Guys who “date” are promiscuous, commitment-phobic, vain heartbreakers who are uninterested in girls as anything other than a sexual play toy. Girls who “court” are boring, timid, straight-laced squares who don’t know how to have fun and are afraid to even look at a guy. Sound about right? Of course not!
Not everyone has such radical views of the “Courtship vs. Dating” dilemma, but sometimes experiences or influences cause us to have a strong opinion one way or the other. Because God has not been specific regarding how two people are to meet, fall in love, and get married – we look to the principles we find in His word to help us guide our children. Christians are to seek things that are heavenly, destroy sexual immorality, and increase in traits such as compassion, kindness, and forgiveness (Colossians 3:1-16). Our Christian walk should be pure and upright (Ephesians 5:1-10) and our companions should sharpen us (Proverbs 27:17) rather than corrupt us (1 Corinthians 15:33). Whatever our view regarding courtship or dating, we must be careful to be fair-minded in our handling of the issue lest Satan have yet another tool he can use against us. Wouldn’t it be tragic if we let another battle line divide us?
My husband and I have three precious sons. Jordan married his sweet bride almost two years ago. Jacob is spending his college years strengthening his relationship with God, peacefully “single” while waiting for the one God has prepared for him. Micah has just passed the stage where girls don’t equal “yuck.” There have been a few girlfriends who have been special to our boys (and to our family), and there have been some painful experiences that compelled our entire family to live what we preach about love, humility and forgiveness. Not all scars are bad: some serve to remind us of things we want to do differently.
In our experience, allowing our boys to “date” has never meant a lack of supervision nor casual free-for-all-whirl-of-girls. In fact, when I compare our expectations with those of parents who prefer courtship, most are exactly the same. We have taught them since they toddled around our feet that our prayer was for them to marry a faithful Christian – for life. We have been frank with them about sexual temptation (and required group activities and forbade time alone.) We have enjoyed a great relationship with each of them, enabling us to counsel them biblically (i.e., the unwise young man in Proverbs 7.) John and I have been involved in their relationships – perhaps more than they wished at the time – but in retrospect, our older boys have come back and thanked us for our involvement. We have prayed about them, with them, for them, and over them– daily.
Have there been bumps in the road? Certainly. Have we done everything right? No. Yet we still believe that “dating” is acceptable for our children. Not the worldly model of dating where a couple skips friendship and heads straight for a physical and emotional relationship. Not the worldly model of dating that finds a young couple without supervision. Not the worldly model of dating that has little family involvement.
So, what has “dating” meant in our home? Dating involves friendship and simple affection between two faithful Christians. It is affirmation that they would like to know one another better. It is spending time together with families and friends, exploring the possibility of a future together. And it is a time to find out how to be the person who will help another soul make his/her way to heaven.
John and I taught Jordan and Jacob how to drive. Let me just say – it was not fun. We live on family-owned land, so prior to this parent-taught driver’s education course, they often drove (on private roads) to their grandparents’ houses. Jordan sideswiped a mailbox. Jacob “pretended” the car was a spaceship, put the car in neutral where it promptly rolled into a tree (in all fairness, he was very young, but he has never forgotten it!). Micah backed over a stump, which left the car see-sawing in the wind. These were lessons learned the hard way, and they needed help in handling the situations. They observed how we handled the car in day-to-day driving, as well as in the midst of storms or heavy traffic. We had them practice parking, reversing, and parallel parking in empty lots. It got a little scary the first time each of them pulled out onto a public road with one of us in the front seat. Suddenly this little boy – whose diapers we’d changed and tears we’d dried – is controlling a very heavy piece of machinery! Yet one of us was sitting alongside him, calmly (most of the time, anyway!) instructing him. As their experience grew, our confidence grew. Their knowledge of the traffic laws increased, and they began to understand the reasons behind those traffic laws. Then the dreaded day arrived: their first solo drive. Those first few solos did not take them far, but it was difficult to watch them drive away, alone. Yet we trusted that they had been taught well, and were confident that they would continue to “hear our voice.”
Somewhere in our own past, we may have made a serious relationship mistake. Often those who experience terrible car accidents will have a hard time comfortably driving again. Whether caused by their own error or someone else’s, the scars remain, and affect them for the remainder of their lives. We are afraid the same thing will happen to our children and attempt to prevent it, but we need to be careful not to assume that they will have the same experiences.
I know that is not a perfect analogy: learning to drive affects their physical life, and dating affects their spiritual life – eternally more sobering. However, I believe that faithful Christians will teach their children as they sit down, as they walk, as they lie down, and when they get up (Deuteronomy 6:1-7), and a large part of what is taught will deal with relationships and marriage. Teaching them how to find love, fall in love, and stay in love is a long process, and much of it is taught by their observation of our everyday lives. We have guided them through friendships, through the ups and downs of adolescent issues, and through their later teen years with budding relationships. When it is appropriate, we trust them to “solo” remembering all that they have been taught. We’ve seen it play out in Jordan’s life, and are watching it unfold in Jacob’s.
If you are reading this, I assume that your priorities as a family are already God-centered, and your interests and activities always reflect faithfulness to Him. If so, we might suggest the following few guidelines for “dating.” So much more could be said!
- Have a biblical plan in place before you think you need it. Decide early how you will handle boy/girl relationships. Your plan may need adjustments along the way, but communication may prevent being caught off guard.
- Help your child to guard his/her heart. Easier said than done!
- Teach your boys to see all girls as precious in His sight, valuable to Him and to treat them with high regard. Boys, who tend to be more casual, need to understand that girls often see and hear things more seriously.
- Show your children that true love is cultivated friendship.
- Allow your child the freedom and privilege to choose the one they will marry. Certainly we should be involved, but it will be their marriage, not ours (Genesis 2:24).
- Don’t be opposed to “early” marriage. It is good to have a solid financial and educational foundation before marrying – but it isn’t necessary for happiness or success. If you have insisted on proper, Godly priorities while they grew, I believe even young couples can be successful in marriage.
I am fully aware that many may disagree with us. We have made mistakes along the way, and don’t know what humbling experience may be in our future. Yet we trust God when He promises that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). Our children are our most precious gift from God. Nothing we have done has been without prayerful thought and consideration, as I am sure is the case with those who have different opinions. I pray that we will have continued mutual respect when discussing this important topic!
By Carla Moore
Carla and her husband, John, live in Dripping Springs, Texas where John is a full-time minister. They have three sons: Jordan, Jacob, and Micah, and discovered the joy of having a daughter when Erin married Jordan! Carla has been a homemaker for 26 years and mom for 23, and has enjoyed a number of part-time jobs while staying home with her boys.