“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, ESV)
The Order of the Family
I used to think people romanticized parenting because it was so hard. That may be the case at times but I can testify to at least four months worth that it can bring all the joy that people say it does. I am sure as Liam gets older and more able to rebel and disobey that my thoughts on this topic will mature, but at this point, it is difficult to overstate how deeply he has impacted our lives for good. I cry regularly just looking at him and thinking of how innocent and helpless he is and the weight of responsibility God has placed on his mother and me.
Yet even long before Kayla and I met, when I counseled couples before I performed their marriage ceremonies I would tell them, “One day if God blesses you with children, don’t let your relationship to them become more important than your relationship with each other.” Sometimes this surprises people, but I did not need marriage or parenting experience to believe this. I felt the Bible was authoritative enough and it always struck me how God created marriage first. And even more significantly, it profoundly impacted me how Genesis explains that marriage is two people becoming one. There are levels and levels of application to that, that I will not get into today for reasons of time and space, but suffice it to say, there is no other human relationship that God ordained to be that intimate, that close, that inseparable.
And for that reason, I maintain that even though I love my son so much that I would be willing to die for him, he is not the most important human relationship I have. It is, and always will be, Kayla. No matter how many children we have. Jesus taught that he must be the most important relationship or else you are not worthy to follow him. But as far as humans who are not deity, spouses should trump all others.
Grace, Nuance, Balance
We at Rambling Ever On are adamant that we approach every topic, especially serious areas like theology, with grace, nuance and balance. I rarely write about anything where I have not had my thoughts challenged or debated or in many cases where I have not changed my mind about things. In lieu of that, I want to offer some disclaimers to my thesis.
First, I realize that children take time and energy and I would never advocate neglecting them to focus on marriage. How this idea plays out in real life is not going to be nice and neat. As easy as it is to try to make relationships into a simple and convenient ranking system–God is first, then my wife, then Liam, then my church, etc—relationships and humanity are too messy. At 3:20 AM when Liam is crying because he is hungry, he comes first. My point, however, is that theologically and practically Kayla should be my most crucial relationship.
Secondly, while I believe God established an order for the home that is ideal, I also recognize that there are a legion of Christian single parents out there who are bringing God glory by raising children—both their biological and adopted children—on their own. I am not attempting to force the title of my article into their complex worlds.
Lastly, as I often say, I am not writing this out of a place of expertise. I knew before Liam was born that I wanted to try to live this idea out: that even when he was a newborn that I wanted to communicate to Kayla regularly that she is still most important. Often, I have failed. It is very easy to woefully underestimate how much sacrifice comes with a baby, and while I believe if I manage my time and energy well, I can still give both of them my all, there have been many times these last 130 days that I have not. I am not being modest or self-deprecating. There are never excuses for not loving your spouse more than you love yourself, but as Kayla and I deal with moving and trying to transition and dealing with private family concerns, all on top of adjusting to the ever-changing habits of a baby, I have found it easy to snipe at my wife more often and forget that love is patient and kind. I am not writing this today from on high. I am writing it to hold myself accountable as much as anything. I am extremely grateful to God every day that my wife is the meekest, most forgiving person I’ve ever met. She can be bold when she needs to be, but when we have conflict, she is extremely quick to show me grace. If she wasn’t, our marriage would not be secure enough to raise Liam well.
This Truth Is Everywhere
Years ago I heard a professional Christian counselor talk about the dangers of making a home “child-centric”. I listened carefully to what she was saying because I wanted to be a parent one day. There was a lot of wisdom in her words, both biblically and practically. Years later I saw an article going around social media by a non-Christian family counselor that taught the same thing, that the marriage must come first. I marvel at how God has used a wide variety of sources to teach me the truth of how my wife is my most important relationship. But it really all goes back to Genesis 2. The Bible develops this theology more in subsequent books, but the way God explains marriage in the very first passage that introduces marriage is enough for me.
And so as my wife and I celebrate four years of two becoming one, I advocate strongly to our readership at REO to consider the same. Whether you are married or want to be, this theology is important. Parenting is one of the bedrocks of a God-honoring society. Yet I think marriage matters more. And so my wife is my most important human relationship.
Photo Credit: Rachel Kreid Photography