Years ago, a reader asked me to talk about courtship, and I politely declined because I didn’t have children of that age. I’m SO glad I did not go out on a limb at the time and try to act like I knew what I was talking about because my views have changed on the matter, and more than likely will evolve even more when my older children begin this journey.
So, why am I bringing this up now since I still have no experience in the matter? Because I can see the day coming, and it is becoming a topic here more and more often.
I recently watched A Courtship (available on Amazon Prime and other streaming services as well as on DVD). It’s a documentary about a young woman who is trying to find a husband through traditional courtship methods in a rather unconventional way. The film explores the difficulties that face single believers when trying to follow the courtship model as well as the benefits of this way of finding a spouse.
There were many things I agreed with in the film, but there were just as many things I disagreed with and even cringed over. Surprisingly, things I would not have cringed over several years ago…because I didn’t know what I now know.
A strict courtship model could end up being a hinderance to finding a spouse.
In years past, I watched the conservative Christian homeschool movement separate their boys and girls so much that the very idea of them intermingling struck fear into parents’ hearts. Several years ago, I read a piece by a late-twenties homeschooled girl who recounted events she attended with the hopes of meeting a future spouse, only to find that the girls went one way and the boys went another. (I wish this article was published online because it was very enlightening without being bitter toward her parents, who really were just trying to do the best they could.)
Another thing I have seen in strict courtship models is a desire to find “perfection” – a fully mature Christian who says and does all the right things. There are two problems with this – no one is perfect and someone who says and does all the right things might be pretending.
I would rather my children find spouses who are teachable and seeking the Lord. They can grow together.
Courtship isn’t perfect.
A generation of conservative Christian homeschoolers have been raised with the model of courtship as the be all end all answer to secular dating. But in the process, they’ve made it an idol full of one-size-fits-all rules and regulations that don’t always work. Just as dating isn’t perfect, courtship isn’t perfect either. We have to come to grips with the fact that ABC does not automatically get you XYZ.
Don’t throw the baby out with the courtship bathwater.
What I want to be sure and say here is that even though I didn’t entirely agree with how courtship was handled in the film, I don’t think courtship is all bad, and as it stands right now, there are aspects of it, I do think we will follow as a family.
For instance, I like the idea of early meetings including chaperones, and putting safeguards in place to help protect young couples from falling into temptation. I also think it is beneficial for a father and mother to give their opinion of the character of the young man or woman, and I am definitely an advocate for abstinence outside of marriage. I also believe young men and women shouldn’t be in relationships prior to an age when marriage is a viable option. However, I believe the strict method of courtship could use a major overhaul if young conservative Christians are going to find spouses.
A courtship overhaul.
- Avoid being an island. While Swiss Family Robinson living seems like the perfect homeschooling environment and the best way to keep our kids from being tempted by the world, having your own homeschool island isn’t going to keep your children from falling into sin. You’d have to reverse that whole Garden of Eden incident to enact a sinless existence. The other thing living on an island does is severely limit your children’s interactions with the opposite sex. You do the math.
- Stop teaching your children they will find the perfect mate. That’s a blatant lie. No one is perfect. Yes, you should set standards, but the Lord looks on the heart, and so should we. If we encourage our children to look for perfection, we are setting them (and any potential spouse who comes their way) up for utter failure. My husband isn’t perfect. I’m not perfect. And my kids know it.
- It’s ok to talk about the opposite sex. No, I don’t want boys consuming my 16 year old’s thoughts and dreams, but if we never talk about it, I’m doing a huge disservice to her future. We have to get past being afraid of tough conversations.
- Parents don’t need to control the courtship. I’m raising adults, not children. By the time my children are of marriageable age, I really hope I’ve instilled in them what makes a good spouse and how to be a good spouse. I’d love to be a part of my children getting to know their future spouses, but I do not have to be in control of the entire thing. I need to trust my children.
I honestly don’t know what the future holds for my family in the way of marriages and grandchildren. I can’t say definitively how all of this courtship and dating stuff will pan out. I don’t even know if there’s a word for the semi-blueprint I have in my head, or if the real thing will even remotely resemble that blueprint.
And I have nothing but grace for my predecessors. Courtship wasn’t meant to be an idol. It was meant to be a solution to the mess of casual dating and worldly living. Many young Christians did find love via courtship. It can work, even in its strictest form. I tread lightly on this topic because I am still an observer. It’s easy to parent before you are one.
So, I invite you to a discussion – a polite one, please – about this thing called courtship. Your experiences, your expectations, your observations – anything that might be beneficial to other Christian families navigating these difficult waters. I do reserve the right to delete any comments not in keeping with this standard, but I also encourage healthy debate that is kept respectful. I’m easy to get along with as long as the tone remains civil.
(Note: You can watch the trailer to A Courtship HERE and find viewing options for the full film from that link as well.)