Some say family isn’t worth it. You’ve seen the wry comments on greeting cards and tacky coffee mugs: Marriage is not a word; it is a sentence. Marriages are made in heaven—but then again, so are thunder, lightning, tornadoes and hail. The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents, and the second half by our children.
Such ideas come from people who don’t understand God’s purpose for family. Knowing why family helps us see the so-called negatives for what they really are: noble sacrifices for an awesome purpose.
In Straight Talk to Men, James Dobson discusses something called “the straight life.” For a man in a family, he says, this is “pulling your tired frame out of bed, five days a week, 50 weeks out of the year. It is earning a two-week vacation in August, and choosing a trip that will please the children. The straight life is spending your money wisely when you’d rather indulge in a new whatever; it is taking your son bike riding … when you want so badly to watch the baseball game; it is cleaning out the garage on your day off after working 60 hours the prior week. The straight life is coping with head colds and engine tune-ups and crab grass and income-tax forms … it is giving a portion of your income to God’s work when you already wonder how ends will meet. The straight life for the ordinary, garden-variety husband and father is everything I have listed and more … much more.”
Yes, family involves sacrifice. Any man who is married with kids and is doing his job can identify with that to some degree. And the “straight life” for a wife is often even less glamorous. Viewed from a purely selfish perspective, it seems like a string of hassles.
Many who do not understand why family seek to achieve its benefits without its sacrifice. Get a load of these excerpts from “Personal Marriage Contract,” written by Dr. John F. Whitaker in 1976: “I understand that nothing is forever; that there are no absolute guarantees, and that now is the only real forever. … I will love, honor, respect (but not obey or subjugate myself to you) until either of us changes his mind and maintains a change of attitude for a period of one year or until the termination date of the contract. … Don’t expect me to accept you as you are when you fail to maintain physical attractiveness and fail to take care of your body. … I will put myself first. By keeping myself full, satisfied and not hungry, I will have an abundance of joy, love and caring to give you.”
Doesn’t exactly make you swoon with feelings of romance, does it?
We may not take it as far as this man did, but we do naturally tend to approach marriage selfishly: As long as you’re taking care of my needs, I’ll take care of yours. If you uphold your end, then I’ll uphold my end. But will that kind of marriage work? Would even that kind of friendship work?
Imagine if God’s love was so conditional. Instead of, I’ll never leave you, never forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), imagine Him saying, Don’t expect me to hang around if I don’t like what I see. If you’re not fulfilling my needs, this really isn’t going to work. That is not God’s love! God’s love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things—it never ends (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).
Human love centers on the self. God’s love centers on the other person. And living your life for someone else isn’t always comfortable or glamorous.
Jesus Christ truly lived the straight life. His whole life was about serving, being faithful and obedient. Never once did He say, I’m just going to do this for me. I’ve earned this. I deserve some indulgence here. No—He said, I do always those things that please My Father (John 8:29). He truly sacrificed—He died in order to have a family. But He did it willingly, because He had God’s love.
Many couples want a “50-50 marriage.” But for a marriage to be as great as it can be, it must be 100-100. Each spouse has a role, and each must give it all he or she can. That is the way God’s love works. And that is irrespective of the other person. Christ, our role model, died for us while we were yet sinners.
What are you really giving up by living the straight life? Selfishness. Yes, you have to forgo some personal desires that aren’t inherently bad. But we’re not here for ourselves.
And, on the other hand, what do you gain by living the straight life? Love. Family. Security. Stability. A peace that someone who’s out chasing after his own desires simply cannot understand. And, meanwhile, you’re learning about God and living the family life He designed, and growing and maturing in the process. Quite a trade-off!
Evaluate the quality of your love. Measure your patience, your loyalty, your constancy, against that of Jesus Christ. Live for your family. Ask God to help you think like Him. Thank God for showing you that straight and narrow way that leads to life!
And embrace the straight life.