Archive for the ‘family’ Category
Thomas Fuller (chaplain to Oliver Cromwell):
Lord, I find the genealogy of my Savior strangely checkered with four remarkable changes in four immediate generations. (1) Rehoboam begat Abijah; that is, a bad father begat a bad son. (2) Abijah begat Asa; that is, a bad father begat a good son. (3) Asa begat Jehoshaphat; that is, a good father a good son. (4) Jehoshaphat begat Joram; that is, a good father a bad son. I see, Lord, from hence that my father’s piety cannot be entailed; that is bad news for me. But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary; that is good news for my son.
HT Main Things.
Lewis Allen has a couple of very profitable posts about praying for our children. In the first, leaving a legacy, he quotes Flavel:
For my own part, I must profess before the world that I have a high value for this mercy, and do, from the bottom of my heart, bless the Lord, Who gave me a religious and tender father, who often poured out his soul for me. He was the one that was inwardly acquainted with God, and being full of compassion for his children, often carried them before God, prayed and pleaded with God for them, wept and made supplication for them.
This stock of prayers and blessings left by him before the Lord, I cannot but esteem above the fairest inheritance on earth. O, it is no small mercy to have thousands of fervent prayers lying before the Lord, filed up in heaven for us. And O that we would all be faithful to this duty! Surely our love, especially to the souls of our relations, should not grow cold when our breath doth. O that we should remember this duty in our lives, and if God give opportunity and ability, fully discharge it when we die; considering, as Christ did, we shall be no more, but they are in this world, in the midst of a defiled, tempting, troublesome world. It is the last office of love for ever we shall do for them.
John Flavel, “Sermon on John 17.11,” Works, 1:257-8
In the second, Lewis offers the pattern of his own prayers for his children. I am rebuked by the consistency, specificity and spirituality of those prayers. A good example for us all . . .
Some sanctified common-sense to help protect children from sexual abuse: eight suggestions here.
Kevin DeYoung passes on a description of the death of Sarah Hodge, wife of Charles:
The next death that visited Hodge was infinitely dearer to him. On Christmas Day 1849, just four months after her return to Princeton with her daughter and grandchild, Sarah “softly & sweetly fell asleep in Jesus.” She most probably fell victim to uterine cancer.
Sarah’s health had begun to deteriorate soon after her return, and by December her condition was such that Hodge had lost all hope of recovery. In her final weeks, he personally nursed Sarah, spending countless hours simply lying next to her. During these times, he held her hand, and conversed with her when she had the strength. The depth of their love remained so intense that Hodge later commented that “to the last she was like a girl in love.” During her final weeks, Sarah asked Hodge to tell her in detail “how much you love me,” and they spent time recounting the high points of their life together.
Hodge’s last hours with his wife were particularly poignant. As her life ebbed away, Sarah looked at her children gathered around her bed and quietly murmured “I give them to God.” Hodge then asked her if she had thought him a devoted husband to which she replied as “she sweetly passed her hand over” his face: “There never was such another.” (Charles Hodge, 258)
Kevin then asks a good question:
Married couples, if you imagine that your final moments together will be like this, rejoice and again I say rejoice. Let the thought of such bittersweet sorrow put your present troubles and conflicts in perspective. But if this scene feels like an impossible dream, what must you change now so you and your spouse can die like this later?
Brian Croft suggests some questions for a husband to ask his wife. While a couple of these are focused more on pastors and their wives, they are good questions for any couple.
- What can I do to make you feel loved and appreciated by me?
- What can I do to make you feel like I enjoy being with you more than anyone else?
- What are some things I can do to encourage you, spiritually?
- What can I do to help relieve the stress of life responsibilities?
- How can I best serve you in dealing with our children?
- What can I do to heighten your desire for physical intimacy?
- What can I do to make you feel our family is the priority over ministry?
- What can I do to help you grow in a love to serve our church?
- What kinds of moments when our family is together do you cherish the most?
- What do you love most about serving in ministry together? Greatest challenge?
Husbands and pastors, I hope these questions provoke much helpful and fruitful discussions that will lead you to a greater love and enjoyment of the wife of your youth as well as to equip you to love her in such a way that she feels loved and care for.
Kevin DeYoung suggests that we may have overcomplicated our parenting, focusing too much on the minutiae of what we do (on the basis of having read that book or heard that sermon series or found that system – you know, the one that really works) and overlooking the vital significance of who we are. It is encouraging and yet demanding stuff. He also records the gospel-rich communication that many parents wish might be the standard of their interaction with their children alongside the conversation that most of us have, which is worth reading in itself.
Could it be we’ve made parenting too complicated? Isn’t the most important thing not what we do but who we are as parents? They will see our character before they remember our exact rules regarding television and twinkies.
I could be wrong. My kids are still young. Maybe this no-theory is a theory of its own. I just know that the longer I parent the more I want to focus on doing a few things really well, and not get too passionate about all the rest. I want to spend time with my kids, teach them the Bible, take them to church, laugh with them, cry with them, discipline them when they disobey, say sorry when I mess up, and pray like crazy. I want them to look back and think, “I’m not sure what my parents were doing or if they even knew what they were doing. But I always knew my parents loved me and I knew they loved Jesus.” Maybe it’s not that complicated after all.
Read it all.
Five excellent suggestions from Thomas Weaver:
1. Make sure your faith is only something you live out in public.
2. Pray only in front of people.
3. Focus on your morals.
4. Give financially as long as it doesn’t impede your needs.
5. Make church community a priority… as long as there is nothing else you want to do.
He fills them out a little here.
Any other ideas?
Joe Holland offers parents some counsels and encouragements for pressing the truth into the (sometimes!) tender hearts of our children:
They sit there next to you and their feet don’t even hit the floor. You’re thinking, “What, if anything of this guy’s sermon is sinking into my kid’s head?” And with that little thought you’ve already decided not to engage your child about the sermon. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Let me introduce you to the most important rule when talking to your kids about the sermon: They retain more than you think they do. The second most important rule is like it: They understand more than you think they do.
Of all the many earthly blessings the Lord has given me, from friendship with Derek Thomas (for my sanctification) to that with Paul Levy (just have to cling blindly to Rom. 8:28 on that one), having a normal, down-to-earth wife is surely the greatest.
Indeed, when asked by a student spouse the other week how she kept up with reading all that I read so that she could support me in my work, my wife’s response (worthy of Newman himself) was ‘Read what he’s reading??? Lovey, I don’t even bother to read what he’s writing!’ In fact, she famously claims never to have read anything I have ever written. Why should she? She lives with me and knows what I am really like; and her interest in my job is primarily that of ‘does it pay the mortgage and enable him to be a decent husband?’ not `is he changing the world or hanging with the right people?’
Splendid, with the added benefit of being true. Read it all.
Paul Tripp reminds us that parenting is an opportunity to employ prepared spontaneity, not an interruption to our selfish plans and purposes:
But my problem is that there are moments when I tend to love my little kingdom of one more than I love his. So I’m impatient, discouraged, or irritated not because my children have broken the laws of God’s kingdom, but the laws of mine. In my kingdom there shall be no parenting on family vacation days, or when I am reading the paper on my iPad, or after ten o’clock at night, or during a good meal, or . . . I could go on. And when I’m angry about interruptions to my kingdom plan, there are four things I tend to do.
1. I tend to turn a God-given moment of ministry into a moment of anger.
2. I do this because I have personalized what is not personal. (Before we left for the amusement park that day, my children didn’t plot to drive me crazy in the parking lot.)
3. Because I have personalized what is not personal, I am adversarial in my response. (It’s not me acting for my children, but acting against them because they are in the way of what I want.)
4. So I end up settling for situational solutions that don’t really get to the heart of the matter. (I bark and order, I instill guilt, I threaten a punishment and walk away, and my children are utterly unchanged by the encounter.)
Tim Challies points us to a letter from Guido de Brès, written from prison, in which he seeks to comfort his wife in the face of his impending death:
The grace and mercy of our good God and heavenly Father, and the love of His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, be with you, my dearly beloved.
Catherine Ramon, my dear and beloved wife and sister in our Lord Jesus Christ: your anguish and sadness disturbs somewhat my joy and the happiness of my heart, so I am writing this for the consolation of both of us, and especially for your consolation, since you have always loved me with an ardent affection, and because it pleases the Lord to separate us from each other. I feel your sorrow over this separation more keenly than mine. I pray you not to be troubled too much over this, for fear of offending God. You knew when you married me that you were taking a mortal husband, who was uncertain of life, and yet it has pleased God to permit us to live together for seven years, giving us five children. If the Lord had wished us to live together longer, he would have provided the way. But it did not please him to do this and may his will be done. . . .
Finish it here.
David Murray helpfully suggests some issues to address when parenting teenagers. I think that the conclusion is helpful, because it focuses not on the children’s desires but on the parent’s priorities and principles:
I’ve set out three tensions, and that’s what they are. They are not three choices; it’s not that we and our children must choose family instead of friends, parents instead of possessions, and education instead of entertainment. Every parent-child relationship will have both elements of these three equations to one degree or another. The problem is when the balance of them falls on the wrong side consistently and excessively.
The “world” whispers (and sometimes shouts), “Unless you focus primarily on friends, possessions, and entertainment, you will lose your children’s love!” The Bible says otherwise.
How much we need to cry, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” And one of the ways He helps us is by driving us away from our own wisdom and strength, and towards prayer for Gospel power to change our children’s hearts.
This is not a battle we win once, but a battle we have to fight every day. Often we drift imperceptibly into imbalances, and we have to suddenly and painfully re-balance. Maybe reading this will at least help you to recognize the nature of the battle. And that’s often more than half the battle.
Read it all.
Tim Challies shares a poem (take note: few holds barred) entitled I Looked For Love in Your Eyes, written by a woman whose husband’s soul had been poisoned by pornography. It will make your soul ache and your eyes weep. It may well send you back to the cross of Jesus for the cleansing of our sins and for grace to be pure.
The lady writes:
I saved my best for you.
Other girls may have given themselves away,
But I believed in the dream.
A husband, a wife, united as one forever.
Read the whole of I Looked For Love In Your Eyes. Learn the awful lessons that this poetry of pain teaches, and apply them, for the sake of your souls and your marriages.
Dr Sinclair Ferguson, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, South Carolina, likes to say, ‘The children breathe in what the parents breathe out.’ In other words, the atmosphere of the home – what we value, how we treat each other, what priority we place on walking with the Lord – is impressed on the hearts and minds of our children.
So, what are you breathing out? What are your children breathing in? Love for Christ Jesus, and the dynamics of the gospel in every part of life? A kind, loving, gracious spirit?
Gene Veith points to a European study (discussed here) suggesting that fathers in particular will have a massive impact on the attitude of their children to the church of Christ. The article is not suggesting that mothers do not need to go to church, and it may be that there lies behind the article some lack of clarity (are they equating mere church attendance with genuine Christianity?) but the implication is clear: the best way to teach our children to love Christ and his church is to love Christ and his church ourselves.
So, fathers and mothers, will you be there tomorrow, as often as you are able, willingly, cheerfully, eagerly, readily making your way to whatever place the saints will gather to meet with God? Will your demeanour and preparations this evening show that you are looking forward eagerly to the Lord’s day and getting everything in place for an early, unhindered start to the day?
May God grant that we breathe out a love for the Head of the church, and his body, and that our children should imbibe it from the heart.
Conrad Mbewe gives us some cultural insights into family life in Zambia (and Africa more widely), using it as a springboard for recommendations about approaching adoption in Africa:
My Western friends should consider empowering homes where younger or older “fathers” and younger or older “mothers” are looking after children of their deceased siblings as a viable way to care for orphans. It may be totally foreign to the Western mind, but it is the most natural way for us as Africans to look after orphans. It is not either-or but both-and.
It’s worth reading, not just for the thoughts on adoption, but also for some cross-cultural insights and challenges into family life, both for blood relatives and in the kingdom of heaven.
Cornelius Van Til gives us a taste of his childhood in his essay, Why I Believe in God. Referring to an occasion in which, sleeping in the family barn one night, he felt a child’s terror of the dark and its inexplicable noises, he speaks of the reaction he knew his parents would have had:
Yet I know what they would have said. Of course there were no ghosts, and certainly I should not be afraid anyway, since with body and soul I belonged to my Savior who died for me on the Cross and rose again that His people might be saved from hell and go to heaven! I should pray earnestly and often that the Holy Spirit might give me a new heart so that I might truly love God instead of sin and myself.
How do I know that this is the sort of thing they would have told me? Well, that was the sort of thing they spoke about from time to time. Or rather, that was the sort of thing that constituted the atmosphere of our daily life. Ours was not in any sense a pietistic family. There were not any great emotional outbursts on any occasion that I recall. There was much ado about making hay in the summer and about caring for the cows and sheep in the winter, but round about it all there was a deep conditioning atmosphere. Though there were no tropical showers of revivals, the relative humidity was always very high. At every meal the whole family was present. There was a closing as well as an opening prayer, and a chapter of the Bible was read each time. The Bible was read through from Genesis to Revelation. At breakfast or at dinner, as the case might be, we would hear of the New Testament, or of “the children of Gad after their families, of Zephon and Haggi and Shuni and Ozni, of Eri and Areli.” I do not claim that I always fully understood the meaning of it all. Yet of the total effect there can be no doubt. The Bible became for me, in all its parts, in every syllable, the very Word of God. I learned that I must believe the Scripture story, and that “faith” was a gift of God. What had happened in the past, and particularly what had happened in the past in Palestine, was of the greatest moment to me. In short, I was brought up in what Dr. Joad would call “topographical and temporal parochialism.” I was “conditioned” in the most thorough fashion. I could not help believing in God — in the God of Christianity — in the God of the whole Bible!
Christian parents: how are you conditioning your children? Either you must or someone else will. You may refrain from ‘indoctrinating’ your children, as the world calls it, when the world and Satan agree to do so the same. Until then, though there be no tropical showers of revival in your home or in your church, make sure you keep the relative humidity very high, that the “olive plants all around your table” (Ps 128.3) may grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, being saved and equipped to serve by him.
From James Smith, in Our Father and Comforter: Or, God the Portion of His People:
Surely, if parents realized the value of their children’s souls; if they had a vivid sight of the danger to which they are exposed; if they felt that they must be saved by the Lord Jesus–or perish for ever–then they would act very differently toward them!
Could a parent, if he believed the Scriptural representation of hell, as a place of torment; and saw that his child hung over that ever-burning lake as by a thread–and might, at any moment, by some accident, be plunged into the bottomless abyss; I say, if he saw and believed this–could he let his child go on, day after day, and month after month, without the tender expostulation, the affectionate appeal, and the heart-felt prayer with him? I think not!
Alas! alas! We do not half believe in the horrors of hell, in the danger of our children, and in the absolute necessity of faith in Christ, in order to for them to be saved–or we could never live as we do!
What anxiety is manifested about their health and their education; and what indifference about their never-dying souls! One feels at times ready to conclude that many professing Christian parents must be half infidels, or wholly insane–to act as they do!
Reader, suppose your child was dying. His pulses are faint and few. He breathes short and hard. You approach his bedside. You take his hand in yours. He asks, “Father, did you believe I was a sinner? Did you know that it was possible I might die young? Were you aware that, without faith in Christ–I must perish forever? Did you, father?”
“I did, my child.”
“Then how could you be so cruel, so hard-hearted, as to treat me in the way you have? You never took me aside to talk to me seriously. You never endeavored to impress upon my mind the importance of spiritual things. You never earnestly warned me to flee from the wrath to come. You never lovingly invited me to the Lord Jesus Christ. You never prayed with me as if you believed I was in danger of going to hell, and could only be saved by the grace of God. You were very earnest about temporal things–but indifferent about spiritual realities. You knew that I was going to hell–and you did not try to prevent it. Now I am lost! Lost for ever–and you are the cause of it! Or, at least, you are accessory to my everlasting damnation!”
Or, suppose you were before the Great White Throne, and the Judge seated thereon, and you meet your children there. One of them points to you, and says, “There is my mother! She showed great concern about my body–but she never showed anxiety about my soul. She never knelt by my side in prayer. I never heard her plead with God for my soul, nor did she ever, in downright earnest, plead with me. I charge her, before the Judge of all–with cruelty to my soul; and throughout eternity I shall curse the day that ever I had such a parent! No name will excite my enmity, or draw forth my bitter reproaches, like the name of my mother! I am lost, lost forever–and my mother never heartily tried to prevent it!”
Parents, how could you bear this? Parents, parents! By all the tender ties that unite you to your children, I beseech you to seek, first, principally, and most earnestly–the conversion of your children!
HT: Grace Gems.
Chris Brauns kindly gives us a selection from Spurgeon’s Practical Wisdom (Banner), a book which I hope to review in full soon. This section is on the vital importance of a mother’s wise and principled care of her children.
Most men are what their mothers made them. The father is away from home all day, and has not half the influence over the children that the mother has. The cow has most to do with the calf. If a ragged colt grows into a good horse, we know who it is that combed him. A mother is therefore a very responsible woman, even though she may be the poorest in the land, for the bad or the good of her boys and girls very much depends upon her. As is the gardener such is the garden, as is the wife such is the family. Samuel’s mother made him a little coat every year, but she had done a deal for him before that: Samuel would not have been Samuel if Hannah had not been Hannah. We shall never see a better set of men till the mothers are better. We must have Sarahs and Rebekahs before we shall see Isaacs and Jacobs. Grace does not run in the blood, but we generally find that the Timothies have mothers of a godly sort.
Little children give their mother the headache, but if she lets them have their own way, when they grow up to be great children they will give her the heartache. Foolish fondness spoils many, and letting faults alone spoils more. Gardens that are never weeded will grow very little worth gathering; all watering and no hoeing will make a bad crop. A child may have too much of its mother’s love, and in the long run it may turn out that it had too little. Soft-hearted mothers rear soft-headed children; they hurt them for life because they are afraid of hurting them when they are young. Coddle your children, and they will turn out noodles. You may sugar a child till everybody is sick of it. Boys’ jackets need a little dusting every now and then, and girls’ dresses are all the better for occasional trimming. Children without chastisement are fields without ploughing. The very best colts want breaking in. Not that we like severity; cruel mothers are not mothers, and those who are always flogging and fault-finding ought to be flogged themselves. There is reason in all things, as the madman said when he cut off his nose.
Good mothers are very dear to their children. There’s no mother in the world like our own mother. My friend Sanders, from Glasgow, says, “The mither’s breath is aye sweet.” Every woman is a handsome woman to her own son. That man is not worth hanging who does not love his mother. When good women lead their little ones to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus blesses not only the children, but their mothers as well. Happy are they among women who see their sons and their daughters walking in the truth.
He who thinks it easy to bring up a family never had one of his own. A mother who trains her children aright had need be wiser than Solomon, for his son turned out a fool. Some children are perverse from their infancy; none are born perfect, but some have a double share of imperfections. Do what you will with some children, they don’t improve. Wash a dog, comb a dog, still a dog is but a dog: trouble seems thrown away on some children. Such cases are meant to drive us to God, for he can turn blackamoors white, and cleanse out the leopard’s spots. It is clear that whatever faults our children have, we are their parents, and we cannot find fault with the stock they came of. Wild geese do not lay tame eggs. That which is born of a hen will be sure to scratch in the dust. The child of a cat will hunt after mice. Every creature follows its kind. If we are black, we cannot blame our offspring if they are dark too. Let us do our best with them, and pray the Mighty Lord to put his hand to the work. Children of prayer will grow up to be children of praise; mothers who have wept before God for their sons, will one day sing a new song over them. Some colts often break the halter, and yet become quiet in harness. God can make those new whom we cannot mend, therefore let mothers never despair of their children as long as they live. Are they away from you across the sea? Remember, the Lord is there as well as here. Prodigals may wander, but they are never out of sight of the Great Father, even though they may be ‘a great way off.’
Let mothers labor to make home the happiest place in the world. If they are always nagging and grumbling they will lose their hold of their children, and the boys will be tempted to spend their evenings away from home. Home is the best place for boys and men, and a good mother is the soul of home. The smile of a mother’s face has enticed many into the right path, and the fear of bringing a tear into her eye has called off many a man from evil ways. The boy may have a heart of iron, but his mother can hold him like a magnet. The devil never reckons a man to be lost so long as he has a good mother alive. O woman, great is thy power! See to it that it be used for him who thought of his mother even in the agonies of death.
For more from Spurgeon on the joys and responsibilities of motherhood, see here.
From Charles Spurgeon’s Come Ye Children (also published as Spiritual Parenting). I am not sure that I can take everything that Mr Spurgeon says in this volume, not being confident that sentiment does not sometimes override Scripture. This, though, is well-founded, being drawn from 2 Timothy 3.14-15:
O dear mothers, you have a very sacred trust reposed in you by God! He hath in effect said to you, “Take this child and nurse it for Me, and I will give thee thy wages.” You are called to equip the future man of God, that he may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. If God spares you, you may live to hear that pretty boy speak to thousands, and you will have the sweet reflection in your heart that the quiet teachings of the nursery led the man to love his God and serve Him. Those who think that a woman detained at home by her little family is doing nothing, think the reverse of what is true. Scarcely can the godly mother quit her home for a place of worship, but dream not that she is lost to the work of the church; far from it, she is doing the best possible service for her Lord. Mothers, the godly training of your offspring is your first and most pressing duty. Christian women, by teaching children the Holy Scriptures, are as much fulfilling their part for the Lord, as Moses in judging Israel, or Solomon in building the temple.
For more from Spurgeon on the joys and responsibilities of motherhood, see here.
Martin Downes posts an article from The Evangelical Magazine (I presume he wrote it, but he doesn’t say – self-effacing chap, he is!) about the primary role of the parents in teaching children the fear of the Lord (and not sloping shoulders and expecting the church to act as some kind of surrogate in the process).
In answering a friend’s question about something, I was reminded of Spurgeon’s musings about minister’s wives:
If I was a young woman, and was thinking of being married, I would not marry a minister, because the position of minister’s wife is a very difficult one for anyone to fill. Churches do not give a married minister two salaries, one for the husband and the other for the wife; but, in many cases, they look for the services of the wife, whether they pay for them or not. The pastor’s wife is expected to know everything about the church, and in another sense she is to know nothing of it; and she is equally blamed by some people whether she knows everything or nothing. Her duties consist in being always at home to attend to her husband and her family, and being always out, visiting other people, and doing all sorts of things for the whole church! Well, of course, that is impossible; she cannot be at everybody’s beck and call, and she cannot expect to please everybody. Her husband cannot do that, and I think he is very foolish if he tries to do it; and I am certain that, as the husband cannot please everybody, neither can the wife. There will be sure to be somebody or other who will be displeased, especially if that somebody had herself half-hoped to be the minister’s wife!
Difficulties arise continually in the best-regulated churches; and the position of the minister’s wife is always a very trying one. Still, I think that, if I was a Christian young woman, I would marry a Christian minister if I could, because there is an opportunity of doing so much good in helping him in his service for Christ. It is a great assistance to the cause of God to keep the minister himself in good order for his work. It is his wife’s duty to see that he is not uncomfortable at home; for, if everything there is happy, and free from care, he can give all his thoughts to his preparation for the pulpit; and the godly woman, who thus helps her husband to preach better, is herself a preacher though she never speaks in public, and she becomes to the highest degree useful to that portion of the Church of Christ which is committed to her husband’s charge.
He had a knack for putting things well, did he not?
John Piper suggests some questions that any couple contemplating marriage should ask one another with a view to righteous preparation for that momentous step. He says:
In each of these sections one item could be added that I have not listed, namely, How do you handle and live with differences? How do you decide what can remain differences without jeopardizing the relationship? So as you deal with each subheading, include that in the discussion.
- What do you believe about…everything?
- Perhaps read through the Desiring God Affirmation of Faith to see where each other is on various biblical doctrines.
- Discover how you form your views. What is the reasoning-believing process? How do you handle the Bible?
Worship and Devotion
- How important is corporate worship? Other participation in church life?
- How important is it to be part of a small accountability/support group?
- What is the importance of music in life and worship?
- What are your daily personal devotional practices? Prayer, reading, meditation, memorization.
- What would our family devotions look like? Who leads out in this?
- Are we doing this now in an appropriate way: praying together about our lives and future, reading the Bible together?
Husband and Wife
- What is the meaning of headship and submission in the Bible and in our marriage?
- What are expectations about situations where one of you might be alone with someone of the opposite sex?
- How are tasks shared in the home: cleaning, cooking, washing dishes, yard work, car upkeep, repairs, shopping for food, and household stuff?
- What are the expectations for togetherness?
- What is an ideal non-special evening?
- How do you understand who and how often sex is initiated?
- Who does the checkbook—or are there two?
- If and when, should we have children? Why?
- How many?
- How far apart?
- Would we consider adoption?
- What are the standards of behavior?
- What are the appropriate ways to discipline them? How many strikes before they’re…whatever?
- What are the expectations of time spent with them and when they go to bed?
- What signs of affection will you show them?
- What about school? Home school? Christian school? Public school?
- Own a home or not? Why?
- What kind of neighborhood? Why?
- How many cars? New? Used?
- View of money in general. How much to the church?
- How do you make money decisions?
- Where will you buy clothes: Department store? Thrift store? In between? Why?
- How much money should we spend on entertainment?
- How often should we eat out? Where?
- What kind of vacations are appropriate and helpful for us?
- How many toys? Snowmobile, boat, cabin?
- Should we have a television? Where? What is fitting to watch? How much?
- What are the criteria for movies and theater? What will our guidelines be for the kids?
- What makes you angry?
- How do you handle your frustration or anger?
- Who should bring up an issue that is bothersome?
- What if we disagree both about what should be done, and whether it is serious?
- Will we go to bed angry at each other?
- What is our view of getting help from friends or counselors?
- Who is the main breadwinner?
- Should the wife work outside the home? Before kids? With kids at home? After kids?
- What are your views of daycare for children?
- What determines where you will locate? Job? Whose job? Church? Family?
- Is it good to do things with friends but without spouse?
- What will you do if one of you really likes to hang out with so and so and the other doesn’t?
Health and Sickness
- Do you have, or have you had any, sicknesses or physical problems that could affect our relationship? (Allergies, cancer, eating disorders, venereal disease, etc.)
- Do you believe in divine healing and how would prayer relate to medical attention?
- How do you think about exercise and healthy eating?
- Do you have any habits that adversely affect health?
The first impression a visitor would have upon arriving at the Edwards home was that there were a lot of children. The second impression would be that they were very well disciplined. Jonathan aided Sarah in disciplining the children from an early age. ‘When they first discovered any considerable degree of will and stubbornness,’ wrote biographer Samuel Hopkins, ‘he would attend to them till he had thoroughly subdued them and brought them to submit with the greatest calmness, and commonly without striking a blow, effectively establishing his parental authority and producing a cheerful obedience ever after.
Care for his children’s souls was his preeminent concern. In morning devotions he quizzed them on Scripture with questions appropriate to their ages. On Saturday evenings, the beginning of the Sabbath, he taught them the Westminster Shorter Catechism, making sure they understood as well as memorized the answers.
Edwards also believed in not holding back the terrors of hell from his children. ‘As innocent as children seem to us,’ he wrote, ‘if they are out of Christ, they are not so in God’s sight, but are young vipers….’ At the judgment day unregenerate children would hardly thank their parents for sentimental tenderness that protected them from knowing the true dangers of their estate. Always looking for opportunities to awaken the young to their condition, he had taken the children to view the remains of the Lyman house fire that claimed two girls’ lives.
By far the greater burden of childrearing fell to Sarah….On one occasion, when she was out of town in 1748, Jonathan was soon near his wits’ end. Children of almost every age needed to be cared for. ‘We have been without you,’ Jonathan lamented in a letter, ‘almost as long as we know how to be!’ (George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, 321-323)
How I should love to sit down and ask Edwards for practical advice as to how a father goes about securing such a spirit among his children as is described in the first paragraph. I admit that I do not recognise much of that in myself. I recognise a little more of the next two paragraphs, though I need more of a servant spirit in seeking to cultivate such an environment in my home. The final paragraph is the one where I think, “Ah! I am like Jonathan Edwards.”
My friend Alan Dunn gives a moving framework for spanking evangelism. Parents would do well to read this to correct the cruel excesses both of empty sentiment and of angry thoughtlessness.