Veronique was kind enough to answer some questions and share some of her personal experiences regarding the influence of the courtship mindset and how it impacted her as a young lady who had a desire to get married.
How did the courtship culture influence you in regards to pursuing dating/courting relationships?
“Courtship culture taught me that before I could go on a first date with a man, he had to ask my dad for permission”
In my case, courtship culture had a harmful influence by causing my season of unwanted singleness to last to my mid-thirties.
Like other singles in courtship culture, I’d never experienced a boyfriend-girlfriend dating relationship. I learned from the courtship movement that it’s sinful to have crushes or date anyone you don’t end up marrying.
Courtship culture taught me that before I could go on a first date with a man, he had to ask my dad for permission to court me for the purpose of wooing me for marriage. That’s too much pressure and putting the cart before the horse. I expected God to deliver “Mr. Right” that way because that’s what happened in courtship books. It didn’t occur to me that God could direct an amazing love story for me in a radically different way.
Usually romantic relationships grow in organic ways, starting by a show of interest between the man and the woman. In courtship culture, you’re likely (but not always) to have limited knowledge of the person to whom you’re attracted, since you’re not supposed to spend one-on-one time with them or pair off with them during group events. Yet, unless you know for sure that you want to marry that person, it’s considered sinful to show romantic interest or single them out. That’s considered flirting.
Without knowledge of the future—knowing that God wants you to marry a particular person in the future although you may not know them well enough in the present to make such a life-altering commitment—both the man and the woman are supposed to stay utterly passive and pretend not to be romantically interested in each other at all. That way of behaving prevents many relationships from starting in the first place.
Who or what was most influential in developing a courtship mindset in your life?
“Bad theology and bad teachings have serious consequences on people’s lives.”
I acquired these paralyzing beliefs that kept me stuck firmly in singleness from books like:
- Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye
- Eric and Leslie Ludy’s When God Writes Your Love Story and When Dreams Come True
- Don Raunikar’s Choosing God’s Best
These books’ teachings were reinforced in my life by church leaders, teachers, speakers, bloggers, as well as by many well-meaning Christian friends and acquaintances. Their main point is that it’s displeasing to God if you actively look for a suitable person to marry, even if you do it wisely and chastely. In their view the only thing to do in your love life is nothing, except wait and pray as if you had no agency at all.
The prevailing trend I’ve noticed is the teaching of “sanctified passivity” in one’s love life. A number of singles take passivity as a badge of honor, and that can be seen clearly in the comment section of various singles blogs. Laziness has somehow become a virtue and hard work a sin, when applied to one’s love life.
If Christian resources (whether online or offline, digital or print, on TV or radio, at churches or schools) taught that actively looking for employment was a sign of not trusting God, would we be surprised if the net result was prolonged joblessness? Wouldn’t it be wicked if unemployed people were made to feel ungodly for looking for jobs?
The right thing to do would be to encourage them to look for jobs diligently while trusting God’s timing to bring about the right one. Trusting God doesn’t mean doing nothing.
“Trusting God doesn’t mean doing nothing.”
There are strong currents of superstition in the sea of Christian singles ministries. Some teach that if you do anything without having signs, coincidences, and prophecies beforehand that someone is your future spouse, then it’s “getting ahead of God” and things will end up badly for sure. In their mind, you’re either (1) proactive in searching and dating and, thus, compromising morally or spiritually in some way, or (2) passive and are to do nothing unless you get prophecies.
But I didn’t fit either of these extremes.
In my case, God was pleased that I participate alongside Him in my pursuit of marriage, the grand adventure of finding my future husband. I didn’t have to walk alone. God was with me. But I needed to take the steps. God didn’t take my steps for me; He guided my steps.
There are two types of waiting on God. The first is like a farmer who works hard as he waits on the Lord for the crop. The second is like a farmer who doesn’t work his field at all because he’s afraid “to take things into his own hands.” He thinks that for him to work the ground, plant seeds, and water would demonstrate lack of trust in God for a crop. So he just prays for God to produce the crop for him (which God could do miraculously if He so chose). So the two types of waiting are:
1. Waiting for results while doing the work
2. Waiting for results without doing the work.
Many Christian singles are taught the second type of waiting. Bad theology and bad teachings have serious consequences on people’s lives. I feel especially for women in their thirties who are in bondage to “sanctified passivity” and, as a result, grow out of their childbearing years unmarried. And if they dare become depressed about that, they’re lectured about contentment.
We have Christians, that if they were honest, probably don’t even know what courtship is; and then we have Christians that think courtship is the only way. Based on your personal experiences, do you have any other final assessments or conclusions about the courtship culture that you would like to share?
“It’s not about legalistic external rules that have no effect on the state of one’s heart.”
The authors of some of the most well-known courtship books dated in their teens and, by their own admission in their own books, they compromised sexually when they dated (going all the way or part of the way such as fondling). Many of the babyboomer parents, who were crucial in spreading courtship to the younger generation in the first wave of the courtship movement, also fornicated or went part of the way during their dating days.
Legalistic courtship rules that go beyond sound biblical teachings such as being chaste, treating other kindly etc., were made up by those people because they did not date in a chaste way and concluded that dating was at fault.
Dating (as in spending one-on-one time with someone when there’s mutual romantic interest or potential interest) wasn’t the problem. The uncomfortable truth is that the fault falls on their own lack of sanctification, discernment, self-control, maturity, and chastity when they were dating. Because they themselves were unable to date without trying to be sexual with their dates, they believe everybody else is unable to date without compromising as well.
But spending time one-on-one with someone of the opposite sex on a casual, platonic date is fine when one has an adequate decent level of sanctification, discernment, self-control, and chastity. It all comes down to how much we love, fear, and respect the Lord, and how important glorifying God in our relationship is to us. It’s not about legalistic external rules that have no effect on the state of one’s heart.
The unchaste need all the external props to not fornicate or mess around because they don’t possess the “internal props” such as self-control, and uncompromising convictions about chastity.
The less self-control someone has, the more external restraints they need to behave properly. The reverse is also true: the more self-control someone has the fewer external restraints they need to behave properly. Some people need courtship to behave properly, and some other people don’t need it.
For example a hormonal fourteen-year-old boy whose media diet is mostly secular, and whose mind is saturated with scenes from X-rated movies that he wants to act out with girls, needs much more external restraints such as “absolutely no dating until you’re mature enough” and “no unsupervised time alone with a female friend” than a thirty-eight-year-old man who has remained virgin out of loving obedience to God, who saturate his mind with God’s Word and wholesome things, and who has a track record of making wise, God-honoring choices in his life.
My husband and I were in our thirties when we were single and dating. We were both virgins and had a track record of being chaste and of fleeing temptation. So even though we spent some time alone without external restraints (not in public, not with any chaperones), neither of us did anything inappropriate. We didn’t even kiss until our wedding day, even though kissing before marriage is not a sin.
What kept us chaste weren’t legalistic external restraints, but our own internal restraint and God-fueled commitment to honor Christ. So to us dating wasn’t a problem.
Based on my own experience, courtship is not the only way to honorably get married. Doing nothing about your love life and waiting forever past your twenties and thirties for Prince Charming to show up out of the blue is not the only way.
What made me revolutionize my approach to finding love is that God cleared me of legalistic, courtship rules that kept me single. He then led me on a big adventure to find my future husband.
I asked God why I was still single in my thirties, and how I could get married soon (or soon-ish). God answered my prayer this way:
First, I found this article, “Are we supposed to be actively looking for a spouse, or waiting for God to bring a spouse to us?” https://www.gotquestions.org/spouse-looking.html That introduced me to the idea that seeking a marriage partner wasn’t sinful but good.
After that I encountered more people and books that confirmed that being passive wasn’t more God-honoring than being proactive.
I realized that God’s sovereignty is no excuse for passivity, laziness, and fatalism. God being in control doesn’t excuse us from working to achieve good things, like marriage. Human responsibility goes hand in hand with God’s sovereignty. God provides for the birds, but they need to look for the food He provides. They’ll starve if they’re passive.
For the first time, I was exposed to the idea that I was in great part responsible for my love life, just as I was in great part responsible for my work life. This was huge! It gave me permission to take proactive action like an adult. That’s what enabled me to find my future husband in a few months, after a lifetime of singleness!
(You can read about the steps I took to search for and find for my future husband at https://getunstuckgetmarried.com/return-gift-singleness/ )
Within a year of proactively searching for my future husband, I had three godly, chaste, amazing men who wanted to marry me. The hard part was to choose among them, because they were each living a God-honoring life.
When I met my future husband on a Christian dating site I didn’t have prophecies or know that he was The One. I didn’t need to know the future. I just needed to be godly and walk and trust God. In my case I had to date to find out who was my future husband. I platonically dated him and others, and compared their characters and personalities, with the help of my pastor and his wife, to figure out which one was The One.
Just as courtship isn’t for everyone, my approach isn’t for everyone either. It’s for mature individuals who have self-control and discernment, and who won’t go off the rails when they’re not closely supervised.
I suggest you proactively search for a spouse only if:
- you’re ready for the responsibilities of marriage
- you have a strong love for God (demonstrated by obedience to His Word) and keep yourself from being defiled by the world
- you want to please God much more than you want to get married, so that when temptation comes, you will choose to obey God and reject sin
- you have strong discernment that enables you to gauge godly character and easily detect ungodliness in a man
Questions to ask yourself in order to help you move toward marriage:
- What are you going to do about your unwanted situation?
- What else can you do to reach your godly goal of marriage?
- Do you still feel ashamed of your desire for marriage or do you believe that it’s a healthy desire that God has put in most people?
- Have you worked harder to look for a job/car/school than you’re willing to work to achieve the marriage you want? Why is that? What’s more important?
- Do you feel annoyed that it might require work, effort, and energy on your part to get married to a wonderful godly person?
- Do you feel entitled to lifelong romantic love without any effort?
- Is God’s sovereignty an excuse to do nothing or a source of courage to step out in faith and achieve godly goals?
- Do you believe that, in general, people who work hard attain their goals faster than those who don’t exert much effort?
If you’re excited about taking responsibility for your love life, get 3 FREE chapters of my book From Stuck in Singleness to Marrying Mr. Right.