We absolutely loved our wedding ceremony.
We loved it because it was really personal.
We loved hand-picking the band from our extraordinarily talented group of friends, and enjoyed them singing our favourite songs – Christian and secular (Cathy entered to the beautiful melody of Ben Fold’s “Luckiest” and we exited/ dance-walked-slightly-awkwardly back down the aisle to Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”.)
We put lots of thought into picking the passage – we wanted the extravagant love of our missional God to be proclaimed – so we picked the Prodigal Son.
We created a slideshow of photos of us growing up together (we grew up in the same church, we met when Cathy was 9 and Scott was 13, and a decade later we got together. It was weird at first after being best friends for so long, but soon felt totally right).
We loved making the ceremony really personal – and were thrilled to invite three close friends, who loved us as individuals, and loved us together, to pray for our marriage.
One of the things that was prayed for us, was that one day we would be blessed with children.
It was a great prayer.
Although at the time we wondered it it was a little premature. A little presumptuous perhaps? After all, this is only our wedding day. The very first day of our married journey together.
Having been blessed by God with children three years into marriage, however, we realise that it was a great prayer.
Why? Because children are not a right, we aren’t promised them and we don’t deserve them.
When you look down at those red lines on the pregnancy test, or you inhale the smell of your sleeping baby as they lie on your chest (oxytocin overload, yes?), or as you watch them take their first wobbly steps… not to mention all the innumerable milestones, moments of connection and belly laughs to follow that… you just know that children are a gracious blessing from the hand of a loving heavenly father. He enjoyed creating and parenting his own children, and he wanted us to experience the same thing. Mind-blowing.
So we know that children are a blessing. We know that it’s a big deal to be entrusted with shepherding a child’s heart. We know that having a full nest is a nest full of fun, full of activity and full of staggering potential.
But here’s the thing:
Children are a blessing but they won’t always be physically present.
One day you (and we) will have an empty nest.
The bedrooms will be tidy. The bank balance will increase. And the house will be quiet.
The nest will be empty.
But actually, it won’t. It won’t be completely empty, because hopefully your spouse will still be there.
Marriage matters because it will go on. It will outlive your years of having children at home. Marriage matters because done rightly (with plenty of Holy-Spirit assistance!) it is permanent.
Do you remember saying these words on your wedding day?
“to have and to hold
from this day forward;
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death us do part”
You vowed to a life-long, committed and loving relationship, until one of you dies or Jesus returns.
It puts things in perspective doesn’t it?
Life with children gets busy, messy, noisy, distracting, overwhelming and worrying! But we mustn’t let our children – for all their wonderfulness and all their needs, become the sole focus and sole object of our marriages.
Because when the nest is empty what will keep that marriage healthy, strong and together?
So here are some practical things to think about for investing in your marriage now – right in the midst of this busy season of parenting.
- Enjoy each other. Reflect on your story together, including life pre-children. Remember who you were as individuals (before you were known as “Mum” and “Dad”). Your children will find you more interesting, as will your spouse, who was attracted to that person – with all their interests and opinions. And ultimately it’s an important part of who God created you to be.
- Make time regularly to do the above. For more inspiration on this topic click through to read our post all about date nights.
- Do ministry that isn’t only about your children. Have other couples or individuals round for food and ask intentional questions about how they are getting on in their faith. This is a great way to serve together as a couple and to remember who life is all about anyway (Jesus!).
Ultimately we need to let God be God and let him set the priorities for our lives.
He says that loving and serving him is our top priority. But part of how we do that is by loving his people (the church), loving our families and loving the lost.
So children will be important focus of our marriages, but they should never become the ultimate thing that we live for. Looking at the condition of our marriages may be a good indicator at whether we’re keeping God’s priorities in our lives or not.
Now there’s a real possibility here that this post could cause some feelings of condemnation. Perhaps your marriage isn’t in great shape. Perhaps your children have already flown the nest and you keenly feel the challenge of trying to reinvigorate your marriage. Perhaps your marriage has broken down.
Well what we always want to do here on Gospel-Centred Parenting is remember the extraordinary freedom, joy and hope that comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you believe that Jesus died so that you can be forgiven, and rose from the dead to give you the hope of eternal life then this is what God says to you, right now, whatever situation you find yourself in:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.
What good news indeed!
So whatever situation you are in, revel, steep and bask in that glorious good news. And if you’re in a position to do so, do it with your spouse and together, empowered by the Spirit, work at deepening and enjoying this life-long relationship that the Lord has given you.