I had a conversation with a man in China that shocked me. I told him where I was from, and a little bit about my marriage and family. He asked if my wife was Chinese, and I said no. Then he asked me, “Do you have a girlfriend?”
“A girlfriend?” I asked. “My girlfriend is my wife!”
He laughed, “But why don’t you play with a nice young Chinese girl?”
It shouldn’t have shocked me, knowing that this culture thinks it is normal to play around. But it did bother me because I knew that he had his own family and they were very sweet. I hated to think about how they may have suffered from his ‘playful ways.’ He, like many others in this world, lost sight of the importance of the family.
The Importance of the Family
Christians already know that God places great value upon the family. But whether one believes in God or not, family is wired into the makeup of this world. The world does not function well when its ‘family members’ are not in harmony.
Each nation itself is a larger family unit, and its prosperity or failure depends in part on the harmony of its citizens. The same applies as you break it down further into each state, province, town or neighborhood.
The family at home is the foundation for society at large. If dysfunction and disloyalty is the norm in the living room, it will carry over into the marketplace.
There is a great war on family values these days. Those who are trying to erode them believe that they are liberating us from traditional and stuffy ways. What they are really doing is encouraging self-centered and indulgent living, which ultimately leads to a breakdown in relationships. When it comes down to “me first” it means trouble for everyone, at home or in the culture.
By contrast, the family is a learning ground for becoming selfless and giving. It is a place to learn to care for others, and in doing so character is formed. Parents can shape their children to care for others by caring for them. Spouses should make a priority of blessing each other, without thought for what they will get in return.
The Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receive. This is easily proved when put into practice. The more we prefer our spouses and families over ourselves, the greater depth of love begins to affect us. But many people miss this because they don’t understand…
The Root of Most Problems
Selfishness underlies most of our dissatisfaction. We live in a world designed for harmony. Most problems are the result of believing that everything must revolve around you. There is a bigger picture that you can’t see if you are focused solely on yourself.
Babies are selfish. They don’t understand. They will kick and scream until they get what they want, never mind if it inconveniences anybody! That’s okay for a baby, but not for adults. Yet many adults have the same selfishness in them, more refined of course, but as strong as ever. They have to grow up and recognize the truth that Jesus expressed, Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it (Luke 17:33).
Because of selfishness, bitterness often rises up in one’s life. Bitterness and anger can destroy you from the inside out. Even science agrees that many sicknesses and diseases develop from these. Forgiveness is key.
“But I can’t forgive!!!” Yes you can, if you accept that the world isn’t supposed to revolve around you. You don’t want bitterness to kill you. Your lack of forgiveness isn’t hurting the other so much as it is hurting you.
Understanding and practicing these things will lead to great blessings in your life and in your home.
Here are some extra tips. Not that I’m an expert, but I’ve seen them work when practiced…
Husbands: love your wives. Jesus Christ has the name exalted above all names because He laid His life down for the world. If we would attain greatness, we must lay down our lives for our wives and children. This means considering their needs before our own. It also means laying aside our preferences and agendas for their sakes.
In other words, the customer is always right (I mean the wife)! True headship in a marriage is laying down your life for the wife as Christ laid down His life for us.
We talk about a wife’s submission duty, but the husband has the greater duty to submit. This doesn’t mean being weak, but actually being stronger. Submission does not mean agreeing with everything, nor does it mean doing what you don’t want to do. It means willingly giving in for the sake of the other’s interest. You will also find that when you begin to give of yourself this way, you as well as her will become happier.
I’m not talking about being hen-pecked though. And certainly there are times when you have to stand your ground. But far more often you can give in. You can lay down your agenda for hers.
“But she doesn’t deserve it!” Maybe, but none of us really deserve any good, seeing how far short we have fallen from God’s standards. Yet He blesses us every day and treats us better than we could ever deserve. Jesus laid down His life “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) and while we were His enemies (5:10). Try Christlike behavior in your home. Give it some time, and see what God can do. Time is key. This is an investment, and change usually doesn’t happen overnight.
Wives: Respect your husbands! Don’t nag and scold. Find a way to make the suggestions sweetly. Encourage your husband, build him up with your words. Look nice for him. Find ways to bless him.
“But he doesn’t deserve it!” You’re probably right, but this too is an investment. It is the height of godliness to bless those who curse you (Matthew 5:44). If you build him up, he may come around to acting up to the part you are giving him. Give it time, and look to God for your soul fulfillment. Hubby won’t know what to make of it. He may eventually follow your example and become motivated to love selflessly. If not, you will still be the better for it, but you will have to work to keep a healthy attitude and reject bitterness. God will bless you. Your kids will see someone cool and strong as well.
The Eggshell Method
Husbands and wives: It’s a strange phenomenon that we often treat strangers better than we do our closest family members. We try to show ourselves polite and courteous to others until we get home, and then we let our tongues fly carelessly around the most important people in our lives!
The home is a place to relax, but still there should be some guard on our tongues. Walk on eggshells with each other. Think before speaking: “is this going to bless or curse?”
You wouldn’t talk flippantly or rotten to your spouse if a guest was there with you. Remember when you were dating and go back to that mindset: you wouldn’t speak your mind if it in any way obstructed the goal of winning his or her heart.
When you first pursued the other, you accepted anything they said! Your goal was to look good. We don’t have to revert to corny romance, but we need to keep the ‘win his or her heart’ mindset. Unfortunately, this mindset is often discarded and lost right after couples say “I do.”
Just because you are stuck with each other doesn’t mean you have each others’ hearts. Seek to win the other by listening to each other, preferring the other above yourself, and communicating sensitively.
I learned from John Rosemond that there are typically three different stages of parenting that should take place in a child’s life.
From ages 1 to 3, the child should be the center of attention, requiring you to focus on their every need.
From ages 4-12, the child needs to learn to focus on the parents as the center of attention. The child needs to be ruled by loving discipline and authority. They should be built up, listened to and encouraged. But the parent should correct them decisively if they have done wrong. They should not be bargained with or reasoned with when they are doing wrong. Sometimes it is entirely okay for the parent to say, “Because I said so.” The parent should be authoritative and require respect. That said, find teachable moments to explain why certain things are wrong or right.
From ages 13 on up, parents should begin to release control and work more as a strong influence in their children’s lives. Now is a crucial time to reason with them, especially explaining why certain things are wrong and how choices will affect their lives. It is important to make sure you listen to your kids and keep the lines of communication open. Show interest in what they are interested in, even if it is the most ridiculous thing. They will grow closer to you and be more willing to open up to you if you do not criticize everything.
I by no means have perfected these principles. But I try to practice them. At least I know them. That’s always a better position than having no ideals. If you mess up, just get back up. It’s a growth process, and at least you are on the right track.
Family takes work. People work so hard to win the world and become a success, but they let their families go as if there is nothing to them. A family is a garden that requires your continual attention. Give yourself to it wholeheartedly and you will enjoy its precious fruits.