“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22, ESV).
Last week we shared Joseph and Hannah’s love story. God has blessed our family with wonderful romances, and we thank Him for answering the many prayers we have prayed for our children and their future spouses over the years.
It’s never too early to start preparing your children for godly romance. After all, the entire Bible is a love story – the story of Christ’s love for His bride, a love that led Him to lay down His life for her. Every marriage is an opportunity to paint another image of that self-giving love before the watching world. As soon as you start reading the Bible to your children, they’re going to hear some amazing love stories – Ruth and Boaz, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, to name a few.
If, while your children are tiny, you set the stage for beautiful, God-honoring courtship and marriage, your teenage sons and daughters will be on board when the hormones kick in. After three completed courtships and another one happily progressing toward its goal, we can confirm the fact that every love story is unique, and there is no such thing as a “textbook” courtship, no magic formula to follow.
However, some foundational principles exist, and you can start building on those principles while your children are very young. If you shape their expectations while the boys still think the girls are weird, and the girls are still grossed out by boys, you will have a more attentive audience. Wait until later, when you suddenly realize that someone has already attracted their attention, and the job will be a bit more challenging.
What can you do to prepare your children for pure, God-honoring romance?
- Start praying now for your children’s future spouses. Pray for their spouses’ training, purity, commitment to the Lord, submission to parents, etc.
- Read the Bible with your children. Teach them about Jesus, our ultimate example of true love — a self-sacrificial love that led Him to lay down His life for us. If they love Jesus, they will become more and more like Him, and will be much better prepared for godly courtship and marriage.
- Teach them to cheerfully submit their will to yours. You are God’s delegated authority in their lives. They are submitting to God when they learn to submit to you. Your children will be ready to submit to God’s Word and your counsel in courtship matters, if they have learned to govern their wills and humbly submit to you while they are young.
- Teach them to lay down their lives for the good of others, rather than serving themselves. Teach them through your own cheerful giving of yourself, and by drawing their attention to others who lay down their lives for others. Courtship involves doing what is best for the other person. A young man or lady who has learned to give up his or her own desires for the benefit of others will continue to do so for the person they desire to marry.
- Nurture loving relationships with each of your children. Earn their trust. Talk to them. Listen to them. Ask questions. Know their friends. Don’t over-react or shut down communication. Whom do they admire? What attracts them? What temptations do they face?
- Paint pictures of godly romance for them. What does it look like? Point out examples in the Bible, in stories, in the lives of acquaintances, and even in their play time. Guide their expectations in little ways. One of my two-year-old granddaughters is currently acting out many little stories that involve a princess, a “good guy,” and a “bad guy.” Her papa wisely took advantage of the opportunity when her good guy wanted to marry the princess. “Who should the good guy ask about marrying the princess? The queen?” “No,” was little Katie’s response, “King!”
- Saturate their minds with Scripture so that they live lives that are governed by the wisdom of God’s Word. Scripture will arm them against coming temptations, and will give them a better understanding of the people and world around them.
- Teach boys to honor women, and to recognize their responsibility to protect them and sacrifice for them. This can start with opening doors for mother and sisters, carrying things for them, learning how to physically defend them, etc.
- As they mature, teach your children the difference between boys and girls. Be honest. Most girls don’t understand how visually oriented or physically driven guys are. They need help understanding this so that they can be wise and discreet in their dress and behavior. Guys need to understand that girls are emotion-driven and eager to please. Girls need to be protected, not exploited.
- Encourage both sons and daughters to prepare for the likelihood of marriage. Their focus should not be marriage. Their focus should be Christ and service to Him. But most of our children will marry, and making early sacrifices for a future spouse will prepare them for greater sacrifice later.
We had all our children set aside 25 percent of any money they earned to put into their “dowry” savings. For our sons, this was money they expected to offer their brides when they married. They also set aside another 20 percent of their earnings in long-term savings, which was primarily for business ventures or higher education that would further prepare them to provide for a family. For our daughters, this is money they have used over the years to buy tools that would benefit their future households – sewing machines, dishes and kitchen ware, lessons and books. They have also invested it in worthy activities such as photography and livestock, activities that help them mature and serve others. The investment of this money helped shape their expectations from an early age.
- Ask for a commitment from your children. Some families sign covenants. We took each of our daughters out to dinner and gave them a special ring that is to be worn until they wear their wedding ring. Ask your maturing children to submit to your protection and counsel, to remain physically and emotionally pure, to wait until they are ready for marriage to pursue a romantic relationship, and to marry only a Christian.
- Plan ahead. What do you want your son to accomplish before you would consider him ready to seek a wife? In what ways should your daughter prepare for possible marriage? Discuss and pursue these goals with your children.
- Together, trust God for His guidance. In His perfect time, He will write His perfect love story for those who are willing to wait on Him.