Ah…yes…courtship… a word that’s gaining more and more attention lately. In my opinion, I’m kinda hoping the actual act of courting is getting more and more popular as well.
Perhaps it’s gaining popularity (or just attention?) because of the two Duggar courtships that have since closed with marriage (and one more just turning into an engagement)? Whatever the reason, people are becoming more interested in what it is, and why a couple might choose that path.
I love watching the Duggar’s relationships/courtships unfold into beautiful long-lasting, God-binding relationships. Why? I think partly because I get to feel a closeness to someone. I don’t know anyone in my current life who went down this road with me. Not one. In fact, when I showed my friend a book being advertised on my eBook about the difference between courtship and dating, she stated, “[Her husband] says there’s no difference between courtship and ‘dating with the intent to marry.'”
I was taken aback, and didn’t really know what to say. Her husband was a pastor. Did he really not know the difference? I guess not. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that many people don’t know.
Courtships are like pregnancies–every one is different. There is no chapter in the bible that tells us how we should date, so there’s no solid lines here. But I wanted to throw some thoughts out there for people who have heard the word, but aren’t familiar with it yet.
Imagine you are in high school and a dance is coming up. A boy asks you to go. If your plan is to “date with the intent to marry” do you go? If your plan is courtship, does that answer change? Hmm….
Let’s make it a bit simpler. Imagine again, you are a senior in high school again. A boy starts catching your eye. And apparently you start catching his eye too. Eventually in a conversation, he asks for your phone number. What do you do?
Hopefully, you’ve decided with your parents ahead of time what your plan for dating is. If you’ve decided that you are going to date with the intent to marry, then maybe you’ve already done a few things. Maybe you’ve prayed about this boy. Maybe you’ve talked to your parents about him. Maybe you’ve even talked to your parents about weather or not he’d be good marriage material.
Assuming you’ve decided that it’s okay to date this way as a senior, and that you’ve decided he could be marriage material, you would probably give him your number, right? Perhaps.
Maybe you’ve decided that you want a courtship. You’ve talked about this boy with your parents (there is no “maybe” here). He has talked to his parents about you (there is no “maybe” here). You’ve prayed for your future husband, not this boy. Which is not to say you can’t pray about him.
When he asks for your number, you give him–gasp–your father’s number. And that’s exactly the number he’s expecting.
See the difference yet?
Over the next undefined amount of time, this boy is talking to your father about your family values, biblical understanding, and faith in Jesus.
A few things can happen in this amount of time. Either this boy, or your father, or both decides that your values are too different than each other, and you probably aren’t meant to be. Maybe (and this happens a lot) the boy realizes he is missing huge values and your father is evangelizing to and mentoring this young man. (How exciting is that?)
After an amount of time, the boy either realizes that maybe you aren’t the wife God chose for him, or as he is praying over his future wife (not necessary about you), he realizes that you are that future wife. He asks your dad if he can ask you to start courting (yes, “start” after months of getting to know your dad).
If you are that gal in the first situation, you’ve probably been dating during these months without that foundation. Maybe even your parents haven’t even met this boy. And it’s possible that neither of you have ever said a prayer in your life.
You see that’s a huge difference between dating with the intent to marry, and courtship. This type of dating can be done by anyone with any faith–without Jesus. You cannot court without Jesus in the middle of it. I’m not saying that if you aren’t courting, that Jesus isn’t in the middle of your relationship–I’m saying it’s not necessary.
Once this young man and your dad/family have decided it would be desirable and permissible to court and you’ve decided with your family that you’d like a courtship with this young man, your father gives him permission to ask you. If you say yes, the courtship begins.
During your time together, there is always a chaperone. Always. If you are texting, a trusted individual is reading all of them. If there are emails or phone conversations, there is a chaperone. When there are dates, there is a chaperone. Did I mention always?
You can have chaperones during your dating with the intent to marry situation (it’s a wise decision), but again, it’s not necessary.
Most people who are courting correctly only ever court one person. After a time of courting, it either becomes obvious that this is not the person you’ve been praying for (which is rare), or you become comfortable as God leads you, that this is the person He picked out for you.
I don’t know how many people the average “date with intent to marry” individual dates. But, they probably do group dates, proms, school activities, some churches have private dances, etc. The person who chooses courtship has done none of these–by choice.
Most people in a courtship decide to eventually get engaged, and married. I know of not one couple who courted who have ever divorced. I cannot say that of the other group.
Most people in a courtship save all physical intimacy for marriage–not just sex. Many people save kissing, some save hugging, and I know of a couple from my distant past who even saved holding hands and touching of any kind. Of course, you can make these decisions for purity in a dating relationship–but it’s just not that common.
I know a couple who were dating in a mostly pure fashion. But they weren’t courting. They shared some physical things–holding hands, kissing, etc. Two years after a battle with cancer he had a flare up and died right before their wedding.
Their decision to save sex for marriage was a protection that she was not left a single mother. But, she had already given part of herself away to a man who would not be her husband. For some, this is not a big deal. For others, it can be detrimental.
I vowed to myself that on my wedding day, I would be able to tell my husband, “Here, I give you my heart. All of it. Not just the part that’s left–but all of it. And I give it to only you. There is no other man whom I have even shared a kiss with.” Was I able to keep that vow? That’s a story that I will share with you all another day.
What does the bible have to say about this? Plenty. But I take you specifically to Song of Songs. First off, did you know “song of songs” is a Hebrew idiom for “the best song?” Hmm…. Something to think about. Well, let’s see what the best song says…
Open to Chapter 8, verses 8 and 9 if you will. Read them, and then come back here.
Back? Ok… What does God’s Word say about the maiden? Of her family?
That she is virtuous. That her brothers have worked hard to protect her virtue. The “best song” tells us that a woman’s family was highly involved in keeping her purity, her virtue.
I definitely think this is wise no matter which way you decide to handle the “dating scene.” I’m not telling you that one way is right or wrong. But I would encourage anyone trying to decide how to handle this situation, or talking with daughters and sons about how to handle this situation to make it a total family affair.
I believe I have often heard,
The family that prays together, stays together.
I pray often for my childrens’ future spouses. And I hope they will all choose courtship.
I would love to hear any courtship stories you may have.
Enjoy this post? Consider reading the Preparing For Your Husband series.