Had to be the summer of ’93… I was eleven years old and promptly budding all over with my big ol’ glasses and bigger gapped teeth. The boys in my neighborhood were starting puberty too, so while they were finally aware that girls didn’t have cooties, they still threw rocks and vile words at us whenever we walked by. I forget her name, but she’s my cousin’s cousin, and she lived in a bright teal green house one block south from where I lived. This house was so darn fluorescent, you’d have to look at the ground until you made it to the porch. I’m sure by now the chemicals in that paint have turned the house into a primordial soup. Ain’t no way it’s still standing.
On one particular day– let’s call her Tia– we ran to Tia’s house because the boys were launching rocks and water balloons at us. We sat in the sweltering sunroom and chatted about the usual eleven-year old topics. Then the phone rang. Tia froze and a look of trepidation crossed her face. Tia’s granny answered the call and all I heard was “Who is this? You calling for who? What you wanna talk to her for? Tia ain’t coatin’ no boys!” And she slammed the phone.
My heart started racing. Tia… age ten… got a phone call…. from a boy. And Tia’s grandma answer the phone. Ultimate fail, Tia. Granny stormed into the sun room and went off! She kept shouting over and over…
TIA, YOU AIN’T COATIN’ NO BOYS! YA HEAR ME?! YOU AIN’T COATIN’ NO BOYS!
Granny then proceeded to beat Tia’s hein poss (that’s hind parts in Granny speak) mercilessly while Tia retorted that the phone call was for homework. Granny wasn’t buying it, and since I was in the line of fire I ran home past the rock-throwing boys and past Tia’s wails and past Granny’s shouts because, yes, I could hear them up the block. Tia won’t coatin’ no boys.
I had to be all of 26 and married with two kids before I figured out what the heck coatin’ was, and even then, I only learned that the word was courting. After several failed attempts at coatin’ and “there-has-to-be-a-better way” cathartic cries, I get it! At least I think I get what it’s supposed to be in comparison to dating. Let’s give these meager bones some flesh, shall we?
In courtship, commitment precedes intimacy. That means before you start having those deep conversations about past hurts and future hopes and dreams, a decision has been made between the two parties to only develop a relationship with each other and Christ. In this way the couple can determine the purpose and timing for the marriage as God ordained. Why so much so soon? Because you only court a person that you would marry based on what God has shown you. Ideally, God will have already given the holy head nod for you to proceed into a courtship, but two people who are equally yoked and interested in each other may choose to enter a courtship with Godly counsel. Still a courtship is only as good as the people who are in it. Having said that, the standard is high and most bottom-dwellers won’t even pretend to take this on because it immediately exposes who you are. Easy peas-y… we weeded out the bad and the unprepared just that fast.
I’ve conjured up a few comparisons to give you a better idea of the benefits of courtship…
While dating says “I don’t know where this is going because I can’t see into the future”
courtship says “Let’s build our future together.”
While dating says “You don’t own me” courtship says “I’m here to serve you.”
While dating uproots the blooming flower to keep and hold until it dies,
courtship leaves the flower planted and watches it bloom.
While dating says “Let’s be together forever for tonight,”
courtship says “Let’s pace and plan our interactions so we can make this thing last.”
While dating demands trust without test,
courtship provides a safe place for testing and allows trust to develop over time.
While dating says “I’m a gift to you” courtship says “You’re a gift to me.”
While dating invites you to a person’s genitals but keeps you away from their phone,
courtship assigns value correctly and appropriately.
Dating works for some, but for the vast majority of us, this reckless approach to relationship-building has rendered us broken-hearted and underwhelmed. Players, predators, and commitment-phobes dwell in the nether regions of dating, and that is no place for a child of God. There HAS to be a better way, and I believe courting is it. I don’t know many men who would ascribe to this method, but that tells me I need some new friends because I am certain that this is God’s path to marriage for me.
Deep in the recesses of my mind I have a mental image of a tall man wearing a fine Italian cut suit and a long wool coat. He’s got one of those 007 hats tipped over his left eye, and as he approaches me he whips off his coat, throws it over my head, and shouts “You’re mine, girl!” Yes, ladies and gentleman. This is how I imagined coatin’ as a kid. Listen… even THIS is better than dating for me. If you wanna toss your coat over my head just make sure it smells good, and you put some bass in your voice.
My last plea for courtship….
Imagine how much easier it would be to open up if you knew that person was only interested in and committed to you. Imagine how freeing it would be to know that the purpose of your relationship was to seek God’s plan for you as a couple rather than to “just see what happens.” Imagine what it’s like to walk a path that’s already been laid out for you with red carpet. Imagine what it’s like to part ways with someone but still have full respect for them because they treated you with the utmost Christlike love and respect.
Come throw your coat on me, Boo. Alana is ready for coatin’.
With love, sincerity, and hope for your future,