As our anthropologist daughter likes to point out, the world is full of fascinating cultures. Some tattoo their bodies, other pierce their noses, and still others hang large earrings in their ear lobes (ours seems to do all of the above). Some are completely vegetarian while others survive solely on animal products. But one trait they all have in common is some version of courtship and marriage.
As I’m sure you know, Valentine’s Day is almost here. Last year during the week leading up to this most romantic of holidays, I wrote two blog posts—one for singles, and one for those in a relationship. This year I thought I’d offer some encouragement to those of you who are interested in someone but need a little inspiration on what to do next.
Last week I asked for your opinions about engagements and betrothals. Is an engagement necessary? What does the Bible have to say on this topic? What benefits do we get from spending some time promised but not married? How long should the wait be, and why?
Several people commented that being engaged gives people time to seriously work through issues they had avoided until then. I agree—and thought of a few more things. Here is what I came up with on this subject.
It helps to realize that for the most part, God is silent on how long this waiting period needs to be. The Bible describes cultural norms that called for a period of time between a betrothal and actually living together. While Paul (who strongly urged believers to stay single for the sake of the Gospel) told the Corinthians that it’s better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Cor. 7:9), there are no instructions on the proper length of engagements (a modern construct) or betrothals.
So what are we to do? In our culture, most people are engaged for some period of time between making a decision to wed and actually making life-long vows. There are definite benefits we gain during this time.
Thursday is September 30, which just happens to be Pete’s and my “engage-a-versary.” Yup, thirty-two years ago this week, my husband and I got engaged. It didn’t quite go like in the movies. In fact, we more or less got engaged that day by accident.
Mind you, we were already planning to get married. We’d been talking about it since spring. Pete had even formally proposed that summer—in a field of wildflowers on the slopes of Washington’s Mt. Rainier. We had then asked my best friend if she’d be my maid of honor, as she was moving out of state and I wanted to talk to her in person. But the engagement wasn’t official, and we hadn’t talked to anyone else.
Wanting to honor his parents, Pete called to ask them for their advice—what sorts of things should we be considering in making this very important decision? He particularly wanted to give his dad a chance to express his opinion. His dad was noted for having strong opinions when his offspring were considering marriage.