Saturday, March 17, 2012

Looking at each other for a lifetime!

I have the joy of sharing at a 30th wedding anniversary recently. One of the privileges I have as a pastor is to share the Word of God at services or celebrations of weddings, funerals, anniversaries, birthdays and baby dedications. In my usual inclination to observe life in the context of relationships, I cannot help but recognise that celebrated at all these events are not the things we have accumulated, the awards and recognitions we have garnered or the career promotions we have earned. One motivational author rightly titled the first chapter of his book on life’s priorities – “No one at their death bed wished they had spent more time in their office.” I have often asked people what kind of photos they keep in their wallets. I have yet to find someone who keeps a photo of their boss! It is always a photo of our family or someone close to us.

I am therefore reminded personally at all these instances that family and friends are the most important in my life; not things, accolades or achievements. In preaching or sharing these messages, I hold myself accountable in integrity each time by trying to practice what I preach. In some sense, being a pastor helps because of repetitive reminders to myself from the Word of God!

My wife and I will be celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary this year. We are six years short of the 30th and as long as the Lord keeps us on this earth until then, we intend to stay blissfully married still. If there’s any encouragement at this 30th anniversary for those present, especially those who are single, courting or the newly married, it is to inspire them with confidence that it is possible to stay happily married, even after many years.

In this particular sharing, I thought about my life with my wife, who is also my best friend. I have cracked many jokes at weddings and my favourite one is a quote by Socrates: “By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” I have not become a philosopher yet! Wedding jokes serve as a warning to the newly wed, and in a light hearted manner, communicating the message that getting married is the easy part. Staying married is the real challenge.

Mark Twain candidly said, “Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.” Amy Bloom, an award winning author puts it beautifully, “Love at first sight is easy to understand; it's when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle.”

The institution of marriage is one that God ordained to portray to us how deep and intimate a human relationship can be. The husband and wife is the closest of all and it is meant to be a training ground by which our children will later in their married lives imitate what they see and caught from our marriage relationship. Marriage requires the exercise of the full range of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. How that is worked out will either leave them with excited anticipation of their own marriage, or settling into a mediocre one.

We have known in the practice of discipleship that more is caught than taught. Our children learn more from how we live with our spouse, rather than what we tell them. I have basically simplified discipleship to be one of following the examples of another. In the words of Apostle Paul, it is about imitating someone else. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (1 Cor 4:16) Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (NKJV) (1 Cor 11:1)

Modelling is the most powerful form of reproducing our lives. Rev Theodore Hesburgh embodied this truth in this way: “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” The father shows by example how to love his wife and family. Our parents have a great influence in how we will live our marital lives eventually. Whether we like it or not, we do not have a choice in whether we want to be a model. We are either a good or bad one. The choice we do have is to decide which one we would like to be.

All these remind me of Psalm 128. The most powerful example we can model to our children is the fear of God. The Bible tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, helps us find knowledge and avoids sins. This is a rarity among corporate, political or even religious leaders of today. Vines and olive trees are frequently paired in the Old Testament because wine and oil played a central role in the lives of the people. When you are able to sit around the table with your family in joy, peace and contentment, then each family meal is a banquet of joy. That’s what really counts at the end of the day as the fruit of looking at each other for a lifetime!

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