One Dad’s Counsel to a Young Man Dating His Daughter

father-of-the-bride-steve-martinAs my daughters were growing up, they frequently reminded me that they thought that I had control issues when it came to their relationships with young men. It was probably true due to remembering well my own gorilla-like heart as a young man. You may have heard the analogy that Chuck Swindoll uses when giving away his own daughters in marriage. He compares it to entrusting an exquisitely beautiful and expensive Stradivarius violin to a gorilla.

Thus… I have been thinking about this question: What should parents of a young woman expect of a young man who is dating their daughter? Here’s my attempt to speak to any young man who has interest in seriously dating one of my daughters.

1.    I expect and hope that you will truly and fervently love Jesus more than you love my daughter. An important question to continue to ask yourself is: Do I love Jesus more than I love her? My prayer for you both is that you will maintain a simple, pure, and undistracted devotion to Christ (1 Corinthians 7:35). I desire more than anything for my daughter to find a man who fervently loves Jesus more than he does her. I do hope and pray that the gospel will be the fixed center of your relationship. Continuing to learn how to proclaim the gospel to your own hearts and model the gospel with each another will make for a beautiful relationship. Loving Jesus more than her will enable you to lead her well.

2.    I expect and hope that you will delight in and cherish her and never try to change her, but leave that task to the change-agent of the Holy Spirit. I see many couples – young and old -working hard to change one another in fundamental ways. However, I do want you to think about how you will make her a better person and servant of Christ. I will challenge her to consider the same for you.

3.    I expect and hope that you will serve as her loving leader… and that you will avoid the two extremes of passivity and heavy-handed authoritarianism…. This means that you will protect her from her emotions and your passions. She will need a strong leader who also knows when and how to be tender. I believe all of us men struggle with balancing tough love with tender love.

4.    I expect and hope that you will initiate guarding the physical purity of your relationship.  This is what I mean by “protecting her from your passions.” Many godly young couples for whom we do premarital counseling typically come to their wedding day pure only because of the moral standards and vigilance of the bride. As men, we must take the initiative to lead in the pursuit of purity and holiness.

5.    I expect and hope that you will not tell her that you love her until you are emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and financially ready to ask for her hand in marriage. I realize this is a stretch. However, it is very tempting to woo a girl with words that you know she wants to hear. The Song of Solomon reminds us not to awaken love before it’s time. If I would have heard all this as a young man, I am sure that I would have thought my girlfriend’s dad was crazy. However, biblical agape love is a sacrificial commitment of the will to serve the interests and needs of another. I don’t really believe that you can know that you love someone until you have sacrificed yourself, your resources, and your time for them. Honestly, you can’t truly love someone until you have studied them long enough to know their interests, passions, gifts, weaknesses, and needs. This will take you both a significant amount of time together. I would encourage you to enjoy the journey and adventure. These are exciting days to savor.

6. Lastly, the most important way that you can serve as a loving leader is by praying God’s Word for her. Here’s a guide that I have designed from Proverbs 31 that I use in praying specifically for my wife and daughters. I offer it to you as a helpful tool.

  • Make her a woman of noble character (31:10 – “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.”)  Make her virtuous, morally excellent. May she hate sin and love Jesus more each day.
  • Develop her into a diligent worker (v.17 – She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong.)  Give her strength for her tasks and the ability to discern the best from the good (Philippians 1:9 – making the excellent choice).
  • Sensitize her to meet the needs of those around her (v.20 – “She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.”)
  • Give her a proper perspective of the future (laugh and smile at it) (v.25 – “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.”)  Free her from undue anxiety and fear.
  • Develop her into a faithful, wise and kind teacher (v.26 – “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”) The word “kindness” is the Hebrew word ‘hesed.’ It means covenantal, steadfast, unfailing, persistent love. The Apostle Paul would say that the goal of all Christian instruction is “love” (1 Timothy 1:5).
  • Make her such a godly wife and mother that her children rise up and bless her; that I bless and praise her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.” (vv.28-29).
  • Cause her to grow in her knowledge and fear of the Lord (v.30b – But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”)  Show me how I can encourage her spiritual growth.
  • Help her to have a proper perspective on her outward appearance (v.30a – “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain.”) Free her from the tendency to compare herself with other women.  Free her from an undue focus on externals for God does not look on the outward appearance but on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
  • May she become a woman who loves others well. (truthing in love – Ephesians 4:15)

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