A letter to a young man, on the occasion of wanting to date my daughter:
This letter is in response to your recent attention directed toward my beloved firstborn daughter. You asked what my rules for dating are and, in reply, I tell you this: There are none.
Although the circles in which we both run are rife with heated debate over the dating vs. courtship issue, I want to assure you our goal is to stay away from pre-determined unbendable formulas leaning toward either polarity and think our standard falls somewhere near the middle. So many variables are at play in this thing called love, after all, and in this we want to be reasonable. There are, however, a few non-negotiable traits we are looking for in order for you to be considered as a potential husband for our aforementioned daughter.
First, we want you to be a God-lover. We don't expect you to know if you are supralapsarian, infralapsarian, or lapsarian at all, but we do want someone who is avidly pursuing the face of God---wrestling, sweat pouring down your face if need be, with what it means to be a Christ-follower. If you come to us with smug pre-packaged Christianese or as a spiritual know-it-all, you can leave out the back door, where her dad and three brothers are cleaning their M-16s. Teachability doesn't mean you have to be an unopinionated milksop, so if you want any girl of value to respect you, find that fine line and stay on the non-soppy side.
Second, we want you to be a hard worker. This does not mean you take out the kitchen trash once a week after being nagged 200 times by your mother. I mean work, hard physically crushing work: wood hauling, engine block removal, bricklaying. I want to see calloused hands and a proven work history. You're only 19? Did you mow lawns as a boy? Put in your mom's garden? Lay landscape timbers? Can you drive a tractor with a manual transmission? Do you change your own oil? Those who hide, busy themselves in the kitchen, whine about how hot it is, or otherwise complain while a working party is in progress might want to wife-shop someplace where they don't mind soft hands and slackers.
Third, marriage is one situation where half plus half doesn't equal whole. Are you a whole person? Do you even know yourself yet? Do you read? If so, what do you read? Do you have hobbies? Ambitions? Are you comfortable being alone? Do you enjoy being out in nature with nobody but you and God and an occasional squirrel? How do you get along with your parents? Have you been on a mission trip? What are your goals in life? Are you looking for my daughter to fulfill you, to "complete" you, as we 21st-century Jerry McGuire fans like to say? If so, I hope you left your baby blue Volkswagen Beetle running in the driveway.
I'm sure there are other things we would like you to have and to be, but let this suffice for now. See, it's not about you jumping through the proper hoops in order to let us allow you to take her out for a hamburger and a movie on Friday night. It's about you being---or becoming---the kind of man who will care for our girl for life. This is what matters to us. Of course, if you just happen to be charming, handsome, and willing to pick up your own socks, that's just icing on the cake.