The Courtship That Wasn’t: Darcy’s Story
Nothing about my courtship or marriage was supposed to happen.
I wasn’t supposed to give my heart away, not even a piece. Especially not to an unapproved guy whose family did not share our standards. They were good enough to be our friends, but definitely not intended for future marriage prospects. And I was only 17 anyway. 17-yr-olds were supposed to be concerned with serving the Lord and their families and weren’t anywhere near mature enough to know their own minds. “The heart is deceitful”, after all, especially when you’re 17.
But there I was, fallen from grace, in love with a boy. It was completely unintentional. I never meant for it to happen. But he was my friend and suddenly he was more. This is why we weren’t supposed to be friends with boys. Falling in love was something that ungodly dating people did. We practiced courtship and emotional purity and that meant no falling in love, no giving away pieces of your heart, no emotional fornication, only parent-approved courtship to one person who would end up my husband through a means of careful formulas to be sure no mistakes were made.
But I failed. I was in love. I was no better than The World after all.
The agony of coming to grips with my failure, of pleading with God to take away this forbidden feeling, to make my heart whole again, the guilt that I had somehow let this happen and had failed myself and my parents and my entire sub-culture was more than any teenage girl could bear. I begged God for forgiveness, I tried avoiding The Boy, I tried reading my Bible more and spent hours praying and throwing myself into my schoolwork and church activities. But it was apparent that, regardless of what I had been taught and what had been drilled into me by the courtship books, love is not something you can control.
And my whole carefully constructed world came crashing down around me.
I had to come to grips with the fact that everything I had believed was a lie. That many of the teachings on purity and “guarding your heart” and courtship and relationships were not at all reality, but some grand scheme made up to try to control other people’s lives. I couldn’t even find these ideas in my well-worn Bible, nor logically work them out in my head. Yet I knew that if my parents had any inkling of what was swirling around my head, there would be hell to pay and my life would be even more miserable than it already was. I was not free to have my own beliefs on this matter, even as an adult.
I kept it from them, my budding secret relationship with The Boy, my feelings and our talks (because if feeling emotional attachment for someone was forbidden, talking about it to them was even worse). I kept it from them until the day they told me they had to, for my own good, keep me away from him because he liked me and that couldn’t be allowed. Here’s my written account of what went down that day, taken from my journal of that time:
“We need to talk,” they said. “We’ve decided that you and Sky are spending too much time together. It’s not good for either of you. He’s obviously attracted to you and we feel we need to guard your heart so you don’t end up giving it away to the wrong person at the wrong time. I know you’re good friends and we’d like to keep it that way so we feel like you shouldn’t spend so much time together.”
Dad was about to go on when I blurted out “It’s too late!”
They just looked at me while I gathered all the courage I had and declared, “I’m in love with him.”
They looked at each other and my mom sighed dramatically. “This is exactly what we were trying to avoid. It’s OK,” my mom patted my lap. “We’re in this together and we’ll help you get through this.”
“I don’t want to get through this” I said quietly. They looked at me in silent shock.
Then I told them all…But I knew they didn’t understand. “Don’t you think,” my dad said, “that if this were God’s will for you, that He would tell me?”
“Maybe, maybe not”, I replied. “Maybe He wants you to hear it from me. Maybe part of growing up is learning to listen to God on my own.”
“You know,” Mom tried, “sometimes we can want something so badly that we think God is telling us something that He’s not. This could all be coming from your own heart. Our hearts are deceitful, after all.”
“Mom,” I said, “do you believe that I have a strong relationship with the Lord?”
“Well, yes,” she replied.
“So why is it so hard to believe that He would speak to me and show me the direction He wants me to go in my life?” I asked earnestly.
The answer was pretty much what I thought it would be: because the direction God was supposedly showing me was not the direction they had planned. I came away from that talk with the impression that they thought this was just a phase that would run its course. Once again they proved how little they knew me and how little they really wanted to.
It all went downhill from there. I documented the entire story on my blog, in 12 parts. It’s painful to read, difficult even now to relive the agony of the girl I was, the girl who had to fight, to be strong, the girl whose heart was ripped out again and again by the very people who claimed to protect it, all in the name of God. The girl who wanted nothing more than to please God, who had to use spiritual-sounding language and justifications to do what should’ve been a normal part of growing up. But that’s what happens when you’re raised to be, not yourself, not an autonomous person, but an asset to be controlled.
I read my journals and even the story I wrote out 6 years ago, and I am angered. I should not have had to use God to justify my choices. I should not have had to invoke His will for my life, to try to convince my parents that I knew my own mind and could “hear God for myself”. I should not have had to field emotional abuse and manipulation and spiritual control of my mind and heart and body. I should not have had to flee home just to get away from them and find peace. I was an adult, that should have been enough to make my own choices.
But in our world, it was not. In the world for which courtship was invented, the ultimate sin was rebellion against God’s order of authority, against what your parents wanted for you, and choosing to walk on your own amid cries of “rebellion”. In this world, men could not be trusted and women were assets to be controlled, and the two could only meet under many layers of rules meant to keep us dependent on our authorities, despising of our own desires, and mistrusting of our own hearts and minds. It has always amazed me how two people who were declared not mature enough to conduct a relationship without supervision and under extreme outside constraint could somehow be mature enough to begin a marriage.
It took me until about 4 years ago to finally stop making spiritual-sounding excuses for why we conducted a secret relationship, why we rejected courtship, why we did everything “wrong” and against my parents’ will, to stop trying to get anyone listening to acknowledge the legitimacy of our choices by invoking God’s will.
To finally simply declare, “Because it was what we wanted and we had that right”.
Such a basic idea yet so foreign to those of us who are refugees from the homeschooling movement. We have that right….the right to love, to choose, to live. To not have our adult choices dictated by another, our autonomy robbed in the name of “because God says so”, coerced by ideologies that left us no real choice because “do this or suffer hell” is not a real choice.
It was what we wanted. And that should have been enough.
Every time I read one of these stories, I feel angry and sick. The amount of emotional and spiritual abuse perpetuated by the Purity Movement is just galling. It’s horrific. It’s unjust. It’s an affront to the grace of God.
Well said April. I agree!
It is hard to hear the way parents want to love their kids but end up hurting them so much. I’m sorry your voice and ideas weren’t asked for or honored when you were courageous to speak up.
Love this so much. Not the awfulness you went through, not the spiritual gymnastics you had to perform, but the truth, the real truth, that set you free XO
We need some of those homeschoolers who like math to come up with a “heart is deceitful” algorithm that can predict when you can or cannot trust your heart.
Like for instance, 40 year-old men hear from God clearly without problems all the time. Being a “daughter-of-eve” makes all humans without a penis easier to deceive, so p= 5 times less likely to fall deceived. Since 40 is about when deceit from one’s heart is negligible, women (being without a p in their equation) need to be 200 years old before they can hear from god without a deceitful heart interfering.
d=40/p, and if there is no p, then it is a bit more complicated.
Its only mathematical right?
Oh gosh, that made me laugh and shudder at the same time. lol
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As a refugee from both movements (courtship and homeschool) and a pastor’s daughter (triple threat!) I STILL can’t wrap my mind around your last paragraph, and I’m 27 years old. Wow. Mind blown..
It was beautiful. I was only 8 years old when my cousin Darcy got married. I remember how proud I was to be a flower girl, along with my two younger sisters. But until now, I never knew any of this. I had no idea that Sky and Darcy went through such hardships before they married. This is very enlightening. I grew up in a similar situation, only by the time I was even close to 17, my parents had luckily seen the damage their religion was doing and we had already come out of what we today call our “plain phase”. Unfortunately, the damage was done. We spent the next few years trying to discover ourselves and trying to pursue romantic relationships. Since none of us really knew how to communicate with the opposite sex, it was very awkward.Thankfully, today we are out in the world, and forging relationships with the opposite sex. My oldest sister had dates from an online dating site, but nothing came of that. My second oldest sister married at 20, marrying Sky’s younger brother. My third older sister married a few years later, but her marriage was very different from her older sister’s. She moved in with him first, something that was not only taboo, but seen as a sin. I was later told that she did it out of spite and rebellion. They did marry after the church and our family pressured them into it, but they were planning to anyway. All of this was after our plain phase, but we were still conservative and religious. Certain things were forbidden, and so many things were a sin. That was drilled into me from a young age. I believe I was around 12 when this happened. Thinking back on it, I was out of place. Because no matter how hard I tried, I could not maintain the level of faith that my other siblings did. Somewhere inside, part of me never truly believed what I had been taught to. My siblings would tell me of hearing God’s voice all the time, and how he inspired them. Oh, how I wanted to feel that love, and devotion. How I wanted to hear Him. I can remember talking to God all day long as if He were my best friend. I remember feeling guilty whenever I forgot to pray at night. Then there were things that we weren’t allowed to do. Dancing, secular music, watch movies that were rated higher than PG, wear clothes that weren’t modest. Jeans started becoming part of my life when I was about 13. It was a big change. Then more things started to loosen up. Forbidden things weren’t forbidden anymore. Even so, we still maintained faith in God. By the time I reached 15, I was seriously questioning my faith and upbringing. I started to wonder about God and why so many things were sinful. It seemed to me that God didn’t want us to have fun. Slowly but surely I moved further and further away from him. Even at church, I questioned. Hell was my first belief to go. Then I started believing in a more liberal God than the one from my childhood. Eventually, at 19, I completely left my faith behind. I no longer believed in God. Four years later, I still don’t. I consider myself an atheist and when I look back on my past, I can’t help but wonder how I could believe such nonsense. How I could put faith in someone I couldn’t see. Today I find it hard to understand how seemingly intelligent adults can believe in this stuff when it flies in the face of reason. My story isn’t one of forbidden love, but it was a journey. I am glad she found her way out as well. I read the 12 part story on her blog, and it sounded so much like tragic love stories that I have read. I just never imagined that such a love story had happened in my family. Being only 8 at the time, I wouldn’t have understood it.