This week I learned that a couple I know would be separating from each other. The topic of divorce, no matter how normal it has become, is one that always gets to me. Why can’t people sort their issues out? Why do Christians have a divorce rate that is statistically equal to or higher than that of non-Christians? How bad must someone’s situation be with a spouse that they willingly will move away from their children? I do not have answers to those questions but I do have a few thoughts as to what may be some of the contributing causes to the struggles that Christian families are having in their marriages.
Be a family
Firstly, I do not think that (institutional) Church life is very helpful in fostering healthy family relationships. It is almost as if church programs are designed to keep families apart. We have Sunday school for the kids, Youth groups for the young adults, women’s meetings, men’s breakfasts and a host of other not so family friendly meetings like prayer meetings, board meetings and worship meetings (which also requires worship practice meetings). And the more meetings we have the less time families are able to spend together. Martin Luther King Jr. once famously said that Sunday at 11am is the most segregated hour of the week. Of course he was referring to racial divides but let me tweak that statement a bit to say that Sunday at 11am is the most segregated hour of the week for Christian families as well.
This is one of the many reasons that I favor the house church setup over the traditional church model. Husbands, wives and children get to sit together, learn, eat, share, pray, read and so forth as a unit in an environment that cultivates relationships within the ekklesia without putting strain on the family dynamic.
Be a servant
Another area where Christian families have suffered is when men pull the ‘hierarchy card’ out in order to get their way in the relationship. While I am not really a fan of Augustine, I believe it was him who said,”If God had meant woman to rule man he would have taken her out of Adam’s head. Had he designed her to be his slave, He would have taken her out of his feet. But God took woman out of man’s side, for He made her to be a help meet and an equal to him.” Verse 23 in Genesis 2 confirms that woman is like and equal to man when Adam says, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” So many women have being told that their only job is to stand in the background in a supporting role for their husbands; sort of like Aaron and Hur did when they both held Moses’ hands up when he grew weary during the Israelites battle against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-12). But let us not forget that Adam and Eve are also a picture of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:30-32) and look at the example that Christ left for us. He washed his disciple’s feet; he prepared and also empowered his disciples for service. When my wife shares her dreams and aspirations with me, I don’t tell her to put those aside, fall in line and get with my program. I do everything that I can to support her in achieving those dreams and take great pride and joy in watching her realize them. Yes, God has made order in the family (Ephesians 5:22-25) but a wife is every bit her husband’s equal just as Jesus subjects himself to the Father but is His equal (Philippians 2:6, John 5:18). If Jesus, our head, was willing to take on the lowest job in the household as a foot washer and serve his disciples should we not follow in his footsteps?
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” – John 13:14
As I said earlier, I don’t have all the answers; I probably don’t even have most of the answers. But I can tell you that I have known my wife for 14 years now and this year we will be our ten year wedding anniversary. And in all that time we have not once raised our voices at each other. Not because we never have disagreements or experience moments of frustration. I think that it is simply because we both get that we are one and value what each one brings to the marriage. Being the man does not always mean bringing home the bacon and making the tough family and spiritual decisions. On most days it might just look like you getting the kids ready for school, or making their lunches, or doing the dishes, or changing a nappy, or hanging the washing, or making dinner, or telling your wife to go do something nice while you play with the kids for a few hours; all after a hard days work. I can only speak from my personal experience but I find that doing these kinds of things has a reciprocal effect in the household.
It is just two things. And I am not saying that families should never do anything separately. I also recognize that while men and women are equal they are both unique and therefore serve different functions. These are just two areas where I have noticed a lot of damage caused in some people’s relationships. Either because of their church schedules or because they were unwilling to serve their wives when they required it from their husbands. Be present and lift her up.
Do you agree with the above observations? In what ways do you think the church benefits or hinders the health of Christian families?