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Author Topic: Preparing Your Child to Say “I Do”  (Read 556 times)
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« on: March 20, 2006, 12:28:10 PM »

What is the most important decision your son or daughter will make in his or her lifetime, besides accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord? Is it the choice of a vehicle? Of course not. Is it choosing a college, vocation, or career? Not a chance. Perhaps it involves the largest purchase of their lifetime: deciding to buy a home? Not even close.

     The single most important decision your child will make, beyond accepting and serving Christ, is deciding into whose eyes they will gaze as they say, “I do.” This decision carries incredible consequence, not only for your son or daughter, but also for their children and future generations (more about that later). In light of the weight of this choice, how do we train and prepare our children for this momentous decision? How much time do we spend doing so, compared to the time we invest training them in sports or preparing them for a job or career? This is not a rhetorical question on my part – our oldest son, Benjamin, turned 17 two weeks ago, Jonathan turns 16 next month, and Melanie will be 15 shortly thereafter (Joshua will be 11 this fall). My wife and I have spent countless hours and unbounded energy educating, training, and preparing our children for life. Nevertheless, as our children race towards adulthood and matrimony, I find myself frequently considering how to prepare them specifically for marriage.

     I recently read the biblical account of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz, and the story captured my heart. The setting is “in the days when Judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1), a time when “everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25). It is from these dark days that the story of Ruth and Boaz shines, culminating in a marriage rich with character and virtue. While separated by three millennia of time, and half a world of distance in culture and customs, how similar is our plight today. Never in the history of America has the phrase “when everyone did as he saw fit” more aptly apply to the institution of marriage. In a culture straining at all bounds of reason and morality, our children desperately need intentional training and guidance to prepare them for a decision fraught with the influence of culture, hormones, and emotions. Although I do not hold the story of Ruth and Boaz as a direct procedural model for marriage today, I see application in the hearts and relationships of the participants in this drama.

     In Ruth, I see the character traits I desire my three sons to seek in a wife. Ruth is a believer, and displays selfless loyalty and love to Naomi (1:16-18). She is respectful (2:2) and the hand of God is evident in her life (2:3). Ruth is a girl with a reputation – a very good one. She is known as faithful, kind, full of integrity (2:11), and a woman of noble character (3:11). Her actions prove her to be hardworking (2:7), humble (2:10), filled with gratitude (2:13), and wise (3:5). In Boaz, I see the character traits I desire my daughter to seek in a husband. Boaz is a believer, protective and kind (2:9), and generous (2:14). In his pursuit of Ruth, his actions reveal that he is prompt, decisive, committed, and a man of his word (3:18 – 4:10). In Naomi, I see selfless love. As a good parent, she desires what is best for her daughters-in-law (1:8-13) and desires to be involved in guiding and preparing Ruth for marriage (3:1-4).

     As a parent, my mind and heart is toward my children, and Libby and I desire what is best for them. We desire to be involved in preparing our children for marriage. I believe it is good and proper to talk to our children about this extremely important decision in life, and we do. We discuss the traits to develop in them and look for in a spouse: character and virtue. Since it is not yet time for our children to be married, we do not encourage them to zoom in on individuals. We discuss what it means to be ready to be married. With my sons, we talk about being mature, trustworthy, and kind. We talk over the finances required to support a family, and I see my oldest son saving for a house instead of spending money on a fancy car or purchasing frivolous things on a whim. With my daughter, we examine what it means to be a supportive wife, and we embrace and bless her desire to be a loving wife and mother.

     How do we guide our children in this decision? I believe it starts by winning and keeping our children’s hearts. While we may wish the best for our children, our words and actions will be fruitless unless we have established a loving, open, and trusting relationship with each of them. Naomi, with her intimate understanding of culture and customs, provided words of great insight to Ruth. Nevertheless, if Ruth failed to accept and follow Naomi’s advice, her counsel would have been in vain. Ruth’s unswerving observance of Naomi’s instruction (3:5) evidences her complete confidence and trust in Naomi. As parents, we do not desire to run our sons’ and daughter’s lives, but we care deeply about them – more than does anyone else in the world. We wish to be close enough to them so that they will be willing to seek our insight and be receptive to it. If we do not express interest in preparing our children to select a marriage partner until they bring home someone of whom we do not approve, we are seriously late.

     We must prepare our children to navigate the transition from singleness to marriage in a God-honoring way. For many years, Libby and I have trained our children to abstain from recreational dating. They not only understand why, but they have internalized the reasons to do so. If you are sanctioning dating for your teens, Josh Harris presents a thoughtful and biblical treatise on the subject in I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I recommend parents read this book, and then read it (edited as appropriate) to your children. Too many people make serious mistakes when the pursuit of romance and physical intimacy comes first, and our children must believe, in their hearts, the importance of refraining from romance before they are able to commit to a marriage relationship.

     I have absolute faith that “all the good ones will not get away” because our children are not dating when they are 15, 16, and 17 years old. Returning to the story of Ruth and Boaz, we see how the Lord providentially brought them together, “As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz” (1:3). We discuss with our children what to expect when it is time to be married – that God will supply the right person at the right time. We recount our story to encourage them. I had not dated anyone for 3-1/2 years at college, and I met their mother the very week the Lord impressed on my heart it was time to be married. Libby and I were married less than six months later, only two days before her parents and family moved to another state. The Lord providentially brought us together. In the story of Boaz and Ruth, God brought them together from different countries to be married in His time. In the biblical account, we also see that Ruth and Boaz were “engaged” for one day. I do not hold that as a standard for today, but I see great virtue in a short engagement. Libby and I were engaged for three months, and once a couple has decided to be married, I see no value in stretching out the date. Aside from the logistics involved, I believe most lengthy engagements are due to people making commitments too far in advance of being able to honor them.

     I believe in “do not shop until you are ready to buy.” How many people do you know that bought a car when they were not really planning to purchase one? What was the first step? Driving by the car lot or stepping into the showroom. It is hard to be “just looking” when you see the bright, shiny cars glistening in the sun. Once you nestle into the seats and smell the leather, reason soon melts away. In the same way, we urge our children not to arouse or awaken any romantic feelings before it is time. Again, it is a heartfelt belief that we nurture in our children. Fortunately, we do not have to do it all on our own. Vision Forum, Lamplighter Books, and others offer wonderful books that encourage our children to be virtuous. The stories are noble, and our children love to hear their father read to them. When the words come from my lips, they associate me with the values portrayed, and I add my endorsement and blessing to them.

     Our fellowship has also been a great blessing to our family. While Libby and I supply the primary line of support to our children, they need to hear the same values proclaimed by other parents and displayed in their friends. After we started worshiping with these like-minded families, our children commented how they no longer felt odd or strange. They love the fellowship, worship, and fun of belonging. Our children receive support and encouragement, and they in turn provide support to others. It is difficult being a teen, and it is important to provide a supportive environment for them.

     The last word in the book of Ruth is “David.” In him, we see the character traits of Ruth and Boaz preserved through three generations. In the same way, our children’s choice in marriage is not only a commitment to live with this person for the rest of their lives; this decision affects their children and their children’s children for generations, if the Lord tarries. No other decision, besides accepting Christ, carries such lasting import. This week, why not read the story of Boaz and Ruth to your children? It provides a natural opportunity to point out the enduring character traits of Ruth and Boaz, and it celebrates the goodness of character, family, and marriage.


Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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