So, this can of worms just keeps getting thrown in my lap. How do you respond to the “dating question” with your teens?
In many conservative Christian circles, the topic of courtship is often presented as the only or the best alternative to a modern approach which seems to be failing so appallingly.
However, despite the peer pressure, I don’t believe courtship is the right answer any more than I believe casual dating and sexual exploration are the answer.
I maintain a conviction that understanding the value and importance of another human being offering you companionship can bring better fruit than the rigidity and legalism produced within the courtship movement, as I have witnessed it.
But first, a few thoughts…
Years ago, when these little boys were still interested in bugs and catching lizards rather than hanging out with friends and the over application of cologne, I had strong feelings and very “solid” opinions about what their relationships would be.
Believe me, there were a thousand grand ideas supporting naïve and untested convictions.
The little boys grew up and became handsome, clever, intelligent, highly sought after, socially busy, likeable young men.
In addition to a whole crew of great young men, they are surrounded by some of the most beautiful, brilliant, talented, articulate, joyful, interesting girls I’ve ever met. These are amazing young women.
As their parents, we are thrilled for the friendships they are developing and we WANT them to spend time with these friends. Consistently, we find our sons sharpened, challenged, and encouraged to be better people through the common inspiration to be both excellent and dedicated to faith, intelligent pursuits, and personal passions.
When a person is struggling and asks a friend, who happens to be my big-hearted son, for counsel? I want him to feel free to stand up and be a strong shoulder, a compassionate voice, and advocate. I also want him to be able to discern if he is the right person for that conversation.
Regardless of whether he is talking to the curly headed, tall boy or the blonde, blue eyed, lovely girl.
See, I’m more interested in teaching my boys how to treat PEOPLE than I am in over-emphasizing romance or romanticism.
Instead of teasing them about having a girlfriend and introducing awkwardness into an otherwise platonic friendship, we have always stressed the importance of being careful with the emotions, sentiments, or devotion of another person. Early on we discouraged “best friend” relationships because of their exclusionary tendency. Instead, we encourage our sons to be INclusive and draw people into the party.
“Tables for two aren’t really more fun than tables for 12,” we tell them.
Recently, when reading the book of Ruth together, this verse jumped off the page.
“Na‘omi said, “My daughter, just stay where you are, until you learn how the matter comes out; for the man won’t rest unless he resolves the matter today.” Ruth 3:18 CJB
Now, if you remember the story, Naomi says this after Ruth had laid at Boaz feet on the threshing floor all night before she scampered off in the wee hours with six measures of barley.
She stayed with him all night. Alone. Without a chaperone.
In fact, to add insult to injury, according to Jewish oral tradition, there is some discussion about the possibility that Obed was conceived that very night.
And yet, very Biblical, n’est-ce pas?
Here’s what we said to the boys,
“As Boaz was consumed with the desire to make Ruth his wife as soon as possible, we want you to find the person who draws out that passion in you. Don’t settle for less, don’t settle for someone who pursues you but doesn’t prompt that burning zeal within you as well. We come from a legacy of men and women who were both passionately pursued and passionately pursuing. Be willing to wait for it, because it’s worth the wait. But, until then? Enjoy the gifts of friendship and companionship you have in the circle of PEOPLE you have around you. It is a blessing from God that such an amazing group surrounds you. Revel in it. Don’t alienate yourself by putting undue pressure on yourself or others to fulfill some sort of romantic fantasy that can’t be fulfilled.”
That’s my stance on the “dating” thing. As for parameters? Some friends are more trustworthy than others. We make it our business to know the difference and share our observations with the boys so they can make better decisions.
We don’t encourage exclusivity. As my friend, Angie, said, “They are discouraged from seeking a girl to ‘own’. If you want to call a girl a girlfriend, so…you have permission to touch her in ways you wouldn’t touch your sister or aunt, then that’s not a good reason.”
Pretty much sums it up for me.
So, want to see my 9 reasons?
Come back tomorrow…