Monday, June 27, 2011

On the Topic of Marriage...Here is something from John Piper

This really spoke to me as it unearthed in my own heart thoughts that have been there and that I protect by rationalizing. Not a good thing martha.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Courtship - Part 4

I think the question that has been posed to me the most is "Why would you want to do that?" When responding to some event in which our believing in courtship has become part of the conversation. And then there is always the laugh of disbelief and pitying looks I received with the usual comment "you may believe in courtship but they (meaning my children) don't! You will see.." . As if I am fooling myself and my kids will be the ones to tell me. Well first, I understand their disbelief. Courtship is perceived as an antiquated custom, from a time of when women were perceived as property of their father's and then sold in a bargain between two men or two families. I would be vehemently opposed to that notion of courtship. But what my family practices and believes in is quite different.

What courtship is to us is simple. It is the deliberate waiting until a child has reached a point in their life, and it is different for every person, where they are ready to marry, are able to support a wife, or the mental and spiritual maturity to have children and a family. They must be at a point in their life where marriage is feasible before starting to consider a relationship with the opposite sex. This is the start. But courtship continues from there. It is a process of looking for a potential wife or husband, not a "girlfriend or boyfriend". They are not looking to start dating around. Even before they consider a young man or woman, certain criteria and steps are followed. And then when a potential spouse is considered there are more steps before any "relationship" starts. But at all times both sides are starting with the premise of "I am considering marrying you". It is a known and talked about purpose. "I want to get to know you for the purpose of marriage". Not " hey, I like you so I want to go out to dinner with you and get to know you". There is not any open ended discussions. It is definite. Only when a son or daughter is ready for marriage will they consider someone for marriage. It may not work out, but you will know BEFORE there are any heart attachments. Discussions of importance are talked about before any relationship is entered into. Both parties are aware that this is a serious endeavor, it is not like the world where emotions are first and foremost and all the important details are not discussed until the honeymoon.
Some people think this is crazy, and backward. It is not. It is biblical. Look at Jacob and Rachel. Yes Jacob saw Rachel and fell in love with her, but he never approached her. He dealt with her father and knew her life and beliefs before he asked her father to marry her. He had no relationship with her until all the boring details were made. Like his parents before him, business came first then marriage. This is the basis of our view of courtship. The business of the relationship is settled, then the feelings are allowed to grow unhindered.

I think of all the problems in marriages, money issues, child rearing philosophies, unequally yoked and spiritually incompatible spouses. The Christian population has an equal chance of divorce as the secular society. Why is this? Because everyone thinks you have to date around, have a few relationships til you get it right, and get some "experience". They think its cute to have little kids 4 and 5  yr old kiss their friends kids and call it puppy love, encouraging elementary kids to have girlfriend and boyfriends. So by the time a kid hits high school they have had their hearts broken at least once and the most important thing in their life is to have a girlfriend/boyfriend. Their focus is not on school or heaven forbid, God, but on whether they have a date for the youth get together. They are distracted, and unfocused on their futures. Their main focus should be on their relationship with Christ, with their parents and siblings. They should be learning how to have a strong family life so that they can take that into their own families one day. They should be praying for their future spouse, not for a date Friday night.

  Now how we put this into practice is a series of steps that ideally you would start teaching when they are young but really you can pose this to teens and even young adults. Anyone really. It is ageless. I have already talked about how important it is to have your child's heart.  They must understand how much you love them first and that you are doing this for them. Not to them. Because they will catch alot of flack from the world and surprisingly, from the Christians too. That surprised me. But then courtship takes dedication and alot of parents don't want to invest that much into their kids life. They are just trying to get through raising them.  This makes me sad. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Courtship - Part 3

I hope that you will forgive me for going so long between these posts. I have thought many times that I needed to sit down and continue this but life kept getting in the way. I am sure you understand.

I have talked about gathering your children's hearts to you. It is the first step to teaching anything that you want to stay in their heart and to become their own.  One of the ways that I know is very important is to live authentically in front of them. What I mean by authentically is, living a life that is not hypocritical or full of pride. A very young child can see when their parents tell them to live or to act one way and then the parents do not live or act that way. It is confusing when they are young and it makes them angry, resentful and rebellious when they are older. I have always shown my weaknesses to my children. When I fail, I do not try to cover it up, even when my instinct is to cover my failure or sin. It is for my children's own good that they see me as having human failings in my life. It encourages them when I repent and try again to live correctly. It lifts them out of despair to see me admit my wrong and tell them that I will depend on God to forgive and help me. It lets them know that they are not alone in their battle against sin. Who can live up to the life that a parents portrays as one of pious Christianity? One of a parent who claims not to sin or to be tempted in any way? One who claims to be free of the burden of their sin filled life. Romans 7:15-25, has to be one of the most comforting passages in the bible. It shows that even Paul, whose passion for Christ infused him every moment of every day, struggled with sin until his own death. But he was utterly dependent on God for his strength, for Christ living in him for his salvation and the covering of his sin and for His strength to live through it. We can give our children the strength to live through sin by being honest with them about our own struggles.
Now I do not advocate using your child as a confessional, only to let them know that you struggle and that you depend on Christ. And if you don't, you need to face it that you sin daily, you are not worthy of Christ's sacrifice yet He died for you to have His covering of your sins. You do nothing of your own strength but through Christ who dwells in you. Say that to yourself over and over until you understand it completely before you try to tell your child that he/she will struggle with sin. If you really don't understand how it applies to you I promise they will see you as a hypocrite and your credibility as a mentor and leader is out the door, along with them.

If you have not lived this way, humble with humility in your own weakness, anger at your own sin, and repentance  with an outward showing of a desire to strive to be more like Christ , then I admonish you and encourage you to immediately do this very thing. Read parenting books like The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo, and Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp. Keeping Our Children's  Hearts by Steve and Teri Maxwell is a fantastic book for specifically knitting your child's heart to you at any age. So don't despair if you have teens and are regretful of lost years. Remember how God restores what is lost, it is never too late for your children's hearts.

So it is my very deep desire to encourage you to look at where you are with your children, where you stand in their estimation. Because if you are convicted in teaching them courtship and hoping it will be come their own desire, you must be able to talk about things that are important and deep with them without them squirming and saying they don't want to talk about it. You will have to be insistent without being harsh and demanding, because you are talking about their hearts and how they will control it. Ultimately, you have no control over their hearts, or actions. This must be them coming to their own conclusion, and wanting it for what it is worth- the purity and sanctity of their relationships.  This is one of the most difficult things for a parent to accept, because they want their children to walk in the Way, but the control you thought you had in their life will die as soon as they walk out the door.This leaving must happen sooner or later and too often it happens sooner than later without you equipping them with the ability to handle their own emotions and actions. You must first have their hearts before you can help them to begin guarding their own hearts. And that is your goal. To have your children guard their own hearts. For them to desire to maintain purity and preserve their hearts for their future spouse without the baggage that comes with having a past. This is a way to show your children you love them because you are protecting their marriage from a very young age. You are showing that a marriage is something that is so important that you have to prepare for it. It is not "oh I fell in love so I get married". That is the world's way. We want our children to marry God's way.