In this article on courting versus dating, the author outlines the right way for a young man and woman to get to know one another. The author also highlights the role of the parents.

Source: Faith in Focus, 1999. 3 pages.

Courtin' versus Datin' (Two Scenes, one a Typical Scenario of Today, the Other Rare, almost a Myth.)

Dramatis Personae🔗

Lucy 16-year-old daughter to Father and Mother 1
Father 1  
Mother 1  
Grace 18-year-old daughter to Father and Mother 2
Father 2  
Mother 2  

Scene 1: Neat Suburban Home, Early Saturday Evening.🔗

MOTHER 1: (with slight anxiety) Lucy! Why is your face caked with makeup? You look sick!

LUCY: (defensively) Oh Muuum, everyone wears makeup! Do you want me to look like a Beek! You're so old-fashioned! I want to make a good impression on Jason!

MOTHER 1: What sort of impression will Jason get if you wear such a short skirt. And your blouse is see-through! You may as well go out in your underwear!

FATHER 1: (annoyed, looking up from the television) Hey! Can't you two be quiet! I'm trying to watch the News! If you want to argue go somewhere else!

MOTHER 1: What kind of father are you? Don't you care how your daughter looks when she goes out?

FATHER 1: Lucy, are you going out again? Where are you go­ing and what are you going to do?

LUCY: Oh Daaaad! I told you already, I'm going out with Jason. We're just going for a drive and maybe meet some of his mates.

FATHER 1: Well I don't like you hanging around with that Jason! He never comes in or says hello! Doesn't he have any man­ners? We don't know anything about him except that he drives like a maniac! What kind of family is he from?

LUCY: (in tears) That's just typical of you! You're always bug­ging me about my friends! It's my life, you're just trying to stifle me! You and Mum are such snobs, who cares what kind of family Jason's from!

A car horn sounds, Lucy hurries out the front door.

Scene 2: A Neat Suburban Home, early Saturday Evening.🔗

GRACE: I'm so nervous about Philip coming to see us!

MOTHER 2: Don't worry Grace, we'll all be here to help you make a good impression. I'm sure he will be bowled over when he tastes your cooking and sees how nicely you have set the table. You did a great job on the flower arrangement in the centre.

GRACE: But Mum, what if I can't think of anything intelligent to say? It was much easier to make conversation when his whole family came. Philip's mother is such an interesting person and a fine Chris­tian, I really enjoyed talking with her.

MOTHER 2: I'm sure you'll think of plenty to talk about and anyway it is a good idea to ask lots of questions and let your guest do most of the talking. I think Philip is just as interest­ing as his mother.

FATHER 2: I would like to ask Philip some questions. I know he is a very polite and likeable lad and he comes from a very devout Christian family but I would like to know what his plans and prospects are.

GRACE: Oh Dad! I hope you won't intimidate him!

FATHER 2: If he is a lad with good character he will expect me to ask those sort of  questions. Besides I have a duty to pro­tect my daughter.

Bing bong, the doorbell rings, the family hurry to greet their guest.

One of the things that arose from my article on youth minis­try was the asking of some pertinent questions, especially by concerned parents. One of those questions was how can young people find godly partners or friends if we limit youth activities such as camps, outings, dating etc? Since the institution of marriage predates youth culture by several thousand years, having suffered no impediment by its non-existence, one could quite confidently assert that it is not es­sential to the furthering of that most worthy insti­tution. I believe 'dating' to be a most perilous ac­tivity, especially for young people. It is an activity that became prevalent about the time of the two world wars, perhaps be­cause of the social upheaval caused by them and the height­ened awareness of imminent death and destruction. It is very much part of American popular culture, exported around the world by that ubiquitous medium, televi­sion. The two scenes depicted contrast two approaches, one I believe to be much wiser than the other.

Someone once said that to allow two young people who are 'in love' to go out alone (in a car!), at night is like pulling a pin out of a grenade; it is only a matter of time before there is an explosion! That 'explosion' may be of a physical nature or it may be emotional. The effects may not become apparent immediately but eventually the 'fall out' will become evi­dent, sometimes years later. As the maiden points out three times in Song of Songs (chapter 2:7, 3:5, 8:4), love ought not he aroused until it so desires: that is until God puts two hearts in sympathy to­gether, binds them in faith, which culmi­nates in marriage in the Lord. The maiden is in fact dousing her own ardour, even though it may have been only spoken or dreamed. This constitutes a warning that it is common for young lovers to get car­ried away by their passions and that natu­ral as that may be, it must yet be re­strained. Self-control is just as necessary within marriage as outside of it, thus it must be learned in youth before marriage.

Complicating matters, young people are often encouraged not to get 'serious' straight away but to have many 'friends' before settling down with a partner for life. This too can be like a time bomb. Most parents will very rightly emphasise physi­cal purity but really this is only a part of the instruction that is necessary. It is also essential that young people remain emo­tionally pure. Does this sound strange? Consider what future ramifications may come about as a result of giving one's heart to several different people. Surely there would be a lessening of depth of feeling at the very least; easy come, easy go! I suspect that this emotional promis­cuity may encourage a divorce mentality rather than helping to prepare for mar­riage. In an age where one in three mar­riages end in divorce (and the Church has not been exempt from this problem), it would be prudent to avoid any practice that could possibly contribute to that con­tinuing disaster.

The practice of dating tends to encour­age young people to be rather independ­ent in the choice of companions and part­ners, the criteria usually focusing on ap­pearance, level of 'cool' and feelings, all of which can be rather impermanent. Dates focus on the pursuit of fun; going to the pictures, romantic dinners, parties, the beach, all of which are certainly not evil activities but they are no serious preparation for the responsibilities of cov­enant marriage. Neither do they provide a realistic means of determining what a person's true character is. It is easy enough to be witty and amusing in easy circumstances but many a young bride or groom has realised with a jolt that they did not really know their new spouse be­fore marriage and that they only showed their true 'colours' when difficulties arose.

Family to family fellowship and super­vised courtship appear to be the wisest means for young folk to 'get together’. This way would preclude much opportu­nity for temptation to overwhelm vulnerable young ones. My parents understood this and rather than only focusing on ways to restrict interaction, shrewdly kept court­ing couples in our family busy. When Hans was courting me, we spent a great deal of time renovating old furniture in my Dad's shed. My parents happily bought us a few old pieces of "renovators dream" and we also hunted down and purchased other worthy junk. We learned useful skills applicable to many areas of home main­tenance to be wise with money and how to work together. Hans was not deluded by any false glamour that could be painted on (me, not the furniture!), he knew what I really looked like in paint splattered over­alls and dishevelled hair and we both knew what we were like under sometimes 'dire' circumstances, (I hate that colour! Well you didn't sand those boards prop­erly!). We are still using that furniture.

Court'n time is a delightful time for the family as well as for the couple. It allows the couple time to grow together as well as into each others' families. While dat­ing tends to be an independent activity, courtship is in the bosom of the family, thus protecting particularly young women from frivolous approaches. Since it is proper to ask the head of the (covenant) household permission to commence courtship, the cad or the bounder mostly would be deterred. Of course we are deal­ing with human nature, so yes, one could get past the 'photo scanner' but since wisdom and victory is found in the coun­sel of many (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22), it is less of a danger than for a single, inexpe­rienced, likely heart-ruled young person. The family has the son or daughter's best interests at heart so their advice, based on Biblical principles, would seek their long term good. The faithful family also understands that marriage is a means of Kingdom work, both through the beget­ting of covenant children and the outworking of the dominion mandate. This understanding helps to prevent the folly of a match based purely on romance. Which is not to say that romance has no place but that is another article...

Will Lucy and Jason get married? Who can tell, the heart is very fickle. Their par­ents will probably lose many hours sleep, awaiting their safe return on those Satur­day evenings. Grace and Philip will find out with less 'cost' if they are suited to each other, their reputations and hearts remaining preserved due to the protec­tion provided by their parents. In the meantime, their families will enjoy the in­creased fellowship with each other, which is surely a benefit. As Christian parents, we advocate a return to courtship, since it seems wise and covenant strengthen­ing, rather than a trauma for the family. So happy court'n!

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