Let’s be honest: courtship is fraught with perils. No two scenarios are the same. Some of the rockiest courtships end up being stable, happy marriages, while some young women who are determined to get married at the first opportunity find themselves at loose ends after the wedding. Now what? This road is full of twists and turns for some couples, while for others, it is a smooth four-lane highway. Who can understand these things?
In this little post I’m not undertaking to explore all the things that can go wrong in a courtship. I’m simply going to make a few observations here about one kind of woman, and that’s the woman who wants to be married, but doesn’t really. When a fine young man shows an interest in this kind of woman, she finds all sorts of things to be roadblocks. And so she either says no, or it ends up being one of those rocky courtships that starts and stops and starts and stops, etc.
As I said above, who can understand these things? But here are a couple of thoughts about what might be going on in her head.
1. Wanting to be married is more desirable than actually being married. In the wanting, a woman can sketch out any number of delightful scenes in her mind. But in reality, he doesn’t wear knee-high riding boots and own a large estate. So she recoils from the thought of marrying him.
2. Marriage requires a kind of death. Though this is required for both husband and wife, the wife dies in a unique way. She takes a new name, and she has a new calling. This is what scares some women off, despite their desire for marriage and children.
3. Some women have a higher estimation of their own attractiveness and desirability than is actually true. This may not be a conscious thing, but nevertheless, they think anything less than a crowned prince would be throwing themselves away. This woman says no to someone for being “out of her league” (assuming he is beneath her) when he actually is “out of her league” because he is way ahead of her. This muddleheadedness can come from identifying far too much with Emma and nothing less than a Mr. Knightley will do. (At the same time, I’m not suggesting anyone be like Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice and settle for a Mr. Collins, just to be married!)
4. Another snare lies in the whole concept of falling in love. Hollywood is not a trustworthy instructor in how to conduct a relationship. Yet many of our assumptions about love come from Cinderella and all her descendents. A woman is required to respect her man. I’m convinced that if she does, and if he is treating her like a good man should, she will fall in love with him, though perhaps not on the first date. This is particularly true when a man is behaving himself, keeping his hands to himself, and honoring her and her parents. A woman is aroused by touch, not just by sight, no matter what the world says. So part of protecting her is holding back until there is a covenant. In this matter a woman has to proceed by faith, trusting that if this is the right kind of man, God will also bring all the right kind of emotions once the romance really begins. The world gets physical first; a Christian saves that for later.
5. Marriage is a lot of work. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself. It is a means of glorifying God. Living with someone else, who is not at all like you, requires sacrifice. Bearing children requires tremendous sacrifice. Some women are quite happy by themselves, not having to take someone else into account in everything they do. So no matter how godly he is, a woman may shrink back from letting go. She knows that marriage means someone else will have the final say. That’s why it is of the utmost importance that a woman consider his character. If he is a godly man, and if she respects him highly, then she can trust God to lead her through him.
6. Finally, I must conclude with this. A woman is free to marry whomever she likes, so long as it is in the Lord. If he is a Christian, a woman is free to marry him. Or not. She doesn’t have to have lofty reasons for saying no. She can say no because she doesn’t like his nose or his taste in music. She is a free woman. But she ought to at least consider some of these things I’ve mentioned, in case she is exercising her freedom in a way even she would say is contradictory: “He’s everything I want, and yet I don’t want.”