Ever since I hit “publish” on Part 1, I’ve been getting messages from people. Strangers, friends, acquaintances… here are some of the questions I’ve gotten:
*Will you use that home-school program with your kids?
*Why did you stay in that home-school program if it was so bad?
*Do you resent your parents for any of the hard parts of your story?
*Are you going to allow your children to date?
*Would you recommend this courtship thing for everyone?
*Do you think your marriage has been harder because of the method you used and the fact that you didn’t know eachother very well?
*Do you feel like you missed out on anything by not dating?
Wow. Talk about a bunch of loaded questions. But I promised that I would answer them as best as I could. If you don’t get a question answered to your satisfaction, write me again. I’ll keep trying!
In regards to the program (Advanced Training Institute): No, I will absolutely NOT be using this program or anything related to it or produced by it. There is so much that I could say on this topic, but maybe that’s another post for another day. For now, I will say that in the last few years as I’ve really spent time looking objectively at what is being taught and modeled by ATI, and it’s effects on myself and my peers, I’ve found it to be incredibly contrary to Scripture. Sometimes it’s subtle things being pushed on naive young people (most often in “apprenticeship sessions” where there are no parents present) , sometimes it’s blatant misuse and twisting of Scripture. I have a lot of friends who also grew up in ATI who have worked hard to compile their own experiences and thoughts on the matter (I have contributed a bit, where I could). If you are interested in learning more about the program, this is where I would direct you: www.RecoveringGrace.org
Why did I stay so long? That one is complicated. The biggest reason is probably because I was taught (by the program, ironically) that this program was the only godly option. College was strongly discouraged as a dangerous idol and threat. ATI was the only viable option presented to us, and I bought it hook, line and sinker. I remember my dad asking once if I wanted to go to college, but I couldn’t think of anything that I would love to study. I’d rather travel and “give God my youth” anyway.
Do I resent my parents? Absolutely not. I truly believe they have always done their best to give us great opportunities and learning experiences. When we started homeschooling, there were not half as many curriculum options as there are now. I can definitely see how ATI would appeal to parents as a “fool proof” method and Christian curriculum. Besides, that Scripture verse (Romans 8:28) that talks about everything working together for our good? It applies here, too. If not for those years in ATI, I might not have met Nathan or the hundred other wonderful friends along the way. In short, I love my parents to pieces and am so thankful to call them mine!
Can I roll two of those questions into one? Am I going to allow my children to date, and would I recommend courtship to everyone? Here is my answer: God doesn’t do cookie-cutters. My hope for my children is that they will follow God. My greatest desire to is raise adults who can hear from God for themselves and have the wherewithal to be obedient to His voice alone. I have no desire (nor do I see it as being remotely Scriptural) to be the voice of God in their lives! I’m quite certain that the Holy Spirit can speak to them as easily (perhaps more so) as He speaks to me. So if that means that God leads them to date the man of their dreams before they get married, I believe it’s possible to do that in a God-honoring way. Courtship is not the answer to the world’s problems. In fact, in many instances that I’ve witnessed with my friends, it can be even more dangerous and painful than a dating relationship. But even if it’s done “right” and ends well, I have seen many negative effects. The first of which is probably pride. I’m sure you’ve heard it, too.
“My daughter has never kissed a man in her whole life! She is PURE and WHOLE and has worked so hard to maintain that status!” Or maybe “We saved our first kiss for our wedding day. It was hard, but we did it.” Or even “We have committed to not even touch until we are married.” It often reeks of a list of human accomplishments.
At the same time, the rules and standards and “ideal courtship” has produced so much guilt and shame. Because who among us can honestly avoid crushes through our teenage and young adult years? I certainly couldn’t. But I felt such horrible guilt over them! So in order to maintain the appearance of absolute purity, you pretend. There’s your next bi-product… deception.
The piece of the typical courtship model that I *do* like is parental input. Notice I did not say parental *control*. By the time my children are old enough to be considering marriage, I do hope that we will have a relationship of mutual trust and respect. I will not be demanding obedience or submission from my adult daughters! I pray that they will feel free to ask for mine and Nathan’s opinions and counsel regarding any man that catches their eye, but that they will be able to pray about it and decide for themselves. I *do* like that the typical courtship model includes more group settings and family involvement. Because that’s real life. One-on-one trips to the theater are not the best for determining a person’s true character. But toss him into the middle of a family game night and you may get a better glimpse. 😉
I could go on and on about this topic. But hopefully my point is already made. I think courtship *can* be good. I think dating *can* be good. But mostly, I think that God has to lead it. There is no formula for a perfect marriage. There is no cookie-cutter for a safe and pain-free journey to the alter. How can you learn to love without making yourself vulnerable? I love this quote by C. S. Lewis… “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
Do I feel that my marriage has been more difficult because of the method we used? That’s rather impossible to answer, seeing as I’ve never been married before and have nothing to compare my experience to! But the issues that we faced early in our marriage were, in my opinion, more easily attributed to the long-distance relationship. Like I mentioned half-way through Part 10, I did a terrible job of addressing issues that came up during our engagement. Because it’s easier to just get off the phone and not bring it up again. Guess what… you can’t do that once you’re married! So that was (maybe it still is) a learning experience for us.
Do I feel like I’ve missed out on anything by not dating? Yes, sometimes I do. Sometimes I wonder if my marriage would look different if we had met, been able to develop a friendship, allowed to have a crush, fall in love, THEN commit to a lifetime together. However, that coin has another side. Our relationship has been about commitment from the very beginning. I committed to love Nathan long before I *felt* any love for Nathan. It was never based on feeling. So I wonder if that doesn’t give us more stability when our marriage hits a rough patch or dry spot, as all marriages do.
I do not regret the crushes I had before Nathan came along. There were plenty of them! But each one taught me something about myself.
I most *definitely* do not regret saving myself physically for Nathan alone. Not one iota. And I’m thankful that he kept himself for me, as well.
The point of me writing out our story, in as much detail as I could recall, was not to fling another “this is how it’s done” article into cyber-space. There are already way too many of those floating around. The *very last* thing that we want is for anyone to read our story and say “that’s how it ought to be done.” God doesn’t use cookie-cutters. One of the things I like about our story is how delightfully different it is. God wrote it that way.
My #1 goal in writing all of this was for my kids. Because I remember asking my parents to tell me their story. Many times. I always wanted more details! Maybe it’s built into our DNA. We love a good story.
Over the years, people have told us to write our story and publish it. We have always resisted, because of our hesitation to become a cookie-cutter. But when I recounted the story to someone who asked a few months ago, I was disturbed at how hard I had to think to recall certain parts. That did it. I started writing the next day. This is God’s story. He orchestrated it from long before we met, until now. I don’t want any more details to be lost!
We’ve been married over 10 yrs! It’s safe to say we’re getting better with age. We have more fun together, are more comfortable together, love eachother more, we’re better at supporting eachother and resolving conflict, and… well… everything has gotten better. I will be forever grateful for God giving me Nathan Terrell, and am SO looking forward to the next 10 yrs!