I realize that we are pretty old fashioned in our way of thinking, and I am certain that most “normal” people think we’re absolutely nuts, but after years of God working on our hearts, my husband and I have prayerfully come to the decision that we will not be encouraging our children to pursue dating. We will instead encourage them to consider courting as an alternative.
First and foremost, please understand that we are by no means forbidding them to date. The choice will ultimately be up to them. However, as they grow we will be teaching them the difference between dating and courting, and gently encouraging them to pray about courting and see where God leads them.
So now the big question… WHY?? It’s both very simple, and also rather complicated.
I don’t want my children to make the same mistakes I made. I have blogged about my testimony in the past, and in it I mentioned that I have gone “too far” in past relationships without being married. I am not the least bit proud of those choices, but I did learn from them. Possibly the most important thing I learned is that when two young people who are attracted to one another spend large amounts of time alone together, bad things tend to happen – things that are designed to be enjoyed strictly within the boundaries marriage. One of the tenets of courting is that the couple spends time getting to know one another with others around, so as to maintain accountability and uphold their mutual desire to remain pure until marriage. My children, although young, already show a great love of the Lord and a desire to be obedient both to the Lord and to my husband and myself. I have no doubt that they will want to save themselves for marriage. I am also certain that they will seek out potential spouses that will share that desire. The whole concept of courting respects the wish to maintain purity until marriage, and involves friends and family who will help the young couple stand by that ultimate goal.
The other big reason I have become a proponent of courtship versus dating is that it involves the families of the couple. When I married for the first time, I was impulsive and foolish, and I paid the price for that. I did not seek to involve my family in the decision to marry. I realized after that fact that if I had, it may have saved me a great deal of loss and heartache. Our family knows us better than we know ourselves. We may get caught up in the feelings of a new relationship and lose sight of what’s important to us. We can be blinded by love to the extent of not being able to see clear warning signs. Involving family in our romantic relationships not only maintains accountability, but it also keeps us grounded. My husband and I would like to be a part of that process. While we certainly do not intend to make the decision for our children, we do have a great desire to get to know these marriage candidates and to have an open relationship with our children, where our children can hear our input and where they feel free to discuss their concerns with us.
Courting is intentional, as opposed to dating which is often times extremely casual. Also, we will encourage our children not enter into a courtship before they are mature enough to handle a serious relationship. Unlike dating where you tend to get to know the person on a deeper level after becoming committed and emotionally involved (and, often times, physically involved), courtship works the opposite way. You get to know the person on a friendship level first; then, if there is a bond, you enter into courtship where you begin to get to know the person on a deeper, more intimately emotional level. If in fact the relationship is meant to lead to marriage, then engagement and marriage will follow. Only after marriage do you get to know the person physically.
I think the thing that I love the most about courtship is that it supports the values we cherish as a family, while helping our children to find the spouse that God has intended for them. It’s a beautiful, pure, edifying, and God-glorifying thing, and we look forward to the time when our children enter that season of life.