I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart (Ps.101:2b)
It is very easy as a relaxed spouse and parent to take all we have for granted, but that’s not a good idea. Why? It can all be gone, with one foolish mistake.
I’ve come to the conclusion that most foolish mistakes of the serious kind, don’t just happen. They slowly creep up on us, because we are too proud or stubborn (or both), to see the moral snake in the grass approaching, ready to bite. It might not even be distant from us; it might be within our own heart.
The integrity of the home and family is of immense significance to all of us, and it most certainly doesn’t arrive by accident, but by years of steady progress, and line upon line work.
And these are immensely rewarding. This morning I went with one of our adult sons to our local fruit and vegetable shop, and stocked up for the week. We came home via our married son’s home, dropped off some things there and looked at some timberwork he’d completed.
When we got home we unloaded everything. Sue had been busy in our absence and been preparing bread and muffins, of which she made two dozen. We began attending to the usual Saturday domestic tasks, and then settled down to coffee and muffins, then I went back to dishes and cleaning floors. Sue left at 11am to drive for an hour to have lunch with a friend, and I continued in the kitchen with some food preparation for the evening, and cutting up tomatoes I’d bought, to make 3 bottles of tomato chutney.
Later in the day I prepared a chicken ready for the evening meal, that Sue had cooked in the morning. Then I prepared some vegetables and fruit, and started to write this. Later, Sue got home, got our Christmas holiday plans sorted out, and prepared to book them over the internet. Two sons went off and changed a car’s oil, and later one of them teamed with me to get the grass cut.
Is there anything brilliant about this? Yes, and no.
All of this is very ordinary and plain, but so much of life is just that. The consistent stringing together of decades of plain and ordinary events, which by themselves seem to mean little. But taken in their totality, they actually amount to a great deal. They say something about what we believe, and why.
These are joyful opportunities for work, conversation and family life, together. And they validate and lead to a Christian testimony of faithfulness, which is of great importance.
I’ve got a 61 year old friend who recently separated and divorced. He had a lot to say about her, as you’d expect from a hurt and disillusioned man. An acrimonious divorce, estranged from one of his sons from his previous marriage, unable to see the grandchildren, and now there is the house to sell, and money to be divided. Won’t that just be fun?
It was his second marriage, and lasted 13 years; her third. My youngest son and I helped him move out, and when we’d gotten his stuff to his new place, we sat with him to have something to eat -we’d brought our own. And when we left, we knew he’d be there, alone.
No one to come home to in the evening, no one there when he leaves in the morning, and anything that gets done, he has to do.
The division of labour? Finished. God had said at the beginning that “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Gen.2:18). Well, forget that now.
Well, not so fast. He’s already looking on the internet, and found someone, overseas.
But now he’s had some health problems, and if something happened to him in the night, who’d know?
Bob Dylan sang this, in 1969:
I once held her in my arms
She said she would always stay
But I was cruel
I treated her like a fool
I threw it all away
Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand
And rivers that ran through every day
I must have been mad
I never knew what I had
Until I threw it all away
Love is all there is, it makes the world go ’round
Love and only love, it can’t be denied
No matter what you think about it
You just won’t be able to do without it
Take a tip from one who’s tried
So if you find someone that gives you all of her love
Take it to your heart, don’t let it stray
For one thing that’s certain
You will surely be a-hurtin’
If you throw it all away.
Keeping it all together, when there is someone or something tempting you to throw it all away, can be a massive challenge. The life led that is faithful to God and others may seem to be a very boring life, but it really does yield fruit; for yourself, and for others.
And by the way: what’s the other kind of life really like? Dylan was right: You will surely be a-hurtin’.
And let’s face it: every temptation is a challenge God permits, and He’ll hold us to account for our response. Don’t fail the test.