Erin Bates is courting. Alyssa Bates could be courting as we speak. The Duggar girls have not publicly announced any ‘courtship relationships’ or ‘dating with a purpose relationships’, but that is not to say that they are currently interested in someone. Being in a relationship does not happen overnight, and every family has very personal convictions and rules on the whole process. Now that my son is 17, and my daughter is almost 16, I would love to pick the brains of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and Gil and Kelly Bates, to see how they guide their sons and daughters through the progression from initial attraction to marriage commitment.
Currently, the big questions for our family are the ‘When, Where, and How’s’ of Courting and Dating with a Purpose’. My husband and I both dated by the age of 16, and neither of us practiced courting, or even knew anyone who practiced courting. Courtship was something from the olden days, so guidance from our own personal experience can only be based on the dangers and pitfalls of casual dating. The ins and outs of the, ‘When, Where and How’ questions will have to be prayed on, researched, and basically made up as we go along.
My son wants to date, he wants a girlfriend, and he wants the freedom to go and do as he likes………but he knows that he cannot righteously fulfill those desires yet. He knows what God expects of him and he understands what we are trying to teach him from God’s Word…….yet, the temptations he faces are tremendous. He knows that he cannot face those temptations alone…….but he struggles with obedience to us, and to God. Finally, he knows that we have his best interests in mind and that God has instructed him to honor and obey us…….but, he has not conquered his rebellious spirit yet. However, even with all of his difficulties laid out above, I could not be prouder of him, especially knowing what I was like at his age.
My daughter’s temptations never really fell to dating, although she has had her share of crushes on boys in school (before we homeschooled) and on famous singers or actors. She is very committed to not having premarital sex, but she is really unsure about the courtship process, and wonders if it will hinder her from finding a mate. Just like my son, she has been taught that God has promised to provide us with all that we need, and that only He can determine if it is His will for her to marry, but as she approaches 16 years-of-age, she has started to develop the same struggles of freedom, temptation and a rebellious spirit…….just like my son.
I wish that I could say that my kids are completely open and honest with me, and that guidelines are all that is needed to keep them on the path of righteousness……but, I can’t. They do not come to my husband and I right away with the struggles they feel when it comes to dating and being attracted to the opposite sex. Both of my teens were exposed to a ‘normal’ teen society through public middle school and contemporary youth groups……..all of which encourage casual dating and getting to know a person, sometimes physically, before making an exclusive commitment. Trying to teach them God’s way after those earlier exposures has proved to be very difficult, for them and for us.
The good news, is that eventually their conscience will speak loudly enough, and they will lay all of their feelings out on the table for us. That gives us hope that the Holy Spirit is at work within them, even if we as parents had failed them in the beginning. We didn’t mean to fail them, we just didn’t know any better. I constantly tell my teens, “Now that God has shown us the way to live, it will be very hard to turn our backs on Him”. Would casual dating be easier for them in the short-term? Yes, definitely. Will they benefit from it in the long-term? Absolutely, not. Here is what we are teaching our teens:
1. TRUST IN GOD WITH ALL OF YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL OF YOUR HEART. Period.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
2. BE HUMBLE AND PLIABLE. Without those two qualities……for all members of our family…….helping our teens with courting and dating with a purpose will not work. As young adults, they must be humble enough to except the restrictions and guidelines from God and from us, as their parents. It is necessary for them to be pliable enough to correct unsuitable behaviors when they arise, and to allow themselves to be molded into men and women of Christ. As parents, we must be humble enough to seek God’s Word when counseling our children on their quest for a mate, and not simply use our ‘best judgement’ or personal experiences. We must also be pliable enough to reshape our way of thinking when God reveals to us a truth that we once believed to be otherwise.
There is nothing in the Bible that tells a young person how to ‘date’ or ‘court’. Not one word. There is plenty on what type of person to marry, marriage being between one man and one woman, leaving their mother and father and becoming one flesh, and finally, on how to be a good husband and wife. So, because of the exclusion of information on how to go about actually finding a life partner, we ALL, meaning teens and parents alike, must pray and seek answers from God. That requires ALL of us to be humble in our search for His Truth through prayer, and pliable enough to listen and act on the answers we feel He is giving us.
Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, For the Lord holds them by the hand.
3. WAIT TO DATE. Straight from the mouth of Kelly Bates, in an early episode of 17 Kids and Counting, “It’s wise to shelter a young plant and to put it in a safe place until it’s root system is healthy and hearty enough to survive the winter and the cold and the harsh weather. I would say there is a time for sheltering and then there’s a time for putting it outside and letting it bloom and blossom. But I think you can do that too early.”
We don’t expect our kids to wait until their a specific age (although it is mandatory that they wait until they are 18) to get involved in a serious relationship. We do, however, expect them to wait until they are in a position to support a marriage……..which is the desired end result according to God. The Bible says in 1Corinthians 7: 1-2, Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.
For our son, that means a firm commitment to giving his life and will over to God, having a steady job that can support a family, a home in which to live, and the maturity to handle being a good provider, husband, and father.
For our daughter, that means a firm commitment to giving her life and will over to God, having a heart for keeping a home according to Proverbs 31, and the maturity to handle being a good wife, mother, and steward of her family’s blessings from God.
That is a tall bill for a young person. It takes discipline, a desire to learn, and much faith in our Heavenly Father to accomplish……at any age. But, there it is, and with God as their Teacher and Provider, it can and will be done.
4. GUARD THEIR HEART’S. We have all heard the ugly expression, ‘like a dog in heat’, and without getting graphic, we all know what it means. Today, and even in all the times past, that is what it is like to be a teenager. To think differently, would be to fool ourselves. All of us who have already been teenagers remember what it was like to want so badly to be in a relationship, to be grown-up, to have sex, and to be in control of our own lives. We can also recall, certain circumstances where we did not listen to the good council of our parents, pastors, teachers, etc., and as a result we made bad decisions that will forever haunt us. Our own children are no different, and they will make just as many mistakes as we ourselves did.
Because of the hormones that rage in our young adult children, we must be diligent in helping them make wise decisions. No, we cannot make all of their decisions for them, nor can we shelter them so much that they never meet a prospective life partner. What we can do is keep their hearts, and be good listeners and advisers. Only by keeping their hearts can we keep their confidence and respect…….so that when they reach a fork in the road, they will immediately think to come to us for council. Keeping their hearts means listening to them without immediate judgement, listening to them and responding with a respectful tone (even when we must be firm), and sometimes listening to them at 1:00 o’clock in the morning! Keeping our children’s hearts, will ultimately guard their hearts.
Guarding their heart’s will be a hard thing to do for our son and daughter. They are both very worried that they will not meet a mate who feels the same way about faith, sex and marriage. I pray that their fears are soothed by God and His Word, and that they do not feel compelled to pick the first person that they encounter with similar beliefs to our own, all the while knowing that they are not compatible. Or worse, to become impatient and frustrated waiting for the ‘right one’, that they choose a person who does not have faith in God or hold His Word to be true. All any of us can do is trust in God’s will, and in His time.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
5. THREE’S COMPANY….AND FOUR, FIVE OR SIX IS EVEN BETTER! Chaperone. The definition of a chaperone is: a person who accompanies and looks after another person or group of people, in particular. Most teens whose parents are implementing courtship or dating with a purpose, are familiar with the practice of having a chaperone with them. I don’t know about all teenagers, but mine sure do like the above definition, because it implies that if they are with other teenagers, they just have to ‘look after’ each other. Ummmm……..no. The third definition of Chaperone is this: A guide or companion whose purpose is to ensure propriety or restrict activity. Much better. I am not saying that my children have such little self-control or that they do not believe and actively seek to live out God’s Word, that they cannot be with the opposite sex without governing themselves. What I am saying is that because my kids have been exposed to the ways of the world, they need help turning from the ways of the world. They have never done anything with the opposite sex that would not please God, but following God’s Word in this area of their life is not the norm in their old circle of friends and family. Look into it what you will, but having an adult chaperone with them AT ALL TIMES while they are courting or dating with a purpose, especially until they are strong enough to withstand temptation does not seem like an unwise decision to us.
6. KNOW WE LOVE YOU. This should be a given, but often times our children feel quite the opposite at this age. A rebellious spirit can happen to any teenager…….whether they are cradle Christians or just learning about Christ. It doesn’t mean that parents have done a mediocre job in raising them, it just solidifies the real and dangerous presence of the Devil. If we do nothing else, just telling our children constantly that God loves them, that we love them, that we are proud of them, and that we will always be there for them, can do wonders. This life partner and marriage stuff can be overwhelming, and they need to know that there is someone there for them………not just to guide them and show them the way of God, but also someone who they can just be a teenager with. Someone to get giggly with, someone to get excited with, and sometimes, someone to cry with. I want my teens to KNOW that God loves them and that we love them…….no matter what happens.
1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
To read more about Chad Paine and Erin Bates’ courtship, please visit their blogs at: http://chadsperspective.blogspot.com/