“I wasn’t ready,” she shared with me soberly. “My dad and my boyfriend set up the engagement dinner. I was surprised, and it felt too soon.”
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the scenario, or something similar—until the word courtship makes me cringe.
Christian parents focus on courtship because they want something better for their daughters. They want sexual purity and a beautiful wedding night with no previous regrets.
But, what if there are other needs just as great as sexual purity, yet often go unmentioned?
What if a girl’s life is in shambles later, because she didn’t feel like she could say no?
Recently a friend shared a dating podcast by one of the most prophetic people I know. She walks miracles. People get saved simply by watching the glorious power of Jesus change someone instantly or by hearing words of knowledge that can only come from supernatural wisdom.
Yet, even she says this: “I refuse to give prophetic words about who someone should marry. Every girl must be given choice. You cannot say yes until you first know that you can also say NO.”
1. The “prophetic” words or signs you think you may be seeing, may or may not be signs from the Lord.
In order to know, you must have peace on every front. Your humanity comes into play in a real way when you choose who you will live with for the rest of your life. So, if you think the “signs” are pointing you a certain way, yet are fully aware that there are major incompatibilities, I want you to know that you can and should pause.
Never deny or brush aside those things. Never pretend they don’t exist because you’re basically convinced “God brought us together”. Doing so will only bring heart ache and unhappiness in the end.
There are some very human and practical areas of your heart and life that must be in place for a happy marriage. Just as a man gets to observe you and choose to pursue you or not pursue you, so you get to observe him and choose to be pursued or not be pursued.
Remember this: when God truly brings a couple together and the timing is right, there will be no insurmountable issues. You won’t be scrambling to fit yourself to him, or try to fit him to you.
When God does something, it fits well. Even if there are problems to work through, there is also raw happiness, joy, and peace in the process sooner or later. If you don’t have that, please don’t allow any perceived “signs” to convince you to push forward into marriage.
Humanity is a gift. You are not just spirit, and you should not pretend to be. Your human needs matter and you get to speak up.
2. Modesty is important, but it doesn’t stop there.
How many girls are taught sexual purity and modesty, yet are not taught the equal value of beauty and sexuality?
When you raise a girl to be sexually pure, you also need to raise her to be sexually aware. Talk with her about everything from an early age. Speak as often of the beauty of committed sex as you do about the dangers of non-committed sex.
Many girls are raised with warnings about sex, but are not brought into an equal awareness of the beauty of sex. Thus, the efforts by well meaning parents for a beautiful wedding night are thwarted because a girl is often not ready to abandon herself fully after an entire lifetime of warnings about “purity”.
As a young girl, she’s been taught to cover herself well so that “she doesn’t cause men to lust”. This often translates into “I’m an object that must be fully hidden or every man will lust after me”. She begins to walk around with a subconscious feeling that she is a threat to men, an unwelcome distraction, and that every man in the room wants her.
This is not true. The world is full of good and noble men who respect women and treat them as humans worthy of engagement and interaction on a decent and moral level. Not every man wants her. Not every man will lust over her. What’s more, she is not every man’s type, even if she and he were both available.
Painting men as basic canines with little ability to control themselves unless they’re in the company of shapeless women is demeaning to both parties. There are many good and decent men who will make a beautiful girl feel entirely safe and whole in their presence.
Again, this is not purposefully done but happens easily when girls are raised with constant focus on modesty and boys are hearing constant warnings against the sin of lust. In many instances, sexual sin becomes worse and we see rape, incest, and a constant “lust struggle” being talked about rather than human beings living community in a healthy, happy manner where love, in all aspects, is embraced and enjoyed.
What we focus on, even if we’re focusing on the sin of it, is often what ends up invading the atmosphere more than ever.
Fear based parenting can fill the atmosphere rather than faith-based celebrations of the absolute goodness of God in all areas of gender and sex.
The key here is to take our attention from the evils we could be talking about constantly and replacing that with joy in good and beautiful relationships, friendships, and happiness in human interaction.
3. Purity Culture parents say they don’t believe in arranged marriages, yet it can feel the opposite.
What a girl experiences emotionally in other areas of life will affect her decision making abilities when it comes to dating. Train your daughters to be discerning, thinking, reasoning human beings with the ability to make decisions and decide what she wants in other areas of life. Ask her to be more than to “be quiet and submit” as you raise her.
A girl can be told she has choice in marriage, but honestly, a lot of things can make her feel undue pressure.
A boy is told to ask her father (before herself) if he can court (rather than date) a girl (with the intentions of marriage).
Yikes. That might sound good to some, but take a moment to reflect on the out workings of that.
The first person to say yes to potential courtship is the father, not her.
The boy then comes to the girl with her father’s yes, and expresses that his intentions are marriage. What often happens is that the girl’s parents come to her with their already spoken approval of the boy, and let her know she is wanted for courtship.
Usually, the parents have talked and prayed about the boy already and have come to a “peace” that this boy is the one (or at the very least, a good option) for their daughter. The young man will likely say that he has prayed for months and is at complete peace that this girl is God’s will for him. And on the first date, while the girl may be feeling tentative and unsure, he will likely express love and intentions of marriage.
Consider with me for a minute how this “good” and “pure” way of courtship can create havoc in a girl’s heart and life. She has no idea who she is, how to use her voice, or even what she wants and doesn’t want.
Then, when two men in her life are already saying yes to a serious relationship, she can feel untold pressure and confusion, even if she has the final say. She will reason that the young man is Godly, parent approved, and will be confused as to why she doesn’t feel better about this relationship as well.
Girls in the purity culture are taught to submit to men. The scenario she suddenly finds herself in can make her feel utter distress. For the first time in her life, she is told that two men have prayed and have peace about this, but she gets to say no if she wants.
This has never happened before. In fact, no man has ever asked her to pray into the will of God for direction and a sense of His heart. She is taught to listen well to preaching and to submit herself to church leadership. She knows that if her convictions (after much study) were to be different than the church’s, there would be trouble. So it is only too easy for her to feel inadequate when it comes to discerning the mind and will of God.
In this way, she easily falls prey to pressure as to who she should marry and may wake on her wedding morning with a pit in her stomach that she can’t describe.
In this way, the marriage is not arranged, per say, but the pressure a girl feels may as well translate into an arranged marriage.
4. I want us to consider that dating is GOOD.
Dating allows a girl to spend time with a guy without pressure. They can hang out, enjoy conversation, and get to know each other, not with certain intentions of marriage, but with the intentions of getting to know each other to see if they want to keep spending time together and POSSIBLY move forward in the future.
As one very wise mama of teens told me: “I do not think marriage should be discussed at the onset. A couple who are interested in each other should go out, have fun, get to know each other, have hard conversations, have fun, get to know each other more…….repeat, with intention. After a season of that, they ought to either define their relationship as boyfriend/girlfriend or move on without each other.”
Ending a dating relationship needs to be as acceptable as beginning one. Yes, it’s great when it works out; but it’s more than okay for one or both to decide not to move forward because there are incompatibilities or lack of connection.
Yes, there are many happy endings to “Godly courtship”. But, there are many casualties as well. Dating carefully allows the casualties to prevent themselves by exposing problems as a couple dates without pressure.
Every girl should know what it’s like to have fun with a guy, without pressure. Remove the immediate pressure of intended marriage and you will stand a far greater chance of seeing a marriage.
5. God created our humanity.
There is so much fear of promiscuity that there is no room left for humanity. When people parent out of fear, they harp on all the bad that could happen rather than make room for the good that would happen if there was space for it.
I want us to consider that our humanity is part of our spirituality. God created us, body, soul, and spirit. If you have external “signs” that are leading you into relationship while you have major internal distress, you may be stuck in an environment that has not allowed your voice, your heart, yourself to be alive and well.
In some ways, it is just as sad for a girl to end up in a tragic marriage as it is for a girl to end up in sexual impurity before marriage.
Parents, your daughters should be thrilled and excited and happy on their wedding day. Weddings are cause for great celebration and out-of-this world JOY. Wedding nights are made for passionate lovers to enjoy each other, and to keep loving each other all the days of their lives.
Let your daughter date a guy who will not talk of marriage on the first date.
Let her enjoy appropriate time with him alone. No need to have someone else in the car all the time to “make sure they stay pure”. (If these kids aren’t mature enough to handle themselves appropriately, they’re not mature enough to be dating.)
And parents, let your daughter embrace her guy. Let her be held by him. Let her feel the goodness of his physical presence. Again, if one cannot remain sexually pure simply because they’re holding hands, hugging, or sitting close, they are not ready to be dating at all. Self control is a sign of maturity.
A girl who knows what physical closeness to her man feels like is often more ready to enjoy her wedding night than a girl who has been told her entire life not to even hold hands with a man. When you make every touch out to impure, it can be difficult to translate every touch to something good just because a wedding occurred that day.
There are heart wrenching stories to consider here.
I’m asking parents of the purity culture to consider that fear based parenting in these areas of life have caused grief and trauma that are usually unmentioned.
I want girls of the purity culture to know that sexuality is as good of a thing as sexual purity. When you embrace your humanity, you can save it for marriage, but when you shut down your humanity, it can be shut down for your wedding night.
God created you sexual beings. Parents of the purity culture need to embrace their daughter’s sexuality as well as their son’s sexuality. Girls need to know they are not hidden threats; they are beautiful human beings created to love and be loved by a man they will be HAPPY with.
As to arranged marriages, let family members and church leaders allow a girl to use her voice, her heart, her humanity to fully choose her partner for life. When we say we don’t believe in arranged marriages, let’s make all girls fully aware of that by giving her choice and freedom in dating to get to know someone well, without pressure.
I’m not advocating loose dating with no purpose. I promote sexual purity wholeheartedly. But I am grieved to my core that girls feel pressure from day one and head into marriage, expected to be alive and happy when every part of their humanity and voice has been molded and shaped to fit what is expected and wanted by others more than herself. Or, she’s saying yes because of “signs from the Lord” while ignoring her own heart needs that are also very much created by God.
Either way is tragic. May God help us lessen casualties by exposing deficiencies. May He help us value the voice of women, honor the way she was created, and place her needs on the same level God did when He created her to be exactly who she is.
For the cause of love,