Category Archives: Marriage

courtship ready?

Courtship has been a buzz word you have either likely embraced or avoided in the last decade or more.  There are so many really good article, books and speeches, outlining “why”.  A few on “how”, but not many.
  When I wanted to outline our “how” twenty years ago, my husband wisely advised we would wait, because each situation would be different, and any “rules” we laid down were likely to be affected by the circumstance.  How right he was!  Our plan, whatever it might have been, probably wouldn’t have been appropriate for our daughter courting a widower!
But one thing I have seen over the years concerns me. Standards are great, and there are some you shouldn’t waiver on—like is the potential partner is a believer who is walking with the Lord.
  But I’ve heard about and seen many who expect 30 year marriage maturity out of couples who think they may be interested in each other, and discount a potential suitor (or  “courtee”) because they lack maturity in some area.
  Personally,I think what matters is where they are “going”.  I know many couple who married VERY young, but are doing well!
While you evaluate if the man or woman that your child may be interested in is an appropriate mate, ask if your child  “there”:?  Are  you even  “there”?   What defines “there” for you, and why?  Is it born out of your own struggles within yourself or your marriage?  Is it born out of fear or a sense that if you would just “do it right” everything would end up fairy tale for you and your child’s new family.
There are other ways to look at this.  I will speak from the girls’ parent’s perspective, but it needs to be looked at from both directions.    Does he have an interest in Christ?  Is he growing?  Teachable?  Manage his money well?  Look to the needs of others? (Not just :her” right now) Hard , diligent worker?  Respectful to his parents and grandparents?  Respectful of his church leadership?  Given to too much pleasure?  Self-centered? Insist on his own way?  Manipulative?  Given to anger?
What do they want to “be” in ten years?  This may change.  But do they have a heart for serving the Lord for How they  thinks they can serve the Lord better together than apart?  How does he expect to provide?  Do they agree about children?  What do his parents think?
Examine your goals for courtship.  Are your “standards” out of fear or a need to control?  Remember, the Perfect Parent raised His first “kids”  in a perfect environment and it didn’t turn out so well .  God raised Adam and Eve in Eden.  We surely are not going to be able to manipulate a situation that is better than what God provided.  And we are all now sinful, fallen beings.
So is it hopeless? No.  We have  a Redeemer.  And He has a plan.  Seek His face, not your plan.  Seek His wisdom, not the approval of others.  Seek to see through His eyes, hear through His ears, watch through His heart.
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Rest in the Lord!  Ask His guidance and trust Him.  There are some times we have walked things that make me wonder …then I remember that He does guide, and just because something is His will  doesn’t mean it will be easy.  There will be hardships.
  Like Teri Maxwell says in Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit, you know things won’t go right all the time.  What we need to do is PLAN how we will respond in a godly way when they don’t.  She says this in relationship to children and disobedience.  We live in a fallen world.  It will happen.  But I think it’s applicable to so many other areas.  And so many believers forget 1 Peter and even Jesus’ promise that in the world we will have troubles. Our children will too.  It’s a strange, western “christianity” that thinks once we trust God, lifepo here will be smooth and happy!   The point is we have Someone to live for, who loves and redeems us…we have a real future…a purpose…..and someone who can see us through hardships, even situations that are a result of sin and even use them for good.
So where does that bring us in the “how”?  We still try to “do it right”, meaning in a manner that is seeking to please the Lord and the good of others.  We don’t seek to please the crowd we run with (or want to run with) or to be control freaks trying to protect our kids of inevitable pain.  Fear leads to sin.
Hopefully,  we have started to train them to deal with disappointment, relational hardships and the like in a God-honoring way.  The point is that marriage is a reflection of Christ and the Church. We don’t expect any many to embody the perfection of Christ.  The goal matters most.  The place on the field we are starting from matters as well.
But we don’t start at the finish line.

So much going on?

Even if children with medical, educational or other challenges isn’t what is going on int your life, even if it’s “normal stuff” like bills and repairs and job stress,  this quote can bring you hope and grace

“Ultimately, when there is more than one child with diagnoses in a family, there is more than one way for God’s light to shine through and for His story to be told. We are fools if we miss the unparalleled opportunity to fully rely on Him, allowing His perfect power to be on display in such overwhelming weakness. Multiplying knowledge of His boundless magnificence”

Read the full, wonderful post here.

There are so many references to glorifying God in suffering., but here is one that came to mind.

So what’s not to like about courtship?

Recently there has been an article circulating on FB about concerns regarding courtship.

First, anything that is legalistic is going to have issues.  No man-made system is going to guarantee an outcome.  Often as Christian parents we think if we just “do everything right” our kids will be happy, successful and serve the Lord.  Often I remind parents, and myself, that the Perfect Parent raised the His kids in the Perfect Environment and they sinned.  Sure there can be bad outcomes to courtship stories and great outcomes to dating stories.  My own unsaved grandparents were married “til death do us part”  and were married one month after they began to date. But I would not advocate that as the general way to conduct such business. 

There needs to be grace, a concentration on heart- matters, and leading of the Holy Spirit. 

However, I think it is wise to consider a general courtship outline.  First, parental involvement. Second, seeing how someone acts and reacts in a variety of life situations,  Third, not pursing a mate until you are actually or nearly ready to marry.  Fourth, guarding hearts, minds and bodies.  

Now the standard of modesty where my girls visited in India was to have your ankles covered. There were “modest” women that we would have considered being dressed inappropriately.  But the point is they were modest in their culture, and that is where they were living.

You can take the above four points and apply in a variety of ways.  I  loved that in the multi-volume series by Michael Phillips, Corrie Belle Hollister was an innovative woman who did things that were generally not “done” by women of the day.  But when it was time to marry, her suitor came and worked with her dad for a year so he could discern his character.  Corrie was committed to following her father’s counsel.

 Now, not everyone has a dad who will counsel.  Not everyone has a family.  Some fathers are overly controlling for selfish reasons.  Some live in abusive situations.  But it’s a matter of the heart.  Are the young people willing to take godly advice?  Are they willing to put themselves under someone else’s authority and supervision?  Will they heed the warnings of godly people who care about them to keep their relationship on the right track?  Are they seeking to please themselves or the Lord?  Are they in it for what they want, or looking to the good of the other and the Kingdom of  God?  

The following is  a message I wrote to a friend on this topic.  I hope you will find it helpful as well. 

I think first you must decide on what is important to you family, what you see as the most likely “weak spots” familialy and in the individual.
 
Our courtship for one child may not look like another.
 
My opinion is that dating is a totally false idea of what the person is like.  If you see them working, ministering, facing different challenges, in a large group social situation you can tell more about the person’s character than when you are both putting on your  best foot forward.  One thing that made me fall in love (more) with Terry is how he treated a disabled child and how he spoke to his elderly grandma.   
 
I think in our culture, protection is important.  Too many Christians think they can’t fall into temptation, and too many do.  I have in recent years discovered more about how many in my grandma’s family were sexually active before marriage and even had babies.  Ok, they weren’t Christians and they were a bit wild, though their mom did the best she could (their dad was an alcoholic and they had 19 kids). 
 
In our culture, you date someone even once they feel they have a claim.  And while in our parent’s day a guy may not “make a move” on the first date, that isn’t necessarily true now.
 
The purpose of dating?  Well, if you aren’t ready to get married–either by age, maturity or point in life– why are you shopping?  I love Sarah’s take (and yes I know she is 30 and single) that you should devote your youth to serving the Lord and not be distracted with male/female dating relationships.  Her book is “Before You Meet Prince Charming”.  
 
It disturbs me when middle school kids are “dating’.  That is a really long time to wait for marriage.  And if it’s not preparation for marriage, what is it?
 
If the parents are believers especially, it’s wise to honor their counsel.  How can they counsel unless they have spent enough time around the guy/girl to know them and have some conversations with them?
 
My general rule is “if you can’t say/do it in front of me, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.”
 
I can tell you more of my own story if you would like.  But I seriously think it’s much harder to guard hearts and bodies in a dating relationship. 
 
They raise some valid points.  But I am not a proponent of dating in the traditional sense.
 
Think of a generation older.  Families/communities would have known both young people growing up.  The guy had permission to come calling.  If he can’t respect her dad, how can they have a good relationship after they are married?  If he can’t ask permission, how is the young man going to respond to a boss?  Now there are exceptions to this, most of them obvious in our fallen and increasingly sinful world..  
 
The young man may have courted the young lady at her home, but the family was about and they both knew it.  They may have gone to a barn dance or some kind of church social, but there were loving adults around.  My impression is that they often encouraged, even through teasing, the appropriate matches. 
 
Now, if a young couple goes out, it is rare that they will see older adults who care about them. And if they do, it’s even more rare that they will interact.  
 
Ultimately, it’s up to you, the Lord, and your spouse  But I think you are wise to be instilling the values you have in your children when they are young.  And if nothing else, I would encourage them to see “dating” or “courtship” not as a recreational activity, but something to be pursued when they are actually ready , or nearly ready, to marry, just as I would encourage you to instill in your young people that marital intimacy is a good thing…but it’s for marriage.  The right thing at the right time is a wonderful thing!