Grandpa’s Gift

We were on one of our many treks up and down the I-75 corridor.  Living in Cleveland, Tenn. but hailing from central Michigan was the impetus that lead to many miles of familiar highway being traversed once again.  We had one great advantage – my wife’s grandparents lived in Muncie, Ind., which was just slightly more than the halfway point of our 12-hour journey to the homeland, if we made a slight detour.

Her grandparents were incredibly loving, generous and kind people.  Even if we could not stay long we always tried to map out our trip in such a way that warranted a visit.  This halfway stop provided a much needed reprieve from the road as well as a fun break for our kids.  No matter how short the visit, we still managed to squeeze in a game of croquet or a couple hands of euchre.  Grandpa could always make the kids giggle by allowing them to yank on his earlobe so that his hearing aid would emit an extended beep.  And I think Grandma always planned for our visits by stocking up on fresh grapes before our arrival knowing our kids would devour every one of them.

There was always something special about their home.  Each visit was full of laughter, playful picking on each other, and a lot of love.  One visit in particular I saw something that was a little shocking to me.  Her grandparents were in their late 70’s at the time.  I remember Grandma went into the living room where Grandpa was relaxing in his favorite chair. She promptly sat on Grandpa’s lap and threw her arms around his neck.  Now, this type of behavior may be normal for others.  But for me, it was a poignant moment.  It’s not simply that my wife’s grandparents were still affectionate after nearly 60 years of marriage.  Somehow, through all those years, with all of the inherent difficulties normally associated with marriage, these two lived out a deep and abiding love for one another for all to see.

With this image still fresh in my mind, the next morning I asked Grandma and Grandpa a simple question,

“What would you say is the secret to your long-lasting, loving marriage?”

Grandma immediately responded with some sage advice, “You have to remember, marriage is a 50/50 relationship.  There has to be give and take and compromise.”  I remember thinking to myself, “that makes a lot of sense.”

With his continual half grin, Grandpa interrupted her discourse by saying in his mildly raspy voice, “no, no it’s not.”

Everyone in the room was a little surprised, including Grandma.  It seems Grandpa had a philosophy even Grandma didn’t know about.  He continued,

“It’s 100/0.  Give 100% and demand nothing in return, and you will have a happy marriage.”

I have to tell you – this may be some of the most profound wisdom I have ever received.  At first glance this principle doesn’t seem to make sense.  Surely, a marriage involves give and take, right?  Isn’t a marriage about mutual fulfillment and meeting each other’s needs?  Of course it is.  It’s not that Grandma was wrong.  It’s simply that Grandpa had tapped into a deeper principle.

It is true that Jesus made the well-known statement, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38 NASV).  But, three short verses prior he made a difficult statement that brings some clarity to this verse.  Jesus declared,

“But … do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35 NASV).

At their core, our attitudes, actions and responses toward our spouses are an issue between us and God.  If our motivation moves from pleasing God to expecting something from our mate, we will probably end up disappointed.  At some point our spouse will not respond in the way we had hoped, leaving us hurt or frustrated in the process.  In that moment we place in our spouse’s hands the power to determine how we feel about what we are doing.  What Jesus is saying is, “interact with others in a way that pleases me regardless of what they say or do.  Do good, expecting nothing in return.  When you do, you reveal who you belong to.” The great invitation of scripture is to –

Give All of yourself and make no demands in return

When my head hits the pillow at night I want to know that regardless of how others acted or reacted, I lived my day in a way that pleased Him.  I want to live in a Christ-like manner regardless of the behavior of others.  I’m not always successful but, this is my goal.  Realizing my reward comes from God and not man takes the pressure off of my relationship with my wife.  It is liberating, for both of us.  It frees my wife up to love me back in her own way.

When both partners are giving and serving and expecting nothing in return is when God pours out His blessing and gives back to us “a good measure, pressed down, and shaken together.”

Thank you, Grandpa, for incredible godly insight that has forever changed my marriage and my family.

In Loving memory of Charles & Cleota Reece 

Fruitful Marriages

Fruitful Marriages

Fruit Bowl, Shell, Fruit, Fruits

Many times I have been asked, “What is the real secret to a long-lasting, happy marriage?”  Usually I give some pithy, poorly attempted humorous response like, “for us, I think it has been that we were just too stupid to quit” (there might actually be some serious truth in there somewhere).

However, I have discovered that regardless of a couple’s particular belief about matters of faith, applying biblical principles to the relationship always leads to improvement (can everyone say a big collective “duh!”), regardless of whether they are believers or not.  I realize this may seem elementary to some.  However, sometimes even the most devout Christians can forget their Christian graces when they walk into their own homes, with the most important relationships they have, that is – their spouses and children.

For example, men are often patient, understanding, and forgiving with business partners or employees.  But those same men can be inconsiderate, unforgiving, and outright rude with their families. Although they listen intently during strategy meetings at the office, they often don’t take the time to listen to their wives or children. Conversely, the same women who are caring and compassionate with their friends can become demanding and insensitive at home.

There are hundreds of passages of Scripture to draw relationship principles from.  For today I would like to focus on just two verses – two verses containing nine simple words.  Words so profound that I am convinced if they were properly applied, could heal every single broken marriage, struggling marriages could be put on a firm foundation, stagnant marriages could be revitalized, and happy marriages could go to an even higher level with deeper intimacy.  In fact, applying these nine words could revolutionize homes and families!  It may seem like a tall order but, I am convinced it is true.  Follow along with me.

The Apostle Paul said, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).  Wait a minute.  Read that again, ruminate for a moment and let those words sink in … (pause).  Love … Joy … Peace … Patience … Kindness … Goodness … Faithfulness … gentleness … Self-Control.  Now, try putting your name at the beginning of that verse and read it again, asking yourself where you stand:

“David is loving in his relationships.” Am I?

“David is joyful with those around him.” Am I?

“David is peaceful, patient, kind, full of goodness, faithful, gentle and David operates in self-control (that one hurt!).”

When I read it that way I am confronted with a huge personal challenge and tremendous goals for me to strive toward. Because, these nine simple words all address my own behaviors and attitudes.

Let me caution you, this is not an opportunity to start pointing the finger of blame at your spouse.  Taking responsibility for how I act, regardless of what my spouse does, can radically impact our home for the better.  I believe that when we pursue and practice these nine simple concepts, when we address our own attitudes and behaviors, the Holy Spirit will come alongside and help us along the way.

Spirit-led people do not throw fits of rage, they practice self-control.

Spirit-led people are concerned for the good of others.

Spirit-led people are patient and kind, and forgiving.

Spirit-led people carry the essence of joy.

When we begin to act in a way that is consistent with what we say we believe, I promise you – the Lord will bless it. Imagine what would happen in your home and marriage if you applied and practiced these nine simple words.  I think you will find your marriage is better than ever.

Enjoy the Fruit!