|Rustic Courtship, William H Midwood|
Boo hoo for us.
In the past couple years I have read a lot of articles protesting the concept of courtship-- claiming that it represses young people, ruins relationships, makes dating too serious, and sets up weak marriages. I find those articles rather lame.
To be generous, I'll assume they are primarily protesting the unbiblical flimflam that got tagged onto courtship. Every godly relationship leads to marriage, or women should constantly be under some man's authority and live at home until their wedding day, or don't touch each other lest you fall into eternal damnation . . . hand-wringing dreck of that sort. I protest it too, and with great gusto.
But still I call those articles lame. Why? I think it's lazy to attack the flimflam with such indiscriminate strokes. The authors earnestly tell the internet how much they regret missing out on The Dating Scene (yeah, I hear it's really wonderful). Good for them, I guess, but you know what? I don't regret it at all. And while their articles busy themselves with cheap shots in order to garner blog hits, they skim over the logic and wisdom of courtship's central ideas.
Or intentional dating, or just dating, whatever you want to call it.
Here are the central ideas I have in mind:
- Standards are good. One doesn't need a boyfriend simply for the sake of having a boyfriend. Start dating after you are ready to get married, and date people you can actually see yourself marrying, as doing otherwise is typically a colossal waste of time.Those are the bare bones of courtship, at least as I experienced it. No chastity belts in sight.
- Along the same lines, use your time together for developing your friendship and having fun, but for goodness' sake also use it to find out if you want to marry one another; don't apologize for that purposeful mindset. After all, the two of you aren't going to somehow wander into marriage after years of beating-round-the-bush. A good marriage is intentional and dating should be too.
- Get input from other people. Their perspective is especially valuable for younger couples, who are more likely to be bedazzled by chemical attraction and forget to ask, you know, "Do we agree on XYZ crucial issue?!"
The people who believe in those ideas each get a radically unique story, because God leads all His children differently. They are sometimes young, sometimes decidedly not. They sometimes get married within a month of meeting one another, sometimes after a five-year engagement. They sometimes marry the first person they go on a date with, sometimes the twenty-first. And none of them live in magical fairy tales; no matter how it's arranged a relationship always involves confusion, mistakes, and heartache. Crossed wires are built into every human interaction. These principles, however, are remarkably adaptable and good.
I am not writing some manifesto on how the world should go about its romantic business, here. I'm not sitting up on my throne of wisdom judging the lowly passersby. I just wish that amidst the well-deserved backlash against Oppressively Controlling Patriarchalism, more people would take time to see that courtship can be-- actually, should be-- a perfectly free and dignified way of pursuing marriage.