By Rebekah Hardy
Dating, “talking,” seeing someone, going out, these are all titles that we use to describe our romantic relationships with others. One word that is hardly used anymore is “courting” and I completely understand why. The word just sounds so old-fashioned and boring and it almost brings on the gag reflex for most young adults… myself included.
I heard this term used the other day and besides the usual “oh please” reaction, I actually felt compelled to learn more about the lost art of courtship.
Courting became popular in the 1800’s and it was pretty much a hardcore form of what we now call dating. It was when a man saw a woman that he was interested in and he acted on it. The process began with the man gaining permission from the woman’s family to court her and then he would spend time with the woman and her family to judge whether or not marriage would be a good decision for both of them.
Courtship is what I think can be called honest dating. Because, in reality, the fundamental purpose of dating is also marriage. However, that goal becomes less clear when intentions are not stated and relationships become something used to satisfy physical or emotional needs.
Dating is not a cure to loneliness, it is a process of discernment that requires strength and selflessness. The process of courting or “honest dating” is something that can only happen between two mature individuals who have serious and pure intentions. For these reasons, I have come to a greater appreciation and admiration for something as clearly expressed and deliberate as courtship.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to marry the person that you’re dating or that you can only date someone who asks the permission of your family before pursuing you. What I am saying is be honest. Date with the knowledge that the next step is marriage and if you are in a relationship with someone who you do not believe God is calling you to marry… don’t obstruct God’s plan for both of your lives by remaining in a relationship with them.
In St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians He writes, “And this I pray that your love may abound still more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”(Phil 1:9-10)
Seeing all things, especially our relationships for what they are and being honest and pure about our intentions is the best possible foundation for continued growth in holiness and love with one another. And if we want to have Christ centered relationships, we have to date others the way that Christ dates the church. Not the church as in the physical building but the church as in the community of believers who make up the body of Christ.
Christ gave of himself fully both in body and spirit in order that we might make it to heaven to be with him forever. Being imitators of him in this way requires us to do whatever it takes to get those we love into heaven even if it means making tough decisions.
If there is any lesson we can take away from the idea of courtship… let it inspire us to have purpose in our relationships and realize the goal of marriage that these relationships lead to. The more honest and pure our pursuit, the more Christ-like and holy our relationships can be. And honestly “talking” is not a relationship status.
I will be praying for you as you continue to form Holy relationships and discern your vocations.
God loves you so much and so do I.
1 Corinthians 13