Saturday, February 20, 2016

Thoughts on Courtship and Dating

Last night, I noticed a movie new to Hoopla, "A Courtship".  I was curious about how it ended, so I checked it out and skipped to the last quarter of the movie.  I jumped in where the guy is telling the woman's "spiritual father" that he and the girl have different theological differences.  Spoiler: the girl and guy don't end up together.  I watched through to the end and noted that she continues to live with them for ten years more (and possibly beyond) with no more suitors.  The gal's reasoning is interesting.  She doesn't want to focus on appearances to please others and she feels that it's biblical for parents to arrange marriage.  The spiritual father says something very interesting about a third of the way into the movie, which I suspected from the beginning.  He explains that he and his wife (who do not have older children of their own--only one 8 or 9 year old daughter) dated and did find each other, but that they experienced a lot of pain that they felt they didn't need to.  His wife's reasoning in not kissing until marriage is that then the young woman will not experience pain of having given away a kiss if she sees that young man again and things haven't worked out.

Pain.  That's the common thread.

The young woman wants to avoid the pain of making the wrong decision for herself and wants someone else to have the final say about what God's plan is for her.  The wife believes that it is is kissing someone that causes the greatest pain when a couple breaks up.  The husband believes that courtship will avoid the pain of dating.

There are several thoughts that came to my mind as I was considering the opinions of these three different people.

First, God doesn't say we won't have pain and suffering.

This is my favorite passage from Be Still, My Soul, pg. 22:
"Don't just accept suffering--because God doesn't want it.
Don't just avoid suffering--because God can use it.
Don't just avoid suffering--because it is evil.
Instead, enjoy the hope that suffering is going to be engulfed, swallowed up.  The evil that hurts us now will be the eventual servant of our joy and glory eternally.

God uses our pain to shape us.  I know that God taught me lessons through dating about how to talk to guys.  He even taught me through my most painful break up that I could fall in love, which I wasn't sure was possible!  God also used dating in my life to help me appreciate my husband and see why he was the right man for me even though he didn't fit the picture of the guy I thought I'd marry.

Ironically, Eric Ludy says that the courtship road is filled with pain--the pain of loneliness and traveling the road less traveled in his book, "When Dreams Come True: A Love Story Only God Could Write".  So, basically, someone is going to experience pain either way.

Second, the reality is that we all have regrets.  We all have pain in our pasts that we wish we hadn't had to experience.  We're human.  Having physical boundaries in dating is wise, I think.  But, going to extremes isn't.  What it comes down to is the need to trust God.

The spiritual father in A Courtship doesn't just talk about pain--he explicitly names it as "a fear of pain".  As a friend I know has said to me before, we parent from our issues.  That is exactly what the older couple is doing in this movie.  They are parenting this adult woman from their issues--wanting to help her avoid the pain they feel comes from dating and from kissing.

Third, there was another aspect of the movie that particularly intrigued me--the reason the young man breaks off the courtship.  He sites theological differences as his reason.  Interestingly, my husband and I had some minor theological differences when we married.  I watched over the first few years of our marriage as God sorted through those areas of disagreement.  We still disagree sometimes.  Many of the couples I know had differences.  One friend of mine came from a charismatic, apostolic church and her husband came from a PCA church.  They've sorted through it as well and when you're with them, you know that God brought them together.  Like every married couple I know, they've weathered a lot of storms and God has held them together.  

It seems from the outside that the advocates of the "courtship" hold an idealistic, almost perfectionist view of matching couples.  But, that's what I've always seen as problematic about things like Christian Mingle--matching people up based on the greatest number of similar responses.  I don't think that chemistry is based on a list of similar responses.  Differences are often what God uses to help spouses balance each other.  Many couples I know are composed of one extrovert and one introvert.  In my case, my introverted husband keeps me from running out of energy and my extroverted nature helps keep him out of his shell.

Like the movie, the Ludys advocate courtship as a way to avoid the pain and mistakes they made while dating. Although they met when he was 21 and she was 16 years old.  They married three years later.  The Ludys do something in their books that many Christian writers and speakers do.  They believe that the way God worked in their lives should be taken to heart by all other Christians.  I've seen this with other books like the Eldredge's books.

Honestly, the clips from "A Courtship" made me sad.  It was the story of a young woman and a married couple trying to do the "right" thing.  The last clip shows the young woman talking about her relationship with God and how important it is to her.  Yes, it is important.  And even in dating, your relationship with God needs to be central to your life--because when you get married--it is is God who will ultimately hold your relationship together, not you.  I just hurt for her and her seeking perfection in a mate.  A better movie to watch that faces and acknowledges the pain--and how it affects choices in regard to dating, is "Old Fashioned".  This movie provokes some good questions and things think about.  It also happens to hit the nail on the head about God's grace.  This movie shows a young man who thought that he could fix his dating past by setting up strict rules, but he almost misses out on love in the process because for a time he misses God's grace.

Dating is complicated.  But, it's one of the areas of my life that God made himself very real to me.  I still marvel at how he brought my husband and I together, at how he's brought my friends and their spouses together.  No two stories are the same.  They don't fit into a mold or formula.  Yet, God was working.

What advice will I give my daughters and son when they are ready to date?  I'm not sure.  We're not there yet.  But, I'm sure we'll have many conversations as they figure it out and as we walk alongside them.  And there will be lots of prayer.

No comments: