Several years ago, I was introduced to an extremely different approach to dating: courtship. My first reaction was something along the lines of when the moose meet Kenai in Brother Bear. Essentially the one moose “coughs” in his hand hoof as he says, “Crazy! You’re crazy!”
Of course, my introduction to the idea of courtship came from the same family who introduced me to the idea of homeschooling and my initial reactions to the two were nearly identical. Crazy!
Now you see who’s homeschooling.
It wasn’t until I read the courtship story of Steve and Terri Maxwell’s (Titus 2 Ministries) son, Nathan, that I began to realize that courtship isn’t just an outdated way for a young couple to meet and marry, but rather a different outlook on the dating relationship. I began to consider the possibilities of courtship, but I knew I didn’t particularly want to be responsible for choosing my children’s spouses.
Then, God began to put people in our lives: a friend whose daughter chose – on her own, at age fifteen – not to date because she knew she wasn’t ready to be declaring her undying “love” for anyone at that age. Then, we met Rebecca Ingram Powell and her beautiful daughter, Danya. Rebecca writes in her book, Season of Change about “drastically different dating.”
That’s when I began to see that this didn’t have to be some “all or nothing” thing. I, along with my husband, didn’t have to assume sole responsibility for choosing our children’s mates, but we could encourage delayed dating until our kids were more mature and ready to make the choices that go along with dating because, let’s face it, no matter which side of the fence you find yourself on, there are some serious choices, and often serious consequences, that go along with dating relationships.
Yes, I dated in high school (not much, but I dated). Yes, I faced choices I was not mature enough to make and made decisions that were clouded by immaturity. Yes, I made it through okay, but certainly not unscathed and not without bringing dating-related baggage into my marriage.
So, what do I want for my kids? Delayed dating. A different outlook on dating and the dating relationship. Purity and saving themselves for their future spouses. Not expecting commitments from someone else that should really only be expected in a marriage relationship – or having those commitments expected of them.
What are we doing to accomplish that? Talking. Believe it or not, our kids do listen to us. I started talking to Brianna about courtship/delayed dating several years ago. Her first reaction was just like that moose. Crazy! Then, she met the friend I mentioned above. Later she met Danya. Then, she started seeing the merits of what I was saying.
I started having her read some books last year. We started with And the Bride Wore White, by Dannah Greesh, because, ultimately, whether she (and, eventually, our younger children) dates or not, her purity is our main concern. We followed that with I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Josh Harris, because I wanted to give Brianna a different (than society) way of looking at dating.
Next on the list (summer reading) is I Gave Dating a Chance, by Jeremy Clark, so that she can have a balanced perspective and make an informed decision. Yes, the decision is hers. She had a boyfriend recently – for a few days. Then, she came to me and told me that she really wasn’t ready for a dating relationship. The things that her role models had said to her made sense. The things she’d read in I Kissed Dating Goodbye made sense.
I was so glad that I had left the decision up to her because I know, if I hadn’t, the mysterious appeal of dating and having a boyfriend would have been that much stronger.
I was so pleased to see that she really has been listening to and praying about what we’ve been saying. I don’t want to keep Brianna, or my younger kids, from any normal, “rite of passage” aspects of growing up – but I would like to see them waiting to enjoy those parts of growing up when they, hopefully, have the maturity level to make decisions that aren’t going to cause them to carry unnecessary baggage into their future marriages.
I encourage you to talk to your teens – and pre-teens – about their dating (or future dating) relationships. Courtship or delayed dating isn’t as *cough* crazy as it may seem initially. I like to think of it as Rebecca Ingram Powell puts it: drastically different dating – just a more balanced and thoughtful approach to dating relationships.