A Pathway to Marriage: Principles in Courtship: Chapter 6

Courtship: Putting the Principles Together

I have so far presented many related principles and aspects of advice for young men, young women, fathers, and mothers, but this chapter will attempt to put it all together into a step-by-step pathway to marriage. This process is often called courtship to distinguish it from typical worldly dating. If you have been persuaded by the ideas and principles presented in previous chapters, this chapter should help you put the pieces together into one complete process. This chapter will be presented in a bulleted format to help you keep track of who is doing what. If this comes off a bit stilted, and far from the romance you’re hoping for, just hold on for the next chapter of testimonies! Courtship does have order because God has designed people to function in a certain way in relationship to each other. But this order enhances the joy, peace, and happiness rather than driving it out. Please understand that this progression is a format or guideline. Every pathway to marriage should follow biblical principles, but every story will be different. Everyone will bring their own variations and life background to these guidelines.

Beginning Assumptions

First, the process of courtship should not begin until both the young man and the young woman have achieved, or are very soon to achieve, the six aspects of preparation for marriage: (1) spiritual maturity, (2) purity in body, (3) able to support / manage a household, (4) positive view concerning parenthood, (5) prepared with basic financial skills / not holding career goals that will take the wife away from home during child raising years, (6) prepared to be a servant. Courtship, or any serious emotional relationship with a person of the opposite sex, should not begin until marriage is reasonably within reach. What ‘reasonably’ means will vary from family to family, but this usually means serious marriage oriented relationships begin starting in the late teen years for the possibility of marriage in the early 20s. 

Second, during single years young men and young women should not be shifting from one dating relationship to the next. Both should be focused on using their single years to serve Christ with their individual gifts. However, marriage should remain on the horizon of their hopes as a goal toward which they are preparing themselves.

Third, it is best that both a young man and a young woman have parents who will involve themselves to help guide and bless the development of a relationship. If a young person has disengaged parents, or parents that are clearly pressing them in a direction of disobedience to Christ, that young person must seek out an adult mentor from their local church setting. This need for adult guidance and discipleship is essential to courtship.

Step 1:  Observation

(Guy) The young man should begin the courtship as a first step of leadership. The progression begins when the guy notices, and is attracted to, a woman of godly character. 

(Girl)  It’s a common misunderstanding of courtship that godly young women are to be passive, sitting at home pining away, quietly waiting for the right guy to stumble through the front door. Not so! Please don’t confuse God’s will with Jane Austen novels. Let me clarify. A man is supposed to lead his family, therefore it is right to expect that a man will also lead in the courtship relationship. This means that all godly young women seeking marriage must be prepared to submit to the godly and loving leadership of a husband. 

However, responding to leadership does not mean that a young woman is not busy for the Lord. It should not mean that she is not her own thriving person, with her own ideas, opinions, talents, and strengths. In marriage two individual people become one, melding the complimentary strengths and similar ideas of two people into one working whole. Two becoming one does not mean the husband takes over and the wife’s personality is lost. The best marriages consist of two people whose talents, abilities, beliefs, and interests fit together in such a way that both spouses are sharpened and they jointly press each other upward. In the best marriages each spouse brings out the best in the other. The husband does not dominate the wife, he leads the relationship.

Therefore, a young woman is not the one pursuing, but she is the one attracting—and this is by no means a passive role. Young women should realize that they will usually attract a young man similar to what they themselves actually are. Here’s what I mean. A godly, active, fun-loving, servant-hearted young woman will usually attract a similar godly, active, fun-loving, servant-hearted young man. More deep-thinking, or serious minded, people tend to gravitate together. Half-hearted, compromising, immodest, and worldly young women will attract a similar guy. 

A godly young women should never sit idly by. She should focus her single years on full devotion to Christ and joyfully living the life God has given her. Young woman, fill your single years with making use of, and strengthening, every gift and talent given to you by God, while at the same time praying for God to bring the right young man into your life. Trust the Lord for this good gift, for ultimately it is God himself who will orchestrate the meeting and marrying of His children. It is a walk of faith—yes—but an active faith. 

(Guy) Young men should take time to examine the character of a young woman before advancing toward a deeper relationship. From a distance, before revealing his interest, a young man should attempt to learn about the real character of a young woman. He should learn all he can about the extent of her genuine godliness. No unnecessary delays are needed, but do spend all the time necessary to discern the true character of a young women through casual relationships and group interaction. After an adequate period of observation and casual interaction, the guy should speak first with his parents about the young woman and listen to their perspective. If the young man’s parents have good reason to strongly disapprove of the relationship, he should stop pursuing the relationship. The reason why the young woman should not be approached at this point is for the purpose of guarding the hearts of both young people. If it can be discerned from a distance that the relationship will not work, there is no need to raise affections that have no godly end.

Step 2: First Meeting

(Guy) I encourage prepared young men to pursue prepared young women for the purpose of marriage. Men are supposed to lead, and approaching a godly young woman about the possibility of building a life together is not a bad thing. The overt sexuality of our era has paralyzed many godly young men into thinking that it is somehow impure, or sinful, to approach a godly woman about the possibility of building a life together. God designed marriage. It is one of life’s best blessings. God designed young men to lead. A healthy relationship will never form if you don’t take the courageous step to win the beautiful heart of a godly young woman. 

Yes, there is risk. She may say, “No thanks.” If this happens don’t give up on the hope of marriage. Welcome to manhood, it’s full of disappointments. Part of manhood is strength, and strength is tested and developed through overcoming hardship by God’s grace. However, if you have observed her as you ought, prayed the matter through, and have received a green light from your parents and a peace from God—there is a high likelihood that she will have interest. It’s a bold step to initiate a relationship, but there is no greater joy in all this world than having someone that you love, equally love you in return. It’s worth the risk. Venture! Lead!

(Guy) If the young man’s observations and discussions with his family all give a green light, he should pursue a deeper relationship with the young woman. With the encouragement and knowledge of the young woman, the young man should speak the young woman’s father. In this way, the authority of the father is honored to the greatest possible extent. Before our courtship, Maria’s father turned away young men that had shown interest in her. To his credit, years later, none of these young men would have proven good marriage partners for Maria.

This said, I realize that most young men will not know a young woman’s father well enough (or at all) in order to approach him in conversation. This means that after the relationship has begun at a basic level the young man most seek out the young woman’s father to introduce himself and open himself for the young woman’s father to play a guiding role in his life and the joint relationship. This is not a structured business proposition, but an expression of hope and admiration. Even at this early encounter the young man should tell the young woman what his basic intentions are. He should tell her that he has observed her godliness and beauty from a distance and hopes to form a deeper relationship. He should explain that his ultimate goal is marriage, not just to mess around. This is not a proposal, but a statement of direction. 

If this seems really forward and premature, I think reading the testimonies in chapter nine will help put this step in context. If the girl is not also ultimately interested in marriage, the whole thing should begin and end with this first encounter. However, if the first encounter is positive, then at the end of these early encounters the young man should ask to speak with her father to gain permission from him to pursue a relationship with her. The young woman may have no interest at all, and that will be the end of that. But perhaps she will be very interested or will become interested over time. This is the first step in the hope filled process of nurturing and deepening love.

(Girl) The first encounter can unfold in different ways. You may be aware of a young man’s character and affections toward you before anything formal develops, which makes a response to his overture much easier. If he’s a bum or someone you’re clearly not compatible with, then “No thanks,” will come easily. On the other hand, if he’s a man of character and of a similar mind, you may immediately rejoice over his hopes for a deeper relationship. Refer him to your father with high hopes. The difficulty comes when you are approached by someone who may be largely unfamiliar to you, but someone who holds possibility. Be careful here. Be aware that many young men are not really what they appear to be. In this situation sending suitors to your father before allowing any kind of deeper relationship to develop is vital. Those who lack character will never go to your father, and by this you will be saved from many unnecessary and potentially destructive relationships. As a basic rule, if you are unsure, do not proceed. If the young man is serious and godly, he will be patient and work to prove himself.

Step 3: First discussion with Dad

 (Guy) If the girl is positive and accepting of your initial meetings, after an appropriate period you should ask the girl for permission to go and speak with her father. The young man must ask her father for permission to develop a courtship relationship with his daughter. The purpose of this is to bring the relationship, from the very beginning, under the authority of the young woman’s father. Her father has been charged with protecting, nurturing, and guarding his daughter, and you must honor his role. This may be something that a young woman is not familiar with or may think is unnecessary. I would urge that the young man explain his purpose fully. I believe that if the young woman is truly godly, she will see the wisdom in the step and welcome it.

When speaking with her father you will be expressing your possible interest in marrying his daughter. Tell him about yourself and how you became interested in his daughter. Ultimately, you are asking for permission to begin getting to know her in a deeper way, under his authority, to test whether you may be compatible for marriage. If her father will not grant his blessing to court his daughter, then you must honor him and agree to not pursue a relationship. 

How does this work if the young couple is off at college and her father is in another state? 

Unless he lives in Alaska, you call him, set an appointment, and take a drive. This is exactly what I had to do. If he does live in Alaska, pick up a phone and call. When I first told Maria of my hopes to deepen our relationship, her response was that I had to go and talk with her dad. I was in college in the mountains of NC, Maria was in college in Georgia, and her parents lived in central NC. So, I wrote down her father’s phone number and address, and took a trip. We live in an age of incredible communication and mobility—that’s why we are so spread out to begin with. There is no good reason why a young man could not contact a young woman’s father to express his intentions and ask his permission to court his daughter. 

What should you do if your parents aren’t interested or willing to take part in guiding your courtship? 

This is a problem. We live in an age when many young people who are serious about living for Christ, are much more serious about godlines than their parents. Many young people will excitedly embrace these principles of courtship only to come home and receive blank stares, or worse, from their parents. The saddest story I have ever heard along these lines happened to a wonderful young couple that loved the Lord and each other deeply. The young woman’s father was a long time alcoholic with whom she had little relationship. However, in an effort to honor the authority of the her father, the young man drove to another state to express to her father his hopes of marriage and to ask for his blessing. The young woman’s father responded, “Who would want to marry her? If you want her, you can have her!” End of conversation. 

Beyond the tragedy of a wonderful Christian young woman being unloved by her father, this stands as the worst possible response a father could give to a respectable young man. A more typical response may be, “Uh, sure. Whatever you both want. You’re adults now.” This response shows no discernment or wisdom on the part of the father to help the young couple work through the thorny issues of early marriage. It also makes no effort to offer an intentional blessing to the young couple.

If your parents don’t understand courtship, ask them to read this book and discuss it with them. In this way you can be an example of godliness to them (1 Timothy 4:12). If you are the oldest child, by introducing and helping your parents to wisely engage in the meeting and marrying process, they will be able to better guide and bless remaining younger siblings. If your parents are just not willing, or able, to offer the Christian guidance and accountability you need, then you must look elsewhere. The couple I mentioned earlier wisely sought out a godly older couple in their church to serve as replacements for their own parents who had rejected God’s plan for courtship and marriage. This young couple was wise to realize that going it alone would only lead to unnecessary stumbling. Those who walk with the wise will grow wise. If your parents, especially the young woman’s father, will not or cannot offer you wise council, find someone who will.

What should I do if my parents are not Christians? 

Everyone should realize that God assigns parents. You don’t have a choice in the matter. Along with this, it is universally commanded that all children should honor their parents. Regardless of who your parents are, even if they are not honorable people, you must honor them for Christ’s sake. You should seek their permission to marry. Only in the most extreme situations should a young person marry contrary to the permission of their father. Most parents, Christian or not, naturally judge the appropriateness of marriage by whether their son or daughter is prepared for it, and most decent parents want to see their child end up in a happy and prosperous marriage. If your parents have said, “No,” don’t get angry and use their lack of Christian faith as an excuse for rebellion. If you are a Christian and your parents are not, they are watching you and you have a duty to uphold a Christian witness before them. If you disagree with them you should make your case and attempt to respectfully persuade them over time, while honoring their wishes in the interim. In some cases they may be right—you are just not ready for marriage yet, or the person you are considering is a bad choice. In other cases the young person may be right. I have seen it go both ways. In other cases still, it may be a toss up. Do not despise the general wisdom and love of your parents, even if they are not Christians.

(Father) You should set aside sufficient time to speak at length with any young man who has the courage to approach you in this way. Simply recognizing and submitting to your authority says much about a young man’s character and intentions with your daughter. But you should ask probing questions, along the lines of previous principles discussed, to find out about the young man’s background, present spiritual condition, present financial situation, and realistic future goals. If you have no previous knowledge, or very limited knowledge, of the young man, you may not want to agree to anything on the spot. You may want to call his pastor to check him out further. You should especially do this if he is away at college. If you call the church that he is supposedly attending, and the pastor has no idea who he is, you should be concerned. Have the courage to turn away a young man who is not ready or who is just not suited for your daughter.

However, if you have sufficient previous knowledge of the young man, you are pleased with his current situation and future goals, then gladly give your blessing. At this point your job is not finished, but has just begun! You must lay down thoughtful “guardrails” to guide the relationship to keep it moving in the right direction. You must assert your authority with love, by literally laying down the law. You should address expectations of physical purity (see chapter eight), expectations of spiritual growth, and expectations of career progress. At this point you are encouraging the relationship, and welcoming the potential of an enduring marriage. Welcome the couple into your family circle as often as possible so that you can monitor the relationship. Spend time with the young man and encourage positive growth.

(Girl) Be open and communicate freely with your father throughout this process. If you feel the need to hide aspects of the relationship from a godly father, the relationship is probably not on the right track. If your father and the young man are very different, explain to your father the aspects of Christian character and future prospects that you feel your father may have overlooked. However, in the end you must submit to your father’s authority without bitterness or rebellion. Give your frustrations to the Lord in prayer. I am confident that if you have the right attitude of heart you will be able to freely pray over the subject. If, however, you are harboring wrong motives and rebellious intentions, you will not be able to pray over them regularly or with peace.  

Step 4 – Courtship

 (Guy and Girl together) If her father gives permission for the relationship to go deeper, then the young man and young woman will move forward to develop a deeper friendship—with an eye toward marriage. Courtship should not be an artificial or stilted situation. Courtship is not a business proposition, but two people building a friendship, enjoying common interests, getting to know each other in the context of real life. It is a living relationship that Christian singles should rejoice in—not fear. The somewhat awkward, but unspoken, question that will loom over the relationship during this period will be, “Do I really want to spend the rest of my life with this person?” I remember asking my father this question after Maria and I had been courting for some months. I will never forget his response because it was the right one. He said, “Son, the question is not whether you can live with her, but whether you can live without her!” Maria had come into my life, and the life of my extended family, with such beauty and grace that everyone was hoping I wouldn’t make a big mistake by letting her go. I knew that Maria had all the qualities I had ever hoped for, and that she had captured my heart. The answer was no, I couldn’t live without her!

If a young man and a young woman both love Jesus, have both reached a sufficient level of progress in the above stated steps of preparation, and their parents approve of the courtship – then the question that remains is whether they will choose to love each other for a lifetime. Usually if they are not right for each other the differences and oddities will pile up quickly, and the relationship will end without significant baggage. However, as similarities and common interests increase, hearts can be drawn together quickly. It does not take years for prepared and purposeful people to decide whether they are right for each other. 

Deciding to marry is not a matter of the stars aligning in a certain way, or of a certain emotional event taking place that will “confirm” everything. Choosing to marry is simply a biblically informed choice, blessed by the proper authorities, motivated by love, and with a hope for a blessed future together. This may not sound romantic, but choosing to love another person is romance, and vowing to love another person for the rest of your life is the best kind of romance. In fact, that’s marriage! Chemistry between two people is much less a mysterious hodgepodge of unknowns, as it is the sharing of common faith in Christ (2 Corinthians 6:14-16), the enjoyment of similar activities, and a commitment to strive together by God’s grace to form a loving household. 

 Love is ultimately a choice that you make not only at the time of proposing marriage, but every day after that for the rest of your life. I am arguing throughout this book that it is better to choose love and the blessed companionship of marriage, than to withhold commitment and live alone because of selfishness or fear. However, as with the “first meeting,” the young man must be the one to propose marriage and again lead in moving the relationship to the next level. 

Singles should not be searching for the perfect mate or “the one.” I fully believe in the sovereignty of God over our lives, but we see the sovereign works of God in the wake of our lives, not the foreground. No one should expect a divine revelation concerning who they should marry. I believe without a doubt that God had been preparing Maria and me for each other all our lives, but I could never have known that at the time we met. That’s not how God works. How God does work is to call us to serve Him, love Him, and trust Him. You will meet a godly spouse in the course of serving the Lord. Like two lines intersecting and then going on as one, you should each be serving the Lord with your single years. When it is God’s will for you to marry, you will meet that person in the midst of doing God’s will. 

You’ll see this illustrated wonderfully in countless Christian love stories. There are many people that you should not marry, but within the qualified pool of possible people I firmly believe that your choice of marriage partner is an aspect of Christian liberty. You should not allow yourself to be paralyzed by indecision. This demonstrates a failure of faith and leadership. Once you have chosen, and are married, you should never second guess your choice, but move forward in devotion and faithfulness.

I encourage you to not use the words “I love you” during the early stages of the relationship. These words are powerful and should carry great significance. When they are used lightly they either break hearts, stir up emotions that cannot be rightly fulfilled, or become meaningless from misuse. Speak carefully and with forethought in the early stage of a forming relationship. Use other appropriate and descriptive words of admiration. Especially use words that highlight a person’s godly character. Try, “You are so kind,” “You have a beautiful face,” “I have seen your servant’s heart,” “Your creativity and industry amaze me,” “Your friendship gives me great joy.” I’m no poet, so you frame these things as you like, but try not to stoke the fires of passion prematurely. Once you meet your spouse, the one you will truly love for a lifetime, you will be glad to have not lightly thrown about false words of “love.” 

 (Father of the young woman) One aspect of your guidance should be to not allow the period of courtship to go on for too long. I recommend that you speak with your daughter regularly to see how she may be feeling. I recommend that you speak frankly with the young man periodically to revisit his intentions. The words of Proverbs 13:12 are true, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” To drag on the hope of marriage for too long will sour the relationship. It’s important for the parents involved to appropriately urge the relationship toward marriage or toward a timely end.

Step 5:  Engagement and the Wedding

(Guy) Once you have decided that you definitely want to marry the young woman you are courting, you must approach her father before proposing marriage to her. You are not really asking his permission to marry his daughter if you ask her first. By this time, you should have a working relationship with her father, but this will still be a tough step. It was one of the most nerve-racking meetings of my life but knowing that I had the blessing of both my parents and hers was a wonderful feeling. After you have obtained her father’s permission you may propose marriage to her.

Asking a girl to marry you is a joyful, yet very serious question. After having gone through the previous four steps, your proposal of marriage will not come as a surprise. However, the previous steps only work to heighten the sense of hope and expectation, not to decrease it. I urge you to make your proposal as memorable, spiritual, and joyful an occasion as possible, not some silly stunt. Also, the wise husband will not spend every dime he has buying a ring. Buy the best ring you can while practicing wise stewardship and reserving what you will need to establish a new home. A godly woman will not be impressed by a man who blows the family budget on jewelry before they ever get started! Also, never go into debt to purchase an engagement ring. If you can’t pay for it in cash, you need to find a more modest ring.

Engagements should be short, and no longer than approximately one year. If you cannot get married within a year, then you should not propose marriage. Open-ended, or indefinite, engagements should never be formed. The reason for short and definite engagement is to maintain sexual purity. Once you are engaged everything changes. Suddenly you feel “almost married” and passions quickly run to a new level—as they should! If you are not seriously attracted to your fiancé in the months leading up to your wedding, you have probably made a serious mistake and should consider ending the entire relationship. However, even though you are very close to marriage, you are still not married and really have no more rights to physical intimacy than when you were courting. Do not unnecessarily prolong unfulfilled passion (Prov 6:27). If you do, you are unwisely welcoming powerfully destructive temptation. Marriage is not a gradual process, but a sudden change which occurs after certain public vows are made before God and witnesses. You go into the ceremony unmarried, and you leave as husband and wife. Passion and love should increase during this period, but sexual intimacy must still remain off limits. If, as a couple, you just cannot wait, the solution is to move up your wedding date, not to lower God’s fixed standards of purity. Engagement formalizes your intention to marry, but you are not married until after you have taken your public vows. 

(Guy and Girl) Planning a distinctly Christian wedding is exciting and lots of work. In the midst of all this busyness, I encourage you to not lose sight of the spiritual nature of what is happening. A Christian wedding should be an occasion of worship, thanksgiving, and commitment. Glory should be given to God for His good design of marriage and for his work in the lives of the couple. Thanksgiving should be offered for what has come about and in expectation of what is to come. Solemn vows are made that are never to be broken. People should have a good time, but putting on a party is not the main focus of any Christian wedding. 

I was in a bookstore recently, and as I was browsing a young man came in to speak with the cashier. The two began to loudly carry on about planning a “bachelor party” for the upcoming wedding of a friend. My heart broke as they discussed how to divide up the expense for the liquor, the strippers, and the gift they were going to buy their friend. They were serious, and they were planning on having a blast. Nothing could be further from what Christ would have us do to celebrate marriage. Nothing sinful should be a part of your wedding or associated with any of the peripheral events. 

Whatever happens at a bachelor party must honor our Lord. Whatever happens at a rehearsal dinner must honor the Lord. The way the bride and her maids dress must honor the Lord. What happens at the reception must honor the Lord. There should be no crude sexual humor, no drunk people, no seductive bridesmaids (or the bride for that matter!), and no ungodly music. May those who come to your wedding be delighted to join in a joyful celebration that is sanctified to the glory of God! Make your wedding a living witness to non-Christian friends and relatives that may attend.

What you vow on your wedding day is also of great importance. Couples writing their own vows is very popular, but such vows must cover all the important bases. For instance, last year I attended a wedding where “until death do us part” didn’t make it into the vows. Whether that was an oversight or intentional, I am not sure, but that is a significant phrase—not just tradition. Romans 7:2 states that the bond of marriage should remain unbroken as long as both spouses are alive. Therefore, in an effort to make vows that are in accord with God’s will, it is right for every young couple to have their vows align with the mandates of Scripture. My advice would be to start with the traditional Christian vows, which are biblical in nature but not sacred in themselves. Perhaps you will want to modify the language and phrasing to make the vows more personal but preserve the essential elements. Consider the following as a starting point: 

  • For the groom: “I, _____ , take thee, _____ , my beloved and my best friend to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, and to love and to cherish. I will love you as Christ loves the church, giving of myself to present you holy and without blemish before the Lord, forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live.”
  • For the bride: “I, _____ , take thee, _____ , my beloved and my best friend to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish. I will submit to you as the church submits to Christ. As your helpmeet, I promise to respect, comfort, encourage, and pray for you, forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live.”

As important as planning a distinctly Christian wedding is, it should not overshadow preparing for married life which is to follow. Ample time should be spent preparing for the realities of married life—which is more important than the event of the ceremony. Far too many young couples spend almost all their engagement period planning for the event of the wedding, and almost no time preparing for the marriage to follow. This is a mistake. A few one hour sessions with the minister who will perform the wedding is not enough time. For example, the minister who married my uncle and aunt had spent so little time counseling them that he wrote my uncle’s name wrong on the marriage license! The point is, the more time you spend preparing for life together as God has intended for it to be, the better start you will have.  

It’s also during this period of engagement that you’ll have to make firm decisions about important issues that until that time were only hypothetical. You’ll have to draw up a realistic budget, not along the lines of the dream job that you’re “sure you will get,” but along the lines of the real job you actually have. If you can’t make it work on paper, something will have to give. You’ll have to move to a smaller apartment, drop a car, drop a phone or service, or figure out how to earn more. 

You will also have to make a choice about whether you will use birth control, and if so, what kind. This is a very important decision that should not be decided at the last minute, or without being clearly informed. This subject is much more serious than most young couples realize, because it is an issue that involves the health of the young woman and the potential life of future children. This issue is of such great importance that I have included a fine treatment of the subject by my friend Dr. Cameron Mouro as Appendix A to this book. Dr. Mouro is an obstetric surgeon, a devoted Christian, a loving husband, and devoted father to seven great kids. Everyone reading this book should take the time to read his explanation and advice concerning birth control. Please, make an informed and Christ-honoring decision in this area.   

Step 6: The first year

I encourage every young couple to do their best to set aside their first year of marriage as a time devoted to loving and enjoying each other. Much restraint and preparation goes into maintaining sexual purity before marriage and preparing for life together, so set aside that first year to enjoy marriage and all its wonderful fruits. Go on the best and longest honeymoon you can afford and have the time of your life! All cautions in your conscience that had before restrained you from intimacy will now be removed and replaced with blessing. All red lights turn green, and commands for restraint transform into commands not to restrain! Enjoy!

Far too many newlyweds feel rushed to immediately enter the crowded highway of life. They get married and immediately head off to graduate school or take on a new demanding position at work. Or couples immediately take on too much debt buying a house or cars which require them to work long hours or multiple jobs to pay for it all. Such steps will take away from your happiness instead of adding to it. There are few things important enough to warrant you taking on heavy job responsibilities your first year. Most actions along these lines are motivated by impatience, not wisdom. I suggest that for the first year of marriage every newlywed couple live simply, defer school and other major commitments, and enjoy each other as much as possible. 

We did, and we loved it! Go out every night if you want to! Live in a tiny apartment so your financial obligations will be small. Read and study the Scriptures together. Do service projects together. Go on a short-term mission trips together. Travel, hike, play games, build a strong and deep love. Build an unbreakable foundation that you can build on for a lifetime. There is no amount of money you could earn, or graduate degree that you could make progress toward that would possibly be more joyful or valuable than spending this first year devoted to each other. Instead of being a “waste,” I believe any couple that does this will always look back on that year as one of the best years of their lives.

Second, I urge you to intentionally and radically limit your digital intake. Screen time kills relationships and creativity. Screen time is a passive activity that consumes incredible amounts of time, involves zero interpersonal interaction, zero conversation, and zero eye contact or physical touch. If your goal is to put the intimacy of your new marriage on ice and foster estrangement, then you should work long hours and when you come home turn on the TV and stare at it until time for bed. Conversations will fade because you won’t have anything to say, and intimacy will shrivel along with the friendship of marriage. Intentionally limiting media forces conversation. 

There are also other important indirect benefits to significantly limiting screen time from your home. First, it removes a constant and persuasive source of worldliness from your home. Without constant screen time there are fewer commercials to remind you that your clothes may be out of style, or that your car is not new, or that there are many expensive restaurants in town that you have never visited. Advertisers are good at what they do. It is much easier to live a content life without screen time. Second, especially with men, less screen time means removing a significant source of sexual temptation. It is easier to put to death sexual temptation and rejoice in the wife of your youth when temptation is removed. Third, with less screen time you will read more, which will lead to a deeper and more thoughtful life. 

Please consider making intentional decisions to significantly limit screen media from your new home. If you are not convinced yet, I challenge you to a “Daniel Test.” When instructed to eat food from the King’s table that violated his conscience, Daniel asked to be put to a test. He asked to eat his kind of food for a period of time, and at the end of that period to be compared to those eating the King’s diet. If he was healthier then he could continue eating his diet. I challenge you to go for a few months with significantly less screen time. Two things will happen if you ever decide to revert to a media (including social media) saturated life. First, you’ll be shocked at the sexuality, greed, crassness, and general worldliness pouring out of it, that before you had grown accustomed to. Second, after a few months you’ll have developed different, and better, ways of using your time. When you turn it back on, it will have lost much of its appeal. 

The point of these remarks are to encourage you to make wise decisions about establishing your first home. How you establish your first home will create patterns that can have a profound impact on later years and your future children—for good or bad. Make it a great first year!

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