I am continually surprised and gratified when I learn something new that allows me to further refine what I believe to be the proper mode of getting couples married: betrothal.
Much gratitude is sent the way of Vaughn Ohlman over at True Love Doesn't Wait for his description of courtships's gate versus betrothal's bridge. While there is much, much more to be gleaned from this article, this particular aspect really stood out to me.
In courtship, much ballyhooed by the conservative Christian community as THE way for Christian young people to pursue marriage, we typically see a young man setting his sights on a particular girl and then he becomes the initiator, running the gauntlet to first getting permission to court and hopefully, if none of the gates shut him out, marry the girl. What do I mean by gates? These are the numerous people who can, at any time, deem that the boy or girl is not worthy, or for some other (or no other) reason decide that the marriage is not to be and cut off the courtship. The first gates that a young man encounters are his own parents. Because his parents are gates, and not bridges, the best they can do is allow him to pass through. They can't help him and they can certainly hinder him. If they shut, the courtship is over before it begins. If they remain open, he doesn't get the girl, he has to pass through the next set of gates, IF they will open to him. Those gates are the girl's parents. Then there is the girl herself and perhaps a pastor or some elders thrown in there as well.
The reasons for a gate to close are unknowable to the young man. They will be arbitrary and perhaps even capricious. And they can be closed retroactively, too! After the young man has been granted permission to pass! Is it any wonder that young men don't want to try this? Is it any wonder that Christian young men are arriving at 30 years old still unmarried?
How does betrothal differ? Because in a betrothal, the father of the groom is dealing with the father of the bride. They are acting as a bridge so the marriage can positively move forward. They don't stand there gaping as if to say, "Pass if you dare." Once there is a betrothal, there will be a marriage. There are not multiple gates and no chance for a young man to get the gate slammed on him. There is no gamble for the young man really.
I hope you will go over and read the entire article. It was especially painful for me to read how a young man's own parents can be the ones closing gates for the most insignificant of reasons and without scriptural support for their actions. The problem with gates is that they are continually looking for reasons to close. Their job is to restrict access. Otherwise they wouldn't be gates. But we shouldn't be looking for reasons to deny marriage to our sons and daughters. Marriage is something that fathers should be actively pursuing. May we be faithful.
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