A friend of mine recently asked me what it meant to court someone. He had been under the impression that it involved a gentleman taking a damsel out to a ball or some other formal social event. A rather chivalrous notion to be sure, and while there is some truth to it, it doesn’t end there.
Indeed, it cannot end there.
Driving for the Sake of Driving
I have a very specific tradition with my closest friends whenever I go back to visit my hometown of Merced, CA. On any given night I will take a car out, pick up a few of the guys, and then we’ll go for a drive.
Admittedly, these drives have no real sense of purpose aside from having all of us together in one place at one time, but if I’m honest with myself I’ll concede that they can certainly be immensely enjoyable. These trips contain elements of adventure and mystery, and through them my friends and I have discovered places we never knew existed. We’ve come across parts of California we never would have expected, made memories we will never forget, and ventured down paths we never would have taken alone.
What’s down this lonely, forsaken-looking road? None of us knew and none of us cared, so long as we could discover these things together. What’s on the other side of that hill? No better time to find out than now. Why not explore this abandoned, haunted-looking house? Let’s do it, because I only have to run faster than one of you anyway. All the while, we would share with each other the happenings of our lives. What’s new with you? How are you and so-and-so doing? How’s your family and such?
As we were catching up with one another, life eventually caught up to us a well, and the deeper, more existential questions soon came rolling in. Where are we actually going? Didn’t we pass this already? Is anyone else hungry? Soon enough we would have to make the hard decisions. Do we continue on driving? Do we go home? Do we park and just sit?
And then came perhaps the most important question of all: Just who is paying for all of this gas?
And that’s essentially the point of dating, isn’t it? It’s being in the car with another person just for the sake of being in the car with them. It’s getting to know someone for the sake of not being alone. It’s driving without a clear sense of direction.
It’s being together for the journey and not the destination.
Oh yeah, the destination.
From Here to There
As I mentioned before, driving for the sake of driving certainly has its moments. But when you really need to get where you want to go, you will require a sense of direction, and direction necessitates both a starting point as well as an ending destination. After all, a start with no end is nothing more than intention without purpose. An end with no start is nothing more than ambition without design.
One is completely useless devoid of the other.
This is where the purposes of courting and dating begin to drastically diverge, because in a courtship it’s all about getting to there from here. It’s all about the destination, and that destination is marriage. Yes, you’re still getting to know one another and yes, you’re still in the car with one another, but you do so with a very clear sense of purpose.
It’s about being with you because I’m intent on getting to know you on a deeper level. It’s about being with you because I believe you could be the one I spend the rest of my life with.
It’s about being with you because I believe you could be the one I get down on one knee for.
And maybe things don’t work out. Maybe somewhere down the road you find out that he or she wasn’t the one for you and you both part ways. Maybe you exit the car and start walking on your own.
But that’s okay, because courtship is all about the destination, right? And if you’re destination-focused then the journey doesn’t really stop even if you’re by yourself. With a courtship mentality you’re still preparing your heart, your life, and your mind for marriage.
Even if you’re currently walking alone.
Dating could be described as being in a car for the sake of being in a car. Yes, you might make a turn or two that will point you towards marriage and yes, a very select few couples actually make it there, but marriage doesn’t have to be the goal. People can date for fame, fortune, reputation, sex, loneliness, etc. In courtship, however, marriage is very much the goal. Yes, you’ll sometimes make a few wrong turns and yes, maybe you’ll even get lost along the way, but it doesn’t change the fact that you know very clearly where you want to be headed.
In dating you begin with the journey in mind and occasionally you might end up at the right destination. In courtship you begin with the right destination in mind, and more often than not, you come to realize that there is also a wonderful journey in getting there.