My parents set a good example of marriage —
now I want to set a good example for my children
Today my wife and I are celebrating our seventh anniversary. I know seven years isn’t very long compared to many couples, but it’s certainly been long enough for us to experience our share of life changes, special moments, and challenging times.
Our culture has become increasingly mixed up in its portrayal of marriage. Rates of cohabitation continue to rise. 40 percent of babies are born to unmarried mothers. “Self-marriage” is a thing. People are getting engaged to objects. And, of course, the very definition of marriage has been rewritten by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Other commentators with more expertise than me can weigh in on what these trends mean for our culture from a sociological or political perspective.
But whatever else the changing landscape of marriage might portend, I can tell you one thing it definitely means: our children need clear examples of husbands and wives living together joyfully, lovingly, and faithfully. The next generation needs to know that marriage still works when we follow God’s plan.
I’m thankful that I’ve had some great examples of marriage in my own life. My parents are still together after more than four decades. I’m sure many people thought they’d never make it. They married young and walked through some pretty tough times financially. But here they are, forty-one years later, still married, still happy, and still each other’s favorite person to spend time with.
A friend once told my parents that the only reason they didn’t get a divorce was that they were “too boring.” That friend’s history, unfortunately, wasn’t as “boring” as theirs. She was married, divorced, had another man’s baby, then moved in with a third man for several years before they finally decided to tie the knot.
This woman, by the way, was the mother of my best friend during my childhood. All these many years later, I still remember my friend telling me, after his parents divorced, “I don’t have a Dad.”
I’m glad my parents were boring enough to stay together.
My grandparents are another good example, still together after more than sixty years. Life hasn’t always been easy for them either, but they’re still together and in love as they walk through their sunset years.
Our marriages are about more than ourselves. If we don’t honor the institution of marriage in our own lives, how will our children see that a happy, fulfilling, godly marriage is possible—let alone desirable? And how dare we speak out against the perversions of marriage happening in our culture if we’re not guarding against the dissolution of our own marriages at home?
The world is doing its best to portray sin as wonderful, exciting, satisfying, and pleasurable. Are we doing our best to make Christian marriage attractive to our children, or are we making it appear dull, boring, and unsatisfying . . . if not worse?
I’m not saying we need to compete with sin in a contest to make godly marriage look more exciting than the worldly perversions. What I am saying is that we have the powerful opportunity to be an example to our own children, as well as to other young people around us. Are we using that power for good, or are we reinforcing the world’s message that traditional marriage isn’t so great?
Putting it another way, if your children are someday tempted to wander off into moral sin, will the memory of your marriage help call them back from the brink, or will it serve as a justification for their bad choices? I know we’re not responsible for their every decision, but I want to do all I can to stand between them and their foolish choices.
The problem, of course, is that building a good marriage happens in the context of our busy, hectic, everyday lives. It takes place in the context of tight budgets, plumbing problems, sleepless nights, potty training, job loss, aging parents, and a thousand other stressful occurrences. And somehow, in the middle of all of that, we lose sight of the wonder—the wonder of God bringing two people together, forging them into one, and giving them the grace to love and live and laugh and still love.
I don’t know about you, but I want to enjoy a wonderful marriage. And not only that, I want to show my children a wonderful marriage. Because one of these fine days, they’ll grow up, meet that special someone, and start the process all over again. When they do, I want them to have some good examples to look back on.
And when they do happen to glance back, they’ll probably catch me kissing their mother.
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