Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Thoughts worth reading on courtship from a dear brother

With permission I am sharing a letter that our dear friend, Andrew Romanowitz wrote to me today.  He expresses his thoughts so well.  We agree with everything that he wrote!!!  Since he articulates his thoughts so well I asked if he would mind if I shared his letter on our blog.  Andrew just turned 18 but his maturity is far beyond his years.  God has done a wonderful work in this young man.  I so look forward to seeing how God will use him for His glory in the future.  Thank you Andrew for your friendship and for sharing your thoughts with us!  We love and value you greatly!!!

Good afternoon!! Hope you all are having a great day so far.
What I've written here is not really so much questions as it is observations. I really like what Mr. Botkin says about courtship in that it is a wise convention which has been developed over time for the forming of Godly marriages. In the past couple of generations, we've created this cultural pattern or paradigm that is built for the most part on a great deal of biblical wisdom. There are a lot of good things to say about it. However, I think there's still some refining to be done. I'm sharing these observations with you because I'm curious to know if these are things you've also seen, or if you think I'm maybe a little off track in some of my assessments.

Lately (and in part because of some things I've been hearing about in my circles of friends) I've been thinking over some of the common expectations regarding courtship and trying to determine how realistic they are. I think there are a lot of great things about the courtship movement. The emphasis on parental counsel, a father's role in guarding the gate of his daughter's heart, and the importance of accountability, responsibility and intentionality on the part of young people is all fantastic. But I wonder sometimes if parents who haven't practiced courtship themselves, but are planning on the courtship model for their children, develop unrealistic expectations in some areas. So this is just a collection of some of my observations, as well as a few questions that are rolling around in my mind.
I think there are a lot of parents who grew up with that abject mess called dating, and who, as they are trying to spare their children all of the relational and emotional wreckage which that system produces, have developed some unrealistic expectations for what the courtship ritual can and cannot accomplish. My understanding is that whenever two people who were only friends and acquaintances begin to pursue coming together as husband and wife, there's going to be a great deal of emotional vulnerability. A system can help to prevent really awful things from happening, but it can't reduce that vulnerability to nothing. Relationships always involve vulnerability, and developing the closest kind of relationship there is will always involve a great deal of vulnerability. As a result, we need to be very, very careful with that process, hence courtship. Courtship tries to put the young man in the greater position of vulnerability, which is good and in keeping with biblical principles of chivalry. Men are more emotionally resilient and should therefore put themselves in the greater position of vulnerability where they can.
Still, I think some parents have this mistaken idea that somehow rigidly adhering to the rules and regulations of courtship can really protect young people from all emotional pain. It just doesn't work like that. Whenever you begin to think seriously about marrying someone, emotions begin to develop. I think we would gather from the Scriptures that it's good to try to hold those emotions back, and not intentionally stir them up, until the point of betrothal. But is it really realistic to say that those emotions won't develop at all when two people begin to seriously consider marrying each other? It seems to me that in some cases I've observed, the emotional connection that develops in a courtship before the point of engagement can be even more deep-seated than in a dating relationship because the young people in a courtship relationship are usually much more serious, open, and intentional about the pursuit of marriage.

Another thing I've observed...some parents are very, very busy with this and that and the other thing, and so they sort of go on autopilot, neglecting the responsibility of walking closely with their children through the process of pursuing marriage, just thinking that so long as the courtship paradigm is rigidly adhered to, there will be no big problems. That's a very unrealistic outlook. There's a common saying that the course of true love never runs smooth...when it comes to Christian marriages, I think this is absolutely true. The Enemy knows that Godly homes are the Kingdom's greatest asset, so he's going to do everything he can to interfere. There will be problems.
And when those problems arise, some parents begin making heavy-handed decisions because they are out of touch with what's going on. They seem to think that any relationship that has strayed the least bit out of bounds must be cut off completely, because the young people obviously aren't responsible enough to be married if they can't perfectly follow the exact courtship pattern all by themselves. Which is usually not a fair judgment. This upsets the young people, who have up to that point been somewhat (although not entirely) left to themselves. I have personally witnessed this very thing on several occasions. Very often parents in this situation seem a lot more concerned about protecting the courtship situation than protecting their children from the pain of unnecessary relational demise. Which makes me wonder if somewhere along the way we've developed a wrong understanding of the purpose and value of courtship.

Courtship is not just about nice young people making happy dreams together. It's about warring for Christ's kingdom by seeking to establish Godly households. Does the devil really care about courtship--or is it households he wants to destroy. And if he can destroy them in the womb, so to speak, he will. Does anyone really think that they are going to try to form such a great weapon against the Enemy without opposition? There is tremendous kingdom potential in Godly marriages, and he knows it!! This isn't about playground games. This is about war. People get hurt in war. We have to think in battlefield terms. Instead of thinking, "What's the best way to handle this situation for the sake of courtship," we have to think, "What's the best way to handle this situation for the sake of Christ's kingdom."

Another thought is that while courtship is great as far as it goes, it is not a substitute for the providence of God in developing Godly marriages. God involves Himself in an exceptional way in the forming of Christian marriages (Proverbs 19:14), and He doesn't always work inside of our expectations and carefully crafted patterns. There is no substitute for laboring in prayer and earnestly seeking the will of the Lord. We cannot leave it to courtship to discern God's will in this area. We can use courtship as a protective, guiding tool. But that doesn't mean that every single Christian marriage is going to be formed through the exact courtship process. Yes, there are some non-negotiables, but we need to let the Scriptures dictate those. There are some biblical examples of the forming of Godly marriages that really don't fit with the details of typical courtship expectations; the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah is a classic example.

All of this is not to run down courtship, but simply to say that while much in the courtship paradigm is very praiseworthy, I think my generation will need to refine and reform some things.

Thoughts? Comments? :-) Let me know what you think!
 Andrew shares many stimulating thoughts on his blogs.  I encourage you to visit them.


  1. Yes! I totally agree. However, sometimes it gets hard to discuss this topic seen as how touchy it can be. :( Andrew is an amazing friend who has provided an outlet for my views on many topics, this one included(he and I, we go to the same church). :D Also, I love y'all's blog here. I look at the side bar and see so many links to resources that I know very, very well! Paul Washer, The Way of the Master, and the Center For Reformed Theology and Apologetics!!

    1. Yes, Stephen, it can be a very difficult topic as the application of 'courtship' seems so varied even in our conservative circles. So glad that you've been enjoying our blog! :-) It is always a blessing to find like-minded encouragement.

  2. My thought is that Andrew hit the nail on the head again. My comment is that I agree completely and have said very, very much the same thing myself.... At the heart of all that is good about "courtship" is a set of principles--and not a "method." Methods (even if they are godly) have never yet done what hearts committed to godly principles do.


    1. Savannah, I love how you worded that last sentence! Very, very true! It is the heart we are after; whether it is courtship, music, dress, etc.