I have been blessed to become a father to four wonderful children (one girl, followed by three rambunctious boys). I remember wondering when my wife got pregnant with our second child if I would be able to love him as much as my first. A very wise person told me once that love does not divide, but multiplies. After having my fourth child just months ago, I can testify that this adage most definitely rings true. I have had the privilege of working with youth and their families for more than a decade now, and in that time I have noticed a disturbing trend that I don’t think most parents see as that troublesome. This trend, I believe, is a tool that is used be “the deceiver.” This trend is putting the love for your children above the love you have for your spouse. I have seen it more times than I can count. It seems like a reasonable thing: to love your children more than anything else on earth. It is a very good thing to love our children. They need our love, and they need to be shown our love. However, far too many parents make near idols of their children, leaving their spouse in the distance. This is not wise, healthy, or biblical. Yes, you are commanded to train and love your children (Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs 29:15, the book of Proverbs), but one of the best ways to love your children well is to love your spouse well . . . even more than your own children.
Here are two reasons why I see this is true . . .
You Made a Covenant With Your Spouse, Not Your Children
In the 5th chapter of Ephesians you read about the husband and wife relationship. Verse 25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” This is a huge statement when you start to understand the ramification and practical application of it. One of the major reasons for Christ coming to earth was to redeem and rescue His bride from the punishment she so justly deserved. Jesus loves His bride above all others on earth. This is supposed to be true of all husbands as well. When you made a covenant with each other in marriage, and joined yourselves together, you then became one flesh (Ephesians 5:31). You became united. This is a special relationship that you only ever enter into with one person (until death, or a biblical divorce happens). This is a covenant that is made with your spouse, not your children.
You Will Live With Your Spouse Forever, Your Children Only Temporarily
On your wedding day you most likely said something in your vows to this effect: “Till death do us part.” My wife and I have made it a priority to try to go on at least one date a month to help continue to foster a great relationship together. I have heard so many parents say that they have not gone on a date alone since they had kids. One of the things that worries me about this is that after you spend 18-20 years pouring into your children (which you should), are you even going to know your spouse if you do not continue to grow your relationship together? God has given each parent a great responsibility in raising their children, but one day they too will “leave and cleave,” Lord willing. You will always have a certain responsibility toward your children, as they do to you, but the relationship you have to your spouse never changes or goes away. By God’s design you will, or should, live with your spouse until death separates you. However, you only have a temporary time with your children. In one way, our children are only ours to borrow, whereas our spouse we have full ownership of (I Corinthians 7:4).
Children are a blessing. Children are a gift from God. We are to love them. We are to train them. We are to thank God for them. However, they should never consistently come before your spouse. Marriage, not parenthood, is a picture of Christ and the Church. Marriage is a life-long covenant by design. While parenthood is life-long as well, the meat of it is only brief. For those of us who still have children in our home, let’s be sure that we are spending much time in developing our relationship with our spouse and not just our children. Let’s be sure that when our children leave our home, we still have a thriving marriage with our spouse. Let’s make sure that when we think through these things we think with our Bible open, and not just our hearts, which so easily can lead us astray. Love your children well . . . but love your spouse even more.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell