Category: family life


when life changes

stone outcropI had a bit of a moment this weekend. To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, we re-visited the hills we had explored when we decided to get married. We even took the same route we had taken all those years ago.

On the hill, overlooking one of my favourite places in the world, I was acutely aware that the most important period of our most important role in life is almost over. Our children have grown up.

Hope has completed her first year at university, Peace is about to leave home for college and Mercy is 17 in a few months time.  It’s not that you ever finish parenting – it’s simply that the role you play in your children’s lives changes and we are entering a new phase.

I was aware too that the most important wish I had for them when they were born was that they would each know and love Jesus for themselves, which they do.  I felt overwhelmed by God’s love and faithfulness across the years.

I am also aware that our marriage is entering a new phase too.  We have been preparing for life without our children at home, talking together about our future – the hopes and desires that we have – and about God’s plans and purposes for us.

It was so good to look out across the hills and vales and know that He has been faithful for so long and that He will continue to be so throughout the years ahead.

grief

My dad died at the end of May.  He had a triple heart bypass in April and never got out of critical care.  The funeral was this week.

I guess that everyone is different.  Every relationship is different.  So every grieving process is different too – and while there may be common threads, there is no formula.

I loved my dad.  There are so many happy memories from my childhood.  He was generous and funny and some of his favourite phrases and one liners have made it into family folklore.  He was my best man when I got married.

At the same time he was always busy with his work, impatient and very stubborn.  As I got older, I struggled more with his expectations of our relationship than I ever had before.  Things were strained in the latter years.

Fortunately we managed to keep things going.  The children got to see him in hospital after the operation and I know that he was asking about us all at the very end.

Most happily, I know that he was saved.  He came to know Jesus on an Alpha course I was involved with and he had an amazing picture of the LORD while at the communion rail of his local Methodist church soon afterwards.  He wasn’t afraid to die.

He had, and continues to have, a massive impact on my life.  There was a great deal to admire and love about him.  In so many ways I am like him.  In the coming weeks and months and years I know that I will miss him.

And I know that grief will take its course with me, whatever that may mean.

Tucked away near the back of the paper today was a report on the effect of marriage on our health.  Apparently, two members of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine have assessed the evidence and citing a study involving millions of people over a number of years from seven European countries, concluded that, “medically speaking, the group with the greatest longevity are the marrieds.”

So marriage is good for you.

It boosts physical health in men and mental well-being in women.  And the longer the marriage lasts, the greater the benefit all round.  In general, married couples enjoy mortality rates 10-15% below the population as a whole.  And this improves with longer marriages.

I wonder if that’s why God thought that, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  Maybe He knew something…

20 years of marriage (5)

This is my last post on what makes marriage work and I’m going to end at the beginning.

Choose your partner well.

This year Melanie and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary but towards the end of the year we will also celebrate twenty-five years since our first date.  And we were good friends before that.

Now I don’t say that because I think it’s a good model to follow.  Every situation is unique.  We were at school together and needed to finish there before we could marry.  I think the lengthy courtship was helpful considering our age.

But we didn’t take the decision to marry in isolation.  Our parents were supportive, our friends were supportive.  We had talked it through with the people who mattered most to us and we had prayed about it, together and individually, for a good time before we confirmed our commitment with our engagement.

If you are single, I would advise you not to enter into any dating relationship that does not have the potential to lead to marriage and not to put the pressure of  “is this the one?” on every date you have – and I know that’s a difficult balance to achieve.

How do you make a marriage work?

  1. Choose your marriage partner well
  2. Work through difficult times together
  3. Keep growing in love for each other
  4. Make memories
  5. Be in mission together.

20 years of marriage (4)

Occasionally I read a book that challenges my thinking, changes my perspective or crystallizes things that I have only vaguely understood.  Marriage: Sex in the service of God by Christopher Ash is one of those books.

In reflecting on what makes marriage work I have been reminded of many of the things that Ash writes.  This includes the view that a marriage is a missionary unit, working together in the mission of God.  “Marriage was not ordained in order to promote the selfish pleasures (whether sexual or material) of either partner; it was ordained so that in the delight and security of faithfulness man and wife should enjoy serving God in caring for His world.  A couple ought to agree together to serve God.  This service often embraces the nurture of children; it always involves building a home that is not an isolated and self-centred dwelling but a secure outward looking social unit engaged in serving people in God’s world.”

Now clearly, couples who are not Christians (or where one partner is not a Christian) can still build life-long, happy marriages.  So being in mission together is not an essential ingredient in a life-long, happy marriage.

But is longevity our only goal?  Has a Christian marriage “worked” simply because it has lasted?

I don’t think so.  I suggest that for a Christian marriage to have worked, it needs to have the glory and mission of God at its core.

How do you make a marriage work?

4.  Be in mission together.

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