That’s a mouthful . . .
I have been working on something a bit on the lighter side because I promise, I’m not always super serious and heavy. But at the same time, when I feel like God is teaching me and dealing with me on something, I often feel led to share (that’s a lot of Christianese . . . I’m aware). Having said that, I want to be very clear, I don’t have it all together. I am a constant work in progress, and both marriage and motherhood are refining processes for me that I’m sure will continue until the day I leave this earth and enter the gates of heaven. I just hope that in learning and growing, I can help others learn and grow as well . . . and maybe avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made along the way.
When I clean house (which seems like I’m always doing), I listen to podcasts, and along with a lot of true crime (because who doesn’t love a good crime story?), I also enjoy listening to podcasts that challenge me as a Christian, particularly in the areas of marriage and motherhood. Focus on the Family has some wonderful, solid, bible based podcasts, and two recent episodes contained statistics that really surprised me . . . even if they shouldn’t have.
The first was Equipping Your Kids’ Faith For A Challenging Culture with Natasha Crain and buried amongst so much good, challenging information was this statistic (taken straight from the transcript):
“But the reality is that, today, about 65% of people in America say that they’re a Christian, so they self-identify as a Christian. But when researchers dig into what they actually believe and how those beliefs inform their lives, they find that only about 4% have a biblical worldview.”
4% . . . this isn’t just any old person out on the street. These are the people in our churches, serving and teaching and leading. This is a problem because the issues we’re facing aren’t just being faced “out there” in the world, but inside the walls of our churches and within our congregations. We aren’t going to live a victorious Christian life, if we aren’t taking the Bible at face value . . . if we aren’t believing it and living it out literally . . . if we’re twisting the meaning to fit our narrative.
Just a couple episodes later was Saving Your Marriage From Divorce (Part 1 of 2) with Dr. David Clarke which had some really great, solid, biblical insight regarding saving marriages in crisis. And you might not think that these two episodes are truly closely related, but the connection made for me was this, if only 4% of those claiming to be Christians have a truly biblical worldview then marriages within the church are going to struggle. If we’re not living out and in God’s word, if we’re not in relationship with Him, then there’s no way we’re going to live in the design that God has created for our marriages. Having said that, this is what jumped out and connected those dots for me (again directly from the transcript so it’s a back and forth between Jim Daly and Dr. Clarke):
“Jim: You know, let me ask you, David, that’s an interesting observation with the couples that come to you, how many come to you that are struggling that are … do have a, you know, a good, healthy relationship with God? They’re reading the word regularly, they’re praying regularly, maybe hopefully praying together regularly. How many of those couples come in for help?
Dr. Clarke: 3%.
Jim: 3%, think of that.
Dr. Clarke: I mean, seriously, that’s, that’s, that’s why it’s in the book, it’s majorly, I am not close to God. It’s only with God’s power that I can love this opposite sex person. Once I lose that connection, I, I literally cannot do it.
Jim: You know, that fits with national survey work that it’s somewhere around 1% to 3% that, uh, the whole, the whole country of Christians would say that. If we’re engaged with each other, if we’re healthy spiritually, very few people have marital difficulty at the level that it’s gonna tear it apart. Let me ask as you this, you believe the breakdown in most marriages is a breakdown in communication, and we see that here at Focus. It sounds so simple. I, I was talking to Jean the other night and we, we were talking about, how many generations do we have to go through? (laughing) You know, when will we say, oh, it’s communication? Because we’ve been talking about it for like 2000 years.”
97 % . . . 97 % of marriages in trouble have at least one person, but maybe both, who is not walking in a strong relationship with God.
This isn’t rocket science and yet, we keep circling around it. If we want our marriages to thrive and our children to grow up strong in God and confident in who He created them to be, then we have to walk it out day after day. We can’t depend on Sunday school or chapel at their private, Christian school or someone else to do it for us. We can’t preach one thing to our kids and live another. We can’t expect our marriages to be healthy if God isn’t at the center. We have to live it out in our daily walk. We have to personally seek that relationship with our Savior, day after day. We have to lead and serve and show what it means to have an intimate and real relationship with Christ. And yes, we have to stand on the word of God, in love, but without compromise.
I’m passionate about this because I’m convicted about this. I’ve been reflecting on my own actions, words, and examples set for my children. A couple years ago, God really started working in my heart regarding the effort, or lack thereof, I put into my marriage. When I asked why so many marriages around me were falling apart, I was brought to these words from Isaiah 5 vs 20-21:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who turn darkness to light and light to darkness, who replace bitter with sweet and sweet with bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.”
Too often, we’re living out what is pleasing to us as an individual rather than seeking what is best for our marriage. We’re all about self-fulfillment, independence, and happiness, and while I believe that there is a deep contentment, and yes, often happiness, that is a byproduct of a fulfilling marriage, I do not think that the end goal of marriage is to just make us “happy”. It’s to teach us and refine us and transform us.
In that same vein, parenting is also an incredibly refining process. As commonly happens, my kids are getting older. My oldest is now firmly into his teen years, and there will come a point, sooner rather than later, where he has to hash out, to work out, if you will, and choose whether or not to take ownership of the beliefs and values with which he has been raised. I can look back to my preteen and teen years and see where the transition started for me. Not that I didn’t believe in God or that Jesus was my savior prior to that, but as we move into young adulthood, those choices truly become our own in a way that they were not before. And as a mother, part of me was frightened by this.
Why do some children rebel? Why some choose to go the other way?
I can look back and see all the things I wish I had done better . . . even as recently as yesterday . . . but wishing that I had done some things differently will not change what has been done. I can also look forward and toward my Heavenly Father and ask the Holy Spirit to equip me, to pick up the pieces and heal and redeem where I’ve fallen short (not that we ever intentionally do this, but we are all human and all fail), and work out my salvation, in front of my children, in such a way that they see both the fact that I am far from perfect and that I also walk in a relationship, daily, with a loving, forgiving, and gracious God. I pray for their hearts to be soft and tender toward the things of God. I work, and yes, it’s work for someone as opinionated and independent as I am, to walk in submission (not a dirty word y’all) and allow my husband to be both the spiritual and physical head of this family. And I strive not in my own power, which never works, but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to live in a relational, rather than dominating, way with my children . . . challenging them and allowing them to challenge to me to grow and be better.
Ultimately, they will still have to make the choice to walk with God on their own. And even if a person is raised in tough and traumatic circumstances, that is no excuse for not submitting to the leading of the Holy Spirit. But I also can stand on these scriptures knowing that God hears my every prayer. Knowing that it says in Isaiah 55:11 that God’s word does not return void but accomplishes the purpose that He intends for it (paraphrased). Knowing that He is a redeeming God. Knowing that He will lead and guide me . . . there’s no question on that. Knowing that He loves my family, my marriage, my children, and me deeply and unconditionally, and He wants us to live a life marked by following Him.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:10-13 (and the rest of the chapter is just as important so take a look . . . )
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” Psalm 19:7-9
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