There are three major components to courtship. Over the next few weeks we will be going over the 3 vital pieces of courtship to help you determine if this is the person God is calling you to marry. The first component is ministry, can you and this young man do God's work together. Second is family, can you and your families get along with each other. Third, and most important, is God. The two of you must pray together to determine if this is the direction God is calling you to.
Before we dive too deep into the components of a courtship, I would like to identify what courtship is. There are many interpretations of the term and each of us should determine how we would define courtship. For me, it is discerning whether God is calling two people into the vocation of marriage with one another. Through courtship two people may determine that they aren't meant to be together, one or both may determine that the sacrament of matrimony isn't for them. Courtship is a period of discernment when all involved need to openly and prayerfully communicate their thoughts.
So what's the difference between courtship and dating? As I posted before, lust tends to turn in on itself and love tends to turn out. In the same way, dating tends to turn in on itself and courtship tends to turn out. When dating, people will put their best foot forward, be on their best behavior, and wear the best dress. The couple tends to spend time together alone. They don't see the other person as they truly are in all of life's messy situations. We tend to romanticize things instead of being a realist and identifying the major character flaws with another because we haven't given ourselves the opportunity to see these moments. Dating can be selfish and push friends and family out of the picture. One may fall in love with a single person but in marriage, two families come together.
Courtship encourages the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of those around us. Seek the counsel of your parents and friends when determining if this man is the one for you. Often, those closest to us can see the truth clearly while we are wearing roes colored glasses. We also must make a conscious effort to see the other person in situations that may not be the most pleasant. On dates, we put our best foot forward; at family dinner, who knows what could happen. It is in these moments that we can see how a person handle stress, what the family dynamic is like, and if we see ourselves going through daily life with this person.
The number one benefit to courtship is that it fosters a love relationship rather than a lust relationship. Through courtship, Christ is thrust to the center because each person recognizes that is God who brings two people together. Through courtship, friends and family come together and give their input on the relationship. When two people marry, it isn't just about those two people, it also about two families becoming one. Finally, through courtship you can determine if you both can do God's work together and see how each of you handles tough situations. As someone who has experience the woes of dating, I think courtships are the way to go. Real life isn't found in dates, it is found in the day-to-day interactions with friends, coworkers, and family. Your courtship relationship should model what real life will be like with the people around you once married.