A couple of years ago, while visiting with friends, my husband made the comment that we have been married 15 glorious years. They knew we had just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, so seeing their confused expression he clarified, “The first five were not so glorious.” It’s true. We didn’t have a horrible marriage by any stretch, but it certainly wasn’t all it could be. Early on we made mistakes that (had it not been for God’s grace) should have destroyed us. But, about 5 years into our marriage God intervened. He began to place people into our lives that made a drastic impact. We changed churches and sat under a pastor who preached expository messages. We began to grow toward God and toward one another. His Word became precious to us and we started living out precepts that would bind our hearts and strengthen our marriage. Fortunately, our oldest was born during that first 5 years. By the time our children were old enough to learn about marriage, we had a C+ Marriage to model.
One of the most important lessons you will ever teach your children is on marriage. Dad and Mom, whether you realize it or not, every day you are teaching a Marriage Course. The adage is true; more is caught than taught. Your children are watching and learning and they will build their ideologies about marriage based on what you teach them. The core curriculum for marriage consists of 4 C’s that you teach every day.
We often take communication for granted. I know this because of how we use our words. The Bible states that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Words can build up or tear down. They can heal or destroy. They can be seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6) or corrupt (Ephesians 4:19). Jesus said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” Mat 12:34. A person who speaks ugly, hurtful words does not have a mouth problem; they have a heart problem. Their speech is a measurement of their spiritual condition. It is a monitor of the inner heart that is revealed for everyone (including our children) to see.
Children learn communication skills from us. They watch and learn how to talk to one another, treat their spouse, and work out disagreements. They can also learn how to argue, yell, and fight. It is no wonder that David prayed, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). Communication affects every aspect of a person’s life including their future marriage, parenting, and work.
Character is defined by what we do when we think no one is watching. But, guess what? Someone is always watching. In other words, character develops in darkness, but it manifests in light. As parents, we have just a few short years to help develop our children’s character. No one has a greater impact on them. When my children were little I read to them a book that taught a different character trait each week. One week we would focus on joy; another week on humility. It was a sweet little book with stories and Bible verses to go along. But, here is the bottom line. I can teach character traits every day of their childhood and still fail in teaching them true character.
We know that the scriptures teach us to not just love in word, but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18). We can talk about love all we want, but it must be shown. Likewise, we can teach our children about compassion, but they will embrace it when they see us being compassionate toward one another. They will truly learn about forgiveness when they see their dad and mom practicing forgiveness. Mom, they will learn patience when they witness you demonstrate patience with your husband. Father, they will learn gentleness and kindness when they see you treat your wife in this manner.
Commitment is a big part of our character. Statistics range, but most say that around 50% of marriages end in divorce. A lot of men, women, children and families have been drastically affected by it. I hesitate to make sweeping statements, but in many cases a lack of commitment plays a role. Marriage is hard. Everyone has problems. Life events and circumstances can overtake a couple. The enemy whispers give up and move on, but commitment shouts never!
Commitment is not something that can be taught in a classroom. However, it is something that can be demonstrated daily and passed on to our children. One of the most beautiful promises God gives His children is “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Hebrews 13:5. Are you exhibiting similar commitment for the sake of your children? No matter where you are in life and no matter your past, you can begin today being fully committed.
In his book The Conviction to Lead, Albert Mohler articulates the heart of conviction. He states, “Convictions are not merely beliefs we hold; they are those beliefs that hold us in their grip.” We can let go of convictions we hold, but those that hold us will never be relinquished. What convictions do you and your spouse embrace? Are they grounded in faith? Do they lead to action?
Marriage is a testimony, shaped by convictions. In Ephesians 5:22-33 God lays out the beautiful picture of a godly marriage. It looks like this:
- Wife submit to your husband (verse 22).
- Husband love your wife (verse 25).
- You are no longer two, but one flesh (verse 31).
Then God gives the motivation behind marriage. “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church,” Ephesians 5:32. Your marriage here on earth is a picture of the heavenly marriage between the Lord and His bride. This is a conviction that holds me – my marriage is a testimony for my Lord! When Christian couples have unhealthy marriages, they are depicting to the world a distorted picture of Christ and His church. However, marriages built on healthy communication, godly character traits, unwavering commitment and lasting conviction portray a beautiful picture to the world and testimony to our children.
Are you teaching your children how to have a C+ Marriage? Are you teaching: Communication, Character, Commitment, and Conviction? My husband and I will be the first to admit we don’t have a perfect score, but it is God’s grace in which we stand. And, we’re both looking forward to many more glorious years.
Would you like to learn more about marriage? My husband and I are finishing up our newest book, The Eden Concept: Marriage God’s Way. You can read about it here and make sure you are signed up to follow this blog to receive updates!