Monday, August 29, 2011

Courtship Series Part 1: It all begins...

We all want better for our children. I hear so many parents say they want to raise their children to be better than themselves. One issue of great importance that many parents want their children to have a better experience with is how they met and married their spouse. The multiple heartaches that came before getting married, and in some cases the sad event of losing their virginity before marriage, is grievous to many Christian parents today and they do not want the same grief and guilt for their children. I'm thankful that this wake up call has come to many within the Christian community. For my family, it came years ago when I was a young child.

I wanted to begin a series on courtship so that I might share my courtship story with you as well in the hopes that it might encourage or perhaps give you a different perspective on this very important issue. When I'm done, my older sister will have her story written out as well so I can share it on the blog. Our stories are very different, yet I consider both to be filled with the tokens of the leadings of God's hand. The main reason I wanted to share our experiences with you is because they do not make for the typical textbook courtship story. We were not blessed to have four parents mutually involved, and that especially applied to our fathers. For that reason, our stories have been criticized as not being true courtship stories. However, standing at the other end of my own courtship some 8 years later, I can honestly say that the best definition of courtship is waiting emotionally and physically for the one man/woman that God has for you, and not dating around before hand just to test the waters. When you enter a relationship, Lord willing, that will be the person you marry. Mistakes always happen, and courtships do end, but the main goal of any courtship is ultimately marriage, hence, the very great care that must be employed when entering into courtship.

In case you are not familiar with what courtship is, here is a good definition found from Wikipedia that defines what Biblical Courtship is:

Biblical courtship, also known as Christian courtship, is a term used to denote a particular response to secular dating culture within various American Christiancommunities, c. 1985 to present. Motivated by concern for the need of Christian values in contrast to secular dating practices, conservative Christians identified what they saw as key Biblical principles for courtship and romance, and began to disseminate them in the 1980s.

The movement gained widespread exposure[citation needed] following the best-selling response to I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a popular contemporary treatment of Christian courtship by homeschool student Joshua Harris. Keynote speaker and author Dr. S.M. Davis has developed a unique stand on this philosophy, and his materials have been popular with the homeschool culture since the early 1990s. Proponents of the courtship movement say that it is identified by Biblical principles, rather than particular methods or behavioral practices. These principles have been summarized in Leave Dating Behind: a Road Map to Marriage by Christina Rogers within the acronym CARE

  • Commitment to marriage
  • Accountability
  • Rejection of the secular dating philosophy
  • Establishing physical boundaries

A more detailed list of courting ideals include:

  • The guardianship responsibility of fathers over single daughters.
  • The responsibility of parents to prepare their children for marriage in all respects, and for youths to be prepared in terms of talents, education, vocation and finances prior to seeking a courtship relationship.
  • The mentoring role of parents or other suitable "accountability couples" in a given courtship.
  • Supervision of courtships to mitigate temptations or abuse, whether of a sexual, emotional or financial nature.
  • Emphasis of the importance of marriage as an opportunity for Christian service rather than a selfish endeavor.
  • Emphasis of the importance of singleness before marriage as a time for greater Christian service in the community, rather than a time to be employed in selfish pursuits.
  • Emphasis of the importance of counsel and evaluation by family and friends as a relationship progresses.
  • Emphasis of the importance of honesty and getting to know one another as real people in "normal life" during courtship (as contrasted with the dating habit of meeting during special events and entertainment while on one's best behavior.)
  • The maintenance of sexual purity.

Each courtship is unique insofar as the methods used to honor these principles will be unique in every given situation.

Let me start at the beginning, where I share what life was like back in the early 90's when courtship was becoming more prevalent in the homeschool community. When I was 11 we attended a Jonathan Lindvall seminar on courtship/betrothal. There were many good things to learn from that seminar, but I left feeling like there was no way my courtship would ever take place in the manner which he described. Besides not believing in betrothal, (where basically the parents pick out the bride for the bridegroom), I had one other little problem. My father did not attend that seminar, and furthermore, showed no interest in ever being deeply involved in the process of ensuring that his children would be equally yoked in their selection of a spouse . To many within the conservative Christian community, an uninvolved Father is supposed to be the Achilles heel of the whole courtship process, effectively reducing it sanctified dating. I would beg to differ, and I believe my courtship story bears this out.

As the years went on my Mom talked to us children about courtship, but mainly about keeping our hearts pure and saving it for the one person the Lord would have us to marry. We didn't know how it would happen, but I was sure that the Lord would still allow me to have a courtship with a young man even though my father was going to have little involvement.

As a teenager, I read books on courtship by the Barth family, Eric and Leslie Ludy, Elisabeth Elliot, and Joshua Harris. I enjoyed all of them, and it helped me in waiting for my husband. I can't say I was never interested in another young man growing up. I did notice a number of young men but tried hard to just let any thoughts of interest go, and wait to see who the Lord would bring.

Having grown up as a home schooler since pre-school, and being raised around lots of other homeschooling families, I only ever assumed that I would marry someone who was raised just like I was - a sober, conservative young man who had never kissed a girl before, and had prayed for me all of his life just like I was praying for him. The thought of marrying someone who had been public schooled never really entered my mind; after all didn't every guy who went to public school think I was strange for being home schooled and wearing dresses all the time?

Our family went through several very difficult experiences when I was between the ages of 13- 16. Loss of close friends and betrayal, taking care of our dying great-grandpa, my mom almost dying once with her Lupus, and the most painful experience of my brother walking away from the Lord and abandoning his godly upbringing. We finally moved about 45 minutes away from where we were living, buying a house in the country. In one way it felt like a fresh start for our family. After all that we had been through the past few years, it was nice to be somewhere peaceful. The only problem is that we knew no one. After a while my sister and I started getting a little lonely. Its not like we had to constantly be flooded with friends, but we were basically completely alone where we were at!

My older sister was invited to start attending a college scripture study at a college town about 25 minutes away. We knew several of the young people there, and so after talking it over with our mom, she decided to go, which was very uncharacteristic for my normally shy and quiet sister. After attending one or two meetings, she told my mom that several people had invited me to attend also, even though I was still in high school. I didn't really think that my mom would let me attend, and I wasn't even sure I wanted to go. After all, I was only 16, and these were all college age people! How would I ever survive? : )

Amazingly, my mom decided it was fine, and my dad gave his ok as well. Their only concern was that it was on a street that was filled with bars all around the study house, and I think they preferred having both of us together instead of just my sister down there at night. After attending several of the meetings, we both started to enjoy it a lot. There were several girls in particular that we grew to be close friends with.

We were not attending the study to find husbands. That was the last thing on my mind especially. But I do remember one night after leaving the study my sister and I both confided to each other that we were certain we would not be finding our husbands at this college study. We didn't connect with any of the young men there in anything other than a friendly passing hello. We looked different than the average girl, always coming in a dress or skirt, and we were quiet. I don't think the guys at the study knew what to do with us, so most of them just left us alone, (for which we were grateful!) The normal friendly camaraderie that goes on between college youth was not normal or comfortable for my sister and I.

The summer break came and before we knew it the fall semester had started again. We faithfully headed back down to the scripture study, thinking it would be just like the previous semester. When we got there they announced that we were going to split everyone up into small groups this year. There would be a young man leading each small group of about 6-8 people, and you were supposed to get together before the main meeting for study, prayer, etc. We all stood in a circle and called out numbers splitting us into a group. I remember being extremely nervous, hoping I would get to stay with my sister in her group. But that was not to be. I walked over to my group, glancing almost in a panic at my sister as she walked away to hers.

Little did I know that this small group study was going to change my life forever!

To be continued...

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At August 29, 2011 at 7:51 AM , Anonymous Susan said...

OOo! Can't wait for part 2! I think you're right, the courtship movement will be growing for sure as the second generation of homeschoolers (our kids) reach maturity. It will be so interesting to watch God at work in this! :)

At August 29, 2011 at 9:02 AM , Blogger Amanda said...

My daughter and I have been discussing this at length lately as well. I would hate to think that *courtship* has to be be a *one size fits all* concept.

GOD is too big for that. If GOD is to write out our childrens *love story* (so to speak) HE has to be the one calling the shots. Meaning, it's not a one size fits all mentality and should never become legalistic to be called a *courtship*.

I don't know what GOD has in store for my daughters but I know that I have taught my daughters to keep themselves pure before GOD (mind and body) as well as seek to serve GOD first and HE will lead the way.

I can't wait to read the rest of your story. I know my daughter will too ;- )

Matthew 6:33

At August 29, 2011 at 12:02 PM , OpenID annejisca said...

You're so right that every courtship is different, and God works through our circumstances! My now-husband and I courted each other, but it looked very different than "typical". But we were conservative in our ways, we were serious (praise God we were each other's first dates and first everything!), and we truly sought to honors our parents in our courtship. It's not the typical story, it was hard, but we have no regrets and are so thankful for it. :)

Looking forward to the rest of your story!

At August 29, 2011 at 12:06 PM , Anonymous Head Ant said...

I am so happy that you are writing this series. In my own experience, secular dating brings such heartache. I want more for my children. God want something more for them.

At August 29, 2011 at 12:33 PM , Blogger Don and Shelly said...

Caroline, we have been married 25 years (in Feb.) and now have daughters that are old enough to enter into a courtship. We have also been counseling 3 couples (one engaged couple along with both sets of their parents). Through that experience, we have learned that the term "courtship" may look very different to various people when you examine the nuances. Right now there is great contention between both sets of parents that we believe stems from assumptions of what the courtship was to look like from the beginning. Without sitting down and discussion specifics, certain events have transpired that have now taken the group to need mediation. We're glad you're sharing your story. If you wish to read another story that takes a quite different path, below is the link to part 1 of 10 on our blog. We think you'll find it very interesting:


At August 29, 2011 at 12:57 PM , Blogger Our Journey said...

I really enjoyed reading this and cant wait for part two. I think you are right we all don't fit exactly into the ideal mold. I know I didn't. Often times preacher/teacher will give the ideal situation and leave others feeling like there is no hope for them. I'm here to tell you that there is hope! No matter what your situation, you can do things differently!

God Bless
Adam and Samantha

I especially liked the quote "I can honestly say that the best definition of courtship is waiting emotionally and physically for the one man/woman that God has for you, and not dating around before hand just to test the waters."

At August 29, 2011 at 4:49 PM , Blogger Honey and Pappy said...

Thanks so much for this series. I'm anxious to see part two! I am also interested in hearing more about your brother. I am the parent of a prodigal daughter, and I guess I want to here that these children do return. Thanks

At August 29, 2011 at 5:27 PM , Blogger Caroline @ The Modest Mom said...

@ Honey,

Sadly my brother has never returned. :( We pray for him all the time, but he has chosen a life that is very different than how he was raised. It's extremely sad.

At August 29, 2011 at 7:22 PM , Blogger Lisa said...

I can't wait to read part 2!! I so want this to be how my children meet their future spouses.

Many blessings,

At August 29, 2011 at 9:53 PM , Blogger Crystal said...

Thank you for writing that not all courtships look identical. My husband and I were never alone together (like a typical date setting) until we were engaged when we were allowed to go out to dinner together! We were not like "typical" courtships we knew in several different aspects. Yet my parents had taught me from the beginning to save my heart and self for my future husband, always praying. Looking forward to part 2!

At August 29, 2011 at 10:54 PM , Blogger Honey and Pappy said...

Caroline, I'm sorry to hear that about your brother. I know that feeling, and I pray one day he does return. You are right about lives far from how they were raised. Thank you for sharing with me.

At August 30, 2011 at 8:54 AM , Blogger Trophy and Barb said...

Caroline, thanks for sharing. Not everyone comes from a "perfect" (in fact, no one does) situation. I appreciate you sharing that your dad wasn't involved. Your story will encourage those young ladies who think they can't do this because of that reason.

At August 31, 2011 at 9:18 AM , Blogger Kimberly Glesenkamp said...

I can't wait to see the rest of this story. I met my husband through a college aged small group!

I wasn't raised home schooled or as formal as this but I do believe in courtship. I pretty much didn't date because I wanted to wait for the right person. That sounds odd, and a little contradicting, but it works!

I agree with many of the ideals of courtship but some I do disagree. Like waiting to do it until your career and talents are established. If it were for my husband and I getting together and marrying, we would not be there we are. He would still be in school pursuing a career expected of him and not at all what he was interested in and I would still be floundering in my artistic talents. We've both encouraged each other and helped each other along.

He always said he wanted to wait to find the woman of his dreams until AFTER he was finished with college and had a career. God had other plans. So to me, a God who can create high details in a single blade of grass is not going to be cookie-cutter black and white and create one story for all to live out. He is creative and everyone's story will be different. ;)

Thank you for sharing!

At August 31, 2011 at 9:28 AM , Blogger Caroline @ The Modest Mom said...

@ Kimberly,

I TOTALLY agree with what you wrote! My husband didn't finish school either. :) Part of it had nothing to do with me, another part did have to do with me. :) Neither of us regret him not finishing school so we could get married. Now, after almost nine years of marriage he just started going back to college to finish his degree. It's all working out. :)

At August 31, 2011 at 9:57 AM , Blogger Rebecca said...

Oh, thank you for sharing this! My daughters are still young, but I am interested in exploring this topic further. I know one couple from college that went through courtship and it seemed like a wonderful, very protective experience. I remember wishing that my own dad had been as involved as my friend's dad was. I can't wait for the conclusion to your story!!

At August 31, 2011 at 5:20 PM , Blogger abba12 said...

Thank you for sharing that courtship dosen't have to be the cookie cutter model. For a group that is so against the cookie cutter of the public school system, homeschoolers often fall to that pressure in other areas.

My parents were not christian, but due to various life experiences, I was a christian and, while I had dated arouund, it was always with the intent of finding a husband. I didn't look as critically as I should have, but the heart was there! I didn't want a boyfriend, I wanted a husband. My husbands family went through hard times which meant he was on his own when it came to dating me, even though, as far as I can gather, he had been raised to believe in a courtship system before meeting me, and had never dated before me, though he had attempted to date one previous woman.

God works in funny ways. Due to depression that is now being treated (at least, I tell myself it was due to that!), my husbands father never gave his blessing. In many courtships that would be the end of it, but at the time his fathers motivations were not biblical ones, and we chose to put them aside and go our own way. God led us together in an amazing way, we don't believe in coincidence, but so many circumstances surrounding our meeting and courtship were what others would define as coincidence. Now, after 2 years of marriage, I have no doubt whatsoever that God led us together, the little things that match up and tell me we were meant to be together. And the big things, the areas he has unique skill or knowlege, that have made such a huge difference in our relationship where other men could not have. Heck, just the fact he chose to marry a blind woman says a lot, many men would never consider it! Perhaps those men have a better memory than my husband, or more organization, but God gave him what he needed for OUR marriage, and no one elses. The ways in which we match so perfectly still amaze me.

But God led us to do this despite the objection of one side of the family, which means in many peoples eyes our relationship was sinful, for not honouring his fathers (sinful) wishes. Because of this I don't feel I can ever call our relationship a courtship, but we had most of the criteria down, we had the right attitude, we spent time in normal situations rather than dates, while we were not chaperoned we did not hide each other from our families and friends, and even at our young ages we were ready to start a family. It frustrates me that we will be seen as a bad example of this model.

At August 31, 2011 at 7:51 PM , Anonymous Heather Anderson said...

Thanks for sharing. My husband and I courted as well. It was a totally new concept at the time. We learned about courtship from a man named Paul Jehle. We had gotten a notebook from him called Dating vs. Courtship which has now been made into a book. My parents were divorced and not deeply involved. My husbands parents were open to the concept but thought it a bit extreme at the time. They were, however, deeply involved in our relationship. The ideal situation is certainly to have both sets of parents deeply involved in overseeing the process. Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world where we don't always get the ideal. My husband and I have now been married for twenty wonderful years, with Christ at the center. We are grateful to have been able to follow a courtship process even if less than the ideal.

At September 1, 2011 at 6:21 PM , Anonymous April's Homemaking said...

Can't wait to read part 2! I am a mother of a 16 year old daughter and a soon to be 15 year old son. Discussions of courtship are coming up more and more, and I am very interested in educating myself more about this. I love hearing personal testimony, and I look forward to hearing the rest of your story. Thanks for sharing! ~April

At September 2, 2011 at 4:13 AM , Anonymous Far Above Rubies said...

Caroline, I can't wait for part 2. ;-)

At September 2, 2011 at 9:42 AM , Blogger Amy said...

I sense a beautiful story starting here - I'll be keeping an eye out for part II. I was in high school in the early 90s so the courtship movement was just barely starting as I went into college. My own courtship was different than many(largely because my husband's parents were missionaries overseas and couldn't be as directly involved) but looking back on it, I can so clearly see God's leading.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and I can't wait to read the rest of your story!


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