This week Bethlie and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. We have walked together through many stages of life. Friendship, courtship, and dating (“Dourting” if you put the last two together, according to one my friends!). Marriage. Newly-weds. Pregnancy and new born babies. Toddlers. Children. Teens and College kids. Successes and failures. Mountaintops and valleys. And now . . . kids considering marriage! Wow, that last one is a bit scary and has provoked lots of conversations and lots of prayer and lots more prayer and some more prayer on top of that. Are we scared? A little, I guess. Are we hopeful and excited? Absolutely. Do we know what we are doing? Not a chance, lol! Do we have a plan? Most definitely. And it is a plan based on the Scriptures and on the experiences of our own family and the way they helped us to find our way into this glorious journey of marriage! So what does the Bible say and how did my late father-in-law help his daughter to find such a wonderful man? Last week I answered the first. This week I will answer the latter.
So how did Dad Dennis help us?
- He and Mom Dennis prayed about it!
The day he told me that he believed I was the one for his daughter (I didn’t have to ask if I could marry her!), he began the conversation with the words, “David-son, Bethlie’s mom and I have been praying for Bethlie’s husband for 22 years!” He followed that up with the words, “and we believe you are the one! So when do you think you will marry her?” It was wonderful and scary and humbling all at the same time. There is no reason, dads, to harass the man you believe should marry your daughter. There is no reason to make life miserable for him or for your daughter. Dad and mom prayed about it! I can do that and I have been.
- He and Mom trained Bethlie in the way she should go and let her go that way.
Psalm 127:3 “As arrows are in the hands of a mighty man, so are children. . . .” They trained and trained and trained and released the arrow. They trained her to be a wife and to be a mommy. They prepared her for that. They also trained her to be a well-rounded Proverbs 31 lady. Bethlie’s parents sent her to a Christian College so that she could learn a “wage-potential” skill. They expected that she would serve with her husband and be taken care of by him, but were also aware that God may have called her to be single and to use her spiritual gifts as a single lady. Plus, they were aware that even if she married, there could come a day that God would take her husband and she would have to take care of her children on her own. Dad believed that training was the key to parenting. Some today believe that they have to “control” their sons and daughters and that their authority is the most important thing in the family. Dad was the authority, no doubt about it. However, training was his focus! His goal was to train his children so that they could and would submit themselves to God’s Word and so that he could release them to serve God when they reached adulthood. Because he had won their heart (“we love Him, because He first loved us”), he knew that he would be able to walk with them when the time came for them to seek a spouse. By training, he had prepared my Bethlie for our “getting to know one another” and for our subsequent marriage. Bethlie and I are still endeavoring to do this for our family.
- He let me get to know his daughter within the confines of Biblical parameters.
It is true that the Bible says almost nothing about how to find a spouse. Instead, it teaches our children about how to treat others of the opposite gender and about how to maintain lives of purity. We were allowed to talk and spend time together. We were to always be public and not alone where we could be tempted in some way. We attended church together and ate many meals together and were even allowed to go on dates together at times – as long as everything we did was public and not private. Having ample opportunities to be together “wisely” was one of the benefits of our being in the “controlled environment” of a Christian college. Our own children are now enjoying that same benefit!
- Dad supported me, loved me, mentored me, included me, and never one time treated me rudely, awkwardly, or unkindly!
I loved and respected him for that. He took me on family vacations when we were dating and even paid extra for a room for me. He never one time allowed me to pay for a meal if he were present. He called me “son” from the very moment he believed I was going to marry his daughter. He was not only my father-in-law but became one of my dearest friends and biggest supporters.
- He approached our marriage with confidence and not with fear.
While many parents are “scared to death” or “saddened to tears” about who their children may marry, dad never was. He apparently really believed that “God [had] not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” He wanted his daughter to be married and celebrated the idea that she had a young man who was very interested in her and who met the standards he wanted for his daughter. Our wedding was a celebration and he was one of the happiest people there.
- He fully expected that his daughter would serve the Lord wherever God lead her and her husband.
I sometimes got the idea that he and mom were very happy to release their children and return to their lives as a just-the-two-of-us couple. In fact, that was the idea. They fully supported us in every step of God’s will for our lives and not only gave us the freedom to follow Christ but also the blessing of their rejoicing with us.
So here is my point: Parents, train your children to live successful Christian adult lives. Do it in such a way that as they get older you can walk beside them as fellow believers and be there with them as they seek God’s will concerning a spouse. Pray together with them. Talk it over with them. Get counsel together so you can help them to make the wisest choice possible. And when the time comes that God has brought them to a crossroads with the one He has for them, celebrate together the addition of yet another member to your family.
Yeah, we are letting them go. Five decisions are yet ahead of us. And one of these days it will just be Bethlie and me again and we are going to live it up. We may even go parking! Or take a cruise. Or simply watch the grandkids!
Bring it on.
Thanks for reading,
Your sincere friend,