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Don't Kiss Until the Wedding!

by Israel Wayne

I know what you are thinking. How can any American teenager engage the thought of marrying someone they have never even kissed?! Well, that would have been my thought ten years ago. Like almost every other 14-year-old, I presumed that you couldn't possibly get married if you didn't date. Dating was pre-supposed in my mind. "When I graduate from homeschooling, I'll go to college, date a lot, and then settle down and marry someone when I'm really old you know, like thirty or so."

It's amazing how convictions can change in ten years! I went from knowing nothing but typical dating, to marrying a woman I had never dated or kissed before! I was living in Michigan, Brook, my wife-to-be, was living in Arizona.

I met her in August, 1998. Less than two weeks later, I had e-mailed a proposal to her father asking for permission to marry her. It is a really long story (see bio at the end of this article), but four days later she accepted my proposal for marriage, and after a 4-1/2 month betrothal, we were married.

We saw each other twice before the wedding, and we didn't kiss until after our wedding ceremony. Is that weird? Why would two average American homeschooled graduates do something radical like this?

Ok, here is what happened. My teenage ambitions quickly began to dissipate as I reached 15. Not only did I eventually decide I could make it through life without college, I also discovered that dating wasn't all it was cracked up to be. It dawned on me that if I date someone, and we break up (which is going to happen more often than not!), we will both experience emotional pain since we have given our hearts to each other.

Imagine sticking a piece of masking tape on your arm, and then ripping it off very quickly. It hurts! However, if you repeat the process a dozen times, it isn't as painful. Why? Well, you have ripped all the hairs off of your arm, and they act as sensors to inform your brain that you are harming yourself. This same process can happen in dating as well. As they say, "Breakin' up is hard to do," but the more you do it, the more you get used to it.

Why isn't it good to be desensitized to pain? It may seem good to have our emotions hardened, but this doesn't work very well in a marriage. Who wants to have a spouse who is uncaring, unfeeling, and guards themselves so they won't be hurt? We all want spouses who can freely give and receive love.

Is it possible that our modern form of dating is actually preparation for divorce instead of marriage? Take for example, how easy it becomes to break up. When a dating relationship runs into difficulty, one or both persons jump out of the ship. After a while, a deep-rooted pattern of leaping out of the relationship is developed. Once such a person is married, if things don't go their way in the relationship, they revert to default mode: bail out!

What is the answer to this crisis of emotional pain, breaking up and eventually callousing the heart? My wife and I found it in the Bible. You see, the ancient Jewish people held to the belief that your emotions should follow you, rather than you following your emotions. The Old Testament is filled with stories of young people who chose to marry their spouses before romantic love had begun. They made a decision to love the person they married. Our culture tells us to "marry the person we love, and if we stop loving that person, just go find someone else for whom we have romantic feelings." As the 60s song says, "If you can't be with the one you love, then love the one your with."

Many families in Christian homeschooling circles have opted for courtship instead of dating. We personally do NOT believe courtship is in accordance with the Bible's teaching. (We are NOT courtship fans.) The term is not found in Scripture, nor is the concept. Courtship is most commonly defined as a stage between friendship and engagement or betrothal. Since most conservative Christian homeschoolers are concerned with the painful side effects of dating, they have opted for the older and more traditional method of courtship. Courtship attempts to circumvent break-ups by allowing the parents to have more control of who the young person spends time with. Courtship almost always mandates the blessing of the parents on the relationship, and usually insists that the young people meet at the parents' home, or in a group setting. In a courtship setting, it is usually understood that you would not court someone who you would not seriously consider marrying. There is very little physical contact between the couple, and the couple must conduct themselves with purity. It is more conservative than promiscuous dating, and is definitely safer, but there are still some major flaws.

SOME PROBLEMS WITH COURTSHIP

During courtship, the parents watch the relationship, and if they feel that marriage is the next logical step, they give their consent and the young people can become engaged. Here is where the problem comes in. Let's say that things aren't going very well in the courtship. Perhaps the two families experience some serious differences, which cause division. Or perhaps the young couple disagrees or argues a lot. The parents will likely decide that they need to break off the relationship. Suddenly we are faced with the same lousy scenario we were trying to escape in the first place! It is never desirable to give your heart to someone and then break up.

WHY BETROTHAL IS BEST

So what is the other option? The best approach, from Scripture and our experience, is for the two young people to get to know each other well, as friends. The two families, if they live in proximity, should spend time together without the pressure of dating or courting. This allows them to be themselves, with no false front. If in time the young man feels he should be getting married to a certain young lady, he needs to do several things: First, he needs to assess God's calling on his life, and see how this young woman would fit into that call. You don't want to marry someone who is going in a completely different direction. You want to make sure you are in agreement on the essentials.

Secondly, he should evaluate all of the objective criteria he and his parents have established for finding a mate. Does this young lady have all the character traits that make for a good wife. Will she love her husband and children, is she honest, does she care about helping people, etc.?

Thirdly, he should seek the counsel of his parents. Parental authority is one safeguard against the immaturity of the heart, and parents can wisely counsel the young man, and help bring clarity. The parents can often help the young man know when he is ready to be married. If the timing isn't right, he should wait until he is ready (in all ways) to be married.

Once he has obtained the blessing of his parents, he then goes to the young woman's father (since he is her protector and authority) and seeks his blessing on their marriage. If he and his wife feel good about the marriage, they talk to their daughter and allow her to decide whether or not she feels it is God's will. If they feel there are certain areas in which the young man is unready for marriage, they should establish a certain time frame for resolving these issues. During the time when the young man is meeting the expectations of the girl's father, the young lady should be unaware of the young man's interest.

If she knows that this man desires to marry her, she will almost inevitably give her heart to him (assuming he is a decent man). This would be dangerous if the young man fails to follow through with the needed preparation. Let's suppose that the girl's father says, "I would like to have lunch with you once a week for the next couple months, to get to know you and your beliefs." If, during that time, the father notices some major character flaws, that would be detrimental to the well being of his daughter, he must reject the young man's proposal.

If, on the other hand, the young man "passes inspection," the young lady's father and mother will present to her the option of marriage. At this point, the young lady must earnestly evaluate the character of the young man, and along with her parents, decide if he possesses all of the objective qualifications of a good husband. If he does not, the decision should stop here. For example, if their life goals, ambitions, values, and standards are radically different, it will be hard to have a peaceful marriage.

If he meets the criteria, she must sincerely seek the Lord's specific will for her life. The decision must be made on the will of the Lord, not on her personal wishes or desires. There is a place for personal feelings, since they are important, but they must not be the ultimate deciding factor. God's will must be paramount.

If the answer to the proposal is, "Yes!" then we believe the young woman should tell the young man personally. However, if the young woman chooses not to marry the young man, we feel it is best for the girl's father to tell the young man that they cannot be engaged or betrothed. It would be very hard for a young lady to tell the young man "No." Besides, he may try to emotionally manipulate her and get her to change her mind, but he will not pull this stunt with her father!

Once all the parties involved feel a peace about it, a date for the marriage can be set and the young people become engaged. Once engaged or betrothed, there is a commitment that lasts until marriage. In a courtship stage you basically have "one foot in and one foot out." There is no wall of commitment around the relationship (the fundamental problem with dating). Although it seems paradoxical, only within boundaries can you find freedom. A loving relationship can only blossom and flourish in a context of mutual commitment.

Once this pledge is made, the young couple can begin to safely release their emotions to each other.

Obviously, the young couple isn't married yet, and must guard themselves against sexual impropriety, but there is no need to fear the other person walking out of the relationship. This is one of the major blessings of betrothal. If conflicts arise during this time (as they inevitably will) the couple is committed to working out the difficulty, just as they must do the rest of their married life. In a dating or courtship setting, however, conflict is usually perceived as a red flag, and the relationship is often terminated. Every married couple will have some degree of disagreement. You are merging two universes, and there will naturally be some tension. "Iron sharpens iron," but sparks often fly in the process. By learning to work through troubles during the betrothal, the couple has a good head start on marriage, and there aren't as many "surprises" once they are wed.

The Biblical Isaac and Rebekah didn't use dating or a courtship, to "try it out" and "see how they liked each other." Once the covenant of marriage is made, it is God's blessing, the support of the families, and commitment that holds everything together, not how well everyone experimented with flirtatious dating, or manipulated a cute courtship. None of these ideas we have expressed are to be taken as a return to prearranged marriages, or removing from young people the ability to choose who they marry.

Our desire is not to move Middle Eastern marriage customs to the U.S. We don't want people to feel a need for a "one size fits all" approach to marriage. These are simply guidelines that we have learned from the Bible, and now believe are the best. No two marriages are brought about exactly the same. The main thing is following God's will. We have seen the wisdom of returning to the true and tried method of betrothal. Of the several dozen families I know who have followed a betrothal model, none have divorced.

WHAT ABOUT ROMANCE?

My wife and I have a very romantic relationship. We love each other very much. We know of several betrothed couples who have been happily married for over ten years. It works! What makes betrothal unique is that the commitment comes first. The decision of who to marry is based on the will of God, and the input of wiser, older mentors. Emotions are not released to another until there is a irrevocable covenant made. If you determine to love someone, the emotions follow. The good news is, if the emotions ever do fade temporarily, you don't abandon the ship. You hang in there until they come back around. You aren't driven by how you feel from day to day. You stand on God's will, and the commitment you have made.

We hope this helps to give some direction to those who are seeking the best path regarding marriage and youthful romance. We have consistently covered many of these issues in HOME SCHOOL DIGEST, and our company, Wisdom's Gate, has recently published the story of our betrothal which is entitled, "What God Has Joined Together." This booklet is both romantic and humorous, and gives an idea of how these ideas have worked in a real life scenario.


Israel & Brook Wayne are both homeschooled graduates, popular conference speakers, and have written numerous articles for national publications. The 24-page betrothal booklet, "What God Has Joined Together," is available for only $5.00 per copy. Write to: Wisdom's Gate P.O. Box 374 Covert, MI 49043.

To email them, use: wisgate@characterlink.net

Visit their website: www.homeschooldigest.com

To receive the special issue of HOME SCHOOL DIGEST (V10#3) telling the story of Israel & Brook's betrothal, from the parent's perspective as well, send $5 to the address above. Each issue is nearly 100 pages! Published quarterly from a Christian perspective. Over ten years of serving homeschoolers. Subscriptions are $18 for 4 issues. If you mention "The Link" when you subscribe, you can sign up a friend for a 1 year gift subscription...Absolutely Free! Samples are $5.00.

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