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Raising Kids Requires the Grace of Marriage

The most rewarding and difficult task Annette and I have undertaken is raising children.

Without each other’s support, and the unique grace God gives to man and woman who yield to each other in the heartache of parenting, we might not have made it. And had we not, our kids would have lost the witness that in spite of their extremes, love prevails.

One cannot grasp this until (s)he lives it. I recall family photos when my siblings and I were teen-agers. My brother and I put my parents through hell. Just as heaven came to earth in Jesus, hell visits the families of renegade teens. We kids sneered into the photograph, while my mother smiled wanly, her eyes dark and wearied by the hard season of parenting Dad and she were enduring together.

Still, I did not grasp the cost of parenting until Annette and I faced one hard fact–our kids were very capable of blowing off ‘family values’ for a ride in the fast lane. We recall waited in agony, and in vain, for the teen son in the early morning hours: drug-induced chaos, the smashed up car, weird friends (raised by wolves?), the sincere kid who became completely implausible, suspicions that went nowhere, the discernment that came true, the truth that kids must work out their lives outside your control while still under your watchful, tearful eye.

Perhaps here more than in any other task, Annette and I found one another. Instead of blaming or shaming the other for the misery at hand, we have found solace in our love. We somehow strengthened each other in our mutual helplessness. We have a rock; our commitment forged in difference and in fire. When the kids rock our world, we share a united front that serves as a kind of fortress against the unpredictability of raising children.

Kids need that steadfastness. As they travel the breadth of extremities, they need to know their parents don’t, and that two await them in love and with boundaries that help them face the limits they are imposing on themselves.

Maybe that is what the Catholics mean when they speak of marriage as a sacrament. A sacrament is a means of grace. Through marriage, God gives grace to the one man and one woman who dare to bring kids into this chaotic world.

That world gives no guarantee that earnest parents will produce seamless kids. In the uncertainty and pain of parenting, the Creator consoles and empowers His ‘co-creators’. We give grace to one another. God honors that offering of grace and enhances it as we seek to love well the fruit of our lovemaking.

Honor marriage for the good of all, especially kids. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“Father, we thank you for the grace You give parents as they stand together in the hard task of raising children. Unify and empower them; let kids be the first fruit of that grace.”

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Raising Kids Requires a United Front

Conceiving a child is easy; raising a child is hard work. Over the course of his or her development, a child demands the attentiveness of two caregivers with complementary vision and gifts.

Annette and I are different in the way we view our kids. My view is essentially masculine: I tend toward wanting to release my kids to the adventure of life and to let them face the consequences, good and bad. Annette wants to shelter them from the cold of the negative consequences; her relational strengths here require the complement of my objectivity.

She is the open-ended one with the kids; they like her more, and readily draw from her deep well of wisdom and kindness. I tend to provoke the kids a bit more, to generate movement and bring closure where it is needed. They probably respect me more than they like me.

I don’t know how we could have raised four young adults without the other. Parenting is complicated. Each kid is different: diverse strengths and weaknesses, subject to their own unique temptations. To give a child his/her due requires the whole image—human parent as male and female.

My mother recounted a car wreck my older brother got in, which involved a stubborn old man who refused to settle the damages. My brother’s repeated phone calls were pointless. She marveled at my father who simply got the man’s address, drove to his home, and quietly reasoned with him until they agreed upon a price. She realized then how fortunate she was to partner with this other!

Similarly, I marvel at Annette’s capacity to enter unselfishly into the unique worlds of each of my children. She informs the decisions we make together about them with sensitivity and an awareness that I do not have.

We refine each other as parents; in our differences, we hold each other accountable to the children’s best interests. Annette tends to sensitize me to their needs; I tend to help Annette release the kids to assume necessary responsibility.

David Blankenhorn writes: “Marriage says to a child: The man and woman whose sexual union made you will also be there to love and raise you. Marriage says to society as a whole: For every child born, there is a recognized mother and father, accountable to the child and to each other.”

Honor marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

”Father, thank you for the different ways that men and women approach parenting. Thank you that marriage supports and unifies those differences for the good of the child.”

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Children Need Male and Female Parents

Marriage unites the biological requirement of procreation with what matters most to kids: the social and legal dimensions. Marriage makes parents responsible for children. Both God and state demand that the fruit of love be given form and protection by those who made love.

In that way, the state protects its most vulnerable. Children cannot vote or even weigh in on the gay marriage issue. And yet they are the ones most impacted by how we as a society define marriage. What we do know: the best possible equation for kids is to possess two parents, one male and one female who can meet their basic needs of their children.

Two sociologists weighed in on the question of what children need. They concluded: “If you were asked to design a system to make sure that children’s basic needs were met, you would probably come up with something like the two-parent ideal. Such a system would provide a system of checks and balances that promote quality parenting.”

The marriage contract commands that both parents hold each other accountable to provide for their children.

These needs include physical provision (food, shelter, etc.) Less concrete but no less important is a child’s need for a clear depiction of the good of male and female together. As one cooperative unit, male and female together provide a lifeline of identification with who (s)he is becoming, as well as who (s)he will be in relation to the other. Marriage is the first and most important glimpse of God’s image that adults grant their offspring.

Children are created to realize that image in whole heterosexual-relating. It is written on their hearts by their Creator. It is called forth and activated by their co-creators.

A child secures gender clarity from the parent of the same-sex; sons and daughters alike secure a living witness of gender cooperation through both parents. When that vision is blocked or obscured because of deficient parenting, the child will continue to seek it out..

A teacher in San Francisco recounted to me the yearning of one of her students, an 8-year-old boy who had been adopted by a lesbian couple. The child was relentless in his effort to secure a male partner for one of his mothers. Almost daily, as he and his peers would await their caregivers, he would point out to Mom those whom he hoped might one day be his father.

Kids need male and female together.

Honor Marriage. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“O God, thank you for the power of male and female together to give account for the well-being of their children. Thank you for the power of Your image as a gift to kids.”

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Children Require Male and Female

Marriage is about procreation. To be sure, God made male and female for the purpose of the two creating an emotional and spiritual whole; man and woman must ‘meet’ before mating; they are first companions, then lovers. As we have seen, gender complementarity is essential for the two to become one, psychologically-speaking.

But mating remains the main reason behind man for woman and woman for man. The image of God is essentially creative. Procreation is the result of gender complementarity. “The union of opposites is the only possible way procreation is realized.”

Here we discover one of the ways that God’s image in humanity reflects the Creator. Joined as one-flesh, male and female possess that quality of creation—the capacity to engender new life. One of the ways that we actively manifest His image on earth is in ‘co-creating’ new image-bearers!

Only male and female can create new life. Neither two men together, nor two women, can create new life. David Blankenhorn, reflecting on the children of gay parents, writes incisively: “Every child being raised by gay or lesbian couples will be denied his birthright to both parents. Every single one.”

Some gays and lesbians will go to great lengths to awkwardly create families for themselves. American Idol winner Clay Aiken sired a child (in vitro) with his 50-year-old female manager.He declared his homosexuality publicly after the child’s birth—his ‘first act as a father.’ When asked how the child would be raised, he declared: “It’s really going to be a tossed salad of different options.” Tossed salad indeed.

Marriage unites male and female; marriage provides the context for mating. That state-recognized, legal contract needs to be binding precisely because of what is at stake: the well-being of children.

Blankenhorn again writes: “Marriage is a gift that society bestows upon its next generation. Marriage (and only marriage) unites the three core dimensions of parenthood—biological, social, and legal—into one pro-child form: the married couple.”

So marriage has power: it unites male and female psychologically for the sake of procreation. We marry to reproduce. The binding commitment of marriage then provides the ground for the next and far more challenging phase of marriage—the raising of kids.

Honor marriage for the good of all, especially children. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“God, we honor You for entrusting to men and women the awesome task of representing You in the creation of new life. Let us honor You by honoring the fruit of our one-flesh union. Help us see how we honor little ones when we honor marriage.”

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How Jesus Restores Marriage

Marriage matters. The quality of care between spouses matters. Generations to come are impacted by that quality, or the lack thereof. To paraphrase John Paul II, how husband and wife care for each other impacts the dignity and destiny of those they influence.

Especially their children. Kids are those most impacted and least heard in battles surrounding marriage. Jesus loves kids. He hates it when they are stumbled by broken, selfish parents. So He acts to restore marriage for the good of all: restoring first the parents, who can then offer themselves well to their children.

Jesus loves His image in humanity. He reiterates the power of marriage as male and female in Matt. 19: 4-6 when He decries the effort of any created thing to separate the two whom God has joined as one.

Paul takes this a step further when he describes Jesus as the true image of God in humanity. (Col. 1:15) The Apostle claims that Jesus created all living things, and can redeem what was lost or broken through His sacrifice on the cross. (vs.16-20)

So Jesus is the embodiment of God’s image, and the Creator of that image in us. That gives Him awareness of who we truly are (who He made us to be), how we have fallen, and what needs to happen so that we can be restored to His will for our humanity. That has significance for our covenants.

Jesus indwells marriage through His Spirit when we invoke His name and power. It is as if we are saying: “Jesus, You who are God’s true image, indwell this expression of Your image. Make it what You will. You authored it: sustain and redeem it. Renew it daily as we as one look to You–the One true image from whom this ‘image’ draws its meaning.”

Jesus is the faithful covenant-keeper. He so hates the dividing of one-flesh that He fights for the quality of that unity. He does battle on behalf of marriage: first in His dying, second in His risen life. He is mighty in Spirit to raise us up to love the other when our hearts are weak and divided. He grants us grace to love beyond what we are capable of.

He wants our children to have a legacy of love. So He is at once tender and fiery toward us in our faithlessness. He burns with both mercy and judgment toward wayward spouses. For His name’s sake. And for the sake of children that will bear the mark of infidelity unless their parents submit to the Creator and Restorer of that marriage.

Jesus declares with mercy and might on behalf of children: “Let marriage be honored by all, and let the marriage bed be kept pure!” (Heb. 13:4) Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“Jesus. We honor You as the true image of God in humanity. We look to You as the Source of our care for the other, and our Restorer where we have failed to love this other well. Open our eyes to the impact of our marriage upon children. Lord have mercy.”

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