Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fear and Suffering

I was really moved by Natalie Nyquist's article on YLCF. She really helped me to crystalize some of the thoughts I've had floating around in my brain for awhile. This is essentially my response although I probably won't quote from her article at all.

There are really two different approaches to courtship* out there. One is centered around the thought of waiting and trusting in God. The other is centered around not getting your heart broken. The first approach, which I would say is probably more prevalent, is the one I agree with. I have three separate issues with the other approach.

First, it's selfish. The focus is on your heart, your needs. If someone goes into marriage thinking only about their heart and their needs it is going to be a difficult marriage. Courtship is not about you. Courtship is about your relationship with the Lord and the other person. You should guard your heart with the thought of the young man or woman who, God willing, will some day hold it for you.

Second, it is unrealistic. Sure, it sounds nice to say, "The heart of any father for their daughter is that they never know a broken heart and that they have a happy, healthy, and holy marriage" (Padgett), but we are human. God made us with desires and needs that don't turn off at the flick of a switch. That doesn't mean we should give in to them, but we must recognize that we will have them and that there is nothing wrong with that. We do not sin by thinking about food during church; we sin when we allow that thought to dwell and take root in our mind. In the same way, we do not sin when we think that the young man next to us is handsome; we sin when we wonder if he likes us and maybe he likes me and I wonder if he likes blue and what color could the curtains in our house be? Realizing that a young man is nice does not mean that you have failed to guard your heart. Thinking about him in terms of yourself does.

Finally, it is not really Godly. I know that's a strong statement and I am not trying to personally condemn those who teach or follow this approach. But it truly is not. God did not call us to a life of safety. The Lord did not say, "Come follow me." He said, "Come take up your cross and follow me." He suffered for us and we as Christians are called to emulate him. We fear suffering but as John Donne said, "[A]ffliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction." (Meditation XVII) If we wish to lead a safe and comfortable life we will not be following God. Is it truly holy to say, "I want to stay happy" or to say with the Theotokos (Mary) "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38)?

It is a hard and lonesome path and I certainly do not claim to have answers but I am convinced that only by allowing God to work as He wills in our life can we find the peace that passes all understanding.

*When I say courtship I also mean the period of waiting before one actually enters into a relationship

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with your object to the me aspect but I think I disagree with all three as I don't think they are totally indepedent nor do they stop when the relationship forms, or marriage happens. I still court my wife of 25 year.

The other thing is courtship, well any relationship is a dance.

As to father's hope, having boys I know their hearts will be bruised and broke at time. You just hope it isn't too bad and they let Christ heal it.