As I approach another marriage milestone, it’s worth remembering the journey of family life and the priorities that come with being a family man. I don’t write the “Family Matters” column, but over the weeks ahead I want to offer some insights into family that I hope will prove helpful.
My wife and I, thankfully enjoyed good role models as both my wife’s parents and mine had faithful marriages full of love. We often reflect with thankfulness that we did not experience abuse or violence and we grieve for others for whom abuse and violence was their only experience of home life. In many ways we are products of our up- bringing and we have committed ourselves to walk in the good example of those who raised us. To those less fortunate than us the importance of finding good role models cannot be overemphasised as well as reading good literature on family.
It is why church, among other organisations, can make such a good contribution to family life. There are young couples attending who struggle with all the same issues and with whom parents can share their journey. There are also the grandparent types who have walked the married-parenting path and can offer a great role model where such models have been missing. I may have a bias but the Bible itself offers excellent advice and wisdom for those who give it the time.
No family is perfect. From my own family background I have reacted to workaholism and the use of alcohol that we observed growing up. It’s those reactions that remind me that irrespective of up-bringing people can make decisions that break with the past to develop a better future. All of us have responsibility to make things better for the next generation and there is no better field in which to make improvements than family.
I remember being told that a good marriage is built on the loving service of a husband and a wife. Nothing new in that. God has been offering that advice since Adam was introduced to Eve. In fact God has taught me to love my wife as Christ loved the church which means I am to be willing to lay down my life for her. While it sounds a little upside-down when you forego your selfishness to serve your spouse, it actually deepens your love for them and the normal outcome is that they will esteem you. It is not an easy lesson for the selfish to accept but love has never been kindled or advanced by selfishness.
Of course, from the bonds of love that a married couple enjoy comes the fruit of children who certainly are a challenge to our own selfishness. Watching my children care for my grandchildren I am also reminded that you can become selfish for your children to the neglect of your marriage. I was warned of this and the danger of the idolising our children. Those little blighters will live under our roofs, eat our food, deplete our bank accounts, have us invited…sorry… I mean summoned to meet their school’s principal and so much more. And just when they start to be more likeable they abandon us to marry someone we hardly know. It is at this point the empty nesters discover how much, or how little, they have invested in each other for a future together. It’s at that moment you realise that setting priorities to care for your marriage pays long term dividends.
To be clear I am saying that our spouses come before our children. But before people get uptight about the children, I can’t tell you how helpful it was to be told that the best gift I could give to my children was a good marriage, a marriage where children saw their mother given priority ahead of them by the love of their father. I was told that for our children’s security they needed to feel that mum and dad were ok and together. In other words, prioritise your love for your spouse and your children will benefit.So with that in mind, I better remember my wedding anniversary and enjoy all that it celebrates.