Friday, May 21, 2010

Courtship - part 2

Okay, on to practical application.

First I'd like to explain our ground rules.  The ideas we came up with, and that I mentioned in my last post, were what we wanted the courtship process to accomplish.  The next step was in implementing guidelines that would help to accomplish those things.
The very first thing we did was have a nice, long discussion with him to see what his intentions were (explain to him why we wanted to know his intentions, and why we didn't allow dating-but more on this later), find out his postition on a number of topics, and lay down the ground rules.  He talked to my husband briefly, then hubby called me in and the three of us talked for awhile, then we called Ri in and talked some more.  The other girls said we were in there for over 2 hrs. 
We definately wanted all interaction between the couple to be chaperoned, and we felt the best way to do this was in the company of a parent.  I don't really agree with the idea of "anyone else along is enough of a chaperone" for a variety of reasons.  We feel temptations are much easier to check when mom or dad are right there in the room with you. By necessity, most interaction will take place in the context of regular family life.  Between school and work the best time for them to see one another is on the weekend.  All my Saturday's can't be consumed with some kind of structured courting process, so he just comes over and gets involved with whatever is going on here; from visiting other family members, to running errands, to work.  We do have occasional days off where we end up playing board games, the Wii, or the younger girls coax him into a game of hide-and-go-seek, or frisbee.  She also has to be in the room with her dad or me if she's on the phone with him, and we read all their text messages. He is fully aware of these stipulations and is highly respectful of them.
Next we gave them a list of topics we felt they needed to cover.  A lot of these were things we did talk about that day, but that we really felt they needed to study more, pray about, and then discuss, in detail with one another.  These would included topics about faith/doctrine, what they see as their roles in a marriage, what they would expect from, or want in a spouse, issues regarding children, issues that may arise with regard to other family members, etc.  We fully expected these topics to be broached early on in the courtship because many of them can potentially be "deal breakers", or conversly, if the topics aren't discussed before marriage, they can cause untold problems later on.
There were a couple of other things we dicussed and came up with guidelines for, and I'm sure each family would view these things differently:  Holding hands-okay, kissing-chaste, cheek only (one of our daughters pointed out once that Jacob kissed Rachel before they were married :D, I made sure she understood this was a kiss of greeting.), going out-chaperoned of course, but fine with us on occasion. 

You can imagine the sort of comments we get from people who do not practice courting in their family (for the record-yes, we're crazy!), but one of the biggest things we get from people who do is that they all expect a marriage to be performed in the immediate future.  I understand the thought process behind this (no reason to begin a courtship if you aren't ready for marriage), but in this case, no; marriage is not in the immediate plans.  We did make it clear, right from the start that there was no reason to pursue this if they could not see themselves married (Ri already understood this), and they are looking at this time as a preparation for marriage, but for several reasons, marriage is not feasible for at least a couple of years.  Although this may not be how many families practice courtship in this day and age, planning on getting married, but putting it off for quite some time while things like a home are being procured is not really a new concept.  If we had, in any way, felt they weren't emotionally ready/mature enough for marriage, we wouldn't have allowed a courtship.
In all honesty, when we first thought of courtship, we kind of expected that our children would end up with people who had been reared much the same way they had been.  We didn't really spend much time with people who didn't homeschool their kids, and most of them also had very conservative outlooks, so I guess we just kind of assumed any guy that would be interested in one of our girls would already know about courtship, homeschooling, and a host of other things that we hold as important.  We more or less expected the guy to be completely ready for marriage before asking about our daughter, but God has a tremendous way of making us look beyond our expectations.  In this case he brought us a really wonderful young man who had absolutely no idea what courting was.  Who had been reared in what is considered the "normal" way, and who has only attended a traditional, somewhat fundamental Baptist church. He had heard a lot of preaching in his time, but didn't really know what it took to develop a biblical outlook on life.  He pretty much thought living a biblical lifestyle was trying not to sin; to live a "clean" life.  He didn't really know how you took things like Deut.6:5-7 and used that to determine how you would teach your children.  He wasn't resistant to theses things, he had just never been taught to think like that.
In some ways you could say that he wasn't really prepared for marriage, and thus courting, if he didn't know how to form a biblical outlook, and at a different point in my life I would have agreed with you, but there was far more to this.  We (thankfully) have known this young man for over 2 yrs. Because of that, we knew why he didn't know how to form a truly biblical outlook.  We also knew him well enough to know that he will listen to you, regardless of your opinion, and will honestly try to use the bible to guide his final decision on any matter.  He just needed some guidence (something other than - "You need to get serious about God!!, and then no suggestions for practical application).  In the grand scheme of things I would much rather one of my daughters be married to someone willing to listen, evaluate, and use the bible as a final authority on matters, even if he didn't come packaged as we would have thought, than one of them end up with someone who appeared to have all their ducks in a row, but we later found out they just trotted stuff out by rote and wouldn't truly be willing to study and grow spiritually. 

For the record, they've "gone out" twice.  She treated him (with me along) to one of his favorite restaurants for his birthday (our whole family took him out last year), and he recently took Ri (and me) to see "Letters to Juliet".  Other than that he comes here to visit.  He's doing really well with all the criticism he's received - even from the librarian who didn't know how he could manage a relationship where he "only gets to see her 3 or 4 times a month!"....Please!  I thought you didn't see them every day 'til you got married anyway.  Plus, they've already discussed all the topics we asked them too, and they frequently bring up other discussions by posing hypothetical questions to one another.  They also talk to one another about things they read in the bible, and have even brought questions to me when they hit something neither one understands.  All in all I think things are going quiet well, and we've had the added joy of watching a young person (other than our own children) become more mature in the things of the Lord.


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