By Jana Wiersema, Contributing Writer
Many of today’s students joke about “ring by spring,” the race to marry or be engaged by spring of senior year, but the practice of marrying young has been part of Asbury’s community culture for as long as anyone can remember.
A 1910 to 1919 history on Asbury’s website states that there was a group created in 1918 called “the Student Wives Sorority,” which granted benefits to women who didn’t attend Asbury but were married to men who did. During the 1940s, there was a society of Asbury students known as “the War Widows.” According to the university’s online timeline, these women wrote letters to husbands and fiancés stationed overseas.
More recently, Kari Speakman of the 2006 Steadfast class recalled leading a Bible study for her fellow married female students. Carolyn Hampton, an administrative assistant in the Office of Student Development, says that there are currently 21 married students in Asbury’s traditional undergraduate program. But what’s the future for these couples?
An online article in Psychology Today by Theresa E. DiDonato stated that “after five years of marriage, couples who married as teens have a 38 percent risk of divorce; those in their early twenties are also highly vulnerable [at 27 percent].”
How can a young couple make their marriage last? In the lives of two Asbury alumni couples, there were three common factors: an effort to spend time with other friends, a commitment to their faith and personal sacrifice.
Lucas Speakman agreed that involvement with other friends is a top priority.
“[Kari and I] made a point to stay involved with the class,” said Lucas Speakman. “There were some married couples… once they got married—”
“We never saw them again,” his wife, Kari, finished with a laugh.
Roy Lauter, an Asbury alumnus, former professor and pastor emeritus, recently celebrated his 55th wedding anniversary. Lauter, who estimates that he’s counseled at least 125 couples, said it’s vital to maintain Christian friendships so you can have people to talk to apart from your spouse—especially if you need an outside opinion regarding an argument.
Friendships aren’t the only thing that helps support a couple. According to a 2013 survey referenced by social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn in her book, The Good News About Marriage, 53 percent of the couples who reported “God is at the Center of our Marriage” were categorized as “very happy,” while 40 percent were classified as “happy.”
Lauter applied this by driving to Indiana every weekend with his wife so he could pastor at New Hope Community Church. He added that they later founded New Hope International Ministries, an organization that sends missionaries into the field.
“A couple, right in the beginning, needs to be co-laborers in ministry,” Lauter said. “Now that doesn’t necessarily mean a pastor and his wife…. I believe every couple needs to be engaged in kingdom-building together.”
Lauter also said that his wife left school to work while he finished college and he did the same for her after graduating. He said he went into marriage expecting each side to give 50 percent; however, there are times when he’s given 90, and she’s given 10 and vice versa.
The Speakmans aren’t strangers to sacrifice either. According to Lucas, his wife works as a family ministries pastor at a church in Athens, Georgia, while he commutes from his job in San Jose, California. The distance between the two cities is 2,300 miles, according to Google Maps, but sacrifice is an essential part of marriage for the Speakmans.
Is it a good idea to get married young? The answer may vary. Lucas Speakman’s final advice is this:
“If you’re just getting married so you can have sex, learn some self-control. But if . . . you believe that God and the Holy Spirit are telling you to actually marry, go for it.”
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