Marriage and the Family - Courtship

A.J. Higgins MD

Conduct which Builds and Binds A Relationship

An Approach that is Prudent

You have wisely and prayerfully followed the advice given in the article by our brother Jim Beattie. You have a settled peace before the Lord about a certain individual whom you feel would make an excellent life partner. How do you proceed? What approach do you take?

Prayerfully

Continue to pray that the Lord will guide you every step of the way. Ask to be preserved from rashness and an emotion-based decision-making process. Ask for wisdom in your attempt to express your interest to the other party.

Politely

Whether it is the male who does the initiating, or the young woman who must give a reply, remember that you are dealing with the most sensitive area in the other’s life. Rejection can be a lifelong scar for some if it is done in a wrong way. The young man who expresses to a sister his interest in pursuing a relationship, is making himself vulnerable. There is very little likelihood of furthering a relationship, however, without this risk. Thus it is imperative that politeness and sensitivity characterize both. Remember, you are dealing with another believer, even if it is within the scope of courtship.

Patiently

It hardly needs to be said that each party must continue to seek the mind of the Lord and resist the tendency for emotions to begin carrying the relationship toward marriage faster than the other would desire. Be assured before the Lord of every step which you take. Patience in pursuing your relationship will preserve from embarrassment and any sense of the pressure which can result from the expectations of others.

Activities to be Pursued

Many couples ask older believers about what are "legitimate" pursuits during courtship. What activities, entertainment, and other cultural trips are proper for a young Christian couple to be engaged in during courtship?

Remember that interests now may well set the tone for the remainder of your marriage. Will you be able to continue this activity after marriage? Is what we are doing just calculated to "have fun" or will it help us know the mind of God and know each other better? Balance is vital in all our activities.

A dating couple should spend some time reading and praying together. While this is done primarily for the spiritual benefit it conveys to your relationship, it may also be an eye opener to you about the genuine spiritual state of the person you are dating. Always remember that the Christian marriage is three-dimensional and not two-dimensional. Each of you has a relationship with the Lord and then with each other. The quality of your relationship with each other will be determined by the quality of your relationship with the Lord. You should begin giving this a priority early in your relationship.

It is hard to put into words the profit which can be derived from visiting "older" Christians. Of course, when you are in your early twenties, "older" is a broad term. While it is only natural to seek out contemporaries, some time should be given to visiting with those whose experience and wisdom can help to establish your priorities and encourage you in your Christian life.

Appreciation of the Purpose

Underlying all this, of course, is an understanding that there is a purpose to the courtship and engagement periods. This is valuable time, not only for experiencing outings together, but also for other vital areas:

This is the time to be absolutely certain that you both agree concerning vital issues such as children, money, life goals, expectations, and spiritual priorities. How tragic to wait until after marriage to learn that there is an un-bridgeable gulf between you in one of these critical areas!

Communication skills seem to be innate in only a fortunate few. The remainder of us have had to learn them. Perhaps the most basic principle in communication is a genuine respect for the other person and for what she is saying. Listening is a key to communication. Strive to understand rather than to be understood.

Along with communication skills, you should consciously or unconsciously be discovering and developing resolution skills. How are you going to resolve problems? How does each react when there is a problem? Differences, mostly minor, do surface even during the idyllic courtship period. When they do, they should become opportunities for developing resolution techniques as believers before the Lord.

Are you really ready? Can you financially manage on your own? Are each of you emotionally ready to separate from previous family headships and form your own? Are you ready for the responsibility of marriage? Your courtship should help you determine this. A marriage should not take place when the caterer can fit you into his schedule, but when you are ready before the Lord for all the implications of marriage.

Avoiding the Perilous

With budding maturity and the confidence which a successful relationship brings, comes, unfortunately, a sense of being "in control." This extends to the brash idea that I can control myself and "trust myself" in all circumstances. Dear young brother, you probably preach without reservation when you speak in the gospel or in Sunday School, that the "heart is deceitful above all things." Could I remind you that the truth applies to each of us.

I cannot trust my own heart. There are circumstances in which I would not trust myself but would need to flee. None of us is above the danger of falling. If I trust in my own strength, I am a fool.

There is a beauty to holiness which the eye of God appreciates. Do I appreciate it? In a polluted and immoral world, the young man or woman who determines in dependence upon God to remain holy, is a delightful sight to the heart of God. Holiness is not an exercise in brinkmanship - seeing how close I can get to what is wrong. It is an exercise for maintaining scriptural and spiritual standards in every phase of a relationship.

A holy desire before God and a knowledge of my own frailty must be coupled with avoiding dangerous situations. Avoid wrong times and wrong places.

While the word of warning may seem unduly frank to our older believers, will you suffer me to write this: Dear young brother and young sister, the teaching of 1 Corinthian 7:1-5 is not negotiable. No one has a right to your body prior to marriage. Keep yourself pure! There is a vast difference between expressing affection and inciting passion. A careful reading of 1 Corinthians 13 will show that love never "demands" gratification but is concerned with what is best for the other.

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