Volume 17, Issue 5: Childer
Taking one thing with another, the courtship model offers biblical protections for a young couple in the
formative stages of their relationship. But it does not provide automatic protection. Bible verses woodenly applied or
biblical methods taught by biblical teachers applied the same way are no substitute for
Put another way, parents are sinners too. And parents can be foolish, just as their kids can be. If the parents are
not guarding themselves, watching their own hearts, they can turn what ought to be an exciting and enjoyable time into
Abdication: This of course is a sin that commonly exists outside courtship circles (in the very nature of the case), but
it can also exist where parents say that they are commited to the courtship model. If a father meets and approves a
suitor for his daughter in a perfunctory way, he is abdicating responsibility, even if he technically has done what he needs
to have done.
Micromanagement: This blunder is the result of parents taking their responsibilities in this way too seriously. While
an abdicating father may not ask certain important questions ("Do you have a problem with
pornography?"), micromanaging parents will, for no good reason, pry into the arcana of the suitor's past. ("What was your favorite
color in the third grade?") Micromanaging parents will also dictate other aspects of the courtship that they should best
leave alone. "And the fifth time he comes over, you will be allowed to sit alone together in the living room for ten minutes."
Vicarious living: Parents frequently have to resist the temptation of reliving their own youth (or, worse, going for a
"do over") through the lives of their children. Mom enjoyed the prom so much when she went, that she wants to ensure
that her daughter has the same experience. And Dad did not make the football team, and so his son has to try out. The way
it applies to courtship is that parents want their kid to get the cute girl or guy, and then they can bask in the
reflected glory. But a "courtship triumph" that makes everybody talk for a few days is not necessarily headed for a godly
marriage. In other words, a bad marriage can have had a courtship that provided the vicarious thrill. Parents need to
have other criteria in mind.
Dibbies: Sometimes courtships are launched prematurely because the girl or guy is really cute, not to mention
really young. Those parents who are trying to set something up understand that if such a cute human being is allowed to
make her way through life unattended for the next eight years, the chances are excellent to outstanding that somebody
else is going to get in on the act. And so what they try to do is get
dibbies, without actually getting a courtship going.
Everybody is too young to start something now, and so the trick is to get things tied up (so others can't get in on the action)
without actually getting anything started. This can be done by various meansthe parents on both sides coming to an
"understanding," some kind of a secret courtship, or institutionalized flirtation.
Power tripping: Sometimes a father says
no to a suitor just to prove that he can. Or another set of parents pressure
their daughter to be "interested" in somebody that she is not at all interested in. One indication of power tripping is that
a father, for example, changes the terms and conditions of the courtship, and then blames the suitor for the
misunderstandings. The suitor is not in a strong bargaining position. The father has control over what he wants, and he is
afraid that if he calls him on it, then the father will tell him to get lost for good. And this is what lies behind some suitors
just keeping their head down, quietly complying, getting marriedand then getting lost for good.
Poor communication: Husbands and wives who do not communicate well in ordinary circumstances are not
suddenly going to be able to communicate well just because someone has shown an interest in their daughter. And what
happens here is that the father talks to the suitor about something (say, any previous relationships he was in), and yet cannot
talk with his wife about the details of what they talked about. He can't do it because he can't talk to her about such things
in the best of times, and if he told her what they talked about, she would flip out. And then when she has a
conservation with the suitor, she is assuming a wildly different circumstance than what the suitor knew he told the father just
two nights before. Not surprisingly, he starts drawing conclusions about the state of communication between Mr. and Mrs.
In short, the time of courtship is a challenging time for parents. It is not the time to start up your attempts
at wisdom. This is the time in your life when wisdom should be coming to fruition. It is not the time to throw the
familial equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.