We hardly saw each other all day long, but we were together. It was the Saturday before Christmas, and our house was about to become the converging point for sixteen family members – most of them from out of town. Just the previous day we had hit all the stores for last minute items. We successfully filled a shopping cart with enough food to feed an army and test the shocks on our Toyota. Today’s lists were different. Today I had yards to clean, windows to wash, tile to scrub and furniture to haul to the garage. Andee’s list consisted of food to cook, cards to write, bedding to prepare, and a refrigerator to clean and organize. Today was not one of those days a couple walks hand in hand on a beach. But our hands were busy. Today we went our separate ways to accomplish our shared goal. Some days we work together on the same project in the same location. In fact sometimes quarters are so close we call it “small-room dancing”. But other days require us to be in separate locations. This was one of those days.
The bible says: Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor. Ecc. 4:9
There is nothing greater than working together with our spouse to accomplish a goal. Conversely there is nothing more disheartening than feeling like you are the only one doing all the work. There is no job too daunting, and no task too large, when we know our spouse cares as much as we do; and is moving heaven and earth to help accomplish it.
As we checked things off our list, we’d offer quick updates as we headed for our next project. “I’m done with the tile and I’m off to work on the yard.”
Today our house is ready for company to arrive. But even more, we are ready to host them, because we’ve been “together” throughout the process.
We all had a very different experience growing up. Some of us grew up in families like Leave it to Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet. We came from “functional” homes with a mom and a dad and 2.4 kids. Others….not so much. Because the divorce rate has skyrocketed since the 1960’s, many of today’s adults come from “broken” homes or “blended” families.
There is no denying that we are all a product of our upbringing. There are definitely things that we inherit from our parents like red hair or male pattern baldness. But there are other things we pick up from them that are not inherited, but are learned traits.
Before I go any farther, most people want to blame their parents; I want to commend mine. I still have my “original” mom and dad who are going on 59 years of marriage. They raised 5 kids, lived modestly in a middle class neighborhood, drove Chevys, took us to church on Sundays, and family dinner was served at 6:00 pm every night. I don’t take my upbringing for granted. Quite the contrary, I consider it a stewardship. My parents weren’t perfect people. Nobody is. But they provided a stable home where we knew we were loved and supported. That is something all of us can, and should, do.
The apostle Paul told Timothy: Be an example to the believer, in word, in conduct, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Tim 4:12
We’ve all heard the saying: Do as I say, not as I do. Some of us have even said it to our children because we know that we are not living up to our ideal. I discovered in raising my children, that they emulate what I do more than what I say. When my grandson Nathan was about 6 months old, his dad confided in me that there were a couple of words that had crept into his vocabulary that he would no longer be using. Suddenly we realize our children are little sponges, and even more startling, we discover that they are like little parrots. The truth is, more is caught than taught. Our children are learning how to be a husband and how to be a wife as they watch mom and dad interact with each other. Our little girls will look for a husband just like their daddy and our sons will look for wives like mom. So as our daughters and sons grow up it is important that we give them a living example of the kind of husband or wife they should look for. If we are a self-absorbed spouse, our children are likely to marry spouses just like us.
You may be thinking “But I didn’t have a good example growing up. I came from a dysfunctional family”. If your experience growing up was less than ideal, all is not lost. You can prune your family tree. The first thing we need to understand is that although we are products of our past, our past does not dictate our future. If you came from a family with a long line of failed marriages, you can stop the cycle.
Begin to prune away any destructive habits, and replace them by grafting in healthy interaction with your spouse.
The bible says it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Phil 2:13. That means God will not only give us the power to change but He’ll give us the will to do it.
Luis Brendes said “Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.” I’m sure the Wright brothers encountered a fair number of skeptics until their airplane actually flew. But it did fly.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2
We all know couples with functional marriages, so we know it can be done. What we don’t usually see is that it takes some careful pruning and grafting to accomplish. Better still, let’s not just settle for functional; let’s go for sensational! Regardless of our past, with God’s help, our marriage can produce a harvest of health and joy that will last for generations.