I officiated at two wedding ceremonies last Summer and Fall. Additionally, I was involved in counseling a couple who desired to be married the following Spring. There is a lot of preparation involved. Every couple that I am involved with knows that I passionately hold a conviction that people need to spend more time planning their marriage than their wedding ceremony. Most people don’t and statistics reveal the fact of misplaced priorities. Many people consider me a fairly laid back individual, but, I am far from laid back when it comes to my perspective on marriage. Sometimes folks can mistake a sense of humor for a lack of conviction, but that is not the case.
Several years ago, a young man called me to ask me if I would be involved in his Renaissance themed wedding ceremony and reception. He thought it would be funny if I dressed up as a Friar. I respectfully declined, because I felt that it trivialized the marriage covenant that was being made. From what I understand, the marriage was not a success, so I am gratefully confident in the decision I made.
I come from a tradition of divorce…my mother was married three times and my father was married seven times; thus, I intimately understand the cost of divorce and the legacy it leaves behind. Because of my own personal experiences, coupled with the fact that I now hold a Biblical world-view, I cannot hold to our culture’s, “My wedding and reception should be the biggest party of my life,” perspective. I have a responsibility to challenge couples to count the cost of the commitment they are making.
We live in a world that teaches us to look for shortcuts to success. We are conditioned to try to find the path of least resistance that will enable us to expend the least amount of energy. With all of our advances, technological or otherwise, progress has left us with an ugly reality; we are increasingly unable to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced. However, building healthy relationships, where issues are resolved, requires us to be just that. We may have instant access to information, but that in itself does not provide instant application into our relational development.
Both marriage and parenting require us to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of preparing the soil of our hearts, so that we and our loved ones would not become another statistic in the annals of broken families. We have a responsibility to confront in ourselves, and our families, anything that threatens the family unit.
Many people focus too much on the financial costs of a broken marriage ̶ loss of finances are relatively short-term costs, and recovery comes comparatively easy. However, the long term psychological and emotional costs of divorce…well, often times, those are quiet, long term killers, that many people never fully recover from. Divorce teaches people how not to trust, and that touches almost every area of our lives.
Because of my current involvement in marriage planning…lately… more than usual, I have been reflecting upon God’s design for a healthy family dynamic. That design is clearly communicated in a scripture from Ephesians 5:23-
“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of The Church.”
The people that would argue that this scripture is rooted in a chauvinistic view that stems from an oppressive patriarchal culture; well, those folks are ignorant of both scripture and the heart of God. In God’s economy, the family dynamic is designed in such a way that it does not work properly, unless the man takes on the primary leadership role. In other words, each man is supposed to be the shepherd of His family. This is not an oppressive, authoritarian role…it is an authoritative, servant-leadership role̶ the shepherd provides and protects His sheep. In John 10:11, Jesus said “I am the Good Shepherd…the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” God is asking us men to reflect the character of Christ, by laying down our lives for our families.
Too many of us men have our identities wrapped up in cultural standards; standards that base our self worth on what we produce. Being a man and providing for your family takes on much more meaning than what we provide materially and financially. We can be easily deceived into believing that we are busting our tail to give our wives and children everything we think is necessary, when in reality, we are neglecting, their area of greatest need.
Jesus asks us this probing question from the Bible, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his very soul.” In that same vein, perhaps we men should ask ourselves the question, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his family?”
Men, let’s examine our priorities. This country’s problems are not economic or political. The good ‘ol’ U.S.A.’s problems stem from the breakdown of the family. Our wives and children need us to strap on courage and step up and be spiritual leaders. The cure to our country’s ills…our families ills… is for us to be who God has called us to be…shepherds. Worded another way, God has called us to be the pastors of our families.