Thursday, April 7, 2011

Courtship? Are you crazy?

Photo by Susan Addington

Courtship seems to be one of many controversial subjects in the conservative Christian world. Especially in the homeschool movement. Either people love it or they hate it. Either they had a wonderful experience with it or they were burned by it.

Mine and Jacob's courtship story is neither typical nor mind-blowing. By not typical I mean we didn't follow the 1+2+3= courtship formula. By not mind-blowing I mean that we weren't halfway around the globe and found out about each other through someone's uncle's cousin's best friend. It was very simple but the hand of God was evident throughout the whole process.

When I was young the Lord placed in my heart a desire to do things differently. (It was probably due, in part, to being homeschooled.) From an early age I didn't want a scores of boyfriends. I only wanted one and I wanted to marry him. I didn't want the heartache and baggage that I had seen come from multiple relationships. I chose not to date.

When I began the "I don't date" journey I truly believe my motives were pure. I had a goal in mind and I was focused--very focused.

As I grew older though, I began using my convictions on romantic relationships as armor to protect me from the ever present "Do you have a boyfriend yet?" and other such questions that inevitably plague a girl reaching marriageable age.

As a result, my perspective became skewed and my focus blurred. By the time I graduated high school I was very disillusioned with the whole concept. I had put God in a box and decided that since we didn't have the ideal conditions and environment for a "perfect courtship" it wasn't going to happen for me. I wasn't going to have the cookie-cutter courtship like you read about in the homeschooling magazines. I felt like God had failed me and that I needed a back-up plan. I couldn't understand why he had placed that desire in my heart then left me hanging. I doubted my Creator.

In consequence I became involved in a relationship against the wishes and advice of my parents. It placed me out of the will of God. I learned some very hard, painful lessons by the time I finally ended it.

Regret? Baggage? Oh yes I had them. Heartache? More than I ever imagined. Everything that I had wanted to avoid now consumed me. The realization that I had failed was probably the hardest thing to bear.

Long story short, the Lord humbled me. He got my attention and when my heart and spirit were teachable again He began to move in my life in ways I'd given up hope of ever seeing again.

Two of the most important things I've learned throughout the courtship and marriage process are these:
  1. God is sovereign. Period. He knows all, sees all, commands all...He holds everything in His hands and works things according to His purpose and our good. He knows what He's doing. Period.
  2. There is no such thing as a perfect, cookie-cutter courtship. It just doesn't happen. Courtships are made up of imperfect people--imperfect couples, imperfect parents, imperfect families. I'm sorry, but all those negatives do not make a positive. I'm not saying that the outcome can't be wonderful, but I am saying that just because you chose courtship over dating does not mean that it will be easier for you.

I often wondered after I began the courtship with Jacob why the Lord allowed me to mess up and get so far off course before He brought Jacob to me. I didn't understand why He didn't save me from all that.

I came across the following quote from Elizabeth Elliot in her book A Chance to Die. It sums up many things for me and many of the lessons that I've learned. I'm only human, but the Lord still chooses to work through my flawed flesh.
"A Sovereign through flawed human instruments to whom He has given the power of choice. Sometimes our choices are mistaken. Divine sovereignty permits those choices."

to be continued....

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