Why I Chose Courtship Over Dating . . . Eventually!

Courtship! This is an old term that in the last 10-15 years has had a bit of a revival in certain circles in the Christian community.  I believe courtship comes with some positives and negatives.  It is an old term, but the problem is that there is not an exact definition for it.  Some have a very strict view of what it looks like, while others have a bit more liberal understanding of the term.  In short, courtship has been defined as a relationship between a man and a woman in which they seek to determine if it is God’s will for them to marry each other. Under the safety, supervision, and blessing of parents or mentors, the couple concentrates on developing a deep friendship that could lead to marriage, as they discern their readiness for marriage and God’s timing for their marriage (See Proverbs 3:5–7.)  It does away with casual dating, and bears in mind dating with a purpose.

So, how did I come (eventually) to the conviction of Christian courtship over the ever popular, and almost completely accepted, view of casual dating? I grew up in a culture that knew no alternative than to have girlfriends from the time I was in 1st or 2nd grade and “date them” or “make them your girlfriend” (insert George Strait’s song “Check Yes or No”).  It is all I knew, and I took full advantage of it.  I cannot think of going more than a month without a “girlfriend” from the time I was in 3rd grade until I graduated high school.  It was all I knew, and it was actually encouraged by not just my culture, but also my church and even my family.  Why?  It is because in the last 50 years, that is all that has been known as normal.  However, I eventually became convicted that there was something wrong with this system and decided that I wanted something more.  After searching the scriptures, praying, and talking to older godly couples, the Lord had changed my mind on this cultural dating scene.  Then came “Christian Courtship” that had been made popular by pastor/author Joshua Harris in books like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (which has some flaws) and “Boy Meets Girl” (which corrected the earlier flaws and gave some practical ways to date in a more purposeful and biblical way).  I did not know what it would look like completely, but I knew that I was convinced it seemed to be the most Christian and biblical way of dating.  And here are a few reasons why . . .

1. What Casual Dating Got Me:

While I enjoyed many of the momentary pleasures of having a girl friend and going on dates, what it often ended with was heart break. Either the girl would leave me for another boy, or I would lose interest and want to move on to someone else.  Either way, heart break would often ensue, thus, not taking Solomon’s advice when he wrote in Proverbs 4:23, “above all else, guard your heart.”  Casual dating also gave me a loss of innocence.  Put a young man and woman in a situation where they are spending a lot of time alone with each other, let their sinful nature take over, and see what happens.  Often that leads to many regrets.  While this does not have to be the case for everyone, it is an all too familiar scene for many that I know who grew up in the dating culture.  Physical and even sexual temptation is hard to overcome when your body is geared toward it.  I also got a loss of friendships from dating so casually.  Often, when you date someone seriously you invest much time end emotion into that relationship.  That is time and energy that you are giving to someone different than your future spouse, and even God.  Frequently when the relationship ends, so does the friendship.  Even if things end amiably, your future spouse may not like having that old flame around to bring back memories.  Thus, a friendship that could have been great is dissolved

2.  What Courting Did For Me:

Courtship was a breath of fresh air for me. Over a period of about 2 years I sought the Lord in trying to figure out how to date in Christian way. I knew it would be counter-cultural, but I desired to honor God in my dating life.  God sent me the opportunity to practice some of these new (yet old) principles.  Jessica (now my wife) met, and then practices these principles of courtship.  After 14 months, I somehow convinced her dad to let her marry me . . . and she said yes!  So, what did courtship get me?  First, it gave me a clear conscience.  We were purposeful about keeping our relationship pure.  We set up rules for accountability; one of which meant we would refrain from being behind any closed doors.  We chose not to kiss until the day of our marriage.  We asked others to hold us accountable to these rules.  Secondly, it gave us a firm foundation.  Jessica and I entered into this relationship with a purpose.  The purpose was not just to have fun and see if we were “soul mates.”  Our purpose was to see if we were compatible for the purpose of marriage.   If we had not been, then it would not have been a failed courtship, it wold have only meant that we were not good for each other in that way.  Fortunately for me, God had providently brought us together for the purpose of marriage.  Finally, what courtship got me was a wife.  That is the end goal of courting right.  This is precisely the difference between courtship and dating: the end goal of courting is to see if you both are compatible for marriage.  If you are, there is no reason for anything other than marriage.  That is where courting is different than just casual dating.  While you may end up getting married after dating, that is not necessarily the understood “point” of dating in our (secular and Christian) culture.

Whether you call it courtship or dating, it does not really matter. What does matter is that you have a plan.  If you are a Christian then you have no other choice than to seek scripture when it comes to your dating life, or that of your children.  I am not saying everyone has to do it the way my wife and I did, but what I am saying is that we need to rethink how we do dating.  Let’s make sure that we do it in a way that most honors God and His word.  As for my family, we plan to teach our children the principle of courtship. While we may not do it the same way with our children that we did it, we want them to always think biblically and I believe courtship gives us the best understanding of what that looks like.  Whatever it looks like, let’s make sure it looks the way God would want it to; the way that would bring Him the most glory!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B Burrell

If Christ Still Dazzles His Bride, Shouldn’t We?

The last few weeks I have had the privilege of leading a small group study at the church in which I serve called “Sacred Marriage.” This past week while studying, a few thoughts occurred to me. My first thought was, “Am I still dazzled by Christ?” After thinking through reasons why the Lord still amazes me, my second thought was, “Does Christ still dazzle His Bride?”  It did not take long to answer that question, seeing as how I am part of his Bride. Yes, He still dazzles His Bride. Since Ephesians 5:1 says that we are to “Imitate God” and Ephesians 5:25 says that I am to “love my wife as Christ loves the church,” it seems like there could be some implications (albeit loose ones) that we should continue to pursue and even date our spouses, even after they have been married for 50 or 60 years.

How Christ still dazzles His Bride:

  1. He still woos people to be His bride. The bride of Christ, the church, still continues to grow to this day. While it is the Holy Spirit that actually does the drawing or wooing, the Spirit still draws people to Christ. If Christ is still adding people to His bride, doesn’t it make sence that He still actively loves her? He is still active in the process of wooing. The full number of saints has not yet come to the saving knowledge of Him. Until that time comes, He will continue to seek and dazzle His Bride. Since this is true, shouldn’t we continue to seek and dazzle OUR bride?
  2. He sanctifies His Bride. For those of us that are already followers of Christ, we know that we are being sanctified. We are being conformed to the image of Christ. This does not happen overnight. This is a lifelong process. However, it is a process that He has committed to make. He has promised to ultimately glorify us one day (Romans 8:29-30), but until that day we will continue in this process of sanctification. During this time, He is with us, making himself known to us . . . making himself more and more beautiful. If He continues to make himself beautiful to us in our sanctification, shouldn’t we do the same for our spouse?
  3. He still wows His Bride. Have you ever seen a beautiful sunset or roaring ocean tide and been taken aback by the beauty of God? Has your spirit ever been lifted into what seems like the third heaven while praising God? Have you ever been overcome by the holiness of God and hit your face to the floor in awe of who God is? When that happens, we truly begin to worship Him. The Lord still wows His Bride every day. This is true for the believer that has only recently come to know the Lord as well as the one that has been walking faithful with Him for 60 years. Christ is still in the process of wowing His Bride. If He still dazzles and wows His Bride, shouldn’t we continue to do that for our spouse?

Why we should still dazzle our spouse:

When we are going through the early years of dating, our relationship can be so exciting. It makes romance, dating, and doing special things easy, because it is part of the early process.  The problem I see with so many is that after we get married we see our spouse as already being “caught” and there being no need to continue to try to catch them. For some it is easy to think “why do I need to continue to be romantic, or date after I have already caught the person?” I believe that this is a foolish way of thinking. We all desire to be pursued in one way or another.  We are built that way. Most of us enjoy being made much of, in one way or another. Why should that stop after we are married? Shouldn’t marriage just be the beginning point? Does Christ not still woo, make beautiful, and WOW his Bride? It is easy to stop dating each other once you get married, become comfortable with, and just start living life with your spouse. Your spouse is more than just a buddy and friend . . . they are the person that you covenanted together with for life.

Men: If you do not regularly take your wife on dates (my wife and I shoot for once a month at least), then it is time to ask her out. Buy her flowers. Write her a letter expressing what she means to you and your family. A date does not have to cost much money. It can simply be going on a hike, or playing a game together at Starbucks. Men, you are the spiritual leader in your home, so if you are not doing a good job of making this happen, I believe the buck stops with you. Make it enjoyable. Make it regular. Make much for your bride.  Make much of her, because Christ still does for His.

Woman: God has made you all beautiful in your own way. Your husband once (and hopefully still does) thought you are beautiful. Allow him to lead. Make yourself attractive to him. You know what he likes and does not like. Make yourself available to him. Express your desires in the things that you like and don’t like so that he does not have to guess. Go and do things that he enjoys as well. While the buck stops with the husband when it comes to making these things a priority and finding time to do them, you have a big role to play as well. So ladies, dress up, make your husband feel important, and be the bride of Christ to your husbands. Enjoy a time away from the kids, or just time away from normal life.

Dating is a wonderful part of the beginning part of courtship. The culmination of courtship is marriage. It only makes sense that we should continue in that wonderful process of dating after marriage as well. While dating is not the chief end of marriage (the glory of God is), it certainly is one of the ways to continue to cultivate it. Christ loved, and still loves the church. He still makes much of her. If we want to have a healthy marriage that bears the image of Christ and the church, I believe a good date once or twice a month will help keep you in that process.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell