Wooing as Warfare, part 3: strategy
(David) In warfare it's essential not to confuse primary and secondary objectives. Stalin's son was captured by the Wehrmacht in World War II. Stalin refused every rescue plan, unwilling in any way to take the focus off the invading Germans.
The primary objective in the war of love is the heart of the potential bride. A suitor can win a father's approval but that's not the ultimate objective. A young man can win all sorts of hearts--his beloved's mother's, sisters', brothers', dog's, even her third-grade teacher's--but if he fails to claim hers, he loses the battle.
One might hope that by winning the daughter the suitor will gain the embrace of her family. But it doesn't always work that way. David gained Michal without ever winning her father's heart; Jacob never truly brought Leah and Rachel's family on board.
Modern "courtship" rightfully elevates the role of fathers in the wooing process. But in elevating that role it may have confused young men about the ultimate goal of courtship, causing them to think that winning the father's approval is tantamount to winning their bride. Young men must still pursue the woman they love--even with her father's approval. Ultimately they must woo and win her, not just her father or family.
It's at this point that modern courtship theory often leaves young men unprepared to successfully prosecute their pursuit. In courtship's renewed emphasis on father and family, the suitor's approach to the father--the official starting point for the process of courtship--often becomes a surrogate proposal. As a result courtship often begins where it should end, with an appeal to a father not far removed from a request for the daughter's hand. Once a young man talks to a father everyone knows something significant has happened, but what exactly is it? Has the young man started down the path to courtship--or to marriage, and is there a difference between the two in the mind of the father? In the mind of the young man? In the heart of the daughter? Is the daughter now limited to the young man in her romantic interests? Has he trifled with her heart if he decides he's no longer interested in her?
Ultimately, it doesn't matter what name the pursuit is given, dating, courting, wooing, its objective is the heart of the young woman. And because the woman's heart is courtship's goal, it must also be be its starting point. The guy must win the girl. Everything else is secondary--not unimportant, not incidental, but still secondary.
Young men must understand that there isn't a worthy marriage in Scripture where the woman wasn't won before the marriage took place. The pursuit can be straightforward, like Adam with Eve. It can be intense and intrigue-filled like the romance of Song of Solomon. It can be sweet and gentle like Boaz with Ruth. Even those marriages in Scripture which we might think violate this rule actually follow it. Abraham sent his servant to arrange the marriage of his son, Isaac, to a girl from his homeland. An obviously arranged marriage, right? Well no. In fact, we read in Genesis 24, that when Abraham's servant wanted to leave with Rebekah the day after he met her, Laban and Bethuel...
...called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.” So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,“Our sister, may you becomethousands of ten thousands,and may your offspring possessthe gate of those who hate them!”