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Volume 11, Issue 3: Femina

Mrs. Bennet

Nancy Wilson

If you are familiar with Pride and Predjudice, either the book or one of the better films, you remember Mrs. Bennet. Her preoccupation with finding husbands for her daughters was a shame to the sensible members of her family. Her chief interest in life was in finding out what new men were in the neighborhood and whether they were unattached. In the book, Mrs. Bennet is a humorous and somewhat harmless character. But in real life, a woman like Mrs. Bennet can not only make people feel uncomfortable and awkward with her meddling, but she can bring about real harm.

As parents begin to recover a biblical view of dating and courtship, they will undoubtedly make mistakes. This is only natural. We can't unlearn and relearn everything instantly. But, nonetheless, we mothers could try not to be complete ding dongs. While a biblical view of courtship requires parental involvement and protection, it does not require mothers making the marriage of their children their singular mission in life. After all, marriage is not an end, but a means of bringing glory to God. If mothers chase after the young men the way they instruct their daughters not to, no good can result, much less praise and glory to God.
Consider what happens when a nice-looking young man comes to church for the first time. Are the Mrs. Bennets urging their husbands to get over there to meet him? Are they making a bee-line themselves? Are they telling him about their own college-aged daughter? Or are they finding someone who knows him and asking questions like, "Who's that young man? Does he have a girlfriend?"
The Mrs. Bennets in your church always keep their eyes peeled for who is giving whom any attention. Then they either pass on their findings indiscriminately among the interested, or they go straight to the mom of the party involved and ask sticky questions. "Is your son pursuing Susie?" "Is your daughter being courted by Johnny?" This may be of special interest because Mrs. Bennet was hoping Sam was available for her own daughter.
But you may ask, "What's wrong with trying to find a nice Christian young man for my daughter?" It sounds like such a holy pursuit! First of all, why do so many mothers think it is their job to find a suitable husband for their daughters? Has your husband delegated this responsibility to you? "Honey, Susie is pushing twenty-two, so I'd like you to find a husband for her. Start going through the church directory and we'll have the young men over to dinner in groups of three." I don't think so.
Many of the principles of courtesy that apply in this situation are simple applications of the golden rule. Do you want the women in the church pursuing your son? Do you want them talking about your daughter? Do you want them asking you pointed questions? Let's face it, a godly courtship is a challenge enough in itself. Parents need wisdom and caution and much grace. We should not make it harder on one another than it already is. Our children are very aware of how new this practice (of an old concept) is and they already feel like guinea pigs. We should bend over backwards in the church to keep from adding to the awkwardness by prying, guessing, or snooping on our friends. If parents are watching over a relationship, the last thing they need or want are pointed, "well-meaning" comments and questions. Rather, we should keep quiet and wait until those involved offer information.
But there are other pitfalls regarding parents and courtship that we must beware. This is especially important in the covenant community within the church because we want to all stay on good terms throughout the courtships and marriages of our children. If your best friend's daughter doesn't want to marry your son, you had better be spiritually up to not taking it personally. This means that we give way for the Lord to lead in our children's lives. They are His children, and He will guide and direct them as He pleases, not necessarily as we please. To keep our friendships sound and solid, we must not meddle in these things, but see how the Lord directs our children. As parents we are called to pray for our children, to counsel and guide them as much as we can, and, of course, with our daughters we have a duty to protect them. But we cannot make them like someone they don't. Nothing could be more disastrous than a dutiful child marrying someone Mom likes.
Much like the proverbial father who lives vicariously through his son in sports, mothers can be tempted to live vicariously through their daughters' romances. This is very dangerous because Mom needs to keep her emotions out of the confusion. Dads are well suited to the job of getting to know the young men who come calling. They must get to know them spiritually, doctrinally, dispositionally, and intellectually. Moms must determine not to be bowled over by charm and good looks or the excitement of someone coming courtin'. This is serious business and we must think like Christians-not like a romance novel.
Finally, mothers must not worry about whether daughters will get married or not. As I said above, marriage is a means not an end. If mothers become anxious about this, it will spread to the daughters. Though marriage is a wonderful gift to be desired, it is not the only gift, and it is not the most important thing. Glorifying God is our duty whether our children are married or not. God is faithful. He continues to work despite our silliness and stupidity. But in our determination to establish a Christian culture, we must overcome our Bennet-like traits and trust in God.

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