Dear “Frustrated Mother”,
Thank you for taking time to write and share your situation with me and our readers. You have a challenging situation, for certain! I really encourage you to continue to pray for your husband and his family to be open to the practice of Christian courtship. There is always hope that they would come to see the value of this time-honoured practice even in our modern day and age!
You are right that so many people in our society have obviously accepted our cultural approach to dating as good and normal. Even good-meaning Christians have become confused over the entire issue. There is the assumption that dating is the only, or best, path to choosing a spouse. I believe this is because we have forgotten, as a society, that there is another – and better – way.
The reality is that dating, as a practice, is really just a phenomenon of the twentieth century. With the introduction of the automobile, the practice of family-based courtship went out the window. Couples could easily go out on dates that would take them beyond the realm of the family scope. Of course, we have seen that with the overall decline of morality of our society – especially ushered in by the “sexual revolution” of the sixties – the practice of dating has now evolved to a matter of “anything goes”.
Even still, there is nothing to say that dating, in and of itself, is morally wrong. It is what one makes of it. (Though there is a lot of bad stuff going on out there – to be sure – and concern and caution are highly warranted!) But calling it “courtship” does not make it virtuous. And calling it “dating” does not make it evil. It is the attitude of the heart and the actual practice of virtue in the relationship that will determine whether or not it is God-glorifying romance.
In fact, dating is a part of the courtship process, in that a courting couple often goes out on dates together. And often before beginning a formal courtship a couple will go out on a few dates together in order to decide whether or not they are even interested in pursuing a courtship. One cannot expect that every person called to marriage will only ever go out with the one person he or she courts and ultimately marries. While that certainly can happen, it is not really the norm, nor can it be expected.
I personally think that it is better for a young person to avoid a series of serious dating relationships while still too young to be ready to consider marriage. But to go out on the occasional date with a variety of persons – without engaging in physical and emotional intimacy – can be quite harmless. If the emphasis can be kept on friendship, a young person can be quite fine going out on the odd date here and there.
With this frame of mind, in the case of your daughter, she could go out on dates – to honour her father’s wishes – without compromising her moral integrity or sacrificing her purity. To go out on a date does not need to involve a risk to her principles if she is well formed in her Christian faith. I would suggest that you make every opportunity to give her that good formation.
And of course, guidelines and guidance are absolutely necessary. If she has to go out on dates, she – and you – should be very choosey about whom she dates, where they go and what they will be doing. And no matter what her father says, your daughter has a say in this, too. She may not want to go out on dates. I don’t believe she should be forced into it against her will.
However, if she is wanting to date, be sure to take the time to form her to understand healthy and holy limitations to dating. Keep the emphasis on friendship until she is ready to consider marriage. Help her avoid the temptation to over-romanticize her relationships with boys. Keep her grounded in her faith – above all with Jesus at the centre of her heart and her life!
When we make Jesus our number one – everything falls into its proper place!
I would never recommend the dating relationships in the teen-age years above courtship practice when a person is of an age to consider marriage. But in the circumstances you have described, it seems you might have to come upon a compromise. Hopefully, though, your husband can be swayed toward the idea of courtship.
Have you ever provided him with any books on the topic? I cannot recommend highly enough Josh Harris’s book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I also humbly recommend my own novel, Arms of Love. I cannot tell you how many fathers have told me that Arms of Love made them cry . . . they were so touched by it. It really does have a strong appeal to many men. It touches at the heart of fatherhood and the valuable role that fathers play in their children’s formation. Perhaps this book might open your husband’s heart to seeing the value of courtship for your own family.
I also would hope that your daughter would read these two books, particularly if she is going to be facing a “dating world”. She needs all the fortification in her Christian convictions, faith and values that she can get.
I have had so many young girls tell me that Arms of Love changed their lives completely, opening their hearts to Jesus in a new way, and freeing them from the pressures to date while they are still young. The Holy Spirit has been doing amazing things through this simple instrument. Perhaps it will touch your daughter’s heart in the same way!
We keep all our readers in our prayers daily. I will continue to pray for you and your family. I ask that you would remember me, my family and this ministry of promoting purity and courtship in your prayers as well.
In His Most Holy Name,