Dad, you must get this one right. If you mess up here, all that you have invested in your daughter could be wasted on a dud.
The guys come around asking for her hand, but they really want much more. They want the entire twenty or so years you have invested in your precious daughter. They want all the training, the money you sank into dental and medical, and all the clothes and education. They want to reap the harvest that you have so carefully tended and protected for the best part of your life. When that young man comes around asking for your daughter, or maybe just announces that he is taking her, he is making off with the major fruit of your life.
Raising daughters is not a good business deal. You make a twenty-year investment and then just up and give the whole thing away to an inexperienced boy who doesn’t at all appreciate the value of what he is getting, and is probably not worthy of the gift, or “theft,” as it may be. To top it all off, he changes her name – takes her out of the family, and erases all traces of her lineage. Her children will not carry on your family name!
But there is comfort in knowing that all your investment was not really for that bonehead son-in-law; it was for your daughter – for her sake. Because you made her your life’s work, no matter what befalls her later in life, you can know that she will face it with courage and wisdom, bringing glory to God. She was God’s gift to you and your wife, precious and vulnerable, just raw material, and by means of his grace, you gave her back to him to be one of his stars in eternity. We dads are God’s teachers, his priests, entrusted with his most beloved creation, his last crowning feat of creation – the human female.
It is an act of faith to give our daughters in marriage. It must be how God felt when he turned away and left Adam alone in the garden with Eve. His work, as is ours, was complete. Their lives are now theirs to live – for better or for worse.
The Bible speaks of fathers “giving” their daughters in marriage, as if everyone respected his right to legislate in such matters. In an ideal society, fathers would always be wise, daughters would be mature, and suitors would be transparent and righteous. But fathers are usually clumsy and dull of discernment; daughters, selfish and impatient and suitors may be lustful and coy. Sadly, statistics show that new “Christian” marriages are more likely to end in divorce than not. And of those who stay together, most are not happy and holy. Holy matrimony is nearly a lost grace, as rare and blessed as the appearance of an angel.
Fathers, those of you with daughters yet to be married, I am speaking to you now. After you are satisfied that you have put your best into your daughter and after you have prepared and preserved her for her day of marriage, you have one last task that you must get right. If you miss this last turn in all your preparations, you have missed your life’s most vital purpose as a father. You must make absolutely sure that the one to whom you give your daughter is indeed worthy of her. This is not an easy task. Outward appearance is deceiving, and you are quite capable of being deceived. You will need help, more than I can give, in screening the young men who would court your daughter. It is this screening process that we are going to talk about. You are the chief screener. Do you know what questions to ask and how to ask them? Do you know how to get behind the young man’s facade and know the real man?
My daughters are all married now – and married well! So now I am “free” to share some of my experience and secrets, and offer some suggestions that may help you when your time of “trial” comes. I have wanted to go public with this information ever since I went through this with our first daughter many years ago, but I didn’t want to put it into print and give away my secrets to the young fellows who were “already on their way to our front porch,” eventually to come asking for my other two daughters. I didn’t want them to be forearmed and well-equipped, so as to answer my questions deceitfully.
Looking back now, the whole process was actually a bit humorous. Before my daughters were all married, I used to have lots of young friends who didn’t have anything better to do than come around asking me if there was anything they could do for me. They never saw my grin, and they didn’t hear the whispers going on around the house, but I always made sure I had something for them to do. There were weeds that needed to be hoed, ditches to be cleaned out, firewood to be split and stacked, and lots of painting and plumbing chores “just waiting” for all these young men. It was amazing to see how these young guys seemed to love to wash dishes and cook, that is, as long as the girls were telling them what to do while flittering around the kitchen.
Life for me is much harder now that the girls are all married. Sons-in-law somehow don’t seem to care now if there is work to be done and that Imust do it all alone. And I haven’t seen any of them jumping into the kitchen to do dishes since they carried one of my favorite “dishes” home. So, one of the first things you can expect is a young man who is suddenly interested in getting to know your family better. Watch his eyes. Like a hawk circling a rabbit, his eyes will reveal his intentions. It was a great source of entertainment for a decade. I miss it!
Now, to get down to serious business. The time will come when the young man stumbles around and asks if he can court your daughter with consideration toward marriage. Although he may think so, this is not a request for her hand in marriage, but a simple request to get to know her better so as to determine if they are suitable as life partners. This is an opportunity for both of them to get to know each other in a social way and in a family setting. It is not a time for them to be alone or to develop emotional attachments. The young man can be included in family outings, work days, dinners, and family evenings playing games and telling tall tales. He can work with you and even go shopping with your wife and daughter.
I had several young men ask to court, or marry my daughters whom I was able to eliminate before the conversation terminated. It’s called marriage Q & A. You ask the right questions, and he tries to give the right answers. There are some concerns that are universal and must be addressed. They are serious enough that any father should reject a suitor who doesn’t measure up. Getting to the truth early and openly is the key.
Before you even bother to check up on references, and immediately upon being approached by each prospective suitor is your best moment to cut to the quick with him.The young man will obviously be a little nervous and unsure of himself, so put him at ease by being at ease yourself. Find someplace where you can both sit down and talk in private. Start out by asking inconsequential questions that are not likely to be of any great importance, no matter how they are answered. They can be questions like:
As you have both been talking, you have been looking in his eyes and watching his body language. He is now relaxed. Then, staring him intently in the eyes and leaning forward, ask in a slightly more forceful and intense tone, “When is the last time you looked at pornography?” You have already become familiar with his mannerisms after about fifteen minutes of talking. If, after this penetrating question, he can look you straight in the eye and say with confidence, “I have never looked at pornography,” then you can be fairly sure that he is telling the truth. However, if his face floods with guilt and he denies any involvement, you can be quite sure he is lying. If you think he is lying, tell him so, and then immediately ask him again. Only a very accomplished liar can stand up under a father’s stare in response to a question like that.
Don’t take shock for guilt. An innocent and naive young man who has been quite protected all his life may be shocked at the question. But if the kid looks like he just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, you likely have a porno freak seeking your daughter’s hand. He may end up molesting your grandkids. He has failed the suitor test, not just by viewing pornography, but by lying about it. Even though he is unfit to be any girl’s husband at this point in his life, you might want to take the opportunity to counsel him for his own good. Warn him against the evils of pornography and tell him how it has disqualified him. Assure him that it is not too late to become a man of virtue, but it will take several years of “staying clean” before he could be trusted. Now, just in case you think I am being a little unreasonable, read the following two letters. We have received hundreds just like them.
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