Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Way Of A Man With A Maid

Tomorrow (the 24th) marks 4 years since Toby and I were engaged. I always get rather nostalgic around this anniversary, reflecting on all the things that happened then and have occurred since.

I think back farther and re-contemplate our courtship days. You know all the legalities and logistics for "Biblical" courtship, etc. I have to smile when I realize through the words of a friend that dating/courtship/betrothal are all a terminology thing: eventually they all lead to marriage.

Contrary to unfortunate popular thinking, there are no rules or commands given in the Bible in regards to "courtship." There are instructions on purity and holiness but no rule list for courtship. There are also Old Testament examples of betrothal and marriage but we forget that the practice there was strictly cultural. If we're supposed to follow that tradition then we should also follow the rest of the Judaic law and traditions. When it comes to "Biblical Courtship," I often wonder why people tag Biblical on it considering it is only a nice idea and seems like something God should've written Himself or approved.

Don't think I'm giving unmarried couples keys to immorality or unaccountable promise making between them and a prospective partner. It is not right to flippantly bounce around in a relationship and neither is it right to not guard yourself in the physical department in regards to purity before marriage. But I still strongly believe that courtship is never a "7 Step Principle" that more than one couple can follow. It's a custom made adventure for every individual person.

I know of many couples who followed strict rules handed down to them by self-appointed courtship leaders who somehow managed to make laws and bylaws of this God ordained relationship. Outings were strictly governed, inches were implemented between the betrothed and communication was strictly shared only through parents or some other form of healthy filter.

Many of those relationships end in frustration. Not all end, but many do. There is too much emphasis put on doing this thing ultra godly but when it comes right down to it, it ends up being a confusing mess and completely man-made.

The potential groom is dating his future father-in-law and the dear bride is getting to know her father better. Or, the couple is limited to mere chit-chat and short visits involving no in depth mutual sharing of hearts and minds in regards to marriage issues. There is no simple trust put in God; it's all confined in a certain little box called: Biblical Courtship Standards. I find it funny that many of these people say they're trusting God but I wonder how they can truly do that when they stick to strict check lists that they made and take long periods of time to learn every in and out of the potential in-law.

Ironically enough, even the name tagged to the "type" of relationship a couple is in seems to determine the level of purity between the lovers. But that isn't always the case.

I was surprised after moving to another state and Church and I learned that the pre-engagement time of sincere young people seeking God's will in my new Church surprisingly called their relationship dating. When you mentioned courtship, they looked at you funny. There was honestly no connection between that word and the meaning of what many conservatives define courtship as.

But when you observed a little longer and found out the details of their relationship, you realized that even though they were dating, they weren't immoral, they weren't spending hours alone together in dark cars and they were even saving their first kiss for the wedding day.

And they call this dating?! Another example of the fact that this is a terminology thing: Marriage.

There's also a misconception that a couple shouldn't start courting unless they know that it's God's will for them to get married. Why court then? If that was truly the point of courtship, then why doesn't the couple just get married right up front? Courtship is a time for the couple to find out IF they're compatible for marriage. The last part of the definition here couldn't say it better:
  • Courtship
    n : a man's courting of a woman; seeking the affections of a woman (usually with the hope of marriage)

I've come to the conclusion that there simply is no benefit in pushing one's own standards of courtship on other people. If it worked for one couple great, but personalities, geography, characters, age, and many other aspects need to be considered when implementing a one-size-fits-all mentality in regards to courtship.

This topic is important to me because of what I learned through this special time in my life. I should mention that I had many ideas and plans before I met Toby in regards to courtship. Equally so, he had many details that he thought were important. By bringing two separate individuals together, we had to mesh ideas into one plan.

Now for our story...

One thing that we both automatically did was call our relationship courtship. So, that's why I refer to our pre-engagement relationship as courtship because of the way it just went for us. But when I'm talking to people who refer to courtship as dating, I have no problem calling the relationship that we had, dating. The name doesn't change anything.

We lived 8 1/2 hours apart. The bulk of our communication during courtship was done on email. We spent many hours visiting on the phone after our engagement. When Toby came and visited me, we had time alone to visit, catch up and get to know each other better. We spent hours sharing ideas, thoughts and preferences that we would've otherwise been hindered to share if other people would've been with us.

Equally so, we as a couple spent a lot of time with family members when Toby was visiting. Understandably, most of those times of visiting were spent chit-chatting and held no foundation to our marriage. As a couple, we were thankful for those opportunities to share time with others but if the bulk of our time would've consisted mainly of chit-chat, it is understandable to assume that we would've had a limited understanding of each other. Of course you can do all this communication after marriage but what is the purpose of the engagement period if you don't have opportunities to show interest and share ideas in each other as you plan your marriage together?

Toby's folks are missionaries overseas and because of their mission plans, our wedding date was determined by that. Seriously, we had 3 weekends to choose from. Or our other option was to wait an indefinite amount of time. Considering the fact that Toby would've had an uncertain place of residence and would've lived alone or lodged with a friend for the entire time, our parents and us felt it wasn't wise to hold off the wedding.

Toby held a very steady and reliable job, was financially stable and we had his folks' house available immediately for us to rent from the land owners. Had Toby stayed single, both he and his folk's doubted that the house would've been available for him to rent alone considering he was a bachelor and the landlord was pretty picky when it came to tenants. (We all know how rough old bachelors can be. :) )

All these details played into the duration of our premarriage days. It was ironic to think that situations beyond our control like this were enforcing when our wedding day would be. It just went to show that it was perfect timing as to when we met and when the Lord led our hearts together in love. And then what followed as the wedding day arrived.

Since that cold, beautiful, fateful day in February, we both have grown so much in the understanding of marriage and love. As single youth, we both read all the courtship/dating books, many courtship/dating stories and more courtship vs. dating articles than we could count. Ironically, many of those pieces of reading are authored by both young and old, unmarried people. I wonder how this delicate issue of love can be rightly handled and determined by those whom have had no first hand experience with it.

As we approach the anniversary of the beginning of our love, I'm reminded again that love is such a journey. I would've never thought that the love we had back then could actually get better. And definitely not this much better. Even with the strain of change, moves, children and occupations, it still grows dearer everyday. But, I guess when you marry the one you love and love the one you marry, it can only get better.

Equally so, even the truest, deepest and tenderest love isn't always the fairy tale experience we assume it should be. In case all you young lassies think that all men are always the remember-every-little-detail-of-everything-ALL-the-time kind of lovers, don't set your hearts on such lofty ideas. To prove my point, ask Toby when our engagement anniversary is.

At least he knows when our wedding anniversary is and that I like cream and sugar in my coffee. I love you honey!


Lizzie said...

Aww! What a sweet couple you two are! Thanks for sharing, Courtney! (((hugs)))

Bethany said...

So sweet! But after all that you never did get around to telling us how he proposed! :D

Happy 'Engagement' Anniversary!

Cheri said...

I appreciate you sharing this, Courtney...!

hannah michelle said...

Love this post, Court! The pictures are neat. Thanks for sharing your and Toby's story...and you're right, everyone's is unique! :-)

Coeur d'Court said...

Thanks girls for the comments! As for how Toby proposed, that is in and of itself a unique yet simple story. :) I'll have to expound some time when the blog moment strikes accurately in that area. Thanks for the idea Bethany!

Anonymous said...

I think I saw your footpprints on my site, so I decided to check you out. Thank you so much for sharing "The Way of a Man With a Maid". I agree 101% with your post. It almost literally burns me up when I hear again and again the spiritual recipes of how to obtain a happy, godly, worry free marriage. And if the courtship isn't done quite right the couple is asked to quit seeing each other and put their relationship on the shelf and act like they don't want each other. Then finally after proving by putting on a good act you are allowed to be together again... I think I am finished blowing my top although I have only started blowing...

Coeur d'Court said...

Yes, there are far too many sad stories like that. But ironically enough, there are still a few good ones that turn out even with the strict "biblical" approach to courtship. I'm always amazed how God sometimes will turn things around for our good even when we don't want to take our hands off and let Him do it His way.
Thanks for the comment!

Andrea said...

That was sweet, Court! It sure does bring memories back. YBS, that shocking phone-call days afterwards that you and Toby were courting, (I still can't figured out how I was so blinded to not see it coming!:-) wedding preparations, and finally the big day will always be indelibly etched on my mind! It's so hard to believe it's coming up on four years already! Time goes sooooo quickly!! Through it all, though, it's been an exciting blessing to see God take you and Toby on. Your beautiful and squishably cute children are a joy to be around, (whenever I get that rare priviledge)and your continued friendship a blessing! Hugs and love to you, Courtney!

Coeur d'Court said...

Well Andrea, I don't think we gave anyone enough time to catch on to us. :) We hardly caught on ourselves before it officially started! Yes, it was a very special time. I didn't realize how much had impacted you until now. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

What is the definition of a "couple" according to Christian courtship? Is a 6 year courtship too long?

Lula's Hardt said...

I'm blessed and refreshed after reading your post. I'm assuming you were a young (in years) bride, but your maturity far greater than most. As the mother of a lovely young woman who I'm honored to call my daughter, I've read a number of books and articles relating to the subject of courtship. I became disappointed and at times grieved by the legalism and game-playing depicted within the pages. My husband and I are in agreement with the following quote found on the internet...I apologize for not providing the author.:
"Let’s not become absorbed with either creating or following a myriad of rules for courtship. We would all be better served by focusing on a few key principles, while remaining flexible to the situation and seeking the Lord’s leading and wisdom. Suggestions and examples of other courtships can be very helpful, as long as we use them properly. We must not try to force every courtship into one narrow mold. Extend some grace to your brethren in Christ. You may not see the wisdom in some of the courtship decisions of others, but don’t be quick to criticize or find fault."
Bless you sweetly.