Lately I’ve been contemplating the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individual believers and, more specifically, how God brings two people together for marriage. Among a significant number of Christians (especially in the homeschooling community) there is a strong leaning toward courtship. This view has been heavily promoted by various authors and organizations over the past fifteen years.
I’ve never been comfortable with the whole courtship concept and I’ve definitely not bought into the idea that courtship is the only Biblical model for a number of reasons. Primarily, my own life did not develop like that and yet I can clearly see God’s hand in every aspect of my meeting David and marrying him. I’ve seen God clearly move in the lives of friends and it had nothing to do with courtship.
Christian Courtship is Too Often Man-Centered
I had one of those aha moments this past week when God brought something to mind that affirmed to me afresh that the parent-led courtship model is… flawed? Dangerous? Wrong? I’m not sure where to draw the line with my statement.
But I’ve become increasingly convinced that the courtship model is often man-centered and not truly God-centered. I know that courtship proponents would argue that it is God-centered, but I honestly don’t believe that is true in many cases. It is parent-directed, parent-centered, and, in many cases, father-centered.
I even find it hard to accept that it is couple-to-be-married-centered in many cases. Yes, there is prayer involved and so people would call it God-centered. But the idea of parents setting the agenda for a child’s marriage – even with that child’s “input” – simply does not seem God-centered to me.
Holy Spirit’s Leading in Marriage
I have never understood why a mature young man or young woman who has been brought up in the church and taught to love Christ and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit would need parents to direct them to a suitable marriage partner. Isn’t that what the Holy Spirit is for?
If the child isn’t mature enough to walk with Christ and find a spouse on his/her own, then submitting to a courtship process isn’t going to make him/her any more ready for marriage and all the spiritual aspects that it entails. If the child is mature enough to marry another Christian, the child is mature enough to be led by the Holy Spirit to find a proper spouse.
For More Than a Diamond
Back when I was a struggling single and wanted to be married, I came across a little book put out by Moody Press in 1966 called For More Than a Diamond: Romances from Real Life compiled by Don W. Hillis. I don’t know if I can fully express the impact this book had on me. It was profound for a number of reasons and I knew when God led me to it that it was a tremendous answer to prayer.
The collection of short stories tells the romances of fourteen couples. In every case, there is an overwhelming sense of dependence on God to intervene in the romance.
There is no formula. There is no parental direction or oversight. But there is a clear recognition that Christ is sovereign in their desire to marry the person of God’s choosing.
There are people who meet and then are separated by the mission field (long before the days of Skype and regular jet travel). Others make the difficult choice to put their Isaac on the altar to keep God’s calling on their lives first and their desired romance second. These are young men and women who found romance while serving God in ministry, at college, on the mission field, etc.
These are all people who found their spouse while serving God in the world. The romance simply grew out of the fact that they were living full lives in service to the Lord literally around the world. They trusted that if they sought the Kingdom first, everything else that was good would be added to them (including a spouse).
Courtship and Excessive Dependence on the Parents
I contrast these men and women with the young people today who are kept dependent on their parents for everything – a place to live, work to do, and choosing a spouse. The women especially are expected to go from complete dependence on their fathers to complete dependence on their husbands. The idea is promoted that they cannot have lives of their own and ministries of their own. They aren’t even trusted to follow the Holy Spirit on their own.
How profoundly sad it is that these young women and men are being kept in a perpetual state of spiritual adolescence rather than being set free to follow the Holy Spirit. Shouldn’t parents rejoice that their child is spiritually mature enough to make her own decisions rather than continually telling her that she needs parental direction in order to make the right choice?
Raising Our Children to Walk with the Holy Spirit
I can think of nothing that would make me happier as a parent than to see Caroline walking in step with the Holy Spirit and experiencing the overwhelming joy of seeing God’s hand at work in her life. The moments where I have been overwhelmed by the obvious presence of God’s hand in my life are the greatest moments of my life. They are the stones of remembrance that I return to time and time again.
What more could I want for her? To see my child trust and wait on God… what else is there as a parent that can possibly compare? And what greater gift could I give her than the understanding that God directs her steps and orders her life? What better heritage could I give her than the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is active and alive, guiding and protecting her?
I sincerely hope people will rethink the courtship model and ask themselves if there isn’t a better way. A way that is God-focused and allows young men and women to strike out on their own walk of faith. A path that allows them to experience the joy of seeing God personally move on their behalf without any intervention from their parents. A way that brings maturity and consistent spiritual growth as men and women of God.