Thank you for the opportunity to express my heart as a dad.
Since I suspect this letter might wind up on a blog, I do want to give a little background. On April 21 of this year, my wife and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage. It is still hard to believe how quickly that time has flown. Our relationship rocks– but only by the grace of God. Three daughters and one son later, we still laugh, date, and are best of friends. There is nothing- and I mean nothing, the two of us can’t talk about, and have over the years. As a couple we’ve had to work through many of the same issues most couples get to do- if they hope to stay together that is.
As I thought about this letter, I decided this is one of those rare opportunities in life that may only come along once or twice..so rather than try to cram too much into a single letter, I’m going to write you three. They are yours too keep, feel free to pass them along or just keep them for yourself.
I’m writing from the perspective of a Christian, a man, a husband and a father. (footnote- while I did grow up in the “church” it wasn’t until I turned 22 that I understood the good news and it felt like the lights came on for me spiritually) Now that I have that out of the way, I’d like to share some thoughts in random order about relationships and marriage in this letter to you.
I heard this illustration back in the 1990’s and never forgot it:
An old pastor was getting ready to retire. Someone asked him, “Of all the things you have learned in your years of ministry, what is the most significant? Here is what he said: “The true measure of a man’s relationship with God can be seen on his wife’s countenance.”
Just look into his wife’s eyes, and you will learn much about the man. Yes, there might be exceptions, but the truth of the matter is how a man treats people, starting with his family members, is directly connected to his personal relationship with God. A man can fool the people at church (at least for a season), but the people he lives with- not a chance.
As I mentioned before, thirty years and four children later, here we are….so here are some of my thoughts…
#1 A marriage relationship is a living thing, in many ways similar to a plant. There are things you can do to enhance it, make it flourish, and there are things you can do in terms of neglect. It can go without water and sunlight for a spell, but make no mistake…the principle of sowing and reaping is just as relevant in marriage as in any area of life.
#2 A “healthy” marriage takes work. You don’t feel the “warm fuzzies” for each other all of the time. Don’t panic- that is normal. Micaela and I like to spend time together; we enjoy each others company. But as Dr. Dobson puts it,” Emotions come and go. Do the deeds and the feelings will follow.” Make the phone calls from work just to say “Hi, I was thinking about you.” Bring her coffee in bed. Get out, one-on- one, just the two of you, even if it is just for a coke. Help out around the home with dirty dishes, dirty diapers (yuk!) and, here’s a big one- pick up after yourself!!!
#3 Take time to listen and stay “current” with each other. Don’t pour all of your energy into your job and have nothing left over for your family. Don’t become “married singles” -two people living in the same home who longer have anything in common. If your job (or ministry) does take all of your energy all of the time, then speaking to both parties, you need to find a different job. There is nothing more tragic in life than a man (or woman) who makes it to the top of the company ladder and loses their family in the process.
#4 Use these words often (you will need them):
“I was wrong.”
“Please forgive me.” and
“You are right.”
#5 Dance….have fun….keep doing the silly things you did when you were just dating or courting. “But Christians don’t dance.” some will say Humbug I say.
#6 When (not if) you find yourself having an unresolved conflict in some area (money, sex, parenting, work, church, etc) work at it until you find the answer! ( God has used everything from books to other Christians to help keep our boat afloat over the years.)
#7 Get out- (or stay out) of debt. There are lots of spin-off ramifications that come with financial pressure. Christians (at least in my country) tend to have a worldly view of money instead of a Biblical one. “Owe no man anything except love” and “the borrower is the slave to the lender.” are not just good ideas.
Just a side note to this one- for the most part, we have been a one income family, and since I have chosen to make a living with my hands (I am in construction) we have made financial choices:
a. to rent (instead of own) the first fifteen years of our marriage.
b. to drive an older car.
(i) to shop at garage sales, discount grocery stores, etc.
These are choices we all have to make, but as children enter the picture, dad, needs to have some time and energy left over at the end of the day, or be willing to pay the piper later in life. (Do you remember the song, “Cat’s in the Cradle?”)
#8 Give each other some space and freedom. Trust and respect are foundational issues.
#9 Pray and share with each other spiritually.
#10. Be a forgiving person. Let’s face it, you are not perfect, your mate is not perfect, “stuff” happens. Cut each other some slack. Practice grace, be the first to initiate reconciliation.
Well, I’ve pontificated enough for one letter. Thank you Sharon (Sha) 😉 again for the chance to share these things with you. If after you get this, you have specific questions, let me know, I would love to interact more with you about them.
In Christian love, Doug M.