Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Courtship for the fatherless generation: how to get on the right track?

Kelly, over at 'Families against Feminism', wrote a series of posts about courtship. Kelly's posts are always so interesting, and this subject touches my heart so deeply in particular, that I feel I simply must expand a bit about my experience.

What comes in your mind when you hear the word 'courtship'? Personally, I immediately think of a sweet, pure young woman, blushing in excitement as her loving and protective father is having a man-to-man conversation with her courtier, behind closed doors. Then the young ones spend some time together, under the supervision and guidance of their parents, and prayerfully decide to get married. They have the incredibly beautiful gift of timid, innocent romance, of their first kiss – on their wedding day. The bliss! The many blessings God showered on this young couple!

This is, in my opinion, how things should be. This is what I want for my sons and daughters, if I'm blessed with children. But I know very well – painfully well – that in this generation, not every young woman will have this gift. And to you, dear friends, I'm writing this right now.

You have suffered the consequences of our culture. Maybe, like me, you grew up without even knowing your father, without a proper example of a good, godly marriage, and without being taught anything about God's plan for relationships between men and women. Most likely you already had painful dating experience; maybe you suffered abuse and neglect, or had to face the Peter Pan syndrome of men who 'aren't ready for commitment' at 40. Maybe you even come from an abusive marriage, unsure you will ever be able to rebuild your life.

Fear not, and trust in Him. I don't know you, but I know your heart can be renewed, because nothing is impossible to our loving God. No matter how old you are and what you had in your past, it is always possible to make a renewed commitment to purity and start doing things like God intended them to be. Maybe you are overcome with shame and guilt, or doubt you deserve to be treated with respect. But like every woman, like every child of God, you are loveable and valuable, and so very precious.

I, too, am part of this generation: I grew up fatherless and unprotected, and experienced all the pain and heartbreak the 'normal' secular dating usually yields. My soul was trampled, I was abused physically, emotionally and sexually, and I felt disgusting, filthy, worthless, and broken beyond repair. I had the strength to break this cycle of violence, but back then I felt as though the best I could ever hope for was a life of singleness. I was so hurt I doubted I would ever be able to trust a man.

Then, as my wounds continued to heal, I found myself longing and yearning for a husband, for marriage; I wanted to build a godly family. But how would I do that, I asked myself? How can I expect men to treat me with respect now, after everything I have done? The message I got was that there was 'no point' to act like I'm chaste if I wasn't chaste from the beginning, and that protecting my purity is stupid, because ever since my first fall, there's essentially nothing to guard. And that, I tell you, is nonsense. Do not let anyone make you feel as though your repentance doesn't make a difference. It makes all the difference in the world.

I knew I'm facing a double challenge: the good guys, who are scarce anyway, might feel reluctant to tie their lives with someone who was impure in the past. But I decided I'm not going to hide anything; I'm simply going to set new standards of chaste behavior for myself, as I am now, and the men I meet will simply have to respect that – or walk away. I started dressing modestly and made it clear that 'the physical side' is out of bounds for me until marriage. Many rejected me because of my past. Others didn't. I was introduced to several men – good men, really – and it turned out we aren't right for each other. It was a little disappointing, but at the same time I felt a wonderful sense of protection: no one attempted to make indecent suggestions. Those who crossed boundaries immediately stepped back and apologized. I would never let anyone take advantage of me again. So wonderfully freeing!

It is never too late to commit wholeheartedly to keeping your body, mind, heart and soul pure. Even if you fell before, more than once, many times. If I did it, you can do it too! I'm not an especially determined or strong person; whatever strength I might have is sustained by Him alone, our amazing, kind, loving God.

And like a good father, He wants to talk to the man who is courting you. Just like you would say, 'now it's time for you to meet my Dad', and watch the results of such a conversation, bring your potential husband before God. Watch his relationship with God. He is your most loving, protective Father, and He wants the very best for His precious daughter. Lean onto Him and allow yourself to be led by Him, and the rewards and blessings will be more than you can ever imagine. No matter what happened in your past, your spirit can be again young and pure and spotless on your wedding day, when you give your sweet innocence to the holy union of marriage.