Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the category “Marriage”

One Way To Free Yourself From The Surly Bonds Of Common Deceptions

Dear children,

Sometimes different things get mixed up and start swirling around together in such a way that makes them dangerous.  They can get so out of hand, in fact, that they wind up tearing lots of stuff up while standers-by watch, wide-eyed and gasping with hands over their mouths.  If you could pretend for a moment that separating the debris from the wind in a tornado would render it harmless, that would go a long way in helping me to explain what I want you to understand here.  For the truth is, in a lot of different things that seem to bring confusion, if we could separate the parts that make them that way, it might bring clarity.  In short, we need to be able to look at the whirlwind while discerning the dust from the wind.  I have learned that it is possible to train oneself to do this.  If I could teach you to do the same, perhaps I can help save you from some confusion, or at least to better understand the confusion that you will be finding yourself emersed in.

The difficulty in getting this across is first one of words, for I must attempt to explain it well enough, and with enough examples to get you started, while at the same time not bore you too much.  So, in order to attempt that, I’ll simply move right into a few kinds of examples of what I’m talking about:

Education and morality -I was working with a man recently who told me that his 16-year-old step-son was living alone in another state.  So I asked him how the boy was coming along without adult oversight?  He answered by telling me that the young man was making good grades.  But that didn’t answer my question.  He was confusing good grades with morality. You will find this to be quite a common thing.

As for me, I’ve seen news reports where young people have gotten into terrible trouble. The response from those who knew one of those involved was all too common. They always seem to be shocked. And, they’re shocked because, after all, the kid did make good grades.  You are living in a culture that idolizes education, and as such, I think it may be a little challenging for it to separate its little god of education from its morality. So when you are older, know your children’s heart as much as you are able.  Don’t confuse their smartness, or their accumulated knowledge, with their goodness.  And remember that really smart people can be really evil too while mental slowness is by no means a sign of a moral handicap.  I’m personally thankful for that one.

Another similar thing to education that gets mixed up with morality is health.  I asked a woman once why she thought her daughter’s fiance was a good man for her.  She seemed as though she had been caught off guard by the question. It was as if the thought had never occurred to her.  After thinking a bit she finally said that it was because he was healthy.  “Oh”, I said.  Still, many others confuse beauty with morality. But probably worse than anything else along these lines is the confusing of feelings with morality, as in, if it feels good, it’s moral.  But all of these are totally separate things and should be discerned from each other when deciphering the realities that whirl about you.

The institutionalization of sin – As I write this we await what might be the greatest spectacle of hubris ever put on display by man.  Nine judges are going to decide if a square can be a circle. Of course, that’s not what they’re really deciding, but it might as well be because deciding whether or not a man can marry another man is equally as absurd.  Of course, the court’s decision will have no bearing on reality, but rather it can only succeed in changing the meaning of a word: “marriage”.  It will also determine in many ways whether or not we will be a nation that plans on living in reality or some fantasy land.

But be that as it may, the Church has for some time been in a difficult place concerning such cause-celeb sins of our day, only because so many in its midst have not separated the debris from the wind.  As is typical, there are many things that are happening at the same that must be understood separately if they are to be understood at all.  For example here are two things that work together.  On the one hand, Jesus clearly taught His followers to love their neighbors as themselves. And I am inclined to believe that Jesus did not mean to exclude those who practice any certain sin as being our neighbor.  But, on the other hand, there are political movements afoot that are much greater than any one individual and we must not confuse a poor soul with a political movement.  These movements appear to have as their goal the wiping away of all vestiges of God, family, and Church as the Bible defines these entities; preferring instead to redefine them in ways that are more malleable and palatable.  They approach under the cover of compassion, and they seem to only be requesting from the Church what Jesus commanded of it anyway.  But Jesus also taught that the Church is the light in this world.  He never taught us to have compassion for political movements that seek to justify sin.  Sadly, many Christians bristle at the suggestion that there should be any resistance to these movements because they are simply unable to differentiate between resisting collective evil and loving an individual caught up in that evil.

We are to preach the Gospel to the individual, which includes repentance and forgiveness.  We are to shine a light into dark places in this world, which we know will cause it to hate us, and our Savior.  But Jesus tells us that some will repent and become redeemed children of God.  We are to be the very hands of God, pulling individuals from the torrents of collective evil, and not fearing what man thinks of us for daring to call those torrents evil.

Judging others – Sin destroys.  So, we have on the one hand your sin.  And then on the other we have my sin.  And the two are similar things in that they both destroy.  But they are different things too, in that we are two different human beings.  When a loved one calls us out on our sin we have a choice. We can feel attacked, and we can make counter-accusations, but in doing so we cause a destructive whirlwind.  If I, your father–or someone else who is a friend–points out sin in your life, it is a loving thing for them to do and you ought to see it as such.  It is foolish to evade such love by daring them to “judge” you because they themselves are not without sin.  If anyone wants to discuss the sin in my life, let us do so. There is much to discuss. But let us not discuss my sin at the same time as we discuss theirs.

If we dare not help each other pick the splinters from our eyes, we will end up both blinded, and the best we could ever hope for is to not wander into a pit. Blinded is where much of Christendom lives today, but you don’t have to live there.  Thank the brother who loves you enough to hold you accountable. And don’t be afraid to love others enough to hold them accountable.   It is important to understand that no one else’s sin makes your sin not sin.  Desire to live righteously.  Ask the one who points out your sin to help you overcome it as you help others in any way you can.

______________________

So here I have given you just a few examples of how some things that would otherwise confound can be better understood.  I hope that you will train yourself to disassemble them and grasp and interact with their component parts separately.   If you work on thinking in this way it will become your second nature, and you will be all the wiser for it.  I pray that you would grow in this area.

Your father

There’s A Worm In Everything, Managing Expectations And Preparing For Marriage

Dear children,

A friend once told me over a cup of coffee, “There is a worm in everything”, and it’s true.  No matter what the wonderful thing you’re looking forward to is, you can count on there being worms in it once that wonderful thing happens.  You build something up in your mind with great expectations and it becomes this perfect thing to look forward to.  But then the day finally comes and things happen that seem to get in the way of your fun.  And the bigger the expectations the bigger, even small problems, can seem to become.  Those problems and other unexpected difficulties are the worms, and you need to know that those worms are going to find their way into everything.  That’s just life.

But if this is true for a young person who is looking forward to simpler things like, say, camping trips or birthday parties and the like, think about how much more it is true for big things like marriage and family. Well you can know that there will be worms in those too.  No matter how wonderful you think something is going to be now, it will not be perfect then, so you would be wise to prepare yourself ahead of time by expecting the worms along with your other expectations.

It is my desire for you to learn these things, and to think this way about the things that you look forward to in your young lives. It will not only help you to overcome disappointments that are coming, and so therefore be a happier person, it will also help you to learn while you are young to approach all of life with this same mindset.  Then when you do move into those bigger life events, you will not be torpedoed and sunk because of a little worm that finally showed up.

When marriage does come for you, it will probably be the most expectation filled adventure that you will ever have, and likewise, it will also be the one place that worms can do the most damage in your life.  God made us to feel a powerful feeling when we find ourselves attracted to someone who is attracted to us.  There’s nothing like it.  It’s almost like a drug.  But also like a drug, it wears off, and then you realize that you’ve been blinded for a time and there are some worms that you will be dealing with, perhaps for the rest of your life.  But don’t feel bad.  Your spouses will be dealing with their fair share of worms too.  Such things are a given.  It doesn’t mean you ought to abandon your new family and go off chasing that high again.  It means that it’s time to begin the work of loving and sacrificing for someone else, in the true sense of those words.  And whatever you do don’t forget, those who trade in their old worms only trade them in for new ones.  Better to let the familiar worms perform the work of turning you into a good, decent and faithful adult who knows how to love someone even when you don’t feel like it.

That all said, I feel it necessary to talk a bit about my marriage to your mom.  It might be misunderstood that I am insinuating that I’m not happily married.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The real truth is that, because I never expected perfection, or marital bliss, I’ve not been in any way disappointed in our marriage.  I married a fellow sinner which means that I married all the little things that make her a sinner.  And she married someone much worse, as I’m sure you both can attest.  And we have managed to love each other through the years, and in fact, we have become pretty adept at slaying and managing worms, and are looking forward to a long life together with godly anticipation, should God so grant us that privilege.  But we both had to slay and quarantine some worms to get where we are now, and that doesn’t happen by running from one can of worms to the next, ever searching for that empty can.   I promise you, it is not out there.

A friend gave me some good advice about marriage.   He said to keep both eyes wide open before the wedding, and then afterward to close one.  That was good worm management advice.  That “drug” induced fog we can find ourselves in has a way of minimizing worms, or making them disappear altogether.  But that is the very time that you need to be taking a close look at worms because they have a way of growing.  After you both become one with someone else, then both your and your beloved’s worms become your worms; “your” meaning the two of you.  So one of the things you might keep both eyes wide open for is to see how your future spouse manages worms, because he or she will have plenty to manage.  Such is life.

Keep in mind that some of the worms that you can encounter can grow to monsters.  Believe me also on this, my beloveds, love will not overcome some worms.  We humans are masters at lying to ourselves to get what we want, and then to get rid of the same when we realize that we no longer want it.  The best plan is to have realistic expectations, ask for and listen to Godly counsel, and be willing to put yourself through a little pain early to save yourself from a lot of pain later.

I talked to an 85 year old man just the other day.  He was on his 68th year of marriage and his wife is now suffering from dementia.  As I talked to him I didn’t have to ask him if he had lived through 67 years of marital bliss.  Ups and downs are a part of marriage, and the ups can be high and the downs can be low.  But learning that love is more than some blissful high, and in fact can endure dark days void of any feeling at all, will not only pave the way for the happiest life you can expect, it will grow you up into a sound, grounded and mature human being.   As your father I want you to live as happy of lives as you can possibly live.  But I am a realist, and I desire that you be a realist also.  So I pray that you would thoroughly understand that you live in a fallen world, and that you bring your own fallen nature to bear on that world also.  I pray that you learn to manage disappointments and even to flourish as a husband and a wife in spite of them, and perhaps I might even dare to say, because of them.  I pray that you would be godly, raise godly children, and would love God with all you can muster, all the days of your life.

Your father.

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