for better or worse

“Why are we washing dishes again dad?” my young son asked me. “We always wash, Dad. Should mom be doing this?”

It was a natural question coming from a child who believed we had gone past our responsibility of service. Why are we still serving?

Thankfully, he stopped just short of saying, “Mom should be doing this!”

A child growing up in our culture today has no way of knowing what the marriage relationship is all about. We have come to believe that marriage is something you “get.” You get another salary, another person to do the chores and you get sex.

After being barraged by countless hours of pathetic marriage relationships on television, how can a child possibly know how to do marriage the right way? More significantly, how is a little boy supposed to be able to know how to properly love a wife?

As one child said, “When I get married, I’m going to be the boss.”

One of the training responsibilities of a father is to teach your children how to have a healthy marriage. Actually, every dad teaches his children about marriage … for better or worse.
It would not be too dramatic to say that children desperately need to grow up in a home where they can observe their dad acting as a servant-leader in his marriage. Children are supposed to be able to watch their dad and learn from two decades of their parent’s marriage.

The Originator of marriage has actually given men job descriptions for the role of “husband.” One of the most profound assignments is found in Ephesians 5:25 where the job assignment of the husband can be stated in one word: Sacrifice. Not just minimal sacrifice, but total and complete sacrifice of self as compared to the sacrifice Christ Himself made on the cross.

Husbands are told to love their wives as much as Christ loved us and sacrificed everything for us.
He sacrificed His position as King of the universe when He came down from His throne in heaven to walk on His creation. And to top it all off, he wasn’t received well when He arrived. Worst of all, He took our place on the cross and gave Himself up for His bride. This passage explains that being a husband is more than a leadership role, it’s a sacrificial leadership assignment.

Today’s child desperately needs to see this in his or her home. Dad can’t battle for his rights as leader. He needs to lead and put his personal rights aside. As decisions are made for the family, children need to see their mom lifted up and served.

It can’t be a matter of Dad saying, “I’m finished with my responsibilities, I’m going fishing.”
Instead, he must say, “I’m finished now, how can I help you?”

God calls husbands to choose to put themselves aside. The things they want to purchase, the softball league they feel entitled to join or the number of games they need to watch should come second to, “What can I do for you today?”

Sacrificing for others is not something taught in our society. But, children who have the benefit of growing up in a home where Dad leads and sacrifices will grow up knowing two things. They will have observed the plan given by the Creator of marriage. They will have also seen a living picture of the love of God through His great sacrifice for us.

A child who can watch marriage done by God’s design will have the tools to choose to be successful at his or her own marriage. Dad is not the king, he is the sacrificial leader … just like Christ.

Even after the Creator of feet washed the feet of the disciples, he said, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you…” (John 13:15).

How can children do anything if they haven’t seen the example?

Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues. 

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