How do I prepare for my children’s courtships?
God has given my wife and I four lovely daughters. When the time was right, they each learned about the concepts of courtship, and they signed a commitment to uphold Biblical concepts of courtship in relationships. Without thinking about too many details, I assumed things would work out somehow.
I sought the counsel of other fathers who had led their children through courtship, but they never had much to tell me. Their comments were limited to a sentence or two and didn’t provide much information. Despite the lack of help from others, I was a bit lazy in finding a way to prepare for the future.
It’s actually happening!
When a young man called and said, “I’d like to meet with you about your daughter,” I suddenly realized how unprepared I was to carry out what I as the father had promised to do. I had promised to “qualify” a young man, to discern his heart and character and to see if he was ready for marriage and suitable to pursue my daughter. However, I had no idea how I would do that.
All those years I had been confident I was making the right choice with courtship—making commitments with my children, training them, having them determine what they looked for in a spouse—yet I hadn’t stopped to think about what actually went into the later stages of courtship. I felt that my involvement could be a benefit to my daughters, but what should that involvement look like? What was my responsibility? Frankly, I had no answers.
Facing the Big Moment Unprepared
My daughters had committed to pursuing courtship and had struggled to keep that commitment of waiting on God to bring the right life partner along in His timing. I had been able to encourage their pursuit of ministry and pray for them, but I had not thought through the actual implementation of a courtship. Now what was I supposed to do? What would I ask? What did I need to know? How would I provide guidance? What was my job and what was not? As my wife puts it, I was more nervous than the young man who had asked to meet with me!
Implementing a courtship has some similarities to building a patio or installing a sprinkler system. Sure, you can just walk outside some Saturday and start working on it, but you will be far more successful and have less wasted effort if you have thought it through, planned, made measurements, purchased materials, and know what you are going to do first.
Courtship is much the same. You can start when some young man approaches your daughter, or when your son sees a girl that attracts his interest, but you may be caught unprepared. It is far wiser to start years before that point in order to build trust between you and your child and to know that you are both committed to carrying out what is best.
I realized I had prepared for the beginning of a courtship, but not the end. God showed me that I had participated in planting, watering, and producing a crop within my daughters’ hearts, but I was totally unprepared for the harvest. Trusting God in my weakness was my only provision now. I cried out to God for help. I read everything I could find on the process of courtship (though the selection seemed really limited), and I spent many late nights struggling with what to do.
Turning to God for Wisdom and Direction
Finally, with fear and trembling in my heart, I met privately with the young man. We talked, and I asked some questions. Step by step, he and I worked through a process that allowed me to get a glimpse of what was in his heart and ensure that he was who my daughter needed and desired in a husband. This does not mean that I picked him or that he was my ideal; it just means that I sought to know if he was prepared for marriage and was within the parameters my daughter had already determined.
God was faithful. Where I was weak, He was strong. I realized that in the past, God had consistently provided wisdom for us on training children about marriage, understanding the importance of a relationship of trust between a daughter and father, and discovering ways to prepare children for courtship. Now I could trust Him for wisdom on specific questions for young men, how to build a relationship with a young man, and ways to minimize the pain of a courtship that ends.
As I trusted the Lord, He led me. By the end of the process, I was confident that this young man possessed quality character and spiritual maturity, and that he was ready for a wife. Our times together also allowed me to treat him with respect and as an equal, preparing for a positive future relationship no matter how the courtship ended.
Did I “choose” him? No, that was up to my daughter. After my examination, I presented him to my daughter, told her that he was interested in courting her, and recommended she get to know him. To our delight, this courtship progressed through stages of friendship, examination of beliefs, real honesty, respect, love, and ended in marriage. This young man is now my son-in-law.
So far I have played my part in two courtships that resulted in marriage and a few that simply ended. There have been many wakeful nights and much time spent on my face before the Lord, crying out for His wisdom. God has brought me to the end of my rope during these times, and He has humbled me as I have seen how critical it is for a father to inspect the fruit of a young man’s life with Godly wisdom. Only God can give wisdom to discern things that He alone knows for sure.
Courtship Requires Preparation
One of the critical times in courtship is when the young man initially approaches the father, because at that time he must lead for the sake of his daughter. Success at this point is based on the time of preparation leading up to courtship. As fathers, we must be strategic not only in carrying out a courtship, but also in preparing for it.
Just as installing a sprinkler system requires thoughtful planning, so preparing for courtship is not a one-hour project. It requires work on your part, but every effort will be well worth it! The result of seeing your child in a fulfilling bond with his or her spouse is wonderful, and it is precious knowing that they have entered marriage with a protected and committed heart.
My wife and I look back over the years and see where we made mistakes. Yet we also see how God used these mistakes and our weaknesses to show Himself mighty on our behalf. Courtship is about a father seeing his God-given responsibility to protect his family, pour himself out for them, and lead them in God’s pathways. Fathers need God’s grace to see His design in each child’s life and to help that child in the process of discovering a life partner. He is faithful to provide for these needs!
Related Command of Christ
This testimony illustrates the command of Christ to Honor Marriage. (See Matthew 19:4–6.) As Dana led his daughters to respect and honor the place that marriage held in God’s plan for their lives, he sought God’s wisdom and direction for working through the process of courtship.