A few weeks ago Peter and I were out on a ‘date’ and we asked ourselves a question – How do we portray marriage to our children? It was a simple off the cuff type of question that suddenly gripped our attention. We’ve since talked about it a little though we need to talk some more.
Marriage is under attack today – statistics go up and down as far as the popularity of marriage, but one thing that is consistent and that is the rate of divorce. Marriage isn’t held in the same ‘forever’ league that it used to be. This is the world our children are living in. The perceptions of society have an influence on our children as they develop their belief system unless we are intentional and specific about teaching them a different perspective. Our perspective, our belief about marriage needs to come from the Word of God. The Word of God needs to shape every aspect of our life – including our marriage relationship.
Even when our marriage isn’t reflecting God’s truths (or hasn’t in the past), we are still teaching our kids something, and we need to find a way to portray God’s perspective of marriage to our children. We need to teach our children truth based on the Word of God, not a truth shaped by our circumstances. God is bigger than circumstances; God is bigger than our past. We need to always come back to the Word of God as we raise our children.
What do your children believe about marriage?
So what are you portraying to your children about marriage? I think the word ‘portray’ is more significant in this question (or in finding the answer) than we may first think. We immediately think ‘what am I teaching my children about marriage?’ and we come up with all good answers – we may well be teaching our children the importance of marriage, the purpose of marriage, the covenant of marriage etc. but the real question is what am I portraying?
As in all things our belief system directs our actions. What do you believe about marriage? The answer to this question is seen in the subconscious way that you relate to your spouse, or the subliminal way you talk about the institution of marriage. It is these unconscious acts that will portray your belief system to your children. They see more than they hear.
Just because our belief system is subconsciously acted out it doesn’t mean that we need to remain on autopilot – instead we can be become intentional. We can look at how we are acting, consider if our belief system is in line with the Word of God, and set out to change if necessary, relying on the Holy Spirit to prompt, guide and strengthen us along the way. When we become intentional we ensure that our children receive a godly message about marriage.
I want my children to believe in marriage
As I reflect on marriage – these are the things that Peter and I believe
- that marriage is for life
- that it is bigger than just the two of us, in that God has a purpose for us being together
- that marriage is to reflect God and his heart for relationship
- that marriage is the beginning of a new family
Do our children see us living this out – day to day? Do they see us tussling with it sometimes (let’s be real!)? Do they see us rejoicing in it as well?
Marriage is an action word
Marriage doesn’t happen when you have a wedding – that is just the ceremony. I want my children to understand that marriage is something that you work on, that you have to make choices to do these things:
–There needs to be a commitment to communication – to be open and honest with each other (this makes us vulnerable). Do they see us making time to talk to each other heart to heart – not just organsing our week? Do they see us having private jokes (which means we have a relationship outside of them). Our kids love it (they kick up such a big whoo-ha) when we talk without saying words, or speak cryptically to each other – the kids know we know what we are talking about but they don’t have a clue!
–There needs to be a commitment to maintaining our relationship. This means that our children need to see us resolving issues, they need to see us being willing to be the first to apologise, and being willing to forgive. They need to see us keeping short accounts. We need to spend time with each other, enjoying each others interests, having fun together, doing things together.
–There needs to be a commitment to serving each other – this means that we know each others preferences and we lay aside our preference for the benefit of the other. Serving needs to come from a willing heart without expecting anything in return (not keeping tabs of who does what!)
I have written in ‘commitment’ for each of these three aspects on purpose. We do need to be committed to these things. They may not happen naturally, they may well be challenged and difficult but we need to be committed to them, they need to become a way of life, a way of relating to each other.
Our beliefs are shown by our actions
The way we portray marriage is going to be the foundation for our children’s beliefs about marriage. Remember our beliefs direct our actions – so we are shaping our children’s marriages even now.
Though the marriage relationship is unique and purposeful in God’s eyes the way we go about living out that marriage relationships is not so different than other relationships. The Bible certainly gives instruction towards marriage, but it also gives so many more verses, insights, directions towards relationships in general. Just because these don’t address the marriage relationships per se it doesn’t mean they are not relevant – in fact they are so very relevant.
Recently I was talking to one of my kids about how to follow God’s ways in a particular relationship – We are to love God with our whole heart, and we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. The Bible is consistent – we are to love one another. They asked, “How do we do this?” My answer was that we need to be kind, slow to anger, forgiving, serve one another, putting the other person first and caring for each other’s needs. Though they were thinking siblings relationships these are exactly the practices we need to find in our marriage.
Do you believe that your spouse is the ‘other’ in your life? That is the belief that needs to be shown to our children. It will be shown through our actions.
And though we probably know this verse very well it doesn’t hurt to review it.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Cor 13:4-8 (ESV)
We are called to love our spouse!