly with delight when he sees Christians meet along the pathways of worship and service, get to know one another in that context, and then come to him with wedding plans. And so do I.
We couldn’t help but notice the liberal sprinkling of Shakespeare references throughout your book. Can you tell us how you became a fan and if you have a favorite play? [I just had to sneak this question in!—Nicole]
When I was a skulking cynical senior in High School, I somehow landed in a class with a dowdy old school-marm who had the audacity to think that my friends and I could actually understand and like Shakespeare. She made us read Macbeth, then Hamlet, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet. Half-way through Hamlet, and I was totally enamored. I remain so. When my kids were in their teens we watched Kenneth Branagh’s films of Shakespeare’s plays and went to Shakespeare in the Park in Boston. When I sat down to write a book on love, I kept thinking of Shakespeare scenes and quotes that illustrated the theological truths I was developing. I decided that he should be our expert witness; and help us see that not only are the doctrines true, but have long been true and are delightfully true. As for favorite, it depends on my mood. I really like Much Ado About Nothing and Taming of the Shrew. They force all the inner tensions between men and women to the surface and yet, “all’s well that ends well.”
We especially enjoyed the personal stories you included in the book about you and your wife. Can you tell us one thing you most appreciate about your wife, Kristen?
After 29 years of enduring me and my chosen path of ministry, which has been most unconventional and risky, (at one point I gave my salary away, another time, went to jail, and last year took up an initiative in Miami that required me to commute from Boston every other week or so) what I most appreciate is that she is still there when I get home!
Indeed she is faithfulness incarnate. I think what I appreciate about her the most has been her commitment to make our home and family the counter-balance to my work: a place of refuge and laughter, peace, order, and a good cup coffee.
Finally, can you tell us briefly about the work you do with Heartbeat International?
I wrote a brief book entitled Answering the Call (Focus on the Family) that explains the biblical foundations, historical precedence and practical implications for Christians to visibly cherish and defend innocent human life. At www.heartbeatofmiami.org you may read how I am attempting to live out that message. You may see how my role as Executive Director of Urban Initiatives fits into the larger work by visiting www.heartbeatinternational.org.
For a more in-depth conversation about John Ensor’s work with crisis pregnancy centers, we want to encourage our readers to check out his interview with Justin Taylor.
Mr. Ensor, thank you so much for writing this immensely helpful and delightful-to-read book! May God bless you and your family and may your work with Heartbeat International save many children who will grow to know and love the Savior, and rejoice in the compelling vision of biblical manhood and womanhood.
Today, we asked John Ensor to answer some questions from a parent’s perspective:
How do you instill passion and conviction for biblical roles of men and women at a young age?
Love your wife and respect your husband. Without this, all our teaching is just clanging pots and pans. Jonathan Edwards spoke often about the difference between intellectually knowing something and having a sensible knowledge of it-like reading about honey in a dictionary versus scooping honey into your mouth. Young people can be taught the roles, but seeing the day to day interchange of love and honor played out in the home through all the ups and downs of life is convincingly sweet knowledge. Our kids know our faults, but they know the roles we teach are good because they have tasted their goodness in our home.
What types of things do you advise that a daughter (and her parents) know about a young man before the relationship “gets serious”?
The main thing is to encourage them to look for the right things in a man and find it before getting serious. And I think that is character, passion and authenticity. What values drive him? What does he treasure in life? What voices does he listen to? What is his goal in life? How does he treat others? This is what I tried to convey in the chapter, “He Displays Integrity, She an Inner Beauty.” Everything else can be adjusted too, skin color, class, education, personality type., etc. But does he display a teachable spirit about God and does he demonstrate a growing edge when it comes to godly character? He might be poor, unsure of himself, not yet a strong leader. But if he demonstrates a sincere heart for integrity, honesty, faithfulness etc, that stem from faith in God, then the rest will grow in due season.
If we were to ask your son, what do you think he would say was the best piece of advice you gave him in how to “do things right” as he pursued the woman who is now his wife?
I asked him and he sent back the following: “When the question of marriage became more of a ‘when?’ rather than a ‘whether or not’ my soon to be wife and I were faced with a decision that seemed obvious to most, but uncomfortable to us. As we were both still in school, (Juniors in college) current social trends (even Christian social trends) dictated that we wait until after graduation, and maybe even after I had found a ‘good’ job. We posed the question to my father and he reminded me of a verse that he had spoken to me many times. ‘It is better to marry than to burn with passion’ (1 Cor. 7:9). Looking back I knew he would say exactly that, but with such a big decision I really needed to hear it again. We were married the summer before our senior year and many people marveled at the difficult undertaking of school full time, work full time, and planning a wedding. But really, we took the easy way out. Avoiding a burning passion over a long period of time and staying focused on Jesus saved us the guilt, pain, and hardship of keeping our relationship in ‘stall mode’ for longer than we could handle.”
Tomorrow we’ll conclude our interview with John Ensor. Be sure to check back!
Continuing our interview with John Ensor, one reader inquired (on behalf of many, no doubt!): “I’m unsure what Mr. Ensor means exactly by the rustling leaves and snapping twigs illustration (‘It is for men to strike out into the forest and look. It is for women to crack the twigs and stir the leaves so we know where to find them.’ p. 92). Obviously God’s calling for a woman (or a man) is to avoid flirtatious behavior, so how does he see single women behaving in a way that rustles leaves and snaps twigs?”
In context, I meant to stress the need for men to take initiative. The metaphor was my way to burn it into the brothers’ minds that they need to be the initial risk takers; to be pursuers, like a hunter in the woods. The metaphorical corollary was for women to crack twigs and rustle leaves so we know where to find them. When CJ read this quote at the Na Conference, it launched a thousand discussions.
I mostly meant, “Show up in the places where godly men can interact with you and just be yourself. Be natural.” Most metaphors break down when you ask them to carry more than the initial point. But the readers were right, it does raise the practical question, “What is appropriate behavior for attracting male attention?”
According to one’s maturity, sensitivity, good judgment, confidence and personality, every woman eventually comes up with a specific list of dos and don’ts. Such things should be much talked about in homes and with friends and in various women’s groups and blogs. A little iron sharpening iron here is good. My contribution would be to remember the following three points when deciding.
1. A godly spirit is twig-crackingly attractive.
This seems to me the first and heaviest emphasis of Scripture and the point I was trying to make in chapter 12 “He displays integrity…She, an inner beauty.” Trust God on this! Physical beauty is the most relied upon, sure-fire, quick-work approach to attracting male attention. It does catch his eye and arouse his passions. But what works initially and works out well over the long haul is not the same. So we read in Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Here is a warning to reject the worldly approach and remember that godly men are attracted to holy women.
1 Peter 3:3 calls women out plainly: Reject the trendy, sultry hair styles, attention-grabbing jewelry and clothes designed to arouse male passion. Adorn yourself with a strong faith and hope in God and you will be clothed with a quiet and gentle spirit that is winsomely attractive to men. In context the point is that this is powerfully attractive to even unbelieving husbands. But I can assure all young women that godly men find this twig-crackingly attractive.
2. A neighbor-loving outlook on life is twig-crackingly attractive.
This is in contrast to women who are self-centered, self-focused, self-absorbed. Such women do tend to put a lot of effort into appearances. But they are like manna; initially satisfying; but try to hold on to them and soon the relationship spoils. Men find it powerfully attractive when a woman’s general orientation toward life is outward and rooted in serving others. As Proverbs 31 points such women are healthy, dignified, hard-working, challenged, fulfilled, less prone to insecurities and depression, (see the book page 153). They are generally more enjoyable to be around; because loving our neighbors is the Great Work of the Gospel that God designed us for and along these paths of service, powerful friendships are born that naturally lead to more romantic interests.
Among the attractive traits of the woman in Proverbs 31, we read, “she opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” (31:20). This is her orientation; serving the needs of others in this fallen and painful world. In 1 Timothy 5:10 it is called “Having a reputation for good works.” In 6:18, this outlook, along with the inherent vibrancy it creates is described as “ being rich in goodworks…so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” See that? Here is what the book, The Secret, should have been about; Here is the pathway to life that is really life! Yesterday I was reading in Romans and came across another hint of this general outlook. Paul says those who are “patient in well-doing…will inherit eternal life” (2:7). Why? Because steady and unwavering well-doing in this fallen world, flowing from gospel love, is the very fragrance of life. And my point is that this fragrance is twig-crackingly attractive to men.
My daughter is 24, single, godly and would love to be found by a soul mate and get married. In the meantime, I know she is active in the body-life of her Church, pursues a strong interest in missions, tutors some struggling kids on Saturdays, helps occasionally with the pregnancy help clinic in her area, and co-teaches a class of young girls on Sundays. If there is a husband in her future, I think she has resolved to be spotted by him along the pathways of living out a fulfilled single life of kingdom expanding, neighbor-loving service.
3. A healthy body is twig-crackingly attractive.
I have chosen to use the prism of health rather than beauty because it seems to me to be more in line with what the Bible would permit (rather than oppose) in terms of physical beauty and adornment. It appears to me that women should strive to be healthy in body and form and to highlight their natural beauty by their fashion and stop there. Looking our best is not the same as looking sexy.
The thing to remember is that how we dress and present ourselves in public is a form of communication. So discerning what is fitting and proper in terms of magnifying your natural beauty comes down to what message you are trying to give when you go out among male company. “I am modest” is not a message sent with words, but with clothing. Cleavage on parade is, “I am sexy.” A butch haircut on a woman and a pony tail on a man usually are by design and to make a statement. The culture defines these things and so they change all the time; but we generally know what means what, though sometimes we are not sure. For women in Paul’s day, wearing a hair-covering in worship sent one message, not wearing one sent another. Basically the Bible teaches us to honor the cultural cues in our dress and make-up and presentation and stick with those things that convey our life’s priorities and purposes (point 1 and 2 above).
If I show up to speak in a church unshaven or with a big gold chain around my neck, or wearing a blouse, it would provoke intense reaction as people tried to figure out who I was and what message I was sending. When our son, Elliot, was a teenager, he once came home with a ring in his eyebrow! Kristen was shocked and deeply upset. Honestly, I was scared for him. We took it as a cue that it was time to probe, what does this mean? What’s the message? Who are you? What is going on inside you that you want to say on the outside? At first he tried to say it was nothing. But fashion is always a statement of something.
On the other hand, several years ago, I had my teeth worked on by an aesthetic dentist. My teeth were cracked and crooked and I felt it was time to fix them. This was purely physical. But I felt liberty of spirit to do it. So by good health and natural beauty, I mean to acknowledge the reasonableness of presenting ourselves in public at our best, staying in good shape as best we can, and dressing and presenting ourselves appropriately as fits the cultural expectations, and that which is consistent with godliness.
My grandmother had scoliosis as a child, which resulted in a curved spine and hump back. Not too attractive. My grandfather was very tall, rugged and clearly had no regard for dentists. Yet he found in this shrunken little woman a beauty, a fire-cracker wife that he loved dearly till her passing, one month short of their 50th anniversary. So I go back to the beginning. Trust God and be yourself. Don’t worry too much about how to crack the twigs. God will snap his fingers at the right moment.
Girls—this is an answer to re-read and apply! More conversation with John Ensor tomorrow…
Once again, we welcome back John Ensor, author of Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart to answer more questions on the topic of relationships…
What should a single man do to get to a place where he can pursue marriage? How does he know he’s ready, and how does the woman know he’s ready?
I must admit that this question is an enigma to me. I know of no place that men get to that makes them ready to pursue marriage (Minnesota worked well for me though). A particular man might have a specific goal to accomplish before starting any relationship with a woman, but it would not be transferable. For me, when I could no longer envision my life without Kristen being a part of it, I figured I was ready for marriage. Then all the practical hindrances simply lined up as things to get done so that I could get married. That included things like a formal proposal, meeting her parents, finishing college, getting a job, reading some books on marriage, getting some counseling etc. I think this works for both sexes.
How prepared to support a family do you recommend that a young man be before pursuing a young woman in marriage? (job, school loans paid off, etc.)?
Economics is a real and practical matter, but not the only consideration. Delaying marriage for too long creates its own temptations and problems. And remember, all those preparations (finish school, get a job, save some money) are fleeting preparations. Jobs are lost. Accidents occur. Twins may appear! Savings can disappear. Marriage is a covenant to take on life together, come what may from a wise and sovereign God.
The key is to come up with a plan for supporting yourselves and to be united in it. If possible, it seems best for marriage to be delayed until at least one of the partners can be in the work place. And I strongly recommend living small (used car, small apartment, old sofa, etc.) and paying down school debts as quickly as possible. After all, babies happen! And when they do, the economic dynamics change considerably. In our case, waiting for us both to finish school before getting married was not going to work (the reasons being recorded in the book). We decided to get married after college but before I went to seminary. So for three years, my wife was the main bread winner. But we were united in this arrangement. We agreed that living on pasta and grilled cheese sandwiches together was better than being alone with more monetary comforts. Besides, unless you are living with parents, marriage, with pooled resources, is often cheaper than living separately.
What should a single woman do to prepare for marriage?
Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. This will be quite fulfilling and wonderfully challenging. Living to Great Purpose is God’s plan for us all and prepares us for everything, including marriage, should God provide it. But singles, men and women alike, do well to prepare for it best, to use the words of James 1:27, “by keeping oneself unstained from the world” while finding a place of service in the Great Work of the Gospel, like “visiting orphans and widows in their affliction” (1:27).
My daughter, Megan, is 25, single, and would love to get married, I am sure. But she is engaged in her church, involved in tutoring kids, praying and planning for a variety of missions projects, acquiring job skills, etc. She is well prepared to be a great wife, because she is well devoted to living for Great Purpose, period.
Are there dangers/disadvantages to long “courtships” or long engagements? What do you consider long? What length do you recommend?
Unless two people were in the 8th grade together, long courtships make no sense to me. Really long courtships are usually really doomed relationships. If you meet as freshman in college and you both want to finish school first, you might be courting for 4 years. But that is a relationship that is pursuing a clear plan, and with self-discipline, makes sense. But if you are simply dating a man for 3-5 years, without an engagement and a date certain, that is a relationship that is in a comfortable place and going no where. Like an old chair, it needs to be set out to the curb.
As for engagements, my advice is when you know you want to get married, get to it as soon as possible. I recommend 3-6 months. Given the cultural expectations that families have, 6 months is often the minimum requirement for planning a traditional wedding. I’ve met couples who get engaged and plan for a wedding one year, even two years later. Generally that is hard on virtue and horribly stressful on the relationship. Most of the time the reasons are very material and worldly in nature—also a bad sign. As I wrote in my book, engagements, like the yellow light between the red and green, should be brief. Once you are determined to “Go” step on the gas and go!
Tomorrow, the answer you’ve all been waiting for…
Our most recent book club selection is Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart. This week, we’re so pleased to welcome the author, John Ensor, for a girltalk interview.
John Ensor and his wife Kristen recently moved from Boston to Miami where he is the Director of Urban Initiatives for Heartbeat International, an organization for Christian communities establishing pregnancy help centers worldwide. In addition to raising three children—all of whom are now grown—John previously served as a pastor and has also authored several other books including The Great Work of the Gospel (Crossway, 2006) and Answering the Call (Focus on the Family, 2003).
Thank you, John, for being willing to appear on girltalk and answer our questions!
To begin with, we’d love to know how you came to write this book on the topic of relationships?
Thank you for the opportunity to join the club. Let me say upfront that most of the questions you’ve raised are substantive. My answers, being brief, are incomplete or unbalanced in some cases. Nonetheless…
There were two compelling reasons why I wanted to take up this subject. First, the culture (and our Adversary the devil, working behind it) appear to me increasingly and relentlessly aimed at staining the consciences and spiritually disabling our young adults before their faith can grow strong and their sense of God’s calling on their life becomes clear. They are being taken out before they can be equipped for Great Purpose. And the spot where that full assault is aimed is our sexuality and intimate relationships. This book is my effort to send a shot across the bow in defense of young adults and the Great Work that lies before them.
The second reason is very personal. I received some clear and challenging biblical teaching on sexual purity, manhood and the joy of marriage within the first few weeks after my conversion when I was 17- back in 1972. Remember, my generation was going to Pot (which along with the alcohol led to unrestrained sexual activity). I was on the precipice; about to plunge into all of it. In the nick of time, because of the first teachings I received from the Church as a baby believer, I was saved from a multitude of sins and a bucketful of tears. I have enjoyed a sweet marriage. So I feel a debt of love that can only be paid forward. And thus, the book.
What is your greatest concern for single men today—what do you think they “don’t get”?
They don’t get what it means to be a man and not a woman. They lack a behavior-guiding, confidence-boosting, soul-satisfying, wife-pleasing definition of manhood. This of course is why the book is laid out the way it is; starting with theology and going to practice.
How about single women?
They don’t get what it means to be distinctively created female and to delight in the pursuit of mature womanhood.
How can a young woman discern whether or not a guy will be a strong spiritual leader?
I honestly don’t think it takes too much discernment; and if it does, you are probably imagining it. If he has a visible conviction about God and an evident hunger for the Word, he has the stuff of spiritual leadership in him, even if he is young and untested. By observing a man in the context of a local church or Christian group, or while engaged in a mission together, they will see either that hunger on display or not. Where young women go wrong is that they give their heart to a man too early in a relationship and then panic and attempt to see in him what is not there. But by watching a man in a variety of settings other than the “date” setting, they will see him more clearly for what he is.
How, practically, can single women encourage godly leadership in men?
The best way I think is for a woman to simply communicate to a young man that she welcomes and appreciates male leadership. Men usually have it within them. But they are not confident. They are unsure. They are not practiced. Strong, natural leaders will always take initiative. But the rest need encouragement, even permission at first. Since whole bunches of churches and even Christian schools have muted all teaching on the subject, precisely when megaphones are in order, not many young men are being trained and equipped by men to be strong, servant leaders. So if the man in your life has not had the benefit of a church that provides such teaching and models, then he may be a very good man, but need some encouragement and suggestions at first. Ask him to read the book with you. He will adapt quickly.
More on relationships with John Ensor tomorrow, including several answers the single guys may be curious to read about…
Today we offer the final installment in our interview with Mary Mohler…
What are you currently studying in your times with the Lord? What is one aspect of God’s character you’ve learned about this past year?
I studied Hebrews this summer. What an amazing testimony this work is to God’s faithfulness. As I read it, I imagine what the Jewish people must have thought as they heard the case for Christ so convincingly made by the compelling style of the writer who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God’s faithfulness is one of his many attributes for which I am profoundly grateful. As I studied the “roll call of faith” in Hebrews 11, it was sobering to realize how God faithfully led His people through seemingly impossible circumstances according to His perfect plan. If we will just trust Him, He will do the same for us even when the path seems unclear. We already know the end of the story!
Many of our readers prayed for Al when he was in the hospital several months ago. How is he doing and how did God meet you in the midst of this trial?
Al is back on track, praise the Lord. He just finished his last dose of blood thinners a few weeks ago so it was a lingering journey. I get chills when I think back to the moment when one of the nurses looked at me with an eerie look and said “if he was my husband and he had thrown bilateral emboli, I would get him up to ICU!” The crisis unfolded so rapidly. I waited in the hallway while they prepared to transfer Al to ICU and used his cell phone to call his closest friends whose numbers were readily available on speed dial and asked them to pray. Before long, seemingly thousands of people were praying for him and God graciously answered our prayers. The outpouring of love and support that we received was absolutely amazing.
Just as He promises, the Lord gave us a clear sense of His presence through it all and made us both ever more dependent on Him for each day. The children were drawn closer to their dad in a whole new way and learned to pray as never before!
One very important question: As you mentioned earlier, you are a big sports fan (unlike your husband!). How did you come by your interest in sports, and what’s your favorite sport/team?
My precious father was the youngest of four sons raised on a farm in rural Nebraska. He was the first one in his family to go to college. He worked his way through and completed two undergraduate degrees at the University of Nebraska. When he was a student there, the football team was terrible. In fact, he and his fellow students used to leave the games with the optimistic statement, “well at least the band sounded great!” Years later, the Huskers began to rise to college football prominence. We were living in Michigan at the time, surrounded by many fanatical Wolverine fans. My brother joined my dad in being a loyal Nebraska fan before I was old enough to understand the game. However, I wasted no time in jumping on the bandwagon and have been a Husker fanatic ever since.
Given the fact that my husband has zero interest in sports, my kids have become third generation fans who are as committed as I am. This always amazed my dad, who took great joy in seeing his grandchildren donning Husker apparel every fall. Interestingly, the last time that our entire family joined together was to watch the televised broadcast of the Huskers in the post season Alamo Bowl. We had no idea that my dad would go home to be with the Lord a few weeks later after suffering a massive heart attack. We have some stirring memories from that night. And by the way, the Huskers won. We defeated the Michigan Wolverines!
We know you don’t have much spare time, but what is one extracurricular activity that you make time for at this stage of life?
I am passionate about the pro-life movement. I cannot understand how cavalier so many Americans are about “a woman’s right to choose” to kill her baby. It seems so clear to me that the time to choose came before she got into bed, except in the rare cases of pregnancy caused by rape or incest. The fact that murdering your newborn is certainly viewed by the vast majority as a heinous and punishable crime but “choosing” to kill your child who has yet to be born is acceptable and in fact legal and the right to do so is worth fighting for is a complete mystery to me. The advent of four dimensional ultrasounds makes the case for life crystal clear but the legislation remains.
I proudly serve as a member of the board of our local crisis pregnancy center, A Woman’s Choice. It is the very least that I can do to tangibly support prevention of abortion. I am glad to recruit seminary students, student wives and faculty wives to volunteer their time as well. All of the time and effort is worth it every time a mother changes her mind and spares her baby’s life.
When my children are grown and no longer at home, I will be able to devote more time to this endeavor but I pray that by then, abortion will no longer be legal.
What in your opinion, is the most urgent challenge that Evangelical Christian women face today?
We need to resolve to keep swimming upstream against the current of our sadly post-Christian society. We are portrayed as foolish women who hold to ancient truths and are simply out of touch with modern times. Nothing could be further from the truth. We must stay the course and not budge when it comes to the biblical mandates given to us so plainly. Scripture itself warns us about the very times in which we now find ourselves. We are told in II Timothy 4:3: “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will accumulate teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new.”
That time has clearly come! We also know from the Apostle Paul’s words in I Corinthians 1:18 that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” It seems overwhelming at times when secular, godless women attempt to monopolize the media with their self proclaimed wisdom that leaves us looking like some form of inferior, backward failures. Since we are busy “watching well over the ways of our households,” as Scripture admonishes us to do, the vast majority of us have neither the time nor the interest to hit the lecture circuit and debate the feminist agenda. Nevertheless, we must be heartened by the fact our numbers are massive. Our primary calling to be happy helpmeets to our husbands and excellent mothers who teach our children about the Lord at every turn has not changed. In addition, we must take advantage of every opportunity to tell our stories; support women who dare to speak God’s truth plainly; rally behind politicians who share our perspective; passionately support life and oppose abortion; and seek to be used in the marketplaces where God has placed us to be salt and light to a frighteningly dark world. Those are no small tasks but God will use us to change lives one by one as we remain bold and faithful.
Finally, who is a modern day Christian woman that you would like to meet and why?
Carolyn Mahaney because she is a model wife and mother who inspires and encourages me through her writing of her devotion to Christ.
Thank you, Mary for your kind words! I likewise eagerly anticipate the opportunity to meet you in person. In the meantime, it has been a delight for me (and the girltalk readers) to get to know you a little better over the last five days. I am so grateful for your passion for the gospel as expressed first and foremost in your service to your husband and children, but also to many other women in the body of Christ. May God continue to make you fruitful in your ministry to others!