An old and dear friend called this weekend, ecstatic. It seems her daughter Chelsea has met the man of her dreams and the young couple has recently become engaged.
Chelsea is a mere 20 years old.
Now normally, if I heard that someone barely out of her teens was engaged to be married, I would advise extreme caution and suggest they put on the brakes for, oh, six or seven years. By their late twenties, most women usually have the maturity to recognize the characteristics in a man which meet their criteria for a happy marriage. But at 20? Not a chance.
But Chelsea isn’t like most of the young women to whom I would give this counsel. Chelsea has been homeschooled her whole life. She was raised with strong biblical beliefs, and part of those beliefs includes embracing her future role as a wife and mother. By avoiding the peer pressure of public schools, those beliefs have not been watered down or skewed in any way.
And what about Ben, her fiancé? He is 24 years old, a homeschool and college graduate, and gainfully employed. His religious beliefs are similar to Chelsea’s.
As I see it, when young people approach the serious subject of a life-long commitment from a similar foundation of rock-solid morals, their chances of a happy and successful married life increase exponentially.
But far too few young people do that, or even know how. In today’s culture, hooking up is the norm. Chastity is not. Serial marriages are the norm. Half-century marriages are not.
Some of the reasons I have no concerns about Chelsea and Ben’s future happiness are as follows:
• She and Ben, needless to say, are virgins. They have no sordid history of partners where physical intimacy was achieved before learning the other person’s last name. There is no trail of broken hearts – theirs or others – stretching behind them. Nor are they blinded to each others' faults by lust.
• Both Chelsea and Ben have their priorities in the right place. Whether or not you agree with their choices (for Ben to support Chelsea as a stay-at-home mom), the important thing is they agree. Chelsea’s interest in being the keeper of the home means their home will become the sanctuary it is meant to be.
• To that end, Ben did not seek out the prospects of marriage, even though he was in love with Chelsea, until he was certain he could provide for her physical needs. He is a talented musician with sixty students and a long waiting list. He knows he can support a wife and children.
• They have a mutual and rock-solid faith which cements them together.
• Ben had enough respect for Chelsea to seek out the blessings of her parents. He spent time with her family to get to know everyone and assure them his intentions were honorable. Yeah sure, those words might come straight out of Jane Austen, but can you deny they will contribute to the happiness and security of the young couple?
In other words, folks, Ben courted Chelsea. I would say courtship is a far better and more mature way to approach marriage than dating.
Courtship is a concept that has fallen by the wayside over the past century, but it’s beginning to make a comeback because young people are rejecting the feel-good permissiveness that has ruined entire generations. The societal repercussions of dating are obvious.
But courtship is a whole different ball of wax. Besides the obvious deferral of physical gratification, courtship implies a respectful intent to join lives within the boundaries of God-sanctioned matrimony. Rather than the frenzied, haphazard dating that so often results in heartbreak and ruin, courtship brings forth joy, esteem, values, and common sense. Young people get to know their intended’s families, knowing full well they must receive the blessings of the others’ parents before proceeding. To earn that blessing, of course, the young man or woman must be a worthy recipient.
In my friend’s case, Ben spent a great deal of time in discussion with Chelsea’s parents, earnestly describing his situation: moral, financial, spiritual, etc. He outlined his expectations of what he would contribute to a marriage. He earned first the respect, then the love, then the blessing of Chelsea’s parents. This ensures Chelsea and Ben will not start out their married life with baggage from unhappy and uncooperative family members. It’s not just the starry-eyed physical attraction that is bringing Chelsea and Ben together; it’s the practical reality of how they want their married life to unfold.
Some people may squawk that this kind of courtship is old-fashioned and repressive. Old-fashioned, of course. Repressive? Hardly. For purposes of clarity, Chelsea will walk down the aisle on her wedding day, wearing white and deserving it. How many other young women her age aren’t walking down the aisle at all, but instead are rolling in the sack with a succession of virtual strangers and calling it liberated? Who do you think has the better prospects for long-term happiness, stability, and peace?
This is all well and good, but what about a young person who is interested in courting but can’t find anyone worthy?
Young men who want to court are often appalled by the quality of women available, women who have spent their formative years learning to bare their bodies in suggestive ways and indulge in behavior guaranteed to lead to heartbreak and misery. These women often consider their careers to be paramount, they believe men are expendable, and they believe children should be put in daycare at the earliest opportunity to be “socialized.”
Young women who want to court are often appalled by the quality of men available, men who only want to (cough) sow their wild oats without reaping what they’re sowing. They have no intention of stopping their adolescent proclivities and less interest in taking on mature responsibilities as husbands, fathers, and providers for their family.
So what are pure young people to do? It is unquestionably a dilemma. But I know one thing: if a young man were to approach my husband and me with the intention of courting (rather than dating) one of our daughters, I would be thrilled.
That’s why it’s such a lovely blessing when two of these lucky souls meet and marry. I wish Chelsea and her fiancé Ben the greatest possible happiness in life.