On Saturday morning I took my oldest son out for breakfast. We went to Lowesville cafe for a little one-on-one time which does not happen enough. As we were talking, I had this frightening thought, “He’s only 2 years away from being a teenager!” Every parent will tell you that time flies, but I believe that it seems to go faster as your kids get older. I realized that the next 10 years of parenting are going to be a lot different from the first 10 years for Liz and I. In parenting, there’s always this dual responsibility of protection and preparation. In many ways, we’ve spent a lot more time protecting than preparing, but that will change as our children get older.
One of the areas that I am really burdened is to prepare my children for is marriage. I know that every family has different rules for dating or courtship, so I’m not going to try to tread on any preferential standards. The Bible does not speak specifically on the issue of dating, because that’s basically a cultural phenomena of the last 70 or so years. I do think though that the Bible does give some basic principles that we can teach our children regarding dating, courting and choosing a spouse. I think we must be diligent to instruct our kids in this area, because the institution of marriage is falling apart in our society and it’s not much better within the Christian community. To me, the choosing of a mate is the most important decision in life after our decision to follow Christ. When I see all the young kids in our church I see a huge opportunity. We can either let the status quo for dating and courtship to exist or we can change the culture in our homes. I don’t want this to be a long post, so I’m going to share one principle now and some more in the days ahead. All of these are rooted in Scripture and I believe are timeless and trans-cultural.
Principle #1 – Parents should play a major part in helping choosing a spouse for their child. I know that I may sound like an old fuddy-duddy here, but there was a time when parents chose a mate for their children (in some parts in Asia, this still happens). As a young person, I scoffed at that kind of thinking, but the longer I’m married, the more I understand that marriage and love is more about commitment than feelings. There’s a reason that all of our romantic comedies and dramas that we watch end with the couple getting together. You know why? Because after a man and woman commit to each other, that’s when the real work begins. As a veteran of marriage, my wife and I can say that we know more about who might be a good husband and wife than my 20-22 year old does.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we revert to a time when arranged marriages are the norm. I think we are far past that as a culture, but we must teach our children that a parent’s wisdom and advice is to be trusted. In most movies, it’s the classic story of parents who don’t understand true love, but in real life, it’s the exact opposite. I remember my mom and dad telling my brothers and I that if they didn’t like a girl that we brought home, then she probably wasn’t a good girl. We need to teach our children to trust us and our wisdom. Teach your boy to observe how the girl they are interested in respects her father. If she doesn’t, there will be a time when she doesn’t respect them. Teach your girl to observe how the boy they like treats his mom or sister. It shows what he really thinks about love and respect. Of course, this is harder than we usually think. My worst fear is that my little girl brings home a bad guy with a bad attitude. So what do we do?
One of the best ways to handle this is to invite the other person into your home…a lot. This will allow the boy or girl of interest to be observed in a variety of settings. One thing we need to teach our children is that 2 teenagers of the opposite sex have no need to spend time alone. Nothing good will come of it. I remember a friend whose parents did not like the person they were “falling in love with”. Instead of pushing this person away and making this a forbidden love thing, the parents invited this teenager over all the time. They invited him over so much that their daughter started to see the kind of person this young man was and got sick of him and dumped him. I wish it was always that simple, it sometimes isn’t, but parent’s must remain diligent.
Another simple way to influence the heart of your child is to pray. Pray diligently for God to work in their heart so that they will be attracted to the right kind of person. I don’t know how many of you do this, but the prayer for your child’s spouse should be a regular request that you bring before God.
Of course, there are examples in Scripture that show a parent choosing a spouse for their child (Abraham, Caleb), and that may be more of a cultural reality than anything else, but this really comes down to a gospel issue. We need to remember to have marriages the exemplify the love of Christ. In Ephesians 5 Paul speaks of marriage as one of the most perfect illustrations of the gospel. When we model this for them, we teach them what marriage and love should look like, and we put a taste in their mouths for the kind of relationship that God desires for them to have.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever talked with your kids about dating or courtship, but it’s never too late to start. I hope and pray that there will be a generation of parents that are proactive in this battle. Don’t let the culture determine the standards of love and attraction. Fight to keep your kids hearts close to yours and constantly teach and instruct them what a godly marriage should look like.
What advice would you give your kids now knowing what you do about marriage?