Photo of the backs of our heads taken by Shani P. as she was chaperoning us.
28 Nov 2016, Bankstown, NSW
Mary Lathrap (1838-1895) asked a man a question in poetry, many years ago. It meant nothing to me when I first read it, but as I started on my own courtship, I realised just how important it is for a single Christian lady (single= no courtship and single= not yet married) to ask questions–not to, but of the guy (or guys, in some instances) who asks to start a relationship with her. Or even before he asks her.
It is important to ask of a guy, I have mentioned in a previous post. After all, any man can offer you the world with that flattering tongue God has so blessed him with. But you would want to know what is known of him and of his words. You would want to know of his integrity, of his actions, of the honesty and dependability of his words, of the kind of love he has for the people around him, and the kind of love he wants in return. You would want to know by observing him from afar; from asking his peers, family, church leaders, and work colleagues–they would know his character best. You would want to know by his decisions when he is placed in a difficult situation. You would never want to know of him by what he tells you of who he is, because any man can tell you of the better version of himself.
Ask of a guy, dear girl, and be willing to accept the truths that you will be given. Remember that you’ll be spending the rest of your life with him, each and every day of it.
Growing up in a Christian home and church, I had established my standards young, and established them high. As I entered my 20’s, I had yet to find a man who fulfilled those standards, and I was soon left doubting within myself if I had set them too high. I was told numerous times that I was being idealistic, and that if I continued on that path, I would never get married.
Perhaps I was being too idealistic, to a point.
There were some things God had to change in my perspective the past few years, but about a year before I entered this season of courtship with a wonderful man that my family and my Pastor approved of, I realised that standards–and having them as high as God would want them–were simply guidelines towards wanting what God wants. I went from having a list of a perfect man with all the attributes I desired to simply waiting for a man who strove towards Christ: a man who is never perfect, a man who gets tired, a man with flaws and faults, but a man who strives to be what God wants him to be, although he may move two steps forward and one step back sometimes.
Thank God I did have some sense of Mary Lathrop’s question and its importance before I even came upon this poem, and thank God that I asked a practical part of it of all the guys that have ever been interested in me and of all the guys that I have ever been interested in. Thank God for His wisdom and the other harder questions I had to ask and answer within myself, although, I have to say, I did not ask as eloquently as Mary did.
I am so glad I held out and did not settle for any less, just because I was afraid I would never get married or that the kind of man I was praying for did not exist. Thank God I waited. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be in the sweetest and most romantic relationship/friendship/courtship (whatever you want to call it) with the guy I’d been praying about for more than a year.
Without further ado, here is Mary Lathrap’s (or Lathrop) beautiful question (and yes, it is high, but again, we don’t look for perfect men, we wait for men that strive towards Christ), with Joshua Harris (famous author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl) commenting on it:
“Lathrop’s words show me to be the immature boy that I am, stopping me in my tracks and daring me to be man enough to treat a woman right. Some of the poem’s wording might seem old-fashioned, but the message is timeless.
‘A Woman’s Answer to a Man’s Question’
Mary T. Lathrap
Do you know you have asked for the costliest thing
Ever made by the Hand above?
A woman’s heart, and a woman’s life
And a woman’s wonderful love.
Do you know you have asked for the priceless thing
As a child might ask for a toy?
Demanding what others have died to win,
With the reckless dash of a boy.
You have written my lesson of duty out,
Manlike, you have questioned me.
Now stand at the bars of my woman’s soul
Until I shall question thee.
You require your mutton shall always be hot,
Your socks and shirt be whole;
I require your heart be true as God’s stars
and as pure as His heaven your soul.
You require a cook for your mutton and beef,
I require a far greater thing;
A seamstress you’re wanting for socks and shirts —
I look for a man and a king.
A king for a beautiful realm called Home,
And a man that his Maker, God,
Shall look upon as He did on the first
And say: “It is very good.”
I am fair and young, but the rose may fade
From this soft young cheek one day;
Will you love me then ‘mid the falling leaves,
As you did ‘mong the blossoms of May?
Is your heart an ocean so strong and true,
I may launch my all on its tide?
A loving woman finds heaven or hell
On the day she is made a bride.
I require all things that are grand and true,
All things that a man should be;
If you give this all I would stake my life
To be all you demand of me.
If you cannot be this, a laundress and cook
You can hire and little to pay;
But a woman’s heart and a woman’s life
Are not to be won that way.
“To the girls reading this, I pray this poem serves as a reminder to keep your standards high. Require all things that are “grand and true”. As you consider the possibility of marriage, don’t lower your standards for a moment, any guy who asks you to do so isn’t worth your time.
“And to the guys, we have our work cut out for us, don’t we? My hope for us is that we would truly grasp the costliness, the priceless-ness, of a woman’s love. It is no small thing, no game, to invite a girl to accompany us through life. May we earn the right to make such a request by striving to be men of integrity-men whose hearts are oceans ‘strong and true.’ Then, only then, should we stand at the bars of a woman’s soul and ask to gain entrance. “
– Joshua Harris