THIS BOOKLET IS NOT TO BE SOLD.
It is a free educational service in the public interest, originally published by the Worldwide Church of God (a spiritual organism).
WHY THE FAMILY? ............................................................................................. 1
LOVE, MARRIAGE & SEX! .................................................................................. 8
BEFORE YOU SAY "I DO" .................................................................................. 16
FIVE WAYS TO LOVE YOUR MATE ................................................................ 23
THE GREATEST GIFT YOU CAN GIVE YOUR CHILDREN ...... ..................... 36
STRONG FAMILY TIES ...................................................................................... 44
THE CHANGING YEARS ... PREPARE NOW! .................................................. 50
WHY THE FAMILY?
Now stop and think for a moment. Why did God ordain the human relationship of MARRIAGE? Animals reproduce. But animals do not marry! Animals are born with instinct. They need little or no teaching. As soon as a calf is born, it will begin to stagger to its feet, while the cow just stands waiting. She does not need to teach her calf how to walk, how to take its food, how to do anything. A little wobbly and unsteady the first minutes, the calf is soon up and walking.
But with humans all this is different. The newborn human does not get up and walk immediately to its food. The tiny baby is helpless. It has mind—but at birth there is NO KNOWLEDGE as yet in its mind. It must be taught! It needs parents to teach it! It matures so very much more slowly than other creatures! Yet its potentiality is infinitely higher! And for this higher purpose, parental guidance and FAMILY LIFE are NECESSARY!
God made cattle "according to its kind." He made "every winged bird according to its kind." But he made MAN after the God kind!
Why the Family
Now, incredible as it may sound to those who do not UNDERSTAND the revelation of God's truth—and only an infinitesimal minority do—GOD is a FAMILY! It is important to make this most wonderful truth of all time PLAIN!
First, go back once again to the very first words in God's revelation of knowledge to us: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
God inspired Moses to write those words in Hebrew, not in the English words above. The Hebrew name here translated "God" is Elohim. It is a plural form used with a singular meaning, rather like the English words family, group, team. One family, but composed of more than one person. One group, but unless composed of more than one person, it would not be a group. One athletic team, composed of two or more players besides a number of substitutes.
Almost no one today knows that God is, actually, a divine FAMILY. One family. That family is ONE GOD.
A clever Satan has deceived people into almost every other belief imaginable about God. Most have been deceived into believing God is only THREE persons—LIMITING God to three persons and misrepresenting the Holy Spirit, which flows from God and from Christ, to be a person.
Others think of God as ONE PERSON ONLY.
But notice, again, in the New Testament, John 1:1-5,14:
"In the beginning was the Word." Sounds similar to Genesis 1:1, doesn't it? In Genesis 1:1, it is "In the beginning GOD ...," meaning more than one person forming ONE God. In John 1, the English word Word is translated from the original Greek word logos, which means "word," "spokesman," "revelatory thought," as a being or person.
The next words in John 1 are "... and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (verses 1-3, Revised Authorized Version).
This "Logos" was a separate personage. He existed "from the beginning" the same as God. He ALWAYS self-existed. He existed with God. And he, also, was God. They both coexisted forever. "All things" (words elsewhere translated "the universe") were made by him—the Word—the divine Spokesman.
But now notice verse 14: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." This, of course, is speaking of Jesus Christ. In the human flesh, he was begotten of God the Father, the only one ever so begotten before human birth.
At the time of this begettal and human birth "the Word" became the Son of God.
The Father, from heaven, said of Jesus, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 17:5). Jesus, praying, called God "Father"—Father and Son, a FAMILY relationship. The Church, at the resurrection to immortal SPIRIT life, is to MARRY the resurrected and glorified Christ (Eph. 5:25-28). So we have here a FAMILY relationship—father, son, husband and wife. And the wife is to be composed of born children of God.
In MAN, God is reproducing himself. Man has the supreme potentiality of being actually born into the divine God family!
Do you realize what that means? Of course, God is composed of immortal SPIRIT. Man, like animals, is composed in this life of material FLESH—matter! But the transcendent essential factor is that God IS PERFECT SPIRITUAL CHARACTER! It is the supreme intelligence, combined with holy and righteous CHARACTER OF MIND, that most importantly distinguishes God from every other living creature. No animal has this potential, but it is the true destiny of MAN. Of course God, too, possesses ALL-MIGHTY POWER. But without right CHARACTER, this power would be destructive and dangerous!
Man has the capacity to develop righteous CHARACTER. This character is not created instantaneously. It develops through experience, and experience requires TIME. A human baby is born without knowledge, but with capacity for acquiring it and of developing righteous CHARACTER. The human has the supreme potential of receiving God's own HOLY SPIRIT that imparts the divine nature, to equip the MIND to comprehend revealed spiritual knowledge!
Human babies—born helpless—need the tender care, the loving instruction, the patient training and discipline and the warm affection and love of a mother and father. They need the warmth and protection and security of family and of home life. And they are of supreme importance—for they are the potential HEIRS of God! Animals have never been given FAMILY relationship as humans experience it. Angels have never enjoyed FAMILY status. The family relationship is a God-PLANE relationship— not an angel-plane relationship. And God bestowed it on MAN! Because MAN is to be born INTO THE GOD FAMILY.
Of all life forms— whether plant, animal or angel—in all God's creation, MAN ALONE was created for MARRIAGE—for HOME and FAMILY LIFE!
Man is, now, composed of matter. Yet in man, and in MAN ONLY, is God's CREATION still going on! Humans, by repentance, surrender to God and acceptance of Christ, may be in mind and attitude converted—may receive God's Holy Spirit. Thus, they are actually begotten as God's children. They may have direct contact with God and call him FATHER! They are brought into a FATHER-AND-SON relationship with God!
This is possible for no other creature—not even angels! Angels were not, never can be, begotten and BORN of God! Each angel is a separate creation. No angel can ever become a part of the DIVINE FAMILY OR KINGDOM OF GOD!
Notice! God says: "For to which of the angels did He ever say: 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You'? And again: 'I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son'?" (Heb. 1:5).
Neither animal, nor angel, nor any other being, except MAN, can be literally begotten by spiritual reproductive process, and then actually BORN into the divine GOD FAMILY!
Humans are, if converted through Jesus Christ, the heirs of the GOD FAMILY. They are to enter the divine family. They are, even now, the begotten children of God. Therefore God ordained the family relationship for human beings. Family relationships demand MARRIAGES! The FAMILY relationship demands the HUSBAND-AND-WIFE relationship! And that demands MARRIAGE and faithfulness to that matrimonial bond! The CHURCH of God is merely that BODY composed of the begotten children of God. And the church, as a BODY, is the affianced BRIDE OF CHRIST, to marry Christ at the time of the resurrection and his Second Coming!
Here is another reason for the institution of marriage in the human family. It is to teach us— to constantly remind us— of our sacred relationship to Jesus Christ!
Here is the vital teaching: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word [the Word, if obeyed, washes away error], that He might present it to Himself a glorious church [glorified—deified], not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.
"So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies.... For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:22-28, 30-32).
Notice! For this reason—because of the coming marriage (spiritually) between Christ and the church—because the church is, now, the affianced bride, engaged to marry Christ—FOR THIS REASON, God ordained the MARRIAGE institution for humans! But not for animals! Not for angels!
Notice Revelation 19:7, speaking of the Second Coming of Christ in glory: "... the marriage of the Lamb [Christ] has come, and His wife has made herself ready." Only those made ready in righteous character will be presented to him then!
Why Home and Family
So, in addition to the family relationship, there is also the divine marriage relationship.
So understand! The husband-and-wife relationship, as well as the family relationship, are God-plane relationships!
Humans are free moral agents. God never forces one to be truly converted—to become his very begotten son. Yet the purpose God is working out here below is to reproduce himself—to bring, through Christ, "many sons to glory" (Heb. 2:10) in the divine KINGDOM OF GOD!
Since humans were put on earth for the very purpose of being begotten, and then born into the God family, the Eternal has endowed this God-plane family status for humans, now—and for humans only!
What a wonderful privilege to be given the MARRIAGE and FAMILY relationships that we may be prepared for the spiritual marriage to CHRIST and the divine family status, for eternity, in THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
LOVE, MARRIAGE & SEX!
The three most important ingredients to successful marriage have been terribly abused. Some fall in love and never marry. Others marry but are not in love. Millions of people experiment with sex without even being in love.
Still others are in love and are married but fail to understand the importance of a wholesome and proper sexual relationship.
Not many seem to be putting all three—love, marriage and sex—together in the right order.
Love to Build a Relationship
Almost everyone has experienced what he or she thought was love, only to find out it really wasn't. Perhaps your case was typical. It probably first happened early in the teen years when you were first attracted to a member of the opposite sex.
There was the strange, tingling, excited feeling that would just not go away. You thought you saw shooting stars. Felt like you were walking on air. And you could have danced all night.
Later, you probably came to realize that was not love at all. Your parents tried to tell you it was "puppy love." It was just infatuation.
Maybe you even experienced these feelings of "love" three or four or more times—each time thinking this new feeling was the really one true forever and ever love.
Unfortunately thousands of people make terrible mistakes because of not knowing how to handle adolescent emotions. It often leads to premarital sexual experience, which in turn often leads to premarital pregnancy—and millions of babies born out of wedlock every single year.
Others, misinterpreting their feelings of "love," leap into premature marriages. A large percentage of those who marry and don't divorce are not really happy. They stay married for the sake of the children, or for religious or financial reasons. They find they are not really in love at all.
And of course where and when to fit the sexual relationship into this picture is often confusing. The signals of our liberated society tell us to practice sex whenever, however, whyever and in whatever manner we want to. "Consenting adults" is the catch phrase.
The God-given formula for happiness and success in marriage is usually totally ignored. That formula is the title of this article: Be in love, marry and have a healthy sexual relationship. You can't build a marriage without love. And sex should NEVER be practiced outside the confines of marriage.
But What Is Love?
If you had to choose just one word to describe God, love would be the best word. The apostle John simply stated it: "God is LOVE" (I John 4:8).
From what God is and what God does we can understand the deep and significant emotion called love.
God's love was most manifest by the ultimate gift he gave mankind: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Love, you see, is not a feeling of selfish tingling emotions, like the flaming sunset in an orange colored sky. It's not that feeling of desire and passion so often mistaken as love.
Real love is the ability to put one's selfish interests and feelings aside and GIVE to the other person.
Outside of marriage, the passions that lead to sexual experimentation are nothing more than lust.
Can you imagine a teenage couple necking in the backseat of a car whispering to each other, "Oh, how I lust after you"?
No, they say, "Oh, how I love you, I love you, I'll always love you." But what they really mean is, "I am lusting after you." The chances are that affair will last only a short time, and they will each be whispering the same thing to other persons later on.
Love—real love—is not even possible without a degree of maturity. Mature love that prepares a couple for a lifetime of marriage and commitment begins slowly and grows. Love never stands still.
Of course love has to start somewhere. Romantic love begins with an attraction to a member of the opposite sex. There will probably be a beginning feeling of infatuation. But love that leads to marriage must grow beyond that and not be based on attraction alone.
Understanding Love from the Greek Language
In the English language there is the one word love. Because of that, few are aware that there are different meanings to the words in the Bible translated into English as love. In the Greek language, the language of the New Testament, three different words translate into the English word love. By understanding them, one can better grasp what kind of love to strive for in marriage.
The first word is eros. It forms the root of our English word erotic. It is the kind of love discussed in this article up to now.
Of course eros is an important kind of love. Author H. Norman Wright defines eros in his book Pillars of Marriage, as love that seeks sensual expression. It is desire. It is romantic, sexual love. It is inspired by the biological structure of human nature—placed in mankind at creation.
Of itself, eros is not wrong. But it is a kind of love that should never act alone. Unfortunately it is the only love many people ever experience. But romantic, sensual love is only part of the God-given concept of TOTAL love.
The second kind of love comes from the Greek word philia. Again you may recognize the meaning—for example, the name of the city of Philadelphia means the city of "brotherly love." Philia is friendship, companionship, the physical as well as emotional sharing of time and interests. It shows a desire to cooperate.
Mr. Wright suggests the difference between eros and philia is that eros is a face-to-face relationship while philia is a shoulder-to-shoulder relationship. When applied to marriage it depicts a husband and wife working together. And parents and children and brothers and sisters working together.
A friend is someone whose company you prefer. Someone you want to be with. Every good marriage has philia love—husbands and wives who want to be with each other.
But these two words do not tell the whole story of love.
The Greatest Love of All
There is yet another Greek word that explains the deep and spiritual meaning of love. The word is agape.
Eros produces romance—makes your mate your lover. Philia makes your mate your friend. But agape goes far beyond. Agape is a love of total commitment. Agape means "selflessness." Agape is total GIVING love. This is the love God expressed when he gave his only begotten Son. He had no self-interest. He was giving the one gift that would make possible the forgiveness of sin and would save mankind.
In the human sphere, agape love is thoughtfulness, concern, sensitivity to the needs of others.
But agape is not a natural love. We were not born with it. It is not the love of adolescence. Eros is essentially in mankind by creation. Philia comes naturally—we all want friends. But agape is acquired by maturity.
And the highest form of love we can attain is a gift that God can give us. The very giving and loving nature of God can be put within human beings by a supernatural miracle. Paul wrote, "... the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy [Spirit] which is given unto us" (Rom. 5:5). That is agape love.
One has not truly loved until that selfless love has been experienced. It is present and active when every desire is for the other person.
Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). If and when, in marriage, you come to the point you would give your life for your mate, then and only then, have you experienced the penetrating meaning of love.
Relevant to agape love in marriage Paul further said in Ephesians 5:28-29, NIV: "In this same way, husbands ought to love [agape] their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church" (verse 25).
It is natural to love the self. It is not so natural to love someone else that much. Thus God says that we ought to grow in love toward our mates equal to the love we have for ourselves. No one can expect more. But so few ever come close. Most are simply so selfish they do not achieve the real depth of love.
Too many marriages are based on only one kind of love—eros. That love usually will not hold up under pressure. And sadly, too many marriages don't even have philia love. Some husbands and wives are not even good friends.
Love Leads to Marriage
The teen years should be spent developing a wide variety of friends from both sexes. At a proper age young people can begin to date—but not just one person.
That way, a person can experience being with a variety of members of the opposite sex. You can know much better the type of person with whom you could spend the rest of your life.
Don't even consider marriage unless it is built on a relationship of growing love. Don't marry for convenience, desire, security, money or any other single reason. Marry because you have grown to love the person with whom you want to share the remainder of this physical life.
And never live together outside the sacred bonds of marriage.
From the beginning the Almighty God instituted the marriage covenant as the most sacred of all ceremonies. It is the start of a new life together—the beginning of a new family unit.
On the day God created Adam and Eve, he said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24, NIV). God presented Eve to Adam in the first marriage ceremony.
Marriage should be the most wonderful part of life. And the wedding one of the most joyous days to remember. A beautiful bride dressed in white, a handsome groom in a tuxedo or suit, and an event shared by family and friends should be a happy occasion well worth remembering.
How sad that too many marriages are not based on true love and don't last long. Joy turns quickly to sadness. Happiness turns to tragedy.
If only everyone would put these things in the proper order. First, learn to love—really and truly love. Then before beginning the sexual experience, plan a wonderful wedding. God designed the human sexual experience to begin only one time in life—AFTER the marriage ceremony.
Of course that doesn't sound modern and up-to-date. But it is the truth!
And the truth about why God created sex is vitally important.
Sex is part of the eros love God designed. It is part of our nature, our makeup. Sex, when practiced in love and in the confines of marriage, is holy and pure. The apostle Paul said, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed [sex in marriage] kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" (Heb. 13:4, NIV).
Today virginity is an almost obsolescent word. Peer pressure and false or unbridled emotions have led to a great deal of premarital sex experimentation. The modern argument is, "Those who have experienced intimate sexual relationships before marriage will be better sex partners in marriage."
How sadly wrong that argument is.
Sex—Only After Marriage
The Almighty God who created us male and female designed sex to be practiced ONLY in the confines of marriage. Any other practice of sex is sin! Premarital sex is called fornication. Extramarital sex is adultery. Both are capital offenses against the holy law of God!
But sex within marriage—practiced in love—is clean, holy, pure.
The most obvious reason for sex is the reproduction of mankind. God has designed the marvelous human reproductive system to function in the confines of love and marriage. Husbands and wives produce, through sexual contact, miniature reproductions of themselves—new life.
One of life's truly great experiences is the birth of a child. But this, again, was designed by God to be part of the marriage union—never to be experienced outside of marriage.
But there is even a greater and far-reaching purpose for human sexuality. Sex can be the embodiment of all three of the Greek words for love—eros, philia and agape.
Sex has been designed by God to be the guiding force in preserving and perpetuating love between a husband and wife.
The modern argument that premarital sexual experimentation can lead to greater joys in marital sex is one of the greatest lies ever perpetrated by Satan the devil.
Such experimentation before marriage or in extramarital affairs can only destroy the purity of what God designed.
The honeymoon is not meant to be a time for experienced sexual professionals to practice. The honeymoon should be that joyful, timid, beautiful, shy, exciting period of time when two people who have begun to love one another begin their new life together—and should be their first joyful expression of sexual intimacy.
Sexual experience should be learned together—after the marriage ceremony. Why should anyone go out and learn it all in advance with a whole army of other people? Why create the possibility for sexual comparisons and vivid memories of unpleasant experiences?
The honeymoon should be the beginning of a new life together when a totally inexperienced couple begin to learn from experience through the human sexual relationship. In each other's arms, they will then spend the rest of their lives growing in philia, eras and most of all agape love.
One of life's greatest accomplishments is getting love, marriage and sex in the right order with the right person at the right time.
BEFORE YOU SAY 'I DO"
I now pronounce you husband and wife."
Those words are like music to the ears of couples anxious to begin life together as a new family. It is their big moment — one of the most important moments of their lives. They are now joined as husband and wife.
What leads people to this point? How do they prepare? What should we know in anticipation of that future time when marriage will come to us or our loved ones?
As we grow up we may move in and out of "love" abruptly.
We begin to notice the opposite sex. And the more we notice, the more care we give to our personal grooming and behavior — how we look, how we talk, the kind of impression we leave on others.
Puppy love and infatuation are common. Sometimes the person we "love" doesn't even know he or she is "loved." Once in a while we feel that we have finally found our "true love." When that involvement doesn't work we are crushed. But soon our romantic self has recuperated and is ready for another fling.
It seems that most people go through such stages in growing up. But marriage, the second most important step in one's life (making a commitment to God is first), is not for the immature. It is only for those who are physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and spiritually prepared.
Some let physical development be the only indicator of maturity. If a person has reached a certain age, some reason, he or she should be married. Others let physical attraction be the determining factor. Certainly there must be physical attraction, but what about a person's level of education? Is the thinking mature? There are lovebirds and kissing fish, but to be a proper partner in marriage takes mental maturity in addition to physical maturity.
Emotional people are beautiful—they feel deeply and express themselves effectively. But have they tempered their emotions—brought their emotions under control? If so, great. If not, it will be difficult for them to cope with the changes and adjustments necessary in marriage.
Then there are those who put too much emphasis on money. They seem to think they have to marry millionaires. This is unrealistic and wouldn't work anyway without all the other factors working.
But, then again, it does take adequate finances to run a family. How much do you earn? Do you have a regular job? Is it a career or only a temporary stop in the job market? Proverbs 24 tells us to prepare first, and then to build a home and family. So be sure that you are stable financially before assuming the responsibilities of marriage.
The most important factor in preparation for marriage is spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity on the part of both husband and wife is extremely important to the success of the marriage.
So it all begins with you! Prepare for your future with that special person by making sure you are mature physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and spiritually.
Dating is an art that is rapidly being lost in societies that have it as a practice. Many people are interested only in what they can get out of a date. A person should be concerned with how he or she may give the other person a nice time.
Dating is a discovery period. We all have ideas about what we want in a mate, and dating helps bring that image into clear focus. Dating widely at first helps a person to narrow the field.
Actually, the more individuals you date before settling on that special one, the better. You will observe good and not-so-good traits in those you date. You will gain a more realistic picture of your "dream girl" or "knight in shining armor."
Remember, though, that you should not view dating as merely a search for a husband or wife. Don't be in a hurry to get serious — with God's help, you will find the right mate at the right time — and keep in mind that your goal is to give to your date in friendship, genuine concern and good, clean recreation.
Seek Counsel Early
Marriage is a divine institution (Gen. 1:26-27, 2:18, 21-24), and we should make every effort to insure its success. One way is through proper mate selection. When you find yourself getting interested in a certain someone, it is good to get counsel (Prov. 11:14).
Talk to those who know you both, especially your parents and families. Your parents know you and your strengths and weaknesses. You should seek and consider carefully their advice concerning a potential mate.
Be aware that most of your friends and peers will be romantics and will see a mate in anyone you pick. This is not to say that friends who know you well are not a good source of counsel, but be sure they are being honest and constructive in their evaluations.
When seeking advice be sure to be open-minded. How often we all want to hear the answer we want from someone else! But to avoid marital problems later, it is wise now to maintain an open mind and honestly seek help. Be open about your feelings. Disclose your positive views as well as any apprehensions. Take off the proverbial rose-colored glasses and look objectively at the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.
Men (and marriage is for men, not boys), the major areas you should look for in women are compatibility and adaptability. Does a young lady easily follow your lead? Do you sense that she respects you? Are you able to lead her in every way (Eph. 5:22)?
Ask yourself: Do I really deeply care for her? Is she the most lovely person in the world to me? Her physical attraction and personality must make her tops in your book (verse 25). What about her intelligence and maturity? Would she make a good mother? Does she desire children?
Very importantly, what is her level of spirituality? Is she Godly? If pleasing God is the driving force in her life, chances are that she will apply God's marital laws, which are so necessary for success.
Women, consider how sensible the man you are planning on marrying is. If he makes poor decisions or is reckless in his habits (driving, drinking, taking care of his health), will you be able to respect him and submit to him (verse 24, I Pet. 3:1)? Does he ask for input from you before making decisions?
How caring is he about you? Does he show love and concern, not attempting to spoil your future with premarital sex and necking — I Cor. 6:18? Does he find you attractive and is he expressive to you in proper affection and words? Do you find him physically attractive?
Does he have a good job? Will he be a good provider for you? Or will lack of finances be a source of arguments? Even though you may wish to work after you're first married, when children come along, it is essential that the husband be able to provide. Will he make a good father? Does he like children? What views does he have about child rearing? Are they the same as yours? How can two walk together in any matter unless they agree (Amos 3:3)?
The Engagement Period
So, after much consideration you decide that you are right for each other. What now? Some have become engaged, set the date and merely notified the minister and their families. This doesn't show much respect for families or minister.
It is far better to counsel with a minister prior to engagement as well as prior to the actual marriage ceremony. Tell him about your interest in each other and that you would like to become engaged. This gives him the opportunity to help you by advising a longer waiting period or by mentioning certain difficulties he might have seen. He may want to know that these difficulties are now resolved.
Remember, engagement not only means a flashy ring on the third finger of your left hand, but carries with it a promise to marry. So before you make such an acceptance and formal announcement, be sure you are ready to marry!
After securing a minister's or counselor's advice, next call or see the parents of the bride-to-be. (Some may want to put this first, followed by counsel with a minister.) Ask the father for the daughter's hand. Many a father has felt bypassed, overlooked or neglected when this wasn't done, and it negatively influences future relationships in the family.
When both sets of parents are consulted, it makes them feel more involved and makes them more willing to help the couple. If distance is a problem, a phone call would be next best to asking in person. It produces more confidence in and a better relationship among everyone when parents, their children and prospective mates have met before the actual engagement. If that's not possible, meetings ought to take place during the engagement period.
Suppose your parents disapprove of your prospective mate. Take their comments to heart. You will need to seriously and intelligently decide what to do in such a situation. Ask what it would take for their approval.
Barring parental bigotry, parental views should be heavily weighed. To force them into acceptance is to ask for future in-law trouble as well as probable marital trouble for you, the couple (Prov. 18:19).
Engagement periods vary according to the couple. Some have short engagements, some longer. It is not advisable to wait longer than a year; closeness (and you should be drawing closer) for too long a time may lead to premarital sexual involvement.
It is during engagement that you should spend most of your free time together. This is the time when you begin to lose the "I" and "me" and "you" and become "we" and "us." Each must consider what's good for "us." This takes time and often compromise.
Housing, furniture, foods, entertainment, automobiles are other factors needing the input from both individuals involved. Most especially, discuss your hopes in life, family plans, finances, living quarters and general outlook for living together.
Of prime importance is the wedding day itself. When will it be? Where will it be? In setting the date, be sure to check with the minister you've asked to perform the marriage. Then check with parents and see if that date is all right with them, since, in many areas, the father of the bride traditionally bears much of the financial cost of the wedding. He is definitely to be considered for his input as to when it takes place.
The location of the wedding will depend largely on the bride. She will probably want to have it in her hometown. The proper hall will depend on the size of the wedding and whether there is to be a catered meal or only refreshments.
Here again, parents and minister should be consulted regarding the plans.
Once all the physical details — when, where, by whom — are worked out, invitations may be ordered. If the other planning can be done early, beautiful invitations may be ordered at fairly reasonable costs from various companies.
The Big Day
Finally, you are as prepared as possible for that special day. Double-check to make sure all is in readiness. Rehearse for the ceremony.
Before walking down that aisle be sure to consider the commitment you're about to make. Let us go over the words in the ceremony that God's Church uses.
The minister would ask the man: "Do you, then [groom], faithfully promise and covenant with God, in the presence of these witnesses, to take [the bride] to be your lawful wedded wife, and to cleave to her unto death — to love her, cherish her, honor her and provide for her?"
The minister would ask the woman: "And do you [bride], faithfully promise and covenant with God, in the presence of these witnesses, to take [the groom] to be your lawful wedded husband, for the remainder of your natural life, and as God has ordained, to submit yourself unto him as unto the Eternal, to be subject to him in everything and to respect him?"
When you say "I do" to these promises, you are committing yourselves to a lifetime together (Matt. 19:4-9).
Marriage was established by God at creation and pictures God's relationship with Israel (Isa. 54:5, Ezek. 16:8). It also depicts the spiritual relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:21-33, Rev. 19:7-9). So be sure you know what is involved when you say "I do" on your wedding day, and be sure you intend to live up to the responsibilities of this Godly institution.
With the words, "By the authority of Jesus Christ, I now pronounce you husband and wife," may you two become one and truly live happily ever after.
FIVE WAYS TO LOVE YOUR MATE
I top and think about it: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much love are you giving in your marriage?
Are you a 3? Maybe a 6? Perhaps a rare 10?
You know you have an IQ (intelligence quotient), but did you realize that (bear with me for the sake of argument) each husband and wife has an "LQ" (love quotient)?
God commands married couples to love one another and to increase their LQ! God inspired the apostle Paul to instruct, "Husbands, love your wives" (Eph. 5:25). Paul also taught that wives should "love their husbands" (Tit. 2:4).
God created marriage to be the most joyous, love-filled relationship. Unfortunately, many husbands and wives are not actively loving one another. Their LQ is dangerously low. They endure loveless marriages of misery.
God wants husbands and wives to be lovers. Here are five ways to show true love for your mate. The first two ways deal with the aspect of commitment in marriage—they will solidify your marriage and place it on a firm foundation. The last three ways deal with the pleasure phase of marriage—God wants your marriage to be filled with real, deep joy.
The first way to love your mate is with the love expressed by the Greek word agape. This is the word translated in I Corinthians 13 as "love" or, in the Authorized Version, "charity."
Agape means unconditional, unselfish giving. In marriage agape could be defined as a willful commitment to give to your imperfect mate without expecting to get in return. You consciously, under all circumstances, make a lifelong commitment to never stop giving to your mate.
God is the Rock from which agape flows. He is the source of the force that will give you the power to overcome all obstacles in your marriage. Your union must begin with God. The apostle John wrote, "And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (I John 1:3).
The joy of agape will be added to your marriage if you first fellowship with God through Bible study, prayer and obedience to God's commandments. You will gain access to agape through God's Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). God will be at the center of your marriage, giving it strength.
God plus husband plus wife equal one agape- filled marriage. This is the missing formula for success in so many marriages.
As you submit to God's laws concerning marriage and other human relationships, He will unleash the power of agape to you, which helps you to willfully choose to love your mate.
Society presents the false and damaging picture of love controlling you. In this false picture, love captures and enslaves you. You are a helpless "prisoner of love," unable to control your feelings. Have you heard married people say: "I cannot love him anymore—the feeling is gone"?
In truth, you choose to love or not to love. Agape is not a feeling, but a conscious and willful act you control.
God commands us to love one another because He knows we can control love (II John 5). Follow through on your decision to love your mate by committing yourself to give the love that "never fails" (I Cor. 13:8, New American Bible).
Commitment Produces Endurance
You should have promised in a covenant with God, on your wedding day, to love your mate unto death. Pray daily to God for the power to love your mate and to keep that commitment in your mind constantly. Determine to allow nothing or no one, including yourself, to stop you from loving your mate. Go to God and recommit yourself to loving your mate.
Since agape is a willful commitment to give, your will and commitment must be followed by action. You cannot get love—you can only give it. Regardless of how little you receive, you will always have love in your marriage because the quantity and quality of love is dependent on how much you give.
In an emergency you would not hesitate to sacrifice your life to save your mate. Are you willing to sacrifice your life daily by pushing aside your own needs and wants to satisfy those of your mate? Are you willing to put your mate's needs ahead of your own? When you are tired, do you get up. and serve instead of waiting to be served?
The apostle Paul admonished Christians: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Phil. 2:3-4).
Strive to reach the state where fulfilling your mate's needs becomes, next to your commitment to God, the predominant need of your life. Give and you will have agape.
You may be saying, "But my mate doesn't deserve special love." But agape motivates one to give to an imperfect person—yes, even to an undeserving person. Agape— unconditional, unselfish love—does not require the other person to change or be perfect. There are no conditions, no qualifications for the giving of agape.
Jesus Christ, the perfect husband and the only human who ever perfectly expressed agape, gave His life for us while we were yet sinners (Eph. 5:25, Rom. 5:8). Christ did not require us to change first—his love was unconditional.
We ought to follow Christ's perfect example of love. Demand of yourself to give to your mate even when you have been wronged. By giving in spite of your mate's shortcomings, you will feel more positive toward your spouse. Peter expressed the principle in I Peter 4:8: "Above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.'" Your unconditional love may cause a positive response in your mate, although this should never be the motive for giving (I Pet. 3:1-2).
Do not become disappointed. It is easy to become disillusioned after giving and giving without any response, not even a thank-you. Agape does not require love in return. Love does not give in order to get.
The apostle Paul taught that if we give with expectations of getting in return, our love is vain: "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (I Cor. 13:3).
Remove expectation and then love will fill your heart, leaving no room for disappointment. Jesus Christ taught that the joy is in the giving: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
And yet, at the same time, you can take heart from God's promise that if you faithfully and unselfishly give, you will eventually be rewarded: "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over... For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38).
Agape is the most powerful facet of love. Agape will carry your marriage through the most difficult trials.
Lovers Belong to Each Other
The second way to love your mate is with the love of belonging, which will bring you and your mate closer together. This love will add another point to your LQ and enrich your marriage.
God created marriage to be the closest human relationship. Yet, many married couples live together as strangers. A cold curtain of loneliness divides them as they go their separate ways.
What about your marriage? Do you live under the same roof, but as strangers to one another? God did not intend husbands and wives to live together like total strangers. He has a solution to your problem.
What is the love of belonging? This love is characterized by a bond of unity, companionship and loyal devotion. The love of belonging shines brightest in older couples. They act alike and think alike. They have become one. The love of belonging is not just for older couples, but for all couples.
God created man with the need to belong. God looked at all He had made and saw that "it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). But when God looked at Adam He saw something that was not good: "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him" (Gen. 2:18, Authorized Version).
Adam was lonely. God prescribed the love of belonging to cure Adam's problem. God gave Adam a woman, Eve, to love. Through giving, the first married couple could have grown to belong to one another.
This need to belong cannot be satisfied through any other person, whether mother, father, sister or brother— only through your mate: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (verse 24).
As with agape, you can only give the love of belonging to your mate.
Accept your mate the way your mate is, not the way you would like him or her to be. Your mate will not feel he or she belongs as long as he or she senses you are not satisfied with him or her.
Emphasize the positive things about your mate. Make a list of all the good things. Think back to the time when you were engaged and of all the qualities you admired. You might be surprised to find those same qualities in your spouse today. Constantly think on these good qualities. Look to find more admirable qualities. The love of belonging is making your mate feel accepted.
Learn to empathize with your mate. Push out your concerns and concentrate on the concerns of your mate. Seek total identification with your husband or wife—immerse yourself in your mate's concerns, feel your mate's hurts, experience his or her frustrations, sing your mate's joys.
Cleave to Each Other
The apostle Paul encourages us to bear—take upon ourselves—one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2). You will become an emotional refuge for your mate—a hiding place where your mate can find warmth and shelter from the storms of life. Both of you will have a home in each other's hearts. Your mate will have a place to belong, and the love of belonging will bring you closer together.
In Genesis 2:24, Authorized Version, God tells married couples to "cleave" to each other. The word cleave was translated from the Hebrew verb dabaq, which has the root meaning "to solder" or "to weld together."
The strongest welding technique is called brazing, two pieces of metal welded together under intense heat. The molecules of the two metals become inseparable.
God compares the trials of life to a fire (I Pet. 1:7). By cleaving to one another as you go through life's challenges you will become "one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Becoming one physically, mentally and spiritually should be the goal of every married couple.
In the Song of Solomon, the Shulamite bride expressed the love of belonging she shared with her mate when she said, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine" (Song of Sol. 6:3).
Agape love and the love of belonging are the two legs upon which your marriage stands. They are the foundations upon which the next three loves are built. Use these two loves to increase your LQ your love quotient— and make your marriage unshakable.
There are three additional ways to love your mate and increase your LQ. This phase of marriage could be called the pleasure phase. Let's look at these three ways.
Lovers Cherish Each Other
The Greek word phileo describes the love of cherishing.
This word is used in the New Testament to designate brotherly love, fondness, affection and cherishing. This is the third way to love your mate.
The apostle Paul clearly described phileo when he wrote, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another" (Rom. 12:10).
Cherish is the word we will use to describe phileo. Cherish means "to value highly, to hold in high esteem."
Physically, your mate should be the most valuable person in your life, and spiritually, the most valuable after God. You treat things of value with lots of attention and tender, loving care. If you do that with inanimate objects, shouldn't your mate receive even more cherishing?
As with all the forms of true love, you cannot get phileo. You receive love as you give love. You can cherish your mate—here is how.
Cherishing is sharing. In Romans 12:10 Paul described the love of cherishing as brotherly love. Brothers share. In biblical times married couples affectionately referred to each other as "sister" or "brother" (Song of Sol. 4:10, 8:1).
How much sharing do you do with your mate? Do you share more with friends than with your own wife or husband? Your whole life should be shared together in a pleasurable way.
Sharing is doing things together. Invite your mate to share a hobby. Together you could collect stamps, refinish old furniture, exercise or pursue any number of enjoyable hobbies and projects. The main objective is that you have fun while sharing together.
Sharing is communicating with your mate. Wives often complain, "My husband doesn't talk to me!" while husbands lament, "All she does is nag!" Such statements are signs that neither partner is communicating effectively.
Effective communication does not start with either listening or speaking. Surprised? Perhaps you thought it was all in listening and speaking. True communication, like true love, starts with giving—outgoing concern.
You must seek to understand (this is the give way) rather than to be understood (the get way). The emphasis should be placed on your giving. Seek to understand what your mate wants to share rather than to "get" your mate to understand you. This approach to communication will open many new opportunities for sharing.
Cherishing is touching. How often during the day do you touch your mate? Only at bedtime? Could you and your husband or wife be called the "untouchables"?
If this is the case, your marriage is missing a great deal of joy. Couples often touch too much when they are dating, but appear to be handcuffed after they marry. Lovers love to touch. It sends the message, "I love you." It tells your mate: "You are important to me. I cherish you." The lack of touching conveys the exact opposite meaning.
Reach out and touch your mate. Weave touching into the daily fabric of your life. Give your mate a warm hug in the morning. Sit close together at home or in the car. Reach over and lovingly hold hands. Think about times you can touch your mate; then touch to your mate's pleasure.
King Midas' touch supposedly turned everything to gold. In marriage the loving touch turns everything to love. Give your mate a touch and you will give phileo, the love of cherishing.
Lovers Are Romantic
Eros is the word used in Greek literature to describe romantic love. It is the love about which ballads and poems are written. Eros is the love that can light up your marriage and take it from boring, black-and-white silence to technicolor 3D, 50-mm excitement, in Dolby sound. Here, then, is the fourth major area in loving your mate.
You may be thinking, Romance is just a Hollywood production—surely God doesn't want us involved with that mushy stuff. Well, here's news for you—good news for your marriage. Eros—romance—is real.
God inspired a whole book of the Bible, the Song of Solomon, to describe the proper kind of romantic love in marriage.
The Bible also describes the love Jacob had for Rachel: "So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed but a few days to him because of the love he had for her" (Gen. 29:20). Only romantic love could make seven years seem like a few days. Jacob was euphoric—on cloud nine. He was high on eros.
Yes, romantic love is real, and you really need to give it to your mate.
In many cases, wives have little trouble understanding eros. Quite often, they are starving for romance. Husbands tend to ignore romance, and do not fulfill their wives' needs. Wives desire romance. Romance must come before sex.
God wants you to give the pleasure of romantic love to your mate. Are you a fighter or a lover? If you have not been giving romantic love, you probably have been fighting. Now is the time to become a lover, not a fighter.
There are important keys to developing romantic love: climate, imagination and surrender.
The climate in which romance is given is important. Eros is emotional and sensitive and requires a warm climate to flourish.
Project a warm, positive attitude toward your mate. Ask God to help you remove any negative feelings you may have had in the past (Eph. 4:31-32). You are making a new beginning in your relationship. Your giving of kindness will go a long way in producing a warm climate for romance.
Decor, a lover's grooming, is an important part of the romantic climate. Since eros is sensitive to sight and scent, your grooming or the lack of it can turn your mate on or off.
Be clean. If you want to get next to your mate, make sure you are tidy. Wives, keep your hair neat and pretty. Husbands, shave those whiskers. It is difficult to go cheek to cheek with a cactus. Exercise personal hygiene and also use a little cologne or perfume to spice things up.
Dress neatly, even around the house. Wives, dress as appealingly as possible for your husbands. Husbands, dress to please your wives. Find out what your mate likes to see you in; then aim to please.
The "look of love" produces a romantic climate. Solomon spoke of the power of romantic eye contact when he wrote, "You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes" (Song of Sol. 4:9, New American Standard Bible).
Couples who are in love look at one another often. It has been said that "the eye is the mirror of the soul." It is also true that the eye is the mirror of love. Create a romantic climate with your mate through eye contact. Look warmly into your mate's eyes when you talk. In public situations, occasionally look for your mate, catch his or her eye and smile or wink. You will be sending the message "I love you" from your eyes to your mate's heart.
Nothing warms the romantic climate like the giving of affection. Our generation has been stripped of its "natural affection" (II Tim. 3:3, Authorized Version). We have become cold and aloof, even in our marriages. Take your marriage out of the ice age by giving warm affection to your mate,
Kissing has always been a symbol of affection and warmth. You should make kissing the official form of greeting your mate.
A kiss in the morning is a pleasant way to start the day. Kisses through the day are an excellent way to sustain your mate's affection. Solomon's bride desired his kisses: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is better than wine" (Song of Sol. 1:2). As wine makes the heart merry, so do the kisses of romantic love.
Little things mean a lot. In no other area of marriage can so little mean so much as in romance. Have you stopped doing the little things? Now is the time to start anew. Romance is all in the mind! The imaginings of your mind can be a powerful tool in becoming more romantic toward your mate. Solomon said we are what we think (Prov. 23:7). If you think romantically you will act romantically.
Jesus Christ, of course, spoke of the sinful effects on the mind that lusting after a person who is not your mate will have (Matt. 5:28). But have you ever thought about the other side of this scripture? Usually for every good there is evil and for every evil there is good.
It is obviously wrong to have lustful thoughts about someone else's mate, but it is good to have thoughts of desire toward your own mate. God told Eve that her "desire" would be toward her husband, and the same applied to Adam (Gen. 3:16).
Solomon instructs us to use our minds in this way: "Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well.... As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love" (Prov. 5:15, 19). Even when your mate is out of sight, never let him or her be out of mind. Use your heart and imagination to create positive, pleasing thoughts about your mate (Phil. 4:8).
Think about your mate's attractive qualities. Hear his or her warm and reassuring voice. See that beautiful smile. Take mental stock of your mate's inner and outer beauty.
Proverbs 29:18, Authorized Version, says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." We can also say that where there is no vision, there is no romance.
Launch yourself into the future through your imagination. Think about how you will be romantic with your mate when you are together again. Visualize warm and thrilling romantic situations where you are actively giving love to your mate.
If you use your mind and imagination, your thoughts will reinforce your feelings and actions of romantic love.
Surrender is another key to developing romantic love. You must surrender and give this type of love to your mate.
We have seen that Eros —romantic love—is real, and the need for it to be revived in your marriage has been made clear. You have been equipped with the principles and applications of romantic love. Now it is up to you.
Do not grieve the spirit of eros. Do not withhold the romantic love your mate so desperately needs from you.
Add another point to your LQ. Surrender and let love flow!
Lovers Are Lovers
The fifth way to love your mate is with sexual love. How is your love life? God intended it to be pleasurable. You and your mate have the capability of reaching that high level of sexual enjoyment. Even if your sex life has been unfulfilling, you can change it for the better.
The place to start improving your sex life is with the application and giving of the other four loves. Sexual love has been placed last in this series of points because its success is dependent on the other areas. If you are to improve your sex life, first improve the rest of your marriage.
The prudish, Victorian approach to sex as being one of the necessary evils of life is wrong. The modern new morality is also wrong. To properly give sexual love to your mate, you need God's positive attitude toward sex.
God created sex, and He says that it is good in marriage (Gen. 1:27-28, 31).
God inspired Paul to write, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Heb. 13:4).
For "bed" Paul used the Greek word koite, which literally means cohabitation or coitus. The translators of the Authorized Version of the Bible were ashamed to use the word coitus, so they used bed, and the New King James Version perpetuates this translation.
But God is not ashamed of this beautiful act of love. Neither were Adam and Eve, before Satan got to them in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:25).
You have a God-given responsibility to give sexual love and satisfaction to your mate. God commands husbands and wives to satisfy one another's sexual needs: "Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband" (I Cor. 7:3, NASB).
Your body actually belongs to your mate, and your mate's body is yours (verse 4). With that authority comes the responsibility to take care of your mate's body as if it were your own (Eph. 5:28). Never abuse your mate's body. Handle it with tender, loving care. You should never refuse to give sexual love to your mate or use it as a weapon or for leverage (I Cor. 7:5).
What is your LQ? After studying these five ways to love your mate, your love quotient should be five points higher.
THE GREATEST GIFT YOU CAN GIVE YOUR CHILDREN
The birth of a child into a family is one of the greatest thrills of life. Young couples eagerly anticipate the day of arrival. Months of waiting and planning and dreaming and hoping culminate in the excitement of newborn life.
Most parents already have a lifetime of plans for their newborns. They may plan for their children to be successful doctors or prominent lawyers. Or plan a major league sports career for them. How many parents have already purchased, before the day of birth, a football, a piano, ice skates or a baseball glove?
Above all we want them to have good health and be happy with whatever they become.
Parenting Is a Full-time Job
In addition to their long-range goals, parents hope to give their children every material benefit possible. How many times have you heard parents say, "Our child will never have to go through the hard times we did"? Most children today grow up with better homes, do less work, have more clothing, more leisure time and more convenience items than any generation in history.
In order to provide this plethora of material goods, parents must spend countless hours on their jobs. Many fathers have taken a second job in order to provide necessities and luxuries of life. Many mothers work outside the home so the family can afford more and better things than would otherwise be possible.
It is a noble goal—to provide well for the family and to give the children opportunities. But in pursuit of material possessions, many parents have failed to give the most important gift of all.
Think about it. Proud parents bring new life into the world—tiny miniature reproductions of themselves. Your child will have your looks, your personality, many of your abilities and your temperament. Most parents want their children to grow up to be "chips off the old block."
But too many couples today quickly lose their newfound zeal in the early months of their child's life. They just let their children grow up—too often left in day-care centers or with baby-sitters—seldom influenced by their parents.
Then when these children become teenagers, the parents wonder why they can't communicate with them—why there is a generation gap. What they fail to realize is that this generation gap has existed from birth—there never was any real communication. The problems may not be manifest, however, until teenage.
From Birth to School Age
There is no more important time in life than the early years. Practically everything we will become is started and determined in those first few years of life.
It has been said we learn more from birth to age 1 than we will learn in any other one year of our lives. It seems hard to believe but researchers insist it is true.
And we continue to learn in those early years—at astounding rates. Little children are taking in everything— learning to walk, talk and think. They are forming personality and character traits. How do they learn during these early years?
Everything you do—or don't do—is being taken in. Your children will learn to speak with the same accent, voice tones and vocabulary as you do. They will take on your personality traits and good habits. They probably will develop similar tastes in food, entertainment and art.
That is, if you are around to influence your children.
Of course, if parents are not around, their children will pick up mannerisms, personalities and tastes of others. That might not always be desirable.
If you shuffle them off to the day-care centers or leave them with the baby-sitters or leave them alone with the television set blaring from dawn to midnight, they'll be taking in quite a different perspective than you intend.
The Best Laid Plans
Far too often, though new parents start out with the best of intentions, they quickly return to a previously established routine.
Long hours of work and fighting the traffic may not make for the best parental attitude at the end of a tiring day. Dad may say, "Honey, get a babysitter and let's go out to dinner; I'm exhausted."
When the weekend rolls around, the old routine of golf, tennis, fishing, bowling or whatever recreation parents have participated in, beckons.
Dad may think he'll play ball with his son when he is older. But family habits usually are set in concrete and later hard to change. A youngster seeing Dad go off with others the first several years is not suddenly going to want to start playing ball with Dad when he's 12 or so.
If, on the other hand, parents have played with their children on the living room floor when they were 3 months old, then in the backyard when they were toddlers, taught them to ride bikes at age 4, played tag in the park when they were 8, then when they are teenagers, they'll still be playing games together.
Being together serves another great purpose. It allows for teaching by example. There is no greater way to influence how your child will turn out than by the example you set.
You've all heard the old adage too many parents still live by: "Do what I say, not what I do." Surely we know that doesn't work.
Parents who lament a child starting to smoke in junior high school have no recourse if they've continued to smoke themselves.
The father who brags about how he cheated the government out of taxes due cannot expect his son to grow up an honest, law-abiding citizen. These parents have already lost the battle. Their examples speak louder than their words. In some cases, our examples counteract our words.
There have been some alarming social trends in recent years. There are increasing numbers of alcoholic parents and parents who are abusive to their children. After analyzing hundreds of problems, psychologists have found in a large percentage of those cases where parents were abusive to children, they were themselves abused.
Similar statistics apply to alcoholism. Adults who become alcoholic are often a product of a home where alcohol was abused.
If you are a parent, you have a tremendous responsibility to set the proper example in your home. But in order to set an example you have to be there.
The objective is to have a positive effect. Homes that are filled with love and sharing will produce children who love and share. And when they grow up to become parents themselves, the same joys and happiness will usually be present in their homes.
Qualifications for Parenting
What are the qualifications of a parent? What kind of skills are required for the most important responsibility anyone can ever take—to become a mother or father? What kind of schooling is mandatory for having a baby? And what certificate is issued to demonstrate proficiency in parenting?
To become a parent all you have to do is reach the age of puberty.
I'm sure we will all admit such a person is by no means qualified to become a parent in his or her early teens. But it is biologically possible. The question, then, is, when is one qualified to become a PROPER parent?
Obtaining an education, gaining skills for a profession, growing in maturity to face the responsibilities that accompany parenthood ought to be required. But who can enforce the requirements? There are no legislative or judicial bodies to make laws and enforce them.
So young people grow up in whatever environment their own parents have created for them. They learn by example what parenting is all about. And the result is the society in which you live.
The Biblical Examples
From the pages of the Bible we learn it was much the same in the society of ancient Israel. In that nation there was a priest who served well in God's service. His name was Eli. But Eli was not effective in child rearing. Of his children, God says, "Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord" (I Sam. 2:12).
It was a responsibility of the priests to offer sacrifices for the people. The sons of Eli abused the sacrificial ceremony. "Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord: for men abhorred the offering of the Lord" (verse 17).
In addition, the sons of Eli were sexually immoral. They brought great disrespect upon their father and the way of God. It was a shame these young men could not continue in the footsteps of their father as they should have.
But Eli made the tragic mistake so many parents do. He did not properly rear his children and train them. He was too busy—even in the service of God. The results were disastrous.
God then selected Samuel to follow Eli in priestly service.
Surely, you would think Samuel would have learned the lesson from Eli how to become a proper father and rear respectful children. But alas, the sad story was repeated.
Samuel married and had a family. It was normal for him to desire his sons to follow in his steps as priests and judges in Israel.
The story is told in I Samuel 8: "And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of the firstborn was Joel; and the name of the second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba" (verses 1-2).
But as Eli before him, Samuel did not influence and teach them by his good example. The result?
"And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre [money], and took bribes, and perverted judgment" (verse 3).
The reputation of the sons of Samuel was so bad in the community that the people demanded a change in government. What a tragedy!
Let these examples serve you well if you are parents or plan to be parents.
What Is That Gift?
What is then the nearest thing to the magic formula of child rearing?
Be prepared. The answer may surprise you. I promise it will not cost any money. And it will not be complicated. The most important gift you will ever give your child is—YOUR TIME! If you can't take the time to be a parent, don't become one.
Parents who take the time to rear children properly will receive no greater thrills, joys and rewards in this life. But, if they don't apply the right principles and don't take the proper time, there are no greater sorrows and disappointments than improperly reared children.
If you are a parent, you are a constant living example to your children. They are learning every minute of every day how to be and how not to be. They will see your positive examples—they will also see your negative examples.
If your children see you fight, scream and have disrespect for one another, they will think that's the way husbands and wives are. After all, it's all they've ever seen.
Newborn babies don't have instinct. Animals do. A newborn calf or colt knows right where to go for dinner. It will be up and walking within minutes because instinct has been built into its mind.
Everything human babies learn must be taught. By word. By example. They learn the meaning of love, caring, concern, warmth. They learn how to smile, giggle, laugh and cry. They can also learn anger, hostility, disrespect.
They are constantly learning.
There is no better way for them to learn how to be the right kind of parent themselves than by the proper examples you set for them. But, you have to spend time with them to teach by example.
You Only Have One Chance
If you have small children, spend all the time you can with them, showing them positive examples of the right way to live. The years will quickly go by. Children who are toddlers today, tomorrow will be graduating from high school. The first thing you know, you will be concerned about college and marriage. And you'll wonder where the years went.
How many families have had to learn that working long hours, advancing in position or earning more money can produce one of the least desirable fruits of all—the loss of one's own children?
So what if parents become prominent surgeons, successful attorneys, respected professors or corporation presidents? If, along the way they lose their children, maybe their marriage and perhaps their health, what has been gained?
We all desire to work hard and obtain the best for our children. But if reaching the top of the corporate ladder means sacrificing children and family, it just isn't worth it.
There are no magic formulas. And successful child rearing will require old-fashioned hard work. But if you want to know the greatest gift you can ever give your child, it is your time. Begin now to give that precious gift to your children.
STRONG FAMILY TIES
Seldom do families get together anymore. We live in such a hectic society.
We have little time for dinner with the grandparents or for a family reunion. And because we haven't taken the time, the glue that holds families together doesn't hold firm. It's time to revive some old-fashioned values and build more permanent family ties. It might just save your family.
Dinner at Grandma's
Let's take for example an old American custom to gather the whole family every Sunday afternoon for fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh cooked garden peas and, best of all, three different kinds of homemade pie. If you ever had such wonderful dinners in your family, you can almost taste the delicious meals still. And who could ever forget the fun of games afterward with all the children in the neighborhood joining in?
And remember those lazy Sunday afternoons in the summer when you sat in the shade of the old oak tree watching cloud formations float by? Or do you remember playing outside with your cousins while your parents sat and talked for hours?
If that had been part of your life you cannot forget it.
But why is it gone today? Doesn't anyone care anymore? And why can't you start or reinstate such family get-together customs now?
Well, you can.
Of course, if the grandparents live hundreds or thousands of miles away, you can't have Sunday dinner together frequently. But if they are nearby, you can certainly make it a fairly regular practice. Even if they are a great distance away, all is not lost.
Those Wonderful Family Reunions
Another great old-fashioned tradition used to be getting the family together once a year or every other year—the whole family: brothers and sisters and all the cousins. There is nothing like it.
We, in the Western democracies, live in very mobile societies. In the United States a family now moves on the average of once every five years. Often these moves are hundreds or sometimes thousands of miles. When such moves happen the children may grow up without any real sense of stability.
The result of this separating has created a whole generation who don't know "who they are." When you grow up under the influence of your parents and your grandparents, there is little doubt of who you are. If you have a quick temper as your grandfather did, you'll know it if you saw him yell at the cow when she kicked over the pail. If you have a fine voice for singing, you well may have inherited it from your grandmother. If you heard her singing lullabies, you will know for sure where you got your voice.
Many have become more aware of their heritage as a result of the Alex Haley book and television series, Roots. It has made many want to search out their backgrounds and ancestry. Mr. Haley created a need to find out who we are and where we came from.
This knowledge of family heritage is sadly missing in so many families today. Grandpa may have been forced into early retirement while he still had years of productivity left in him. Perhaps he died prematurely from the lack of purpose and inactivity. Like as not grandma was put into a rest home to rock away her final years of life in boredom, What a tragedy! And all the time they could have helped so much.
Don't let the opportunity for your children to know and love their grandparents go by. Plan a family reunion as soon as it is practical. If the grandparents are not living, make it a practice to visit the cemetery where they are buried. Tell the children stories about their grandparents and the "good old days." You'll be surprised at the greater sense of identity it gives them.
Traditions and Nontraditions
Instead of positive traditions, do you know what many families in today's society have? Nontraditions. What are nontraditions? Let me give you an example—the typical Western breakfast in the U.S.
Years ago when societies were mainly agrarian, breakfast was quite an affair. The entire family sat around the table. Mom prepared a hearty meal of cooked cereal, toast from homemade bread, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs and meat of some kind. Dad outlined the day's chores. That was a tradition.
A nontradition is quite the opposite. Today, dad probably grouches his way through the morning preparing to fight the traffic jams. He may or may not bolt down a cup of coffee and a piece of toast. Where's mom? She may have a job of her own and hurries through the blow dryer and hair curlers to be ready for her ride to work.
And the children? Left to themselves, they take the easy way out and gobble down a bowl of presweetened cold cereal.
That's breakfast. That's what we mean by a nontradition. Nothing of lasting value comes out of this life-style. There is nothing here to pass on to the next generation. No positive family relationships are built.
The chances of the dinner hour having any greater family value are between slim and none. The major difference in the evening, compared to breakfast time, is the blaring of the television—that greatest of all conversation destroyers. Staring at production-line situation comedies or old movies while eating a pop-in-the-oven prepared meal, the average family spends little time getting acquainted with each other, much less with the grandparents and the cousins.
That's hardly the kind of bonds that build strong family ties.
Some of the strongest bonds in many families are passed on from generation to generation as a result of cultural heritages from the land of their ancestry. Those customs often retain cultural tastes in food, dress, dance and even in professions.
One custom is particularly striking to anyone spending time in the biblical city of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is a city of apartments. On Friday afternoon businesses start closing shortly after noon as most Jews in the city make Sabbath preparations.
A beautiful custom starts the Sabbath each week. About 20 minutes before sundown, candles are lighted in nearly every home. It's quite a sight. All over Jerusalem through the windows you see the flickering lights of candles on dining room tables. The family gathers around for dinner and often engage in another Jewish family tradition-singing Sabbath hymns.
These traditions have been perpetuated through many centuries and serve not only to bind families together, but bind an entire people to an ancient heritage and to their God.
Learning a Trade
Another passing on of custom can be that of a trade or profession. Throughout most of history, children learned the trade of their fathers that had in turn been learned from their fathers. Because many modern societies have given up such practices altogether, crafts that have endured for centuries are being lost.
Even if a youngster does not wish to follow in his father's footsteps, if a trade, craft or profession has been learned, he will have something to fall back on.
It's amazing today how few boys do—or know how to do—any household jobs, paint or mend things, change the oil or tune up the car. Only a small number of girls know how to sew, quilt or even cook for that matter. You see, in order to learn many of these skills, you have to spend time with your father or mother or with grandparents.
Since most of us are not living on a farm, we may not know how to plant, cultivate, harvest, can (bottle) or freeze vegetables and fruits. Even if many families wanted to have a vegetable garden, they wouldn't know how to. Yet many middle-aged parents have known how to plant a garden—and almost every grandparent had one; probably grew up on a farm or in the country. Why haven't we passed on these fun and useful skills?
If you have not learned any skills that should have been perpetuated in your family, why not take a little time to backtrack and learn from your father or mother in order to pass them on to your son or daughter?
It's Up to You
Whether you have realized it or not, there are really only two courses of action to take. Either build meaningful and lasting traditions in your family, or drift into "nontraditions" that will cause your family to split further and further apart one from another.
Why not sit down this evening and talk over what kind of relationships will best benefit your family? Get out the old picture album. Recall granddad and grandma—even your great grandparents. Maybe you'll bring up some long lost part of your family past that your children have never even heard before.
Then talk about what kind of new customs you would like to incorporate into your family.
Obviously not every family will find skiing the most practical way to spend their annual vacation. But some of the most meaningful family experiences can be worked around a vacation. Perhaps visiting national parks, or taking up camping, fishing or other outdoor activities, will be something your family can enjoy.
One of the best ways to spend vacation time is to hold regular family reunions such as have been mentioned in this chapter.
So whether you decide on special vacation trips, outdoor camp-outs, Friday night or Sunday afternoon dinners, or nothing more than a quiet afternoon in your own backyard, make up your mind to build strong family bonds. You'll always be glad you did. Someday your grandchildren will thank you for establishing family bonds that will be passed on to their children and to generations yet to come.
THE CHANGING YEARS... PREPARE NOW!
Those of you who are women face far more today than was expected of your mothers and grandmothers. Not only must you be an up-to-date homemaker, wife and mother, you must also cope with the mounting pressures of financial responsibility and keep up with knowledge of a rapidly changing world.
Yet when you reach those middle years of life, the same physical, hormonal, mental and emotional changes will go on just as women have experienced for thousands of years. For many, it's a devastating combination. Some have hoped, even thought, today's active, fulfilled women aren't supposed to experience irrational anxieties. It seems so out of style.
Instead of looking at this stage of life as a time of reassessment—a time to grow and develop some of those interests put aside in earlier years—some look into their mirrors one day and see a vaguely familiar face and a figure they don't like very well.
There is a noticeable tint of gray in the hair. There are wrinkles in the corners of the eyes. A few pounds of extra weight. A listless feeling, frequent depressions, occasional hot flashes and night sweats and their nerves are frayed.
It all adds up to the "change of life"—menopause as it is more technically called. There is in the life of every God-designed woman that time when the body will no longer bear children. A physical and emotional change is under way. For too many it becomes a crisis.
Battling Fluctuating Hormones
Women entering the middle years, whether they admit it or not, have the battle of fluctuating hormones to fight. Many find it hardly a skirmish. But for some, it's an all-out war. It's up to you whether you will enter the battle prepared and armed or whether you will face this challenge unprepared both physically and mentally.
It is an important time in life. The happiness of the remaining one third of your life is at stake. How to pass through menopause and plan for the future is often one of the most overlooked and least considered times of life. Everyone has to realize the middle years are very real. Perhaps you have heard the story of the male who believed this sort of change was all mental and psychological.
One night he and his wife were guests for dinner. As they all sat by the fireplace after the meal, the subject of menopause came up. There followed quite a discussion on whether the change of life was hormonal and physical or just in one's head.
After some time, the guest's wife finally presented the best case to convince him he was wrong. She said to him, "Honey, please don't make it so I have to go through terrible turmoil during menopause just to prove you are wrong."
The man had also thought morning sickness during the early stages of pregnancy was just in the head.
Education, the First Step
Knowledge is one of the most important ingredients to any phase of life—but perhaps more important at menopause than any other.
Menopause has been described as adolescence in reverse. A young woman enters into puberty at about age 12 or 13. That is an exciting time of life—and it's important parents educate their children about this new phase.
A girl matures into a young woman and her body begins its preparations to make motherhood possible. During the next four decades the fallopian tubes will release more than 400 ova. In those years marriage will usually take place in the early 20s. Many families will have children. Conception can occur on a monthly basis. During a month when conception does not occur, the unfertilized egg does not become attached to the uterus and the menstrual period results.
But usually in the mid to late 40s, this all begins to change. The childbearing years over, God designed the body to cease the possibilities of conception. But not suddenly. This marvelous change usually takes a few years.
Ancient and superstitious societies believed something was wrong. Some thought a woman's hair turns white during menopause. Many times women were suspected of losing their mental facilities. What a tragedy. Generations of women have lived with untruths and unneeded fears because of improper knowledge.
Menopause is a natural and normal part of the life's processes. About 85 percent of women will pass through the change in life with relatively minor symptoms of discomfort. The remaining 15 percent may experience greater difficulty, but can seek proper medical help and guidance to proceed through the few years menopause may take.
An Understanding Husband
Menopause is not something to fear. It is a passing stage of life that may offer some discomfort and concern. But it will pass. Women can find the remaining years some of the most personally rewarding, gratifying and joyful years of their lives.
For married women going through the menopause, an understanding husband can be one of the best helps of all. Many men simply are not educated concerning the importance of this time in a woman's life, and do not offer proper support. Many men have not taken the time to understand their wives in this sometimes crucial phase of life. Perhaps more than at any other time in the marriage, a woman during menopause requires love, attention, appreciation and UNDERSTANDING. Without a doubt there is a hormonal change taking place. To a lesser or greater degree there will be changing emotional reactions, depression, hot flashes and lack of energy.
Husbands must never let this time in life lead to casting a wandering eye toward another woman or lead to neglect. It is a time for husbands and wives to spend even more time together. It is a time for a husband to reassure his wife she is even more beautiful than ever.
Remember you are both growing older together. And if the wife has a few gray hairs, some wrinkles in the brow and has gained a pound or two, so probably has the husband.
So in addition to education, the love, support and encouragement of a husband, children and friends are vital ingredients to help a woman through this changing time of life.
What to Expect
Most women can expect menopause to begin in the late 40s. The average age is 47. Research has shown heredity is a strong factor—a daughter can anticipate beginning menopause at about the same age her mother did.
At the onset of menopause the menstrual cycle may change slightly. Monthly periods will perhaps not be as regular as before. The number of days of menstrual flow may change, over a period of years decreasing in days till finally the process stops entirely. As menstruation slows down, the woman's body will usually produce fewer hormones.
This, along with other adjustments, stresses and strains of the middle years, may produce increased nervousness and feelings of depression (often for no apparent reason). There may also be weight gain without additional food intake and at times an inability to sleep as well as usual. Sometimes there will be a tingling feeling in the hands and feet. And there may be occasional itching and a feeling of heat in certain portions of the body—most people call these "hot flashes."
These conditions should be no cause for alarm. They are brought about by irregular contraction and expansion of many blood vessels in the body. These irregularities, too, will pass in time.
Most women will experience a noticeable decrease in energy. The energy level may drop by as much as one third at this time of life. Some women who have maintained a hectic schedule, whirred through the housework and were always ready to go at a moment's notice, simply may not be able to maintain that pace.
This does not mean the home should be filled with statements like: "Vacuum the house, Suzie, Mommy's very tired. She's in that time of life, you know." Yes, Mother may well appreciate a little extra help around the house, but she doesn't need those sideswiping comments.
If there are still children at home, they should certainly do their fair share of keeping the house clean and other normal household duties. (Fact is, they ought to have been doing that all along.)
And it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world if the husband picked up some of the duties of the home and together they would do the dishes once in a while. He can vacuum the upstairs or prepare an occasional meal.
And if the family had not been able to afford it before, but can now, hire domestic help to clean the home once or twice a month.
Most of all, you can be sure menopause is a passing phase of life. It will end, but it may last a few years. There may be some discomfort. A few women will have more severe than normal symptoms. But it will come to an end.
The good news is that the best years of one's life can be just around the corner.
What to Do
Once again, education or knowledge is most important. Read books and articles on the subject of menopause. Understand the variety of possible symptoms. Your family doctor can often be helpful in giving advice and, when necessary, recommendations on what to do. Then face that wonderful changing time of life positively.
Dr. Marion Hilliard in her book A Woman Doctor Looks at Love and Life describes her reaction to women patients who come to her office with the whispered statement, "Doctor, I think I'm in the change." Dr. Hilliard whoops with delight, "The change! Well, you're in for an interesting time. I can promise you that the best years of your life are ahead of you."
I'm sure most of her patients are momentarily shocked beyond belief. Somehow, many think menopause is an illness to be treated by drugs and even hospitalization. While that might be recommended in the few cases of extreme difficulty, it is not what a majority of women need.
Another important consideration in successfully enjoying the changing years is nutrition and diet. (Not that this should not be an important consideration throughout one's life.) Because of all the chemical and emotional changes being made, a woman must eat a balanced diet and maintain proper nutrition.
Wisdom and balance in this area are essential. Most doctors know that chancy and excessive hormonal drugs are not the answer. Yet many women automatically assume estrogen replacement is the thing to do. More often, it is not the thing to do. Why chance chemical side effects that could shorten your life to escape a few years of discomfort?
There really is no aid, natural or chemical, to combat growing older. We all will go through the aging process marking the various stages of life as they come. When we were younger we could disregard (but shouldn't have) the laws of good health and not suffer immediate repercussions. But during these middle and later years of life our bad habits take noticeable toll.
As we grow older and often less active, our metabolic rates begin to change. We can gain weight on the same diet that formerly left us trimmer. Muscles begin to lose their tone and body alignment is affected. Many suffer resultant back pain. A common complaint of many women in the menopausal years is the loss of calcium and a condition of bone loss called osteoporosis. At this stage in life regular exercise is vital. Coupled with proper calcium intake, the only known way to stimulate bone growth is exercise.
Here's where husbands can again be of help. Begin an exercise plan by taking long walks together three or four times a week. Start with a half mile and work up to four or five miles. Almost everyone can exercise in this manner, and the talks you share while walking can strengthen your marriage as well.
In addition to physical symptoms and the ability to take care of those physical aspects of menopause, it is most urgent we understand the emotional changes that will also occur. Fluctuating feelings of depression and irritability are not symptoms of encroaching mental illness. They simply, to one degree or another, are emotions one must cope with at this time of life.
There will be good days and there will be bad days. There will be times a woman will forget even her best friend's name. She will notice extreme fluctuations in her feelings of anger and love. While hormonal imbalance plays a significant role in the emotional makeup, outside factors can also play a part. A woman overly subjected to stress is much more likely to have fluctuating emotions than a woman who lives and works in an environment of love and understanding.
This brings us to the conclusion of the matter. Every woman must accept that she will enter into and pass through menopause. It is not a sickness or disease, but a normal, to-be-anticipated time of life.
It is a time when a husband must offer more love, understanding and time to his wife than ever before. Children, relatives and friends must also pitch in to create a stable and loving environment.
Then, it is a time to look forward to about one third of a life span of accomplishment and joy.
If you have entered or are about to enter menopause, relax. You are going to go through some changes, yes. You will on some days be hard to live with. You will have some bad days. But they will get fewer and further between. One day they will stop.
Stay active and busy. Maintain a good exercise program. Eat a wholesome and balanced diet.
Then you may find, as one woman wrote, "The change begins at age 45 but, believe me, life begins at 50!"
Chapter One: Original text by Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986),
© 1985 Worldwide Church of God;
Chapter Two: Text by Ronald D. Kelly;
© 1984 Worldwide Church of God;
Chapter Three: Text by Gary Antion;
© 1982 Worldwide Church of God;
Chapter Four: Text by Earl H. Williams;
© 1983 Worldwide Church of God;
Chapter Five: Text by Ronald D. Kelly;
© 1983 Worldwide Church of God;
Chapter Six: Text by Ronald D. Kelly;
© 1983 Worldwide Church of God;
Chapter Seven: Text by Ronald D. Kelly;
© 1985 Worldwide Church of God
All rights reserved Printed in U.S.A.