If only we had the foresight that allowed us to view the future impact of our decisions. This includes, of course, commitments to one another, especially as we shape our family. And yes, that includes friendships, dating, courtship, and marriage. The world today leaves little doubt we need guidance, but from where? Well, we can at least listen to those of us who have learned along the way certain lasting truths.
There is much that eludes many who have little thought other than living with someone, gaining a partner, or belonging to someone who likes them. And there are few who have taken the time to think through the implications of their eternity, their eternal commitments and purpose when concerning such things.
Perhaps the most important decision any man or woman makes in this life is the choosing of a companion. And in this choosing of someone with whom we are to live with eternally it would be well for us to stop and reflect; to search out ideas and ideals that can perhaps bring us the happiness we seek.
Much of life is spent in correcting things that shouldn’t have happened at all. Some choose the wrong time in life to decide whether or not they can be true to each other, if they respect each others thoughts and actions, ideas and ideals; when and how to show affection and what commitments are made when certain actions are taken.
It is wise for us to decide what commitments should be made and when it is time to make them so as not to outpace each other nor cheat ourselves of the truth. Only a fool would want to rob himself of what he is or what he wants in others who share his life. Only a fool would not want to know what commitments are to be made both by himself and by others.
In casual dating we must remember it to be just that. That it is to be limited to the simple expression of casual friendship. Whether in youth or in later years there need not be any commitment in this sharing of happy times – not even so much of a commitment as a kiss goodnight. Friendship can be expressed in many ways which need not demand the giving of a kiss in order to say thank you. We should be able to casually date others and find the happiness they seek and what they offer in return.
This is the time to learn what it is you seek, what there is to different types of companions. What attracts you to higher standards, what tempts you to be less than you are. When you find the need to express your friendship beyond these bounds it should be a time for counsel with parents and deep within yourself. This is not a time for foolish actions nor is it time for impulsive decisions.
When it is time to give your kiss to another be knowledgeable enough to know it is important – both to you and them. It is important even beyond this it is a commitment, it is a point of entrance into serious friendship. It is very much a message that this person is special above others.
This is a time to explore feelings and ideas. The spending of times together, more so than before. It’s perhaps here that the birth and basic growth of togetherness, exploration of common interests, dependability, respect and love begins.
It is now that you must decide if basic and sound reasons exist to grow with this person. “Do they bring out the best or the lesser side” in you? How do you treat them both privately and publicly? Can you trust and respect them in their speech, their display of affection, their beliefs? If these can be answered in the affirmative you will probably find yourself making a commitment of love. If not it is time to back away – to take the courage within ourselves and walk away. It is better to know this pain than the pains of unhappiness in being what you are not.
Love is strange and it consists of much, but one thought must be remembered. It should be common between both of you. People learn at different rates, people experience differently, people often make a commitment of love (fall in love) at different times. Love happens to one person at a time. But it should also be said that no one should make themselves the remnant of one sided love.
It is ideal to be given this love together but it is not wise to allow the hours to pass, the days to pass and the years to pass because that is how life itself passes. Some nurse their wounds even at life’s end. Love is boundless and yet even with its immensity it is more fragile than the most tender thought held to this point of life It must be held in a strange balance or it can be shattered, especially at birth.
If you don’t express enough of your love the other will assume there is none to give. We offer what we have in hope of a receptive response. If none is given we may try again. But after a period of time we teach ourselves to withhold our offerings, when we expect no response. If we offer all our love the other sometimes feels smothered and withdraws. This destroys the very thing we seek. Release from your heart enough knowledge of what you wish to commit to that can provide the basis for the other person to digest what is happening. Retain a sense of balance and the perceptiveness to see into the heart. Care enough to allow the other person to determine for themselves what direction they wish to live out with or without you. Forceful pursuasion rarely provides the person lasting conviction that what they did was right. They can only know that they were pressured into a relationship when those hard portions of life occur that causes us all to pause and review just how it is that we came to this point in life.
When two people are in love (feel the urge to eternally commit themselves, one to another) they should commit themselves to another step in their relationship with one another. It becomes a time of courtship. We put aside our past relationships with others. We find ourselves speaking in terms of each other, doing in terms of each other. It is a time of searching out the things that build love strong, that build each other. That builds all that touches us. It is time to answer still more questions. Can we be true to each other? Are we content to do so? Do we share the ideas and ideals we hold to be essential in a lasting time of life – an everlasting time? Do we hold firmly each others respect? The respect of motives, speech, thoughts, actions. When we are with each other are we the best of what we are? Do we try to learn from each other? Do we express our love? Are we kind? Are we compelled to be truthful by what we are to each other? Do we need each other to be complete?
All that is in marriage – all that should be – is not developed and grown in courtship but much that is essential must be. It cannot wait until later. It must be decided now. Much time is, and should be, spent together life is to be spent together and now is the time to see if it is worth being together eternally. And let us say a word or two concerning the putting off of things known within our souls. The putting off of decisions that can and have been made somewhere deep within our hearts. In all building whether it be ships, cities, roads or marriage first must come the decision and commitment to build. Decisions that must be shared with those who are to shape them. Plans that are satisfying to you do not come about unless you both know of them. We should give freely not because we have to be asked but because we want to share ourselves. And all this time we should counsel with each other in learning how to give as well as take. A wise man gave this advice to a world who needed it badly. “In the overconfidence of youth, or in the self sufficiency of any age taking time for counsel is often considered unessential, but the importance of it is later learned – sometimes too long later. Sometimes we make up our minds what we want to do or what we hope is true, and simply don’t want to face any other facts or to see any other side, and so avoid advice that might be at variance with our own. “Sometimes pride or stubbornness or self-conceit keeps us from asking questions or considering the opinions of other people. Sometimes we are sincerely reluctant to trouble others, sincerely reluctant to take their time. But never should we let the pride of solo performance lead us to pay a needless price for the kind of pride or impatience or carelessness or overconfidence that refuses to listen, that refuses to learn, or that refuses even to look at the instructions on the label. “Ultimately, we have to choose, we have to decide for ourselves, and to accept responsibility for our own decisions; but seeking and considering counsel is a factor of safety, a mark of maturity, and an evidence of sincere consideration for others. We need always to talk to each other, to reason, to be aware of what we are together “
If we have truly searched our hearts and life is worth living together we should make our decisions. Sometimes we wait as if we wonder when life is going to begin. But this is life – here and now We must begin from somewhere. We didn’t suddenly become what we are. We are the accumulation of all we touched since we decided to start life. Life and those who live it begin from where they are and they are at a point of decision. This should be an engagement by both to assure that marriage will be everlasting. A time for final approval, of preparation, of learning how to raise a family. Seek the approval of parents, family and the approval and guidance of the One who made the giving of love real. These are they who gave life, those who made it meaningful.
Engagement should last as long as it takes time to make arrangements. No one should suppose that it is now that one should seriously consider the possibilities of marriage. These questions should certainly have been answered before the question “will you marry me” is answered. And when asked or asking “will you marry me” we are faced with a call for decision. It is a call to gather together all that you are – all that they are, to decide if the two of you belong together – belong together forever. It is a time when it will be recognized that there is much that is unknown, much to be learned, much that is to be covered. It is a time when the vastness of eternity and its responsibilities are brought so close it is frightening. Yet despite all that is unknown, all that is to be learned, all the distance that is to be covered, all that is frightening, all that has to be faced is the rightness of the two of you together.
We cannot allow the good things, the happy times, the things that are right to be overshadowed by the worry of that which is unknown. “Taking time to properly decide is frequently an essential factor of safety. But there is also such a thing as taking too much time. We should never be too swiftly persuaded in a matter of important choice; neither should we wait so long that we let life “waste away”.
The purpose of marriage contains much but the main factor that has been essential to marriage since its conception is that of raising a family. The sharing of life, its joys, sorrows, its responsibilities, are all important. It is the first of many assignments given to a couple. If it is completed as it should be other assignments are given.