I came from a family where relationships seemed to come easily. Dad was fun, a prankster, a storyteller, one who loved family and people. He was a crowd pleaser and loved to make people laugh. Sometimes Mom would be the object of his teasing. Mom would be hurt; but she was also understanding, big-hearted, and forgiving. Things looked easy because Mom made it look easy, even though I am sure that there were times when it was very difficult.
I grew up thinking teasing, joking, and pranking were part of life, part of relationship. It was one way I related to my brother and sister as we grew up.
Patricia‘s story was different. Growing up in a multi-cultural family, she experienced many misunderstandings with her parents on one hand and with her culture on the other. She had been laughed at many times and didn’t understand why. Consequently, many of her relationships were filled with pain and conflict while she longed for acceptance and stability.
It was just a joke!?!
Patricia and I had been dating long enough that we had begun discussing marriage. I thought it was time to play a joke on her, you know, “include her in the family.” So I drafted everyone in the crowd to go along. Simple plan: At lunch, when she picked up her glass to drink, everyone would clap. When she set her glass down to clap, everyone would stop. It would be impossible for her to join in, she would catch on after a while, everyone would have a good laugh. . .at her expense.
I had used this in college more than once and it had worked wonderfully. But this time, it did not go so well.
Patricia caught it on the first attempt. She looked at me and said, “Is this your doing? If it is, we have to have a talk.”
Our talk went something like this.
Patricia said, “Do you believe a husband should honor his wife?”
“Of course,” I agreed.
“Is this your idea of honor?” she asked.
I mumbled something incoherent.
“If this is your way of treating a wife and honoring her, then any discussion of marriage can end today.” End of discussion.
Obviously, we worked things out
In coming to know Jesus Christ personally, Patricia had built new skills and attitudes that fostered whole, trusting relationships. Out of her own history she brought into our marriage this guiding principle: Relationships are intentionally built, not lightly, not accidentally, but intentionally.
When she read the following verse from Proverbs 14:1, she saw it as a relationship verse.
The wise woman builds her house
The foolish tears it down with her own hands.
When Patricia and I married and began our family, we were very different from one another. We each brought our set of relational defaults into our home, but we agreed that God’s word would be our standard for ourselves and for our children. We believed that God should show in our family relationships and that our default systems would have to change. We found that we had to intentionally build on God’s word, not the faults nor defaults of our past. So. . .
We held up the standard; we spoke it, yelled it, shouted it, checked it, adjusted, asked forgiveness, and started over. . .many times.
We believe that YOU can build relationships according to God’s word. You just won’t drift into good relationships; that isn’t where the current will take you. You will have to swim upstream. Good relationships take work, hard work.
When your children are grown, the relationships you have built with them will be all you have. Your investments of training, correcting, and loving them will reap a harvest of lifelong friendship. First children, then friends.
RELATIONSHIPS ARE INTENTIONALLY BUILT!