Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Gospel of Married With Children

I'm not the fun parent; it's not me who makes sure the kids get to the park every week; not me who forsakes chores to play board games or otherwise entertain the kids. Since my husband works 54 hours a week (5 hours on Saturdays included), the kids entertain themselves mostly, and it's good for them to do so.

I read to them, cuddle with them, feed them, listen to them, and teach them.

My husband is the fun one, hands down. Not the always-laughing-tickling kind of fun, but the let's-amuse-ourselves-and-spend-time-together kind of fun, which almost always includes going outside. We have no entertainment budget so nature is our entertainer, along with the basketball hoop in the front yard. For two of my children, add art into that mixture.

If we could be flies on the walls in different homes, I suspect we'd find many parents who are opposites. Kids need both styles to flourish, and God knew what he was doing when he paired you with your spouse. As much as it may seem you're incompatible at times, that's probably far from true.

If we believe that God created marriage to reflect the Gospel--and I think he did--then it makes sense that marriage is both very hard and glorious. He also created it to produce and nurture children, in most cases, whether they be birth or adoptive children. So parenting partners are incredibly important to God; he takes the parenting business seriously and puts together the combination most likely to reflect the Gospel, so that our children can live it.

What does discipleship look like, exactly? How does it work in your home? Can you pinpoint how each spouse contributes, by God's design? Sometimes it can seem like it's not a paired effort, but when you look closely at who you both are, you'll find a complement, I suspect.

This month, our devotional schedule includes 4 days of Bible & prayer devotions with just Mommy in the morning, and 3 days of after-dinner Bible & prayer devotions with the whole family. It would be all whole-family devotions if Daddy got home earlier than 7 PM.

But discipleship is more than having regular devotions, and that fact is our greatest motivation for homeschooling. It's a lifetime endeavor, this discipling of children. The more time we have with them, the more we can do it effectively, for once they leave home the opportunities are fewer and the stakes are higher.

That's not to say you can't do it well if you don't homeschool. It's just that you have to regard the several hours before bed as very sacred, otherwise, and use them wisely as your window of opportunity, along with the weekends.

Being a quiet, reflective sort of person who's always thinking, I don't waste opportunities to impart wisdom. To give you a clearer picture, how about if I say my husband just lives, and I just think. As much as I hate creating such a boring picture of myself, I have to admit it's true. Most people who need or love to write would probably describe themselves as quiet and reflective. We like to figure life out, while other people just live it.

My husband disciples by his very living, while I put words to the lessons.

I take the opportunity of a dog who doesn't fetch sticks and balls, much to my son's disappointment, to say that someday your wife and kids will be missing something you'll feel you desperately need. But you have to love them anyway, generously, just as they are--not reminding them of what they aren't. Not constantly reflecting on what they aren't, but giving thanks for who they are.

Now my husband? His way, without even thinking about it, is to show love for me, despite my faults and idiosyncrasies. My children see him living the marriage gospel by loving me generously.

Again, my husband disciples by his very living, while I put words to the lessons. Children need both and that means having two parents, ideally, because where one of us is weak, the other is strong.

Without a gospel-reflecting foundation, our children go out into the world expecting excitement and/or success, not disappointment. But life is a never-ending series of both. Spiritual success entails dying to our own desires, when appropriate. Marriage and child-rearing are more about dying to ourselves, than about anything else. Getting along well in any interpersonal relationship is similar, though to a less-intense degree.

Reflecting the gospel entails accepting disappointment rather than fighting it. Growing up is growing in the ability to absorb disappointment without losing heart or gratitude.

Growing as a Christian is realizing that God is the perfect companion, the perfect lover, the perfect soul-filler. We must teach our children to accept no substitute. Teach them: don't get married or have children to fill something within yourself. That sets you up for failure. Do it for the Lord and with the Lord, knowing all the while that it will be full of disappointments.

The glorious part? Surely there's a glorious part? Emphatically, yes. That part comes out of the many daily acts of obedience and self-sacrifice. Marriage and child-rearing feel most glorious when God is at the center of them. The glorious feelings are a reward from a loving, faithful Heavenly Father who is pleased. When God is glorified, we get to share in it.

Now discontentment? What is that about? Most discontentment comes from the sinful part of us that's out for our own good. The more we look out for ourselves, the more discontented we are.

Don't fear that real-life gospel lessons are too heavy for children. Giving them the answers before they have the questions is good parenting. Your words and lessons will resonate over and again, year after year. When the problems of disappointment or discontentment arrive, they'll already know the folly of feeding them. They won't be blind-sighted by sin or obstacles you failed to prepare them for. Yes, they'll make mistakes, but the mistakes will only highlight your lessons, and strengthen them.

I think God had me sit down today to say three things:

1. Accept your marriage partner as God-given, and as a perfect compliment to your personality. Accept that marriage is not about you, but about God's glory. Accept the same about child-rearing. Accept that your rewards are divine, and come from your daily obedience.

2. Teach children to absorb disappointment well. Teach them that God is the answer to all their dilemmas, and that they should accept no substitute. Teach them that to marry and have children is to reflect God's glory, and that their contentedness shall be equal to their gratitude.

3. Pray your way through. Pray that your discipleship team efforts will include both living it and speaking it. Pray that you'll use your time with your children wisely, with God's glory as your goal.

Isaiah 26: 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Proverbs 14:14 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.

2 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

1 Timothy 6:6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment

James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Philippians 3:7-8 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting.