Dr. Taylor on Love & Marriage

I’m thinking of Rev. Taylor today and thought I’d share this since it seems as close to his memorable thinking on several things, commitment being one.

Advertisements

Continuities

Are You Waiting for the OneChristian marriage is meant to be a place in which love can flourish without fear.  It is intended to create families into which children can be welcomed, to provide a secure and life-giving context for sexual relationship, and to set in place a nurturing and supportive relationship between husband and wife.  It is meant to be a setting in which human beings grow together into a love that is shaped by God’s own love for his people.

But we live in a fallen world, and this does not happen automatically.  The best of marriages are marked by shortcomings and imperfections.  And when marriages go bad, they can go very bad indeed.  The children of such marriages tend to be very deeply marked by the sorrow and suffering they have endured.  They want so desperately to do better themselves and are often deeply skeptical as to whether better things are really possible.

In circumstances like these, how can we find the courage to love?  One way to begin might be to remember the continuities between marriage and Christian life in general.  Sometimes, what a marriage or any relationship needs is not an injection of big doses of excitement or inspiration.  What it needs is more of the basic things that form the substance of the Christian life…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.

Steps of Their New Life

Our children often grow away from us.  How painful it is to realize our children grow away from us, asserting independence from our wisdom and wishes.  However deep the wounds and anxieties of these experiences, our children’s growth and self-determination speak to our love, care, and concern we invested in them.  The end of this delicate dependence speaks to the setting of the course to which their lives must steer.  The greatest example of this is marriage.  In that union, our children become who they’re meant to be and step out on the foundation we have provided for them.  It is our continuing prayer that the voices of their past and the voice of the Eternal attend and order the steps of their new life.  There is perhaps no joy to match that of harmonious love in family where two generations are able to live not only in peace, but also in love.

From Gardner C. Taylor’s Faith in the Fire (pg. 110)

Jeff Johnson Writing For the Children

I know that many of you heard the story yesterday about the custody battle between Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry for their  four-year-old daughter. Media reports state: “a custody evaluator — a psychologist — wrote the report after extensive interviews with the family and others. The report raised issues not about Gabriel’s ability to love but to care for Nahla, in part because of personal issues.  A judge will decide the custody arrangement later this month, and whether Halle gets to move to Paris with Nahla — something Gabriel opposes.”

Now, before we begin to take sides, which countless numbers of people have via social media, we need to look at the bigger picture. It is the very process of taking sides that is a reflection of the challenge that many of us who are trying to co-parent face daily. The challenge where one question is lifted over that of the very welfare of the children we claim to want to love and develop. That question is who is more right.

As the country faces increased divorce rates and more children, especially in our community, are being raised in single parent homes, the notion of co-parenting becomes more and more important. Co-parenting; or separated/divorced parents finding ways to collectively and cooperatively raise children they have brought into the world, is for many more difficult than trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro backwards with a blindfold. We carry as men and women so much pain, anger, shame and regret (did I say anger?) as a result of failed relationships that we can often never see beyond it in the name of providing a healthy space for our children.

Children are like beautiful flowers. They need ideal conditions in order to properly grow, bloom, and mature. What I see so often is parents attempting to fight for the position of greatest provider of light and water. “I can provide for them better than you” or “you can’t love them or address their emotional needs the way I can”. And what we fail to realize is that no matter how true either or any of the statements you can come up with to describe how great you are at parenting, it is secondary to the environment in with the parenting is done. By that I mean you could provide the greatest light since the sun to your babies, and provide care like spring rain, but if the soil that your babies are in is contaminated, all that great light and water still can’t stop the flowers from being infected.

And my beloved family, so many of us are further contaminating the soil even in our well doing.

To finish Jeff’s article, visit Black America Web by clicking here.

Child-proofing Relationships

Several of my friends are looking forward to bringing babies into the world.  More babies.  These folks have at least one child and they’re looking forward to the one coming.  I don’t think there are twins coming… But getting news of someone’s pregnancy always leaves me with a scratching question: How will that kid change things for you?  In the case of marriage, how will that kid change things for your marriage?

Children definitely impact your other relationships too.  I can list a dozen people I haven’t seen or spoken to outside the occasional text and email.  Those people either avoid me because they think I’m busy (and I AM), or we can’t find the time to do more than periodic phone-tagging.  It took me two days to call Winfield back the other week.  And I was trying to find the right slice of time for us to talk unrushed, and when the third part of our conversation came around (the call got dropped twice), we still didn’t finish.  We haven’t been able to finish.  And we were talking about being fathers!

I read this article the other day.  It talks about how important it is to know what to expect when children are on the way.  Kelly Alfieri offers some helpful prompts that make good sense.  Then, I saw this article in Psychology Today, and I think Vivian Diller heard me in my study screaming my agreements.  The Psychology Today post was about marriage in midlife.  She offered marriage myths in it.  When she got to the myth about kids solidifying marriage, she said, “Even if creating families may have been the motive behind why some couples marry, the truth is that placing your focus on children over your marital relationship invites major problems over the long term.”

A lot people talk about divorce-proofing marriages.  There are books written about it.  Some of them are good.  Along with all those words and along with the words in the posts I’ve linked above, I think marriages need to be child-proofed.  My friends have lived through baby-bringing days, and more of them are bringing infants into the picture.  They’ll push little plastic plugs into wall outlets.  They’ll open gates across doorways.  They will stick foam things over the corners of tables and attach weird locks on their cabinets that will take a seminar to figure out how to work.  They’ll hide poison from themselves and see how all the little things in their lives have become safety hazards.  And I hope they won’t miss their marriages.

So, here’s my attempt to start a “Child-proofing your relationship list”.  It’s unfinished so that you can comment, add to it, and, together, we’ll finish it.

1)  Build a life and bring your kid into that life.  This comes from one of my mentors.  He says, that children are meant to be integrated into the life you already have.  They aren’t meant to have lives built around them.  Of course this is difficult in practice because children (and I have a toddler) expect to eat when they’re hungry, be cleaned when they’re dirty—although Bryce can be dirty for a long time before it occurs to him that he should complain—and generally believe the world revolves around them.

2)  Establish a routine for your important relationships.  This may look like a weekly conversation with a spouse about your marriage.  It could be an appointment with your buddies after work twice a week, a date night, a girls’ night, a visit to the gym with a workout partner, whatever.  It will be a routine, something you do regularly.  Establish it.

3)  Keep that routine religiously before a baby comes.  The routine will be stretched.  The relationships will change and necessarily so.  You’ll never run completely away from the relationship you’re developing with that non-rent-paying-person called baby.  But you can consciously run in the opposite direction.  You can seek to strengthen your friendships in the face of parenting as opposed to letting them lapse because you have a kid.  This will keep you from using your kid and from ending important relationships.

4)  Learn to listen to the needs of your significant other.  Again, this can apply to marriage or some other relationship.  Sometimes the error in a relationship, especially when children show up, isn’t talking but listening.  The careful and hard work of paying attention is more important than speaking actually.  Listening is inherently generous.  Listening is humbling because you keep all that important stuff in your mouth.  It’s an unselfish behavior, which is why it’s so hard and why it means so much when you’ve actually been “heard” by someone.

5)  Look for a trusted baby-sitter and map out intentional times to be away.  Preferably you’ll begin the search when you find out that an infant is coming.  It will take time.  But here’s the thing: you need to leave that kid.  I know, I know.  I don’t mean all the time or everyday or, even, on some regular schedule.  But you already know that you don’t like to be around anybody all the time.  Is that just me?  No, you need a break from that child.  Choose who you’ll be with when you leave, whether it’ll be your own time alone.  But leave.  Go away.  It’ll replenish you for the next contact.

Okay.  Your turn.  What’s next on this list?