The "Christian Courtship Movement" has been receiving a lot of flack these days, not just from non-Christians, but unfortunately from those claiming Christ. For some, the term stirs up false ideas of forced marriages and over-controlling parents and pastors. However, for me it has proven to be a great blessing. I used to say "by faith," but it is now by experience, that there is a better way than our modern concepts of dating.
In the summer of 1996, while doing mission work in Pakistan, I wrote a list of the top ten qualities I pray for in a husband. It had many revisions until November of 1997 when I had my list completed. I placed it in what is known as the "Love Chapter," 1 Corinthians 13. Each time I came across that piece of paper in that passage, I would pray for my future husband. I would pray for his protection and for God's guidance. I also adapted a prayer that Elisabeth Elliot prayed for her daughter: "Keep her from and for the man she is to marry." It was important that I not realize who he was too soon. I, like most people, I believe, like to get ahead of God. If I knew his will ahead of time, I for sure would have had it all botched-up! So I prayed, "Lord, keep him from me." I also pray that the Lord would keep him FOR me. I desired someone with purity. Certainly people make mistakes, but purity is always possible. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:1). How much better, though, to have never lost the purity from the beginning!
The list I wrote included the following things: (It did not include "Christian," since that is a given and no man ever was compared to the list who was not first a believer [1 Cor. 6:14]):
1. Clear-cut vision (Pr. 29:18; Hab. 2:2-3). I desired someone who had an idea of where he was going in life. Not that every step had to be mapped out, but I wanted to have someone I could follow. It has been demonstrated throughout history that if a man does not know where he is going, that's exactly where he will take his wife!
2. Teachable spirit (Pr. 3:11-12; Pr. 1:5-7). Every Christian needs to be able to be taught and ready to receive the doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness that comes from the word of God.
3. Under authority (Rom. 13:1-5; Lk. 7:6-10). A person who is a good servant and follower will develop the qualities necessary in a good leader. The Bible tells us that those who wish to be the greatest in the kingdom must be a servant of all.
4. Leader (Eph. 5:22-33; Pr. 31:23). As clearly taught in Scripture, the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church. Here I would pray that my future husband would not be afraid to be a leader and take the authority and responsibility that go with this.
5. Same beliefs (Am. 3:3). Under this heading I have six points on which I felt it was important we agreed. I will not list them here, for fear that they would cause debate or division. Some are standards of my church and others very personal. However, I prayed for someone that held to those six convictions. "How can two walk together unless they be agreed?"
6. Clear conscience (Ec. 11:9; ROM 13:5; 1 Tim. 3:8-9; 1 Pet. 3:15-17). Marriage is difficult enough by itself, without bringing into it a host of emotional or spiritual baggage! I prayed that my husband would have freedom from his past and purity of his heart today.
7. Sense of humor (Pr. 17:22). Personally, I love to laugh and I need someone to laugh with me.
8. Good with children (Ps. 127:3-5; Mt. 18:2-6). The Bible clearly teaches that children are a blessing and a heritage of the Lord. It is my conviction to have as many children as God will grant. Therefore, I needed someone equally minded in this area, someone who loves children and accepts them as a blessing from God, and not as an added burden, as the world would have us believe.
9. Financially free (Rom. 13:7-8). I strongly believe that Christians should not be in financial bondage and debt. I believe that if we apply Biblical principles of tithing, giving, and saving, we can remain free from the bondage of debt. A new marriage does not need the additional strain of financial trouble. One of the main things couples fight over is the god of money! It stirs up plenty of trouble when a couple has not applied, nor learned, the Biblical principles of money.
10. Prayer warrior (1 Thes. 5:17; 1 Tim 2:8; Rom. 12:12). The old adage is still true, "A family that prays together, stays together." Prayer acts as the glue that holds successful marriages together.
I prayed in faith, believing that if God should choose to give me the gift of marriage, he would also give me to someone with whom I was equally yoked. Equally yoked is more than our basic faith in Christ; it also includes the practical aspects of the Christian life.
There is a mission group that travels around the United States each year called the Missionaries to America. They have approximately twelve people from twelve different countries who evangelize the U. S. for one year at a time. My church was hosting the team for a week, and my family was housing several with us. Through many bizarre circumstances, it happened that a young man named Gana, from Mongolia, was staying with my brother. In hindsight, it was not really happenstance, but God's unique providence. Throughout the week I drove a man from Zambia, a man from Panama, as well as Gana to and from their speaking and singing engagements. During the week there was no emotional talk nor physical contact. Gana showed equal attention to all members of my family and we had many fun, as well as serious, times as a family. I stress "as a family." It's important to know how a potential spouse relates in a family environment and not strictly on a one-on-one basis. At the end of the week, we all knew that something had changed between Gana and me. The next few weeks were filled with conversations on the phone and with letters. Still there was no emotional talk nor physical contact. There was lots of praying, though. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." I asked God many times for wisdom.
One day Gana called and had that "talk" with my Dad. When my Dad hung up the phone he asked, "So, are you willing to live in Mongolia?"
I should add that, all my life I have felt a burden and a call to foreign missions. I have traveled a good deal and have done mission work in both Mexico and Pakistan. So, the fact that Dad posed that question did not surprise me. What surprised me was my parents' peace and complete trust in God. They felt the hand of God guiding us and they never said, "Mongolia?!" No way!" At that point I did what any sensible young woman would have done: I began to fast. I prayed, fasted, and implored God for wisdom. I searched God's word and listened for what God was saying through it.
After a couple of days of prayer, something very strange happened. Another man called and asked my Dad if I could be "his partner in life," as the man put it.
Many people, when approached about the concept of courtship or non-dating, say, "Well, how will you ever get married if you don't date?!" I'd gone years without a boyfriend and when I told people that God would provide, they doubted my sanity and my God. It was my conviction that God could supply without my being on the hunt. To those who doubted that a person could marry without dating — take notice that God is all-powerful. When we commit ourselves to do things God's way, he does provide.
Now, things had gotten a little dizzying! I not only had to decide about Gana, but about the new man. Although I had no feelings for the new man, I still appealed to God. I took a few days and spiritually and emotionally separated myself from the situation. I was not choosing between the two or one man over the other man. In actuality, it could have been neither. With my parents' counsel and God's guidance, I came to a decision. I chose Gana. He met each of the ten things for which I had been praying. I think God brought the other man along only to show me, and perhaps those doubting, that God can and will provide a husband. God answered my prayer better than I could have ever answered it myself: "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. . ." (Eph. 3:20).
My story is unlike all others! Gana returned to Mongolia shortly after I accepted his proposal. He is making things ready for me. He is working to return to the United States next year. He is not called to live in the United States. He is on staff at his church and is called to stay there. Mongolia has known Christ for only seven years. There are only seven to eight thousand Christians in the nation. He says, "My country needs me. America doesn't need me." But America needs a lot more like him — those who are committed to purity and the word of God!
Before he returned to Mongolia, he did spend some more time with my family in our home. We have a hands-off, lips-off courtship. We have agreed that the first time we ever come together will be at the altar, when the pastor says, "You may kiss the bride." In Douglas Wilson's book entitled, Her Hand In Marriage, he says, "We somehow think a godly Christian is one who can pre-heat the oven without cooking the roast." Since, as intelligent humans, we knew that it is nearly impossible to start a fire and not let it burn, we decided to keep ourselves to ourselves until marriage.
The "cleanness" of our courtship has been a beautiful thing to see. It has encouraged my Christian walk and made me stand in awe of how great a God we serve. When Gana and I would discuss things, we would do so sitting right there on the living room couch. Frequently my parents would be sitting with us and we would all discuss all things openly! There are no secrets. It is pure and holy.
While there are some basic guidelines, every courtship is unique. Anyone following the Biblical model will wait until a marriageable age; keep himself pure until marriage; go through the proper authority channels, i.e., parents and pastors; and have a relationship based on Jesus Christ and his word. Yet, not very many will have a story like mine. God is quite creative and will do things in a special way each time. When we apply his basic principles, we are showing God that we trust him enough to let him plan our lives.
Still, there will be skeptical people in the church who will want to cling to the world's counterfeit of dating. But, that's just what it is, a counterfeit. The world would like us to believe that we can have good results even if we avoid God's blueprint. God may help us to work through the problems we have created for ourselves, but it will never take the place of the original plan that God designed.
I eagerly await the day when Christians will start approaching the issue of dating and courtship with purity and holiness in mind, rather than how much fun they can get out of life. Purity is not an impossible goal. We can save ourselves for our future mates, not because we might get a STD or an unwanted pregnancy, but because of covenant.