A friend at work asked me how we handled high school dating in our home of four sons. I recalled a conversation we had with our oldest son when he was sixteen, repeating most of the same content three more times.
“When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘LORD, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,” and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the LORD has chosen for my master’s son.’ “Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water, and I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ “She quickly lowered her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also. Genesis 24:42-46 NIV
In our home the first step in this dating game is asking permission. Like other firsts in our children lives, going out on a date begins with a conversation. Usually it is a very subtle discussion about how our son admires a particular girl, would like to invite her to get ice cream, the school dance, etc. My husband and I always begin by expressing our expectations, times to be home, undistracted driving, and reminders that doors should be opened for the girl, table manners practiced and other common courtesies.
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:18, 21-24 NIV
Secondly, our son makes arrangements to talk with the girl's father. This is probably the toughest part of all. Since our home is full of sons, they do not naturally understand the heart of a girl's father. By approaching the father our son demonstrates respect for his authority while the conversation helps our son gain insight from this man's perspective and realize the priceless treasure he will be entrusted with.
Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. Matthew 21:23-27 NIV
During one such conversation with a girl's father, the father answered my son much as a Jewish rabbi would have. In response to my son's request, the father began to answer with questions of his own. He asked if our son loved his mother, confused by the reasoning, our son replied, "Yes, Sir." The second question was if our son would want anyone to disrespect his mother, to which our son replied, "No, Sir." The father then stated that he wanted my son to treat the man's daughter as my son would want someone to treat his mother. Hmmm...
The day after our son spoke to the girl's father, my husband and I asked about the conversation with the girl's. The above conversation was shared, so I asked if my son understood what the father meant by treating someone with respect. He said, "be nice?" Yes, that was part of it, but I explained it also meant to give special attention, handle with care, and demonstrating an understating of the other person's value. The confirming, "Aahh" came from our son to verify he comprehended the depth of the father's meaning. Respect was more than being nice, but a call for him to treat her with honor.
The father was wise enough to know that in order for my son to fully understand and apply the answer to the questions, he must first personalize the question. By relating the love of a father for his daughter, this wise father asked about a son's love for his mother. Ahh... the depth of meaning said in only a few words.
In my opinion, we do not talk with our children enough (although my sons would probably strongly disagree with that statement). There are all kinds of lessons, advice, information, that we assume our children are learning, or have learned. Our lifestyles are hurried and scattered, so it requires more effort to have deliberate conversations. These conversations don't have to be heavy, overly serious, or long lectures, but in our age of technology, we as parents should take every opportunity to verify that our children have learned scriptural life lessons. We can not assume they have absorbed good information through osmosis, from their friends, television or internet!
LORD, You are a good, good Abba, Father. You have demonstrated how we must treat each other. Young men must treat girls with the same care and consideration, as shown in Your Son's love for us, Your children. Jesus was patient with those You entrusted to Him. He cared for them, listened to them, healed their wounds, giving attention to their heart's desire. Please help us to teach our children how to care for others, their friends, classmates and neighbors. As they grow and begin looking for Your guidance to find a husband or wife, may they handle the hearts of others with care, remembering Christ as their example, loving us even unto death. Christ is the bridegroom and we are His bride. Thank you for the perfect example of selfless love. Please be in the middle of all young relationships, keeping our children pure until marriage. May You be glorified in every action, word and deed. Amen