The Way of a Man with a Maid
Courtship is a bit like tying your shoes. The Bible doesn't teach you
how to do it. It just assumes you know. "The way of a man with
a maid" is one of the things "too wonderful for Agur, the
writer of Proverbs 30. It is something like the soaring of an eagle
in the air; something a man knows by nature and doesn't need to be taught.
In our perverse generation corrupt men have so abused "the way
of a man with a maid" for the fulfilling of their selfish lusts,
that godly people have reacted and rejected the thing all together.
Some even question the purity of the beautiful, God-given propensity,
commonly called "falling in love." These well-meaning people,
who rightly oppose the abuses they see all around them, have sometimes
built up systems of courtship which eliminate "the way of a man
with a maid." In an attempt to rid themselves and their families
of what is carnal, fleshly, and filthy, they also throw out by their
systems that which is natural, human, and lovely.
In the midst of this confusion, I want to suggest a sane middle ground
between the American dating game and the modern courtship doctrines
that have arisen to oppose it. We notice from the above quoted verse
that the Bible speaks of the way of a man with a maid. Sorry boys. Even
if you can't help falling in love, the business of actually courting
a girl belongs to a man. Someone, that is, who knows who he is, what
he needs and where he is going. This isn't child's play. It's not trial
and error. It's not the dating game.
The next thing we notice is that it is the way of a man with a maid.
It is not the way of a maid with a man. A girl who will throw herself
at a man understands nothing of the nature of courtship and precious
little of her own needs. It is the business of a man to show his love
first that a woman may love in return, for she is a picture of the church-who
love Christ because he first loved us.
Another thing we notice is that it is the way of a man with a maid.
It is not the way of a man with a father, and certainly not the way
of a father with a father. Fathers make excellent advisors and protectors,
but they shouldn't need to be courted. And they certainly have no business
getting in between a man and a maid, except in those cases where they
need to turn an unsuitable man away from their daughter. If the man
is suitable, he should be given leave to court the girl in whatever
way nature has taught him. A father who will inform his daughter when
a good man has expressed an interest in her robs his future son-in-law
of his first duty to a woman-that of opening his heart to her. If he
does not rob him of his manhood, he yet robs him of the joy of manhood,
and robs his daughter of the first pleasure of love.
The father ought also to be very liberal in the regulations put upon
a man whom he trusts to court his daughter. Some doctrines of courtship
seem to assume that everyone has poor character. That there is call
for caution in every case cannot be denied, but suspicion and stringent
regulations are not for those who walk not after the flesh but after
the Spirit. To forbid parking at Lover's Lookout is legitimate. To require
a chaperone at all times is not. If a man cannot be trusted to be alone
with a girl, he should be rejected, not chaperoned.
A man should be certain of his love before he opens his heart to a girl
and tries to win her to himself. How, and how quickly, he does so depends
entirely on who he is. If he has chosen his girl wisely, she is a match
to his own soul, and the means which he chooses will suit her. But he
should not expect a commitment from her at the beginning. She may hardly
know him. He knows her, because he has been watching her closely for
a while, and he has made it his business to know all he can of her,
but she may have barely noticed him. Perhaps she had a secret suspicion
of his interest in her, but she may not have dared to hope there was
any real substance to it. She knows enough of his character and person
not to reject him as a suitor, but she can't have the certainty about
the relationship which he has. As a woman she is expected to commit
herself to a man's leadership. She cannot do this until he has proven
his love to her. She cannot go on a mere profession. Her heart must
be won by his love. This will take time. And this is what courtship
is all about-a man winning the heart of the maid he loves.
At the beginning of courtship, he must give all on nothing but the hope
that his girl will love him, too-even as a picture of Christ who loved
us and gave himself for us, dying for us while we were yet sinners,
without any assurance that we would respond to his love. A man who is
not willing to give this is not ready to court. If he is able to win
his girl without it, they both get cheated. He ought to be deeply in
love and be able to shower his love upon his girl until she is fully
assured that she can trust him. When he has convinced her that his love
is enduring, and so won her heart to himself, then he can ask her to
commit herself to him-and she can safely say Yes. Having done so, and
being now secure in one another's love, the couple ought by all means
to be married at the earliest possible date. "Let every man have
his own wife."