This article is part of our series “Faithful Motherhood,” where we talk with women whose children are grown about how the gospel has impacted their motherhood over the years. As in our podcast episodes, these are just a glimpse at one woman’s walk and the lessons she’s learned as she’s lived out her calling in the Lord. We’re honored to learn from those who’ve gone before us.
“But why can’t I marry Dane? We want to get married when we grow up!” Four-year-old Krista was determined to have the final say in our discussion. Trying my best to explain why she couldn’t marry her brother, I told her that people can’t marry people in the same family. It’s against the law. She got very quiet and her big blue eyes widened in dismay at the implication of what I had just told her. I thought the tears filling those precious eyes were from the disappointment of not being able to marry her brother. But then she blurted out, “Oh, no, Mommy! Will you get into trouble? You and Daddy are in the same family, and you’re married.”
Young children have questions about marriage, questions that deserve gospel-saturated answers because marriage is, after all, a picture of the gospel. How can we answer those questions?
What is Marriage?
The Bible is the best tool to teach our children about marriage, because through it, God tells a story of marital romance from Genesis through Revelation.
What do we see when we start in Genesis? We see a young man in a beautiful garden, with fascinating creatures to enjoy and God to keep him company. What else do we see? We see that something was missing, even in this perfect world. God said there was something “not good” in the garden—a man alone. 
God knew that Adam needed something more. He needed someone like him, but also different from him. He needed a wife! And so God made Eve differently from everything else he had made—God formed Eve out of Adam’s body. And then God brought her to Adam like the first father of the bride in the very first wedding in the whole world (Genesis 2:22).
Our children ought to have the chance to wonder and delight in that very first wedding.
Marriage isn’t some human invention open to re-definition as cultural customs wane and shift. God created marriage. Marriage is his idea. Children need to hear from their parents that marriage is God’s good gift to us, a gift we must treat with reverence and respect.
Jesus honored marriage. He taught us that marriage is one man and one woman giving all of themselves to each other for their whole lives. When a man and a woman marry, God sees one “us” instead of two “me’s.”
Why is God’s Way Best?
Our children will see many different family arrangements around them, perhaps even in their own family circle. As mothers, we have the privilege of helping our children understand family relationships, and God’s best way for humans to flourish.
Jesus taught us that when a man and a woman get married, they’re joined together in the most special of all earthly relationships, and no one should ever separate them. Married people share everything—their name and reputation, their money and property, their sadness and happiness, even their bed and bodies!
God knows that this is how strong families are built, families where children can grow up in peace and security. He also knows that our hardness of heart means we don’t always follow God’s way. Perhaps your children have been affected by divorce. Open the way for tender conversation and tears. Pray with them, assuring them of God’s care for the brokenhearted and his promise to help his children through hard times.
As young children grow, they will soon see not all countries agree with God’s way of building strong families. Some countries have laws allowing a man to have more than one wife, or allowing two men or two women to marry each other. Our children need to know no matter what country they live in, God’s laws are the most important and deserve to be honored and obeyed above any human laws. God created marriage, and he knows how it works best.
How Can We Leave a Strong Marital Legacy for the Coming Generation?
Children need more than words to embrace a truth this big and beautiful. They need vibrant, attractive, real-life examples.
If you are married, ask the Lord to help you make your marriage an up-close display of the gospel. And whether you’re married or not, expose your children to solid, gospel-saturated marriages. Talk about the marriages they see. What makes them beautiful?
Speak words of hope over your children:
“Someday you will be a godly husband and begin your own family. I can’t wait to see how God uses you.”
“I wonder who you will marry one day? I’m praying you will choose someone who loves Jesus, just like you do.”
“We don’t want to yell at each other in our family. We’re Christians, and Jesus tells us to be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32). We can practice now with your siblings, so when you get married, you won’t hurt your spouse with mean words.”
If possible, take your children to a wedding. Talk about the words and symbols. Why does the bride wear white? Why does her father walk her down the aisle? Discuss beforehand the vows the bride and groom will take, and talk about the importance of keeping these promises made to God and each other.
On our anniversaries, Ray and I would share with the children what a special day it was. We would often show them pictures from our wedding album and let them see us celebrate each year.
Paint an enticing gospel picture of marriage for your children. Let them see all that awaits them, and then pray they walk into that beautiful illustration you’ve been enhancing with your actions and words as they’ve grown under your godly influence.
Jani Ortlund is executive vice president of Renewal Ministries, ministering with her husband, Ray Ortlund, president. She is author of A Child’s First Book about Marriage. Serving Jesus Christ through writing, speaking, and discipling are Jani’s chief passions in life. Ray is pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and a council member for The Gospel Coalition. The Ortlunds have four married children and thirteen grandchildren.
Ps. 34:18, 147:3; Isa. 41:10