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 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
- 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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Labels: An Encouraging Word, Courtship, Personal Ramblings