2005 at 6:14 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
Q. I am 18 years old and would like to know how to be “just friends” with the guys in our church, but don’t know how. Can you give me any advice?
A. It wasn’t so long ago now that I was navigating my way through the teen years and into early adulthood. One issue always lurking in the shadows was “friendships with guys.” How do these relationships look different from those with my girlfriends? How much time do I spend with them? Is it okay to hang out one on one or talk on the phone?
I always wished for a simple set of rules—just a little list of “do’s and dont’s” that I could carry around in my pocket. These rules would guarantee me success, and I would no longer have to worry about that little conscience of mine. However, I learned early on that this one was a wisdom issue, and that Scripture was the primary source for that wisdom.
In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul tells Timothy that he should, “Treat…younger women like sisters, in all purity.” Now if the guys are going to treat us as “sisters in all purity,” then we in turn must act like sisters, in purity! Here in this verse is the wisdom we so desperately need. We must ask ourselves—do I treat my guy friends as I would my own brother? Am I walking in absolute purity toward all young men?
For myself, I realized that my heart often had many competing motives at work in my relationships with guys. Instead of thinking and acting like a sister, I sometimes found myself wanting the attention of a particular guy. I also wanted other girls to think I had a sufficient number of guys that called me “friend.” Often times, the motives behind my relationships with guys were not God-honoring.
That is why it was so helpful that my mom and I kept a running dialogue on this issue. We didn’t have some kind of formal debriefing once a week, but talking about my guy friends was a regular part of our lives. These conversations were most critical for me in the accountability that they provided and the counsel that my mom brought. For those of you who may not have a godly mom, I would encourage you to have these types of conversations with another older, wiser, woman in your church. As Mom said last week, we aren’t called to live the Christian life alone. We need the help, encouragement, and counsel of others.
I also quickly learned that my friendships with guys needed to look quite different than my friendships with girls. I recall a conversation that I once had with my singles pastor. He told me, “Janelle, guys read into things just as much as girls do. When a girl shows consistent attention to one guy, it can cultivate affection in that guy’s heart.” While I may have been considering my guy friends as brothers, they may have been thinking that there was something more. I remember my mom telling me to relate to all guys as “another woman’s husband.” I found this little phrase to be a very helpful heart-check in relating to my guy friends.
All of this said, friendships with guys are not wrong. In fact I would argue that friendships with godly young men during these years are a gift from the Lord and something to be enjoyed. Paul is obviously assuming that Timothy will relate to other young women in the church, but he makes clear what those relationships ought to look like.
As one of three girls (until my favoritist little brother arrived on the scene 12 yrs. after me) I’m very grateful for the guys that were my “brothers” during those years. If we pursue the biblical principles of purity and brotherly love, we can be free to enjoy godly friendships with godly guys as blessings from our heavenly Father.
2005 at 10:43 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
Apparently it was my lack of interest in CJ that, among other things, first captured his interest in me.
He couldn’t understand why I was being rude and unkind about simply fixing him a hot dog. He was curious. Intrigued. He wanted to find out more about this girl. He began to look for ways to interact with me.
I, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with him and purposed to avoid him.
Little did CJ know that he fit the profile of the kind of man I had vowed I would never marry—a preacher. See, growing up in the church I had observed many men in pastoral ministry who had mishandled finances, or committed adultery, or neglected to make their families a priority. Consequently, I had determined at a young age that I would not marry a man who was a pastor.
However, God in His great mercy had different plans for me.
As I began to listen to CJ preach over that week I was captivated by his passion for the Savior. So much so that by the time he asked me to take a walk with him several days later, I actually agreed. I was now the curious one. I wondered: Was this guy as passionate in real life as he appeared to be on stage?
My questions were quickly answered in that one walk. Because the only topic of our one-sided conversation (he did all the talking!) was about Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for our sins. And it was this same topic that dominated our conversations in many walks to follow.
I was smitten, and began to rethink my vow not to marry a preacher.
By the time CJ had completed his week of teaching at the conference center, he had communicated his interest in me, I had introduced him to my parents, I had decided not to go to Bible college and was rehired to my previous secretarial position, and a courtship had begun!
Or so I thought. However, I did not hear from CJ for several weeks after his return to Maryland.
You see, before CJ had met me, he had concluded that the most effective way he could serve the Savior was to remain single. So, when he got back home, he began to deal with a raging conflict in his soul. He began to wrestle with the question: Was he being unfaithful to God’s call on his life by pursuing marriage?
Thankfully, through the help and wise counsel of others he was able to resolve this issue and conclude that he wasn’t neglecting his God-given call by pursuing me. However, he had some big-time explaining to do when he finally phoned.
After we surmounted this hurdle, the courtship took off. However, the long-distance factor of our relationship, made the times together too infrequent, the good-byes extra difficult, and the phone bills way too high. So it was sweet indeed, when CJ asked me to marry him. Or more accurately, he asked: “Will you be engaged to me?” I think he had difficulty getting that word “marry” out of his mouth. But after my asking for clarification, he was able to say: “Will you marry me?”
I said “yes” and by far it is the best “yes” I have ever uttered.
In spite of the fact that each of us wanted to be somewhere else the day we met, that I didn’t want to marry a preacher, and that C.J. wasn’t sure he should get married, God’s quiet providence had other plans in mind. C.J. and I were married on May 17, 1975. He was 21 and I was 19.
This year we celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary, and this post is not long enough to tell you of the love we have for each other today. However, I have included a tribute to my husband, given at the occasion of his turning over leadership of Covenant Life Church. In brief, it tells the story of our thirty years together.
2005 at 11:35 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
It all started with a cold hot dog. Or at least that is what my husband claims was the temperature of this All-American staple food I fixed for him the first time we met. Though we had been officially introduced earlier in the day, it was the “hot dog incident” of that unforgettable evening in the summer of 1974 that inaugurated our relationship. Let me fill in a few details of the story.
At the time of our meeting, I was living at and working as a secretary for a Christian conference center in Bradenton, Florida, where guest speakers came to teach for week-long series. CJ had just arrived from Maryland as the new speaker for the week. The reason I was serving up hot dogs instead of attending to my secretarial duties was because I had recently quit my job as secretary. I had planned to move back home with my family before heading off to a Bible college in Texas in a matter of days. However, my friends hounded me until I reluctantly agreed to stay one extra week to hear and meet a passionate preacher named CJ Mahaney. And I was doing odd jobs for the week to compensate for my extended stay—thus my canteen duty where hot dogs and the like were served. But truth be told, I really did not want to be there. And I really did not want to meet CJ Mahaney.
So when he showed up at the canteen after the 11:00 PM closing time and asked for a hot dog, I said, “Sorry, we are closed.” He explained he had been traveling most of the day, just finished preaching and praying for people, and had hardly eaten a thing. He wondered if I would make an exception. With evident displeasure, I agreed. But I guess I didn’t boil that hot dog quite long enough to make it truly hot!
And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to be at that place at that time. CJ had also worked through his own struggles with not wanting to be there. After accepting the invitation to speak at this conference center in Florida, he had received another invitation to speak at Jesus ’74—one of the largest and most popular events on the Christian landscape at that time. So needless to say, he would rather have accepted that invitation. However, he believed integrity required him to be faithful to the commitment he previously made to the conference center.
So even though neither of us wanted to be there, he had come and I had stayed. We could not have imagined what the quiet providence of God had in store.
Tomorrow I will tell you what happened next…
2005 at 5:40 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
Hey! We have had quite a few people requesting to see my parent’s
wedding pictures. I thought that would be fun, so I dug through the
archives and pulled out a couple for ya. I have to say that as happy as
Dad and Mom look in these pictures, they’re even more in love today.
And, yes, that really is Dad with hair!
p.s. For those of you asking for my mom’s courtship story, we have
convinced her to share it! You can be looking for it tomorrow.
2005 at 11:14 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
Yesterday Nicole identified one of the aspects of a godly relationship as, “a humble pursuit of the involvement of others—godly parents if they are available.” The Bible makes it clear that we weren’t called to live the Christian life alone or independently. We need the support and encouragement of other Christians in every part of our lives—not the least being, romance!
As my daughters shared their courtship stories I couldn’t help but think about some of you reading this blog who do not have Christian parents, or maybe your parents are Christians but do not espouse these values. And you might be asking the question: What should parental involvement look like in my situation?
In his book, Boy Meets Girl, Joshua Harris answers this very question by elaborating on the principle of “inviting protection” from other godly men and women. He uses his own courtship experience as an illustration of one way this might look:
Different people will apply it differently in their lives.
For example, I didn’t talk to Shannon’s dad before I told her of my interest in her. She wasn’t living at home, and though she has a wonderful father, he wasn’t a Christian or providing spiritual leadership in her life. I knew that calling him to get permission for a courtship would be more confusing than helpful.
So instead, I talked to Shannon’s pastor, as well as two other married couples from our church who were close to her. I made sure that they didn’t have concerns about me or the timing of a relationship. Only after getting their encouragement did I talk to Shannon.
Then I called both Shannon’s parents the following day to let them know about our courtship and invite their participation. “I’d like you to be involved in our relationship,” I told each of them. I also told both her dad and mom that I’d talk to them before I proposed.
Do you see the principle at work in our situation? I was inviting the protection of the godly men and women who cared for Shannon spiritually, and I was honoring the father and mother who raised her. We don’t all have the perfect family situation, but we can all apply this principle in some form.
So if your family situation does not afford you the benefit of godly parental involvement, may I encourage you to pursue help from older and more mature men and women in your local church? Contrary to the world’s perspective, romance isn’t dampened by inviting godly counsel. Rather, romance is protected and ultimately cultivated through the wisdom and involvement of others.
2005 at 1:00 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
Yesterday Steve and I had a conversation with a friend who is seeking to pursue a relationship with a girl in a God-honoring way. Yet, he was hesitant to use any term—“dating” or “courtship” to describe their relationship. As he put it, “people read so much into those terms.” He’s right. Sometimes simple words like these come loaded with all kinds of extra baggage, at times unfairly attached. That left this guy floundering for a “safe” and meaningful word or phrase to describe his relationship. I sympathize with his dilemma.
As we told our courtship stories these past two weeks, some of you may have wondered exactly what we meant by “courtship.” Or maybe you assumed you already knew.
Let me explain. First of all, we used the term “courtship” to describe our relationships, and yet it’s not the term that we think is important. It doesn’t matter if you call it “courtship,” “dating,” or “a special friendship,” (a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right?). What matters—what truly matters today, and on that last day—is that we live in such a way that brings glory to God.
“Courtship” is simply—to borrow a concise definition from Joshua Harris—“that special season in a romance where a man and woman are seriously weighing the possibility of marriage.” By using the term “courtship,” we mean a relationship between a guy and a girl where they are seeking, above all, to honor God. This necessarily includes a commitment to purity (Col. 3:1-5), a humble pursuit of the involvement of others—godly parents if they are available (Heb. 3:13-14), and an intentional focus on serving one another (Phil. 2:1-11). As Dad always says, “Courtship is about sanctification—God changing us to be more like Him.”
Someone else who uses the term “dating” may mean all these things! We simply use the word “courtship” to distinguish between our culture’s approach to dating, which lacks these biblical essentials.
Ultimately, 1 Corinthians 10:31 is our infallible guide through the relationship maze: “So, whether you eat or drink [or date or court], or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
2005 at 12:38 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
It was a year and two months after Kristin’s wedding before Steve asked Dad’s permission to pursue a courtship with me. Through a funny series of “slips” (not Steve’s fault, but a story in and of itself) I learned of his interest some months prior. So I’d been praying and talking to my parents about this possibility. But poor Steve had no idea that my entire family and I knew of his interest.
In January of 2000, when I had finally despaired of his ever making a move, Steve walked into Dad’s office and asked to talk with him. “It’s about my daughter, isn’t it?” Dad asked.
Steve, stunned, managed to blurt out, “Yes.”
“You want to know if you can court her, don’t you?”
“OK. You have my permission,” Dad said. (He already knew Steve personally by this time). “I’ll ask her and tell you what she says.”
In less than thirty seconds, a rather shell-shocked Steve stumbled out of Dad’s office. This wasn’t how he’d thought it would go. He hadn’t even used the speech he’d prepared.
But Dad wasn’t finished with him yet. After I gave my answer of “yes” he decided to have a little more fun at Steve’s expense.
A few days later he pulled Steve aside at church. “I have bad news and I have good news,” he said. “The bad news is that Janelle is not in faith to enter into a courtship with you…”
Steve frantically thought back to the brief meeting in Dad’s office and realized he had never actually said “Nicole”! All he’d said was “yes!” Dad briefly enjoyed the utter confusion on Steve’s face, but didn’t leave him in turmoil for long, “…but Nicole is in faith to enter into a courtship.”
And I was in faith. In faith for courtship. In faith to take a step.
As I had watched Steve in various contexts (work, leaders’ meetings, social settings) for the past year, I was drawn to many qualities about him. He was a leader, yet drew no attention to himself. Uncommonly humble. He was a joyful, passionate man who worshipped with his long arms outstretched. He dearly loved his family—a quality that struck me as somewhat unique for a guy his age. Not to mention he loved all things literary.
As we entered our courtship, I discovered Steve was all these things and more. And yet, I had many doubts and questions, primarily stemming from the picture I’d carefully sketched in my mind of the man I would marry and, maybe even more significantly, the life I would lead after marriage.
You see, as a young child I was sure I was going to be a missionary. As this desire ripened to maturity and a love for my local church gripped my heart, I desired to be a pastor’s wife. Growing up as a PK, all I’d ever known was life in full-time ministry. I couldn’t imagine supporting a husband in any other vocation. It was familiar. It was comfortable. I knew my way around. And besides, the church was what I was passionate about. I just couldn’t envision spending myself on anything else.
“Problem” was, Steve’s calling and future were still unsure. He had graduated from the Pastors’ College and was serving an internship with the dean, Jeff Purswell. He had a desire to pursue full-time ministry. Yet, this desire had neither been tested nor confirmed. And so I wondered, Did I really want to marry a man who wasn’t a pastor? What if he pursued a different career—would I be unhappy for the rest of my life?
Pause. If I may be so bold as to offer a word of advice to single women everywhere: beware of creating an imaginary life around an imaginary man so that when a real man comes along you can’t see him for the imaginary life you’ve created. I almost missed him and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.
In the midst of all my questions and doubts my parents graciously counseled me for hours. I also had coffee with every girl I knew who was in a courtship, had recently gotten married, or had been married for twenty years! It didn’t matter. I searched high and low for that perfect courtship stencil over which I could paint my courtship story. I figured that if I found a woman whose story matched mine, I could discover what God’s will for me.
But my search was in vain. Although many courtship stories had similarities with mine, they all had one thing in common: they were all different! There was no comfort to be found in another woman’s experience. Eventually, I realized God was still teaching me the lesson that had begun before I was courting: Trust Me. It was only in trusting Him that I found perfect peace regarding my future.
After much prayer and invaluable counsel from my parents, I realized that I had to marry (or not marry) Steve for the man he was—not the job he had (or didn’t have). And so it’s the man he is that I fell in love with, and am more in love with than ever five years later.
Today Steve is part of the pastoral team at Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax. But I will always be grateful that it wasn’t so when we got married. Because I’ll never have to wonder if that is why I married him. I married him because I loved and respected the man that he is. And that will never change.
At our wedding, a member of our church, Kevin Hartnett, wrote the following poem. It expresses beautifully what I think God was after in my heart, and every woman’s heart—married, single, or courting: a deep abiding trust in the quiet, wise, faithful, and loving providence of God.
May vineyards flow from all the good the Lord has brought to me,
And richest life extend throughout the land for all to see
That not of my good will or sense the plan unfolds this way,
But in the gracious mind of God tomorrow forms today.
Copyright 2000, Kevin Hartnett
2005 at 2:45 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
When I met my tall, dark, and unarguably the handsomest of husbands, we were attending different churches, but ended up at dinner with some mutual friends. I don’t think we spoke a word to each other the entire evening. Neither of us left an impression on the other (disproving the old adage that first impressions are lasting). It wasn’t until Steve Whitacre came to the Pastors’ College (based at Covenant Life Church) in 1998 that we met again for the very first time.
But to appreciate my courtship, you have to go back to the winter of 1997 and begin with Kristin’s courtship, as hers came first. This is significant, as I am the older sister. And although I didn’t condone his methods, I kind of agreed with Laban (father of Leah and Rachel) in the Bible: it’s best for the older sister to get married first, because, well, she’s the oldest! However, truth be told, I kind of always knew that my younger, prettier, and sweeter sister would get married before me. But that didn’t make it any easier when the time came.
To top it off, one of my closest friends (Kelly) also began a courtship at the same time as Kristin, and then Joshua Harris (who was living in our home at the time) began his courtship with his now, wife, Shannon. So, at home, I had to live with two love-struck puppies and when you added Kelly to the mix it meant (as I told Mom) that everyone I knew was courting! With seemingly no prospects for miles (maybe space travel would present some options?) I hunkered down for a long winter that even Laura Ingalls Wilder couldn’t have imagined.
What I didn’t know was that at this very time, God was drawing my future husband’s heart to Himself.
Meanwhile, God had a whole lot of work to do on me. In the midst of my self-pity, I had a pivotal conversation with Mom (which is how I could describe many of our conversations!). She kicked my backside so to speak and challenged me that God had “good works prepared in advance” for me to do during this season. I wasn’t single because the “flight to marital bliss” was overbooked and I was left on standby. I was single because God had a purpose for my singleness.
Once I repented of my sinful self-pity and joyfully threw myself into all those good works God had prepared for me in my local church, I couldn’t have been busier or happier. While a worldly perspective would be that I could only find true happiness when I found “the one,” I discovered that true happiness comes in serving Christ. So nine months later, at Kristin’s wedding, my “walking down the aisle smile” was for real.
What I didn’t know was that in the wedding congregation, watching me, was my future husband.
To be continued tomorrow…
2005 at 11:22 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
We’re still not finished answering the "courtship question" from last week, so we will continue with that for now. Nicole’s courtship story will be online later today!
2005 at 6:51 pm | by Kristin Chesemore
I met Brian Chesemore (the most handsomest guy ever!) in our church parking lot in May of 1996. Brian grew up in a town only thirty minutes north of where my family lived. Yet it took until I was 18 and Brian was 23 before we met. Nine years earlier the Lord used the ministry of Young Life to open his eyes to the gospel. Upon his transition to college he was introduced to the Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Philadelphia. Here he began to understand the importance of doctrine and commitment to the local church. At the conclusion of college he believed the Lord was leading him to return to Maryland and to attend Covenant Life Church. In just a short time Brian had been hired by our church to do an internship with the college ministry in which I was involved…this set the stage for our romance!
The next year and a half we attended many of the same meetings and events, but we didn’t have many opportunities to develop a friendship. I admired Brian’s passion for the Lord and heart for others, yet I didn’t think he would ever look my way. What I didn’t realize was that in December of 1997 he began an eleven-month process of praying and seeking the Lord about a courtship with me. He didn’t want to follow past, ungodly, dating patterns, so this time he sought the Lord and the counsel of others before he pursued a relationship. I also didn’t realize at the time that my mom had noticed what a godly man Brian was and had begun praying that the Lord might bring us together. Maybe that’s why he looked my way!!! The prayers of a godly mother are powerful.
Needless to say, I was very surprised when he approached my dad about pursuing a courtship with me. Brian was well spoken of and respected by everyone. And Dad’s personal experience with him only confirmed their high opinion. Though I knew my answer was surely going to be “Yes,” I decided to make him sweat for two weeks before I delivered the official answer! Thus began my first and only courtship relationship. Brian and I talked on the phone, spent time with his family and mine, went to many dinners, and hung out with friends. Our relationship was so much fun and very easy. Just one month into it, he was ready to propose. But my dad smiled and told him that he needed to “chill” for a little while longer.
The major question throughout our relationship involved where the Lord was calling Brian to serve in ministry. He began praying about an opportunity to serve a close friend who was leading a church plant in Chicago. As our relationship progressed, so did Brian’s sense that the Lord was behind the opportunity to go to Chicago. Through much prayer and much counsel he saw his desire to serve this new church only increase. By the time we were engaged in April the decision was made and my “Yes” meant leaving my family, friends, and the only church I had ever known to follow my new husband to the Windy City. I didn’t realize at the time how much the Lord was going to use this move to bring me closer to Him and my future husband.
My parents were so helpful in preparing us for this transition. Some twenty-plus years earlier they had walked through this same transition themselves. My mom moved from Florida to Maryland immediately following her wedding. They helped us to see that this would be a process, one that might not always be easy. They were able to serve Brian by preparing him for the reality that it would be especially challenging for me due to my close relationship with my family and my church. They were also able to help him see that any sadness upon leaving was not at all a reflection of my lack of love or desire to be with him. Although nothing could fully prepare us for this move their counsel was invaluable.
We were married on November 7th, 1998. It has been seven wonderful years. I am so grateful to the Lord that my parents helped me see the importance of waiting for a humble man with a passion for the Savior and the local church. The Lord has been so good to me.
After our wedding we lived in Chicago for 4 ½ years. Although I missed my family I am so grateful to the Lord that we were a part of Grace Covenant Church. Those people became our family and we will treasure our years there for the rest of our lives. About 2 ½ years ago we relocated back to Covenant Life Church where my husband serves as one of the Married Life pastors.
Brian, you are the man of my dreams and the love of my life and I look forward to growing old together! I love you!
2005 at 9:34 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
In keeping with our theme of courtship, our good friend Carolyn McCulley offers some sound advice to single women on “The Danger of Dating in Your Mind.” Be sure to read this wise and insightful article!
2005 at 2:28 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
Hey all, I trust you had a great weekend. Maryland has been enjoying gorgeous fall weather!
After writing my courtship story on Thursday, I remembered that we had shown a video of our courtship and engagement story at our wedding. You see, our wedding was slightly unusual in that we had a surprise wedding. That’s right, our wedding was a secret until the day we got married! Obviously, we told all of our family and close friends ahead of time—they were in on the secret. However, we really wanted our wedding to be a surprise as a way to bless Covenant Life Church.
So the morning of our wedding day, which was a Sunday, my dad officially announced our engagement to the church. Almost everyone knew we were engaged, so that was not a surprise. However, in the very next sentence, he invited them ALL to attend our wedding which was to be held that afternoon!
It was so much fun! Nothing brought us more joy than to celebrate our marriage with the church that we love so much. Our wedding was more like a party for all the kids—young and old. There was face painting, a moonbounce, and ice cream sundaes. It was a day that Mike and I will treasure forever!
All of that to say—I found the little intro video that we showed at our wedding and thought you might like to watch it. It fills in the details that I probably missed in Thursday’s post.
(This video requires QuickTime. Download it free here for Macintosh or here for Windows.)
You can download the video by clicking here.
For broadband/high speed internet users, this may take several minutes.
For dial-up users this may take much longer.
2005 at 5:22 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
Series Resource Recommendations Singleness Courtship
We decided to briefly interrupt the courtship stories with some recommended reading. If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you know that one of the things we love to do most is encourage you to read good books. Why? John Piper captures our enthusiasm:
“God has appointed for us to be helped in our understanding and enjoyment of Scripture by human teachers—living and dead….Some of these write down their teachings. This is why we have books.…None of us is so free from sin or bias or blindness that we can see the infallible Scriptures infallibly. We need help. We need correction. We need guidance and encouragement. Oh, the wonders that others have seen in the Bible that we have not seen! What a folly and what a blow to joy if we neglect these books!”
John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 128.
It’s not only a “blow to joy” to neglect good books. We are also missing out on valuable wisdom that godly men and women have gleaned from Scripture. And there are few areas where we find ourselves more desperately in need of guidance and counsel than when it comes to choosing a spouse.
In God’s kindness, there are several books available today that offer biblical principles and wise counsel for anyone considering marriage. Here are several of the books my daughters found most helpful.
No doubt most of you are familiar with them, but the list must start with Joshua Harris’ two books:
I Kissed Dating Goodbye
Boy Meets Girl
Originally taken from an article in the Journal of Biblical Counseling, the booklet entitled Pre-Engagement: 5 Questions to Ask Yourselves by David Powlison and John Yenchko is available from CCEF. Priceless counsel packed into a very short space for under $2.
Discovering God’s Will by Sinclair Ferguson will serve you if you are facing any major life decision. But the chapter on considering marriage is worth the price of the book if you are in a courtship.
So, now you have your weekend reading list! We’ll continue with courtship sagas on Monday. Friday Funnies coming your way before too long.
2005 at 8:32 pm | by Janelle Bradshaw
I met Michael Bradshaw (the handsomest guy ever!!!) when I was a freshman in high school. Mike’s family had recently joined our church and we participated in the same youth small group. Our four years of high school found us as friends, but nothing more. Unbeknownst to either of us, we each began to feel more than friendship during our first year of college. We did not tell one another how we felt, but began watching and noticing one another in a different way. When I communicated my interest in Mike to my mom, she quickly informed me that now was not the time for a relationship (Mike had no means of supporting me). She challenged me to guard my heart and trust the Lord for my future. Growing up, my mom always told my sisters and me that, "until a young man has come and specifically expressed his interest in you, he should be viewed as another woman’s husband." I had no claim on Mike. He wasn’t mine. And so the battle within my heart began.
A year went by and Mike was asked by our pastor to lead a small group for our singles ministry. I was asked to assist him in caring for the ladies in the group. We were more than happy to be placed in this position. We began to see each other more frequently and our affection for one another only grew. Mike has never been known as the subtle type…he began to show up at my house to watch a baseball game with my dad or go fishing with my little brother. To say the least, my dad’s suspicions were aroused. After a few months of Mike "just stopping by the house to say hi," my dad gave him a call. Dad got right to the point, injecting his characteristic humor into what could have been an awkward moment for Mike: "You have been coming over to our house quite a bit lately. Now, either you want to move in with us, you like my daughter, or there is something you aren’t telling me!" Mike immediately fessed up that his true feelings were for me and not fishing with my little brother.
To say the least, I was more than a little excited to hear that Mike returned my feelings. I was ready to marry him the next day. I’m so grateful to the Lord for my wise parents and their leadership. My dad did not know Mike very well and he began a series of meetings with Mike to learn more about him and to discern if this was a man with whom he was comfortable with his daughter pursuing a relationship. My dad took Mike through materials on four specific topics: the gospel, the doctrines of grace, biblical manhood and womanhood, and the local church. My Dad also used this time to get to know him better. After a series of weeks my Dad informed me that he was very encouraged by his many conversations with Mike and that he would be comfortable with us beginning a courtship—with the understanding that things would move slowly. Mike and I were far from marriage at this time. Mike had 3 years left in school and was unsure about his future after that.
We began hanging out with each other in a structured way. Mike would come over to my house once a week and we would talk on the phone a few times weekly. We also saw each other in lots of church contexts. We were having fun, but a certain unrest began to grow in my heart. I began to question whether or not I was "sure" that I wanted to continue in this relationship. Fear about the future began to creep in. I was confused. My affections were only growing towards Mike, but the unrest seemed to be growing at the same rate. I will never be able to thank my parents enough for the way that they led me through this challenging time. They continually listened to my thoughts and fears and directed me to the truth of God’s Word. After much praying and counsel from my parents, I decided to end my relationship with Mike. It was the hardest thing I have ever walked through, but the Lord had much work that He wanted to do in both our hearts.
The next nine months were full of much seeking the Lord and many conversations with my parents. With the pressure of the relationship removed, I began to see more clearly all that was taking place in my heart. I saw that there was a fear of marriage and a fear of leaving all that I had ever known. I saw how my unbelief towards the Lord and His faithfulness bore bad fruit in my life. As I began to see the issues more clearly, I was able to repent and receive the Lord’s abundant grace in the form of forgiveness and help to change. As I gained clarity, my feelings for Mike only continued to grow despite the status of our relationship. I knew that if Mike ever came back to my dad again, I would give a decided YES.
He came back! Mike had been waiting for me those nine months and he wanted to try again. He went to my dad and received permission. One cold night in January of 2003, Chad yelled at me from upstairs to come quick as there was some kind of strange noise in my bedroom. That strange noise was Mike throwing skittles at my bedroom window (yes, people throw food—not rocks—to get my attention.) I opened my window and Mike asked again, if I would court him. Things moved quickly after this. We were engaged in April and very happily married in June (both stories for future posts).
What a process! Mike and I look back often and marvel at the grace and sovereignty of the Lord. He led us each and every step of the way. He used our courtship to strengthen our relationship with Him.
This post also gives me a fresh opportunity to thank three people…
Dad and Mom, does this bring back memories? Thank you for the countless hours you spent caring for my soul and seeking to lead me in the ways of the Lord. You never once complained even in the midst of my many tears. You showed me true love and patience (more tears are coming as I write this). As my own parenting adventure soon approaches, I only hope that I can emulate your example in some small way. I love you both so much.
Mike, thanks for waiting for me. After my salvation, you are the greatest gift that I have been given. Thank you for pressing into the Lord even when it wasn’t your desire to end our relationship. Your demonstration of faith and humble submission to God’s will has never ceased to provoke me. Your patient love for me won my heart and it is yours forever. Love you tons!
2005 at 8:10 pm | by Carolyn Mahaney
One of our readers wrote Nicole to ask:
“I’d love to hear how your parents counseled you all through your various relationships and into engagement. Specifically, how did they guide you in guarding your hearts? What did they tell you to look for in a husband? And how—with three different men and three varying courtships did they counsel each of you differently about the actual process of those courtships?”
Over the next several days, each of the girls will recount her personal journey of falling in love with the man who is now her husband. In the process they hope to answer some of these questions. But first we thought it would be helpful to talk briefly about courtship; specifically, I want to answer the question of what we taught our daughters to look for in a husband and then elaborate on that a little bit.
To consider this topic, I want to draw from the chapter entitled “When It Comes To Courtship” from our book, Girl Talk. Now, by no means will this post contain a thorough study of God’s Word on the subject. I will merely attempt to offer a few points of biblical guidance that I hope will be helpful.
C.J. and I sought to provide our daughters with a “list” from Scripture of essential qualities that should characterize any man desirous of pursuing them. These qualities included:
“1. Genuine passion for God. The greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matt. 22:37). A mere profession of faith is insufficient. A godly man will consistently display love, obedience, and increasing passion for the Savior.
2. Authentic humility. ‘This is the one to whom I will look,’ says the Lord, ‘he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word’ (Isa. 66:2). Your daughter will marry a sinner—that is certain. But if he is a humble and teachable sinner who is quick to repent, then he will be sure to grow in godliness. This humility will also be evident in his love for and submission to God’s Word.
3. Love for the local church. At the center of God’s plan on earth is His church. A young man must be pursuing fellowship and serving faithfully in a local church if he is to make a good candidate for a husband.
4. Biblical convictions about manhood and womanhood. A successful marriage is due in large part to a couple’s grasp of their respective roles and responsibilities. A potential husband must be committed to complementary roles found in Scripture. He must be ready to embrace his responsibility to love and lead his wife. (Eph. 5:22-25).
In addition to comparing the young man to this list of essentials, we also helped our daughters evaluate God’s commands to wives. From Scripture we asked our daughters the following questions regarding the young man each was considering:
-Do you fully respect this man the way a wife is called to respect her husband?
-Can you eagerly submit to him as the church submits to Christ?
-Do you have faith to follow this man no matter where he may lead?
-Can you love this man with a tender, affectionate love?
(1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22, 33; Col. 3:8; Titus 2:4-5)
Again, this list of qualities and questions is not exhaustive. However, it provided clear, objective, and biblical criteria to assist our daughters in determining God’s will—whether or not they were meant to join their lives with a certain young man.
The conclusion to this chapter appropriately sets up the courtship stories to follow: “Each courtship, whether or not it ends in marriage, is its own unique journey. But God has provided all the wisdom that we need in His Word.”