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Use Your Preparatory Years
Place the right importance on your health, living environment, finances, education and career.

Many singles have a checklist of qualities they want in a spouse. Sadly, fewer of them think as much about whether they are making themselves ready to be a quality spouse for someone else.

Herbert W. Armstrong explains in The Missing Dimension in Sex that “the years between ages 16 and 25 are the vitally important years of adult preparation for life’s work.” Even if this window has elapsed for you, everyone must work to improve his or her station in life.

Here are four areas that are vital in preparing not only for our life’s work, but also for marriage. Consider all of them in terms of what your efforts today will bring to your future marriage.

Health

Next to our relationship with God, we ought to give high consideration to our health. Without good health it is difficult to serve God and others. As a single it is easy to neglect nutrition and exercise. During those “preparatory years” and soon after, we are in our physical prime, so it is all-too-easy to batter our bodies with insufficient sleep, infrequent exercise and compromised nutrition. This age of “invincibility,” however, is short-lived. When we break physical health laws, we will suffer the penalties.

By being proactive, the extra time and income you have as a single can be used effectively to establish excellent healthful habits for life. If you are already in poor health, seize the opportunity to set yourself on course for a healthy life. The pay-off will be tremendous—for you, your spouse and your children.

There is a balance required. For some, focusing on their own health and bodies can become an obsession. It can also be entirely selfish, inflating vanity while looking at the self in the mirror.

Instead, have an unselfish motivation. Care for your body to show God you are a good steward of His gifts, and to make yourself a more effective tool for His Work. Build your health and strength in order to help those who have little strength. Fortify your godly character by working hard, using your muscles, getting your hands dirty, building something, and maintaining and improving your environment.

If you are motivated out of love, you will uphold God’s health laws and avoid bringing inevitable penalties upon yourself and your future family. You’ll value your health in order to have more energy and vibrancy to offer your future spouse.

Living Environment

As singles venture out of their parents’ home, many become slovenly. An abode of sloppy singles can quickly turn into a pigsty. For many singles, male and female, cleaning is something only their Mom did.

Sure, your standard of living probably won’t be as high as what you enjoyed under your parents’ roof, but God is concerned about how you maintain what you have.

Aside from the obvious health risks, a dirty environment is not good for the mind. Nor is it good for the prospect of getting married. Single women should practice the skills of a capable homemaker. And men should understand what it takes to maintain a clean home by keeping a clean home; they ought not look for a wife merely to take Mom’s place in cleaning up after them.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: You will get what you are. If you’re clean and tidy, you will likely find and marry someone who is clean and tidy. The opposite is also true.

If you live with other singles who make life difficult in this regard, work hard to raise and uphold the standards in your own life. You can positively influence others and help them prepare for life ahead as well.

Finances

In ancient Egypt, pharaoh had two troubling dreams. Joseph gave him God’s interpretation: They portended seven abundant years followed by seven years of famine. Joseph recommended that Egypt rigorously save surplus produce during the fat years in order to tide the nation over during the hard times to follow (Genesis 41).

While marriage is obviously not a financial famine, we ought not waste the surplus income of our single years.

Sure, saving is hard—it really is. In this faithless world, credit is easy, and keeping-up-with-Joneses materialism is rampant. Both of these conditions can cripple the advantage we should gain in our single years. Look back on all the years you have worked hard and not saved. We have to think long term. Our ability to save and make wise financial decisions will have a massive impact on our children and theirs.

To get headed in the right direction, get help. Solid advice on how to run your life financially is critical. Many people are simply destroyed financially because of a lack of financial knowledge. If you haven’t been taught how to handle money, you have to find out how. Both men and women need this information in order to establish good financial habits that will carry over into later years.

There is plenty of good advice available in this information age. Get yourself a thorough education: Do a complete class that will help you organize your everyday finances and your financial future. We recommend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University—DVD Home Study Kit. It is used in both Herbert W. Armstrong College and Imperial Academy finance classes.

Being responsible doesn’t require that you become Scrooge McDuck. You should explore the world. You should buy quality, within your means. You should responsibly share the abundance of your singlehood with others. Just keep the long-term picture in mind.

Education and Career

God needs singles who think big. He needs singles who will invest time and energy into advancing their career. Doing so helps advance families, and that advances His Work.

A younger single has entered a time for “advanced education and specialized training for the adult life’s work. … One is not ready to enter upon any profession or career until after full preparation” (The Missing Dimension in Sex). Don’t settle for mediocrity. Don’t think you have all the time in the world. Don’t get sidetracked by an urge to get married before you’re ready. Keep your focus on what you must accomplish in this important season of your life. The time you invest in higher education or other training will pay dividends for the rest of your life.

This doesn’t mean racking up mountains of college debt on a misguided degree. There are other means to educate yourself for a career. Some countries have strong apprenticeship systems where you learn on the job and get paid as you go. Mr. Armstrong set a tremendous example of educating himself. Some have stepped out and started their own business and have grown along with it. God’s college is an institution that teaches people how to be highly productive and employable people.

Bring God on board with your education and career. Be motivated to support His Work, your congregation and a future family. Work hard where you are right now. Seek more challenges within your current occupation. If you do these things, God will bless you and help you advance your career.

Women will look at this subject quite differently than men, which is appropriate. However, it is easy for single women to be short-sighted about education and career. They can think that marriage is just around the corner, or believe that further education would be of no benefit in marriage. But who knows how long you will be single? Use your time—don’t fritter it. Just don’t buy into the world’s thinking that puts material concerns above family.

Remember, as Mr. Armstrong said, marriage is in itself a career. Thus, it too requires education. Marriage is a career you have to prepare for.