“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” ~ Ephesians 4:32
A couple months ago, Clay and I celebrated a big anniversary. It was number 36, not one of the biggies that calls for a picture in the paper or an open house, but big in the sense that we are inching ever closer to the big 50! We shared an evening at a favorite restaurant and, as we do every year, remembered fun stories from our wedding, the craziness of life raising and homeschooling 6 children, and the gratefulness we both have to the Lord for sustaining us and pouring out His grace to us year after year.
Both of us were blessed with parents who remained true to each other until death and my mom, whose anniversary day we share, routinely counts the years she would be married if my dad were still alive…68 this year! We believe that the greatest gift parents can give to their children is the blessing of being raised in a Christian home with parents who are committed to staying married to each other. Foundational to this are two parents who each purpose to love the Lord with their heart, soul, mind and strength and who love each other as they love themselves. It is not always easy since husbands and wives are sinners. It is impossible without the saving and sustaining grace of Jesus Christ and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in those individual lives that make up a covenant marriage.
Homeschooling families have some particular pressures that affect the husband and wife relationship and problems that come out of those are often neglected for a number of reasons. There is the false notion that everything must be sacrificed in the home for the sake of the children, including time set aside for husbands and wives to be alone to just be a couple. Homeschooling moms can easily find themselves only thinking of themselves from within the context of being mom rather than as a wife and as a unique individual who is growing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in her own right. And there is the continual guilt that hovers, pointing out everything a homeschooling mom or dad is supposed to be doing to be “godly,” resulting in much self-doubt. These are all interwoven and are, in the truest sense of the concept, spiritual battles where Satan, the father of lies, does his finest work.
I know there are many books on marriage and family life, a few of them helpful and some of them so full of silly role-playing notions it makes your head spin. But a few years ago, I came upon some valuable thoughts on marriage in Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory that I think deserve consideration in light of the particular stresses that homeschooling couples experience; I think some of his wisdom needs to be shared and considered.
“Take more notice of the good in each other than of faults. Don’t let the observing of a spouse’s faults make you forget or overlook the virtues. Don’t magnify imperfections until they drive you crazy. Excuse them as far as is right in the Lord.” ~ Richard Baxter, edited
Many times, families think that homeschooling will be the answer to whatever problems, big or small, they are experiencing….children with academic or peer issues, a lack of purpose in the home, sibling or marital disunity. But the truth is that having all household members under the same roof day in and day out will actually bring all the hidden or unspoken problems right out into the open. So, rather than having only what you thought were “school” issues, everything is laid bare for examination.
What is important is how we respond to those faults and how we allow them to be worked out within the loving community of our homes. I believe this is the Lord’s plan. He wants us to become transparent and genuine parents and children who put into practice the one anothers as we build up each other. He wants us to confess our sins to one another, to forgive one another, to pray for one another, to spur one another on to love and good works. In order to do that, we have to be willing to forgive and forsake offenses as they happen, by God’s grace, and to concentrate on the good qualities of those in our families, especially our spouses.
When we were first married, it was easy to make irritations a much bigger deal than they really are. I can remember coming into marriage with all sorts of expectations I didn’t think were as unreasonable as I now know they were. My disappointments often led to tears and a dramatic exit where, for affect, I would walk several blocks to a neighborhood park, wearing my old ratty green house slippers that Clay just hated. I would be so angry about whatever we argued over and then mad that he knew just how long it would take me to get to the park and sulk for a bit before he would come and retrieve me!
After decades of marriage, I have learned that husbands and wives change and learn to accommodate themselves to each other but I must admit there are still things that I do that drive Clay crazy and vice versa. Rather than allow those things to exasperate us, we have purposed to daily set those irritations aside and to enjoy those things about each other that we admire. We tell each other what we appreciate on a regular basis and we pray for grace to continue to see beyond the annoyances. At times when there have been bigger disagreements that shouldn’t be overlooked, we have both learned to approach those with kindness, gentleness, and forgiveness.
My encouragement today is to learn to step back and look at the big picture. Remember what it was that first attracted you to your husband or wife. Spend some time praying for your sweetheart. Do something today to invest in that person like baking your husband’s favorite dessert or bringing your wife a bouquet of daffodils for the windowsill. Not only will be you encouraging each other, you will be giving your children the greatest treasure on earth ~ happily married parents!
Just for fun, here is something those of you who have been married for a while can appreciate!