Friday, August 15, 2014

Why I Believe in Courtship

There’s an article popping up all over my Facebook newsfeed entitled “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed” and I simply cannot let this one go without saying something.

If I’m being honest, this article really upset me. The author took courtship out of context and attached his opinion to it without any proof. Though he may say that “more courtships end in divorce” and phrases such as this, there are no statistics or facts to back this up. Be careful my friends, of articles that come on strong, with big words and judgmental stances yet do not have proof or a balanced view. I also caution young people to carefully think over the author’s advice at the end of the article where he asks you to talk to your parents about “why you want to date” instead of court – yes, talk with your parents about your thoughts and feelings, but be careful not to manipulate or dishonor your parents.

I’m not here to tell you that I only believe in courtship. I don’t. I’m not here to tell you that if you liked that article you’re wrong. I’m here to tell you from my experience and from my study as a daughter of Jesus how courtship has changed my life and my view of romance.

For years, I longed to love. I didn’t ever have a boyfriend or go on dates, and I had long determined in my heart that I would save dating for a time when I was mature enough to handle it, and for a time when I found a man that I would be willing to work on developing a relationship with over time. I was not interested in the “date a bunch of people until you know what you want” theory, as I just saw it as a chance to have my heart broken time after time. I do not believe that dating a bunch of people helps people to make up their minds about “what they want”. After all, isn’t it about what God wants for us? Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” This was sort of a go-to verse for me, and reminded me to constantly keep my heart aligned with God’s will and not get over-zealous about the things that are not life-giving. For me, I find that being focused on Jesus and what he is asking of me is the only way for me to guard my heart from all the distractions that this world has to offer.

Relationships require work. I don’t know anyone in this world who would disagree with that! Love is a beautiful sort of work that requires effort, attention, and 150% dedication. How can one apply this to a relationship when they only go on one date with a person before moving on to the next? I do understand that sometimes one date is all it is going to require before you know that you will never go out with that person again, and I don’t disagree with that. However, intentionally looking for many people to date seems to defy God’s purpose for marriage. Our God is a very intentional God – His plan is perfect and He knows our end and our beginning. From Creation, God created one woman for Adam, He did not give him a handful to choose from. God knew who Adam was to have, and He gave her to him. I want to be able to put all of my effort and all my might into a focused goal, and I believe that one relationship is all you need to be able to learn how to love and cherish and learn God’s plan for marriage.

I met a man two years ago who asked to pursue a courtship with me. I said yes. For years, I had determined in my heart that God had a courtship in store for me. I didn’t really know what that looked like, I didn’t know anybody who had yet gone through one, yet I believed strongly that God was asking me to wait on him. I waited on his timing, and he brought me a beautiful love story. No, it doesn’t always work this way. There is no perfect formula for dating/courtship/marriage, and you must listen to God when he asks you to obey. Our courtship is beautiful, and we are constantly seeking advice and wisdom from those around us who have been through the hills and valleys that come with relationships, and we are earnestly seeking God’s will for a marriage between us. Our courtship is beautiful, and it is God-driven. There is intentionality that focuses our relationship and keeps us yoked together, pulling in the same direction. Having a purpose for your relationship is critical: God does not ask us to make many plans in our heart, but to listen to His purpose (Proverbs 19:21).

I truly feel that having many casual relationships is dangerous. Chasing after a “good time” and doing what’s “normal” and “having fun” are not the focus of God’s plan for us. Does God create fun and joy? Of course, but to say that having fun is more important than a serious relationship as this article says is not Biblical. I believe that the belief that dating is only for fun comes from our world’s humanistic view of how to have a good time. One does not need to be on a date to have joy, and having fun is not a critical part of life.

God does not ask us to try out ten different gods before we choose him, why would we say it’s the same with dating? If God has set a plan in motion, why not seek out that plan rather than trying ten others first? Obedience to God is the most important factor, and if He is asking you to wait on Him, I believe that is much better in the long run, and you should not chase after all the things under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:14). Relationships that die in a day are meaningless, and don’t encourage long-lasting relationships.

God calls us to be stewards, and I view myself as a steward of the heart and purity that God gave me. I believe that I am to guard my heart and not give pieces of it away with relationships. By being intentional with relationships, the pieces of my heart are not given away to the wrong people, and my purity is guarded. I am a steward of the love God has placed in me, and I am to save it and give it wisely to a man I can love until death.

While my boyfriend and I have been courting, we have come across people who do not understand us at all. Honestly, that’s fine. We don’t care! We love to tell our story and help people see what makes our relationship special and how we have done things differently. However, along with that come some misconceptions.

1. We don’t date. – This is just simply not true. Even though we call this a courtship, we go on dates, sometimes in a group, sometimes just the two of us. We get to know each other through these interactions and have had great talks. Dating is important to get to know each other, and I am not at all opposed to dinner every week together!

2. It’s always awkward. – This is one of the funniest comments I had from someone: “Isn’t it always awkward to try to be moving toward marriage?” Uh, no. Having marriage be the purpose of our relationship opens up many conversations. We are able to talk about what we want out of marriage and what we believe God is leading to, because that has been our intention from the start. No awkward “I wonder if he likes me, maybe he’ll propose someday” thoughts, but an ability to talk about anything and it’s completely normal! Yes, it was awkward at first to talk about marriage and the future, but now it’s a daily subject!

3. Purity Rules are Obsessive. – This one’s not entirely true. We do have “rules” we have set for ourselves regarding purity because we believe that it is important to God. We vigilantly guard our purity, but we do not obsess about it and make it the only focus of our relationship. It is vital to maintain this purity, but it doesn't have to be done in a way that is all-consuming. We don’t have them written out or set in stone, but we know what is expected of each other and how we should interact. We are careful in our touch, and we listen to the people we love and trust when they have a suggestion. This doesn’t mean we are legalists and anti-affection, but that we are careful to remain pure and holy in God’s sight.

4. It’s going to end in marriage. – Courtship does not always end in marriage just as dating does not always end in marriage. It’s different for everyone, but courtship allows both parties to be able to talk about whether the relationship is going in a direction or staying stagnant. My boyfriend and I made a commitment at the beginning that if it was not going to lead to marriage, we would end the relationship to protect our hearts from becoming any more entangled and emotionally connected. This allowed us to be honest about our feelings, and to protect our hearts from becoming involved in something that would never lead anywhere.

5. It’s always intense. – Simply not true. Yes, we have purpose. Yes, we have a direction. Is that a bad thing? We still have a lot of days that are spent just laughing and enjoying each other’s company. It’s not all marriage-talk all the time, and it’s not all serious all the time. We have learned how to just be ourselves and take each day’s challenges in our stride and work through them together as best we can. We are learning how to take the serious bits of life and find the God-given joy throughout.

6. It’s always hard. – No, courtship is not always hard. Relationships are hard work, but I never view them as a trial. Relationships are a blessing, and a way for God to work in us and teach us compassion for others. Life can be hard, therefore relationships are hard, but if you look at the blessings and joy that come from them, they balance out every difficult thing we go through.

7. Parents control the relationship. – My parents and my boyfriend’s parents are heavily involved in the relationship, because we asked them to be. They do not control us, but they give us wisdom when we ask, advice when we need it, and direction when we are lost. Our parents are wise and God-fearing, and we trust them to help steer us in the way we should go, because they have raised us this far, and we love them. “Honor your father and mother, for this is right…”
This courtship has been the most amazing experience of my life, and I truly believe that this was God’s will for my life. A relationship with direction is assuring and leads to loyalty and trust, while many short relationships can lead to doubt and confusion. I am not here to tell you that courtship is the only way – I ask only that you will read this and find a new perspective.

I have been in a courtship for two years, and I don’t believe anyone would tell me that I should have dated a bunch of people instead.

“Let no one look down on you because you are young, but sent an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12