Does Courtship Make Sense?

A "court ship"

A “court ship”

There’s an article that’s been floating around the Christian online community in the past week or so called “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed” by Thomas Umstattdt. Like many who read it, I had some interesting thoughts and I would like to share them with you.

While I don’t agree with 100% of what the article says, I thought there were some valid points. It brought to mind certain facets of my relationship with my wife that I find are relevant to the discussion. Namely, we didn’t court. Or at least, we never said, “Hey guys! Guess what! We’re courting!” We never went on a “court” to dinner and a movie, and we certainly didn’t have 24 hour supervision that seems to characterize many courting relationships in many circles. I think it’s important to realistically look at how a relationship works.

Doug Wilson responded to the original article and rightly pointed out that no matter what model people use, the fact still remains that the relationship is comprised of sinful people who live in a sinful world, and you’re going to have to deal with sin. That’s true, but I find the original article more persuasive. Thomas Umstattd also posted a follow up where he answered some of the questions that his original post brought up.

Exclusive Relationships Invite Temptation

One of the most important things that Umstattd pointed out is that the way his grandmother dated was by having mandatory dates with different boys in order to maintain a balance without getting too attached to one or the other. He pointed out that this helped his grandmother (at least when she was young) develop skills to interact with the opposite sex as well as give her an idea of what she wanted in a man. Furthermore, it helped to calm emotional ties with boys by not making it an exclusive relationship.

Courtship, in many of its forms, emphasizes emotional and physical purity and seeks to guard that by adding layers of security on it (which in some cases, is properly interpreted as legalism). As Umstattd points out, this really just exacerbates the problem of trying to stay pure because the hurdles of simply getting into the relationship elevates it to a level of exclusivity that is far above what it needs to be. It is rightly noted that for many guys, just asking to court a girl is tantamount to asking for her hand in marriage. I remember bringing up this very point with my friends when I was in high school and we all agreed courtship was something to be avoided.

When I actually met my wife and we were dating/courting/”going steady”, purity was hard. Duh. Whenever you get a guy and girl together and they’re in love, purity will be hard. Sin makes it hard. The more exclusive the relationship is, the harder it is to fight back. It’s not a defect of relationships; it’s just a fact. My beef is that courtship often accelerates exclusivity prematurely, which makes temptation more intense because of the emotional commitment involved. I recognize that accountability is also a strong part of courting, but accountability does not kill temptation.

Opposite Sex Relationships Are What is Important

My wife and I both have always had strong opposite sex friendships which I believe was key in us meeting and getting married so quickly. We already knew what we wanted, and when we found it, what was the point in waiting? Furthermore, we were friends for a solid two years before we became “official”. We didn’t have a relationship that was closely supervised, which would have made it hard to get to really know each other. Insofar as courtship is about pursuing marriage, then yes, we courted because we always knew we wanted to get married. So in a sense, when we made our relationship official, it was kind of like the start of a very long engagement because we knew nothing would break it down.

I believe that we were unique because we had a good sense of what to look for in a partner. That sense came from having strong opposite-sex relationships prior to meeting. This is what I believe courtship harms. There is often a sense of apprehension among guys about approaching a girl and getting to know her if you believe that she or her father may interpret that as a signal towards courtship (read: engagement). This is what I believe Umstattd was getting at. Don’t kill the relationship before it’s had a chance to grow.

Maybe the system of exclusivity inadvertently invite more temptation and accountability only goes so far. We are what is flawed, and maybe having a system that discourages opposite sex friendships by invoking the specter of marriage prematurely ain’t the greatest.

I highly recommend reading both the original article and the Q&A response that clarifies some issues from the original article. It’s an issue worth thinking about.

What do you think?

 

More like this:

Why You Shouldn’t Wait For Marriage

3 Ultra-Stupid Pieces of Marriage Advice the World Gives You

Why “Marriage Isn’t for You” Is Wrong

Why “Marriage Isn’t For You” Is Wrong

(c) xElectricHigh on DeviantArt

(c) xElectricHigh on DeviantArt

Yesterday, I reposted the viral article, “Marriage Isn’t For You” by Seth Adam Smith. While I normally write my own stuff, I reposted this particular article because, on first glance, it looked good and I was rushed with some wedding plans and didn’t have time to write. However, a friend (who is married and has more credibility on this issue than I) commented on my repost and brought some really good insights forward.

Namely, that the author is actually wrong.

The whole premise of his article is that marriage isn’t about a selfish quest to make yourself happy, and to a certain extent, he’s right. Marriage isn’t about you. But a lot of Christians, myself included, read through that and thought, “Oh yeah, that sounds Christian. And after all, the only young people to get married are Christians, so this must be from a Christian guy writing about Christian marriage!”

Wrong.

Here’s the thing. Marriage is a beautiful relationship that God created. It should not be about you because marriage shouldn’t be selfish. But it should not be about your spouse. Why? Because you’re marrying a flawed, sinful human being that cannot possibly bear the weight of your worship. Because at that point, that’s what it is. Your spouse becomes an idol when the entire marriage is all about them. If your entire reasoning for getting married is solely to make another person happy, you’ve missed something along the way. Of course, this makes sense considering the author’s viewpoint (a Mormon who subscribes to the “Anasazi Way”, a New Age spiritual philosophy about communal living).

But in some ways, he’s right. Marriage isn’t about you. But it’s not about your spouse. It’s about Jesus. I don’t expect Sean to write about that because he doesn’t believe in the Jesus that I believe in. But Christ has to be the center of a marriage. He brings balance to the whole thing and He is the one we worship. When two people are worshiping Christ within their marriage, then everything else really falls into place.

So is marriage about you? No. Is it about your spouse? No. Is it about Christ? Yes. It has to be about Christ because marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church. Apart from him, the institution doesn’t make sense. It’s in the picture of Christ giving himself for the Church that we can understand marriage and the love that binds it together.

As my friend said, “Love is centered in Jesus, and true love may not always make your spouse “happy”– sometimes love is shown from one spouse to another through loving rebuke when the other is in sin.”

That’s what marriage is about.

Marriage Isn’t For You

As someone who is getting married soon, this post struck a chord with me. Also, as someone who is getting married soon, I have very little time for my own original posts, so here’s a repost from Seth Adam Smith and his blog. Original post can be found here. 

Marriage Isn’t For You

By Seth Adam Smith

Having been married only a year and a half, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for me.

Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.

I met my wife in high school when we were 15 years old. We were friends for ten years until…until we decided no longer wanted to be just friends. 🙂 I strongly recommend that best friends fall in love. Good times will be had by all.

Nevertheless, falling in love with my best friend did not prevent me from having certain fears and anxieties about getting married. The nearer Kim and I approached the decision to marry, the more I was filled with a paralyzing fear. Was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?

Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my dad.

Perhaps each of us have moments in our lives when it feels like time slows down or the air becomes still and everything around us seems to draw in, marking that moment as one we will never forget.

My dad giving his response to my concerns was such a moment for me. With a knowing smile he said, “Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raisethem? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

It was in that very moment that I knew that Kim was the right person to marry. I realized that I wanted to make her happy; to see her smile every day, to make her laugh every day. I wanted to be a part of her family, and my family wanted her to be a part of ours. And thinking back on all the times I had seen her play with my nieces, I knew that she was the one with whom I wanted to build our own family.

My father’s advice was both shocking and revelatory. It went against the grain of today’s “Walmart philosophy”, which is if it doesn’t make you happy, you can take it back and get a new one.

No, a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?”

Some time ago, my wife showed me what it means to love selflessly. For many months, my heart had been hardening with a mixture of fear and resentment. Then, after the pressure had built up to where neither of us could stand it, emotions erupted. I was callous. I was selfish.

But instead of matching my selfishness, Kim did something beyond wonderful—she showed an outpouring of love. Laying aside all of the pain and aguish I had caused her, she lovingly took me in her arms and soothed my soul.

SKwedding394

Marriage is about family.

I realized that I had forgotten my dad’s advice. While Kim’s side of the marriage had been to love me, my side of the marriage had become all about me. This awful realization brought me to tears, and I promised my wife that I would try to be better.

To all who are reading this article—married, almost married, single, or even the sworn bachelor or bachelorette—I want you to know that marriage isn’t for you. No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love.

And, paradoxically, the more you truly love that person, the more love you receive. And not just from your significant other, but from their friends and their family and thousands of others you never would have met had your love remained self-centered.

Truly, love and marriage isn’t for you. It’s for others.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait For Marriage

waiting-on-the-lord1

Pretty picture

The title of this post may seem like I’m going to launch into a neo-Christian heresy about how the Greek root of such-and-such word actually means that we can have sex whenever we want, and waiting for marriage is a sham.

But that’s not what this post is about, so you can put away your pitchforks and douse your torches.

Should you wait for marriage to have sex? Yes, that’s so soundly Biblical it’s not even open for debate. But there are good reasons on WHY we should wait and there are bad reason, and there is one popular reason that I’ve discovered that really isn’t Biblical.

Marriage Isn’t The Ultimate Goal

I ran into this blog from Grace for the road that was published about a year and a half ago, talking about why she got rid of her purity ring. The post was called I Don’t Wait Anymore. To give you an idea of what she’s talking about, here’s a killer quote from that post:

“But many of them – if they’re honest – will tell you that time has passed, and it’s wrecking their view of God.

If this is who God’s supposed to be, then He’s tragically late.

So some decide to chuck “Lady in Waiting” out the window … and possibly their virginity with it. Church goes next. God might go next, too. If He doesn’t answer these prayers after they’ve held up their end of the bargain, why would He answer any others?

Whether it was the fault of the leaders, the fault of us girls, or both, a tragedy happened back then.

A lot of girls were sold on a deal and not on a Savior. [emphasis added]”

There is a longstanding movement to sign the little pledge card, put on your purity ring, and then commit to waiting for marriage. Which is awesome, because you should wait to have sex until you’re married. But inadvertently, that little card or purity ring comes to mean something else entirely, that you’re making a deal with God by exchanging your patience for His promise. But it doesn’t work that way. Waiting for marriage is about glorifying God in Christ through obedience; not a leverage mechanism for forcing a spouse out of God.

Being Single Can Suck…I Know

I deeply sympathize with my brothers and sisters in Christ who are patiently searching for a spouse. But even for those married or engaged couples, marriage is not the end goal. Christ is. As the author of the blog states, we need a savior, not a deal. It’s so easy to let our perceptions of our own happiness cloud what we really, truly need, which is Christ.

As humans, we often put our faith in Christ on a conditional basis; contingent upon our circumstances. When our circumstances change, our faith wavers. And in this case, faith becomes attached to waiting for a spouse, and when one doesn’t show up, the faith disappears.

I guess the point is that we are fulfilled in Christ already and marriage will not change that. We have every thing we need in Him. Just like Ephesians 1:3 says, we have been blessed with ALL blessings in Christ. We have it all.

Don’t Give Up

So I just want to say, don’t give up. Don’t make your faith in Christ contingent on a circumstance in your life, because He actually is working everything for your good, if you love Him (Romans 8:28). Wait because it matters to God, but don’t wait because you think you can store up brownie points with Jesus that you can eventually cash in for a spouse.

That’s it. I hope I came across well, but please sound off in the comments if you have a different perspective!

4 Reactions to Miley Cyrus Worth Reading

MileyCyrus_071025

By now, every one and their mother has heard about the Miley Cyrus debacle that went down at the VMA’s this week. I haven’t seen the performance, I have no desire to, and I don’t recommend you watch it. But because the Internet is so helpfully insistent on telling me things I don’t want to know about, I know all about what happened. It’s sad, it’s gross, and it’s worth asking ourselves what kind of culture is OK with it. Here are four of the best reactions to the whole thing that are actually worth reading.

#4 I Weep for Miley

Who: Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition

Money Quote:  “I weep for the broken, messed-up world we live in. But then I weep at the power of grace.”

Takeaway:  Trevin sums up what every Christian should have felt: sorrow. Sorrow not for Miley, necessarily, but for the state of our culture where we treat people like objects and then ridicule them for acting like objects. But he ends his post with an excellent turn around wherein he reminds us all that we are all messed up broken people and there is a grace that is bigger than all our flaws.

Concluding Quote: “Weeping is no longer enough. Now, I pray.”

#3 Dear Miley Cyrus…

Who: The Velvet Brick

Money Quote: “You are so much more than being the product of society that uses young women like you in images of sex and vulgarity for boosts in ratings and marketing. You may not know this but you are precious in the sight of God.”

Takeaway: I like this post because it’s succinct in framing the issue. It takes it from a different perspective and is addressed to Miley herself. It’s a call for respect for women and for self-respect; a recognition that human beings are created in the image of God and that brings with it certain responsibilities in how we view ourselves and others. At it’s heart, it’s a cry for Miley to know Christ. Which would be amazing, and like Trevin says in the above post, we should pray for that.

Concluding Quote: “You were created by a God who loves you and I wish you could understand that is what gives you self-respect.”

#2 Miley Cyrus and the Culture of Nothing

Who: The Perpetual Shave

Money Quote: “It was a great, big, glittery explosion of nothing.  It was bursting at the seams with a total, soul-deadening emptiness.”

Takeaway: This is a home run! This article simply says the stark truth: Miley’s performance meant nothing. Not in the sense that it didn’t make headlines (if it hadn’t, you wouldn’t be here) but in the sense that there was no lasting value or significance attached to it. It was the ultimate “well, why not?” moment. Caught in the cross hairs were real people with real significance losing themselves to nothingness. That’s what sin does.

Concluding Quote: “Miley and her generation are being duped into believing that what they are doing has some kind of edgy substance.  But it doesn’t.  Miley made a fool of herself last night and managed to say nothing about anything in the process and came out a star because of it.”

#1 Dear Son, Don’t Let Robin Thicke Be a Lesson to You

Who: The Matt Walsh Blog

Money Quote: “In any case, this gives you an idea of the full scene: A 36 year old married man and father, grinding against an intoxicated 20 year old while singing about how she’s an “animal” and the “hottest b*tch in this place.” And what happens the next day? We’re all boycotting the 20 year old. The grown man gets a pass.”

Takeaway: YES! Finally, someone talks about the fact that there were two people on the stage! Is Miley reckless and foolish? Yes! Is Robin Thicke totally perverted? Absolutely. The fact that we automatically criticize Miley immediately shows how blind we are to masculine responsibility. We are SO used to expecting men to be moral puppets with no responsibility of their own that we criticize the female in the picture TWICE over because she didn’t do the properly feminine thing by acting proper. It’s a phenomena that goes all the way back to the Industrial Revolution: women are expected to be the soft, gentle moral ones and men are expected to be animals. Give me a break.

You really do have to wonder how this all would have been different if every news article about Miley instead rightly criticized Robin for his part. He’s the man; he’s the older one, and he’s the failure.

Concluding Quote: “Oh, and by the way [son], if I ever catch you disrespecting women, I will sit you down and talk to you about it. But first I’ll kick your butt up and down the street. That’s a promise.”

———
Sorry to put more Miley Madness in front of you but there you have it! Who do you think is more to blame? Robin or Miley?

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3 Songs You Should Drop Everything And Listen To Right Now

Lately, I have had 3 very specific tunes constantly running through my head. It’s been great listening to my mind’s radio recently, because luckily, I love these songs! I highly recommend each of these, so let’s dig in!

The Gospel by Geoff Krieger

This song is sweet, succinct and catchy. A buddy of mine did some of the instruments and production for the song, and it turned out very well.

Why It’s Good: I love this song because the chorus draws some very specific allusions to the Bible that I find very comforting. The chorus says, “And soon, this mortal wave will part for us, then you and I will cross the sea on holy dust. In time, the storms of life will pass us by, and broken hearts will heal when they know the gospel.” The theme of “you and I” is reinforced by the introduction of group vocals, which provides support to the theme and message.  The melody gives a sense of hope and the words tell you that there is hope and eventually, this life will be over and we will go to another place. For Christians, that is a blessed reminder.

Where can I hear it? Visit Geoff’s Soundcloud. You’ll be glad you did. The Gospel – Geoff Krieger

We Found Love by Lindsey Stirling

This song has also been dominating my mind lately. In case you have not yet experienced Lindsey Stirling, go check out her YouTube page. Seriously. She’s absolutely incredible and one of my all-time favorite artists. About a year ago, she covered Rihanna’s “We Found Love” after a trip to Kenya that profoundly affected her. She took a pop song that was pretty mediocre and turned it into something that’s really beautiful.

Why It’s Good: The combination of the African harmonies and drums with the very Western sound of Lindsey’s violin creates a melodious juxtaposition that’s simply sweet. The melody awakens a sense of possibility and adventure, as the vocalist (Alisha Popat) sings about finding love in a whole new place. The original version says, “We found love in a hopeless place.” Lindsey, after her experience in Kenya, changed the lyrics to “We found love in a holy place/ We found love in a whole new place.”

Listen to it on YouTube, or watch it here:

Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer by Keith and Kristyn Getty

This song is such an encouragement. It’s a modern hymn that is all about trusting Jesus through life’s trials and it’s a wonderful reminder of our beautiful Savior and His work.

Why It’s Good:  “Jesus draw me ever nearer / As I labour through the storm. / You have called me to this passage, / and I’ll follow, though I’m worn.” Just read those words.  That’s why it’s good.

Listen to it here. 

The Greatest Truth About Jesus

In my humble opinion, the simplest truth about God is also the greatest and most profound. It is the key to finding victory over habitual sin. It is the secret to a long and happy life. And it so perfectly sums up what Jesus and His Kingdom is all about. Like so many things in God’s kingdom, a few simple words require tons of background knowledge. Without a proper understanding of who God is, it just doesn’t make any sense. So what is the greatest truth about Jesus?

If you seek God, you will find Him.

Boom, we’re done. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. It is exceedingly simple, yet incredibly difficult. It’s magnificently wonderful, but excruciatingly painful. This promise is repeated throughout Scripture and it’s sweetness permeates every verse in the Bible.

Specifically, I’ve been getting this a lot from Psalm 34 (which I’ve been stuck in for about a week and a half). Verse 4 says, “I sought the LORD and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Verse 17 reiterates this theme, “The righteous cry out and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.” Going back a couple chapters, Psalm 30:2 says, “O LORD my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.” Psalm 28:6 says, “Blessed be the LORD, because He has heard the voice of my supplications.”

God hears us. He is always there for us, and He has promised over, and over, and over, and over again that if we look for Him, if we seek Him, if we cry out to Him, then, He will be found, He will hear us, and He will deliver us.

This is so profound. It’s so important. Are you stuck in depression? Seek the Lord, and you will find Him. And He will deliver you. Are you in bondage to sexual impurity? Seek the Lord, and you will find Him. And He will deliver you. Are you crushed beneath a thousand financial burdens and you don’t know what to do? Seek the Lord and you will find Him. And He will deliver you.

Notice, that implicit in this statement is a submission to God. You seek the Lord because you realize that the answer is not to be found within you. We are broken creatures with desperately wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) and we must be honest with ourselves in realizing that if we really are broken and wicked, then the answer to our brokenness and wickedness cannot possibly be found within us. The answer has to lie outside of us. And the answer lies with Jesus.

Also implicit here is that God is the focus. We seek Him, because He is worthy to be sought. He is found by us because His love allows Him to be found by us. And He delivers us because He has the power to do so, He has the love to compel him to do so, and He has the glory that shines when He does so. It’s about Him, friends. Not us.

Seek the Lord. And you will find Him.