Freedom for Faithfulness-Not Success

A couple reflects on the practices of their lives which led to their recent divorce.

“We did not have the strength to “work on” falling in love again in our marriage. And as everyone knows good relationships take work. Which is not to say that we are against work. We perform many tasks. We can pick up our girls from school every day. We can feed them dinner and kiss their noses and tell them stories. We can take them to their doctor and dentist appointments. We can earn our half—and sometimes more—of the money; we can pay the bills. Which is to say that we can work at a career and childcare and joint ownership.”

“ However… what we cannot reconjure is the ancient dream of grooms and brides, even with Oprah’s fluffery of weekly “date nights.” Do you see? Given our staggering to-do list we cannot take on yet another arduous home-and-self –improvement project, that of rekindling our romance.” They then go on to raise one final haunting question, “And along the way, we’ve begun to wonder, what with all the abject and swallowed misery: why do we still insist on marriage?”

This couple acknowledges valuing the to-do list above the work of marriage. These values lead to a fatalistic approach to a whole range of disciplines and practices that are simply assumed as essential and immovable objects. They see themselves as not having any decisions to make. Relationships just have to be discarded.

But I disagree. Did we have to make the decisions we made about buying houses, cars and going to expensive private schools and on and on? No. Did we voluntarily decide to spend our money, and incur debt that robbed us of precious time and energy with church, our spouses and our children? Yes. Jesus frees us up to make harder, better choices. That’s what freedom does.

There are Kingdom disciplines; wisdom and freedom disciplines. Next month Donna and I celebrate forty nine years of marriage. It is a treasure that I cannot pay for, a blessing beyond description. We also have two adult children and eight grandchildren all of whom with our precious David and Deeann make up our family. But this family has been a kingdom investment for almost fifty years now.

When our son and our daughter were born I determined I would be their Dad in the evenings. I would not do what my Pastor Dad did-save the world every night leaving his sons at home with Mother. I was faithful to this calling but not a very successful pastor according to the church critics. Tough choice.

When I went to law school in 1978 I determined that I would not study after six p.m. every day. I already had a nine and seven year old child. I would be their Dad and the husband of my wife and my grades would barely get by. I would not be on law review and my marriage and kids not get by. I then determined that as a lawyer I would go in early but I would be home in the evenings and the weekends. That I would work smart and come home. That was the freedom Jesus was giving us.

Coming home became a discipline-a calling. We lived on a lot less because I did not lead the firm in collections and Donna did not work outside the home. But like most Americans we had plenty of money. We purposefully lived below our means. I was called to be faithful to Christ’s values- but not successful according to my associate’s values.

Unlike most American Christians we became rich in relationships- the astounding presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit-the extravagance of Church –the romance of marriage-the joy of children growing up-the marriages of our children – the incredible serendipity of eight grandchildren. Time and love, at a certain point, are simply more precious that money. Thousands of hours invested in the Lord’s fields are now bearing astonishing fruit. God blesses the hard choices of freedom. From the beginning we were saved by grace to live free!