Navigating family life with grace and consistency was a never-ending challenge for me. I was a stay-at-home mom, and setting a family vision and its implementation fell on me. There were so many moving pieces — including, but not limited to: Metaphorical baggage, literal baggage, personalities, quirks, finances, extended family, pets, chores, learning styles, love languages, friends (or lack thereof), vacations, technology, and school. The one constant were the questions — “Will we or won’t we survive this endless summer and/or school year?” And “Did I feel totally rested two or three decades ago?”
It’s not that I wasn’t trying to learn how to do better as a parent and wife. Given the “Rube Goldberg machine under construction” nature of parenting in our home, advice I heard in church didn’t help. Put God first, your spouse next, then church!” Put on your oxygen mask!” “Plan regular date nights!” What I heard was “Do more!” What I needed was a total overhaul, not bumper sticker “worthy advice”.
Now that it’s established that I have lots of experience and no helpful advice, let’s consider some passages from Scripture. I do think I would have done a better job and been less stressed if I had understood and been able to implement spiritual direction.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 The Message
- Parents are not supposed to devote all of their energy and attention toward family members, either their spouse or children. Only Jesus deserves being the number one priority; our love for family members cannot usurp that place. I think that’s an amazingly liberating idea.
Jesus said, “The first [commandment] in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” Mark 12:30-31 The Message
- This passage reiterates what was said in Luke, and adds a twist — “Love others as well as you love yourself.” I suppose each one of us may find half of that command difficult. I fall on the side of loving others more than myself, a great recipe for depletion. It’s not only pragmatic and smart to love oneself, it’s also commanded. Whether we find it easier to love others or to love ourselves, we need to be reminded by this passage that healthy life, marriage, and parenting require that the loop gets closed.
Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. “Honor your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, “so you will live well and have a long life.” Ephesians 6:1-3 The Message
- Loving our children well requires that we remember what our relationship with them is supposed to look like. The relationship between parents and between parents and their children is very different from what we normally see. The parent child role is supposed to be one of teaching and honor. Compare this to the relation between parents, which is defined according to mutual submission, love and respect. I see this as parents setting the tone and example in the family, together, for their children.
As you read these passages, which stand out to you? Rather than comparing how badly or well your family relations compare to these verses, just take time to ask God for wisdom and direction as you participate in family life. Ask the Holy Spirit for strength and understanding as you relate to your spouse and teach your children.