Today is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada. Members of our congregation will be gathering at church this evening for a big Thanksgiving meal, joined by relatives of some members who have come from a distance, and some of our neighbours. There will be lots of visiting and a time for singing and testimonies after the meal.
What do we have to be thankful for? Last Saturday my wife and I drove to a town 300 km south of here to take part in the celebration of the 60th wedding anniversary of one of my cousins and his wife. Their children got together in thankfulness to plan an informal gathering to honour them, and many friends, neighbours and relatives came to offer their congratulations. Homes such as this are the building blocks of a stable community. What does the instability of so many homes today mean for the future of our society?
On the way home, we stopped at a Tim Horton’s in Moose Jaw where Chris’s sister Rose and her husband Butch joined us for an hour long visit. These two ladies are the only members of a family of six who are still married to their original spouses. I suppose Butch and I could take a little bit of credit for that, but not much.
Chris was 17 when we got married. Rose was 15 when she and Butch were married. An unbiased onlooker at that time probably would not have thought of Butch and I as promising material for a long-lasting relationship. Nevertheless, here we are, forty some years later, still happily married and enjoying watching our grandchildren grow up. Much of the credit for this must go to our wives, but how did they catch something that their other four siblings still do not seem to understand?
Perhaps it was a determination to have a better home than their parents provided for them. Yet it is one thing to see clearly the mistakes made by our parents and want to avoid them and quite another to avoid reacting the same way our parents did when in the heat of the conflicting emotions that come in real life. This requires a deep-seated conviction in the heart. There has to be a commitment and a vision that an intact home is more important than my feelings of the moment.
The prevailing wisdom of our time is to follow wherever our feelings will lead us. True happiness, we are told, is only to be found in satisfying all the desires of our heart. Of course, it usually does not work out very well, but there is always the hope that the next time things will be better. Meanwhile, young people are growing up who have never known a stable home. The very idea of marriage seems an unnecessary risk, since they have never seen a stable and happily married couple.
As Christians we can stand back and criticize the wickedness of our world. It is right and good to expose the flaws in the prevailing beliefs in our society. However, what does that do to help those who are caught in the midst of the morass of modern thinking about morality and do not even know there might be a way out?
If we are going to rescue anyone from this morass, we need to start where they are without criticizing them for not doing what they did not know it was possible to do. We need to teach the family values given by the Word of God, not as a list of rules and regulations, but as the way that will lead to true and durable happiness. Our own homes need to be examples of mutual forbearance and forgiveness. If we appear to be claiming to have model homes where there is never a hint of disagreement or strife, others will shake their heads at our hypocrisy and turn away, seeing no hope of a better way for themselves in our example. However, if we can testify of the grace of God in leading us to humble ourselves and seek reconciliation with our partners when things have gone awry, a light of hope might begin to dawn in their hearts. Our society will continue to unravel unless the young people growing up today get a glimpse of the better way shown by God’s Word.