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The Absent Spiritual Partner

Do you feel like you are carrying the weight of your family’s spiritual well-being alone? Do you feel like your spouse is not helping or is even working against you? Do you feel like you are fighting a losing battle in trying to raise your children with godly values?

The following is a testimony from a sister who has struggled with the challenges above, perhaps the same challenges you may be facing today. Read on to discover important principles she has learned that have helped her overcome these challenges and be victorious in the spiritual battle of raising a godly family.

The Absent Spiritual Partner

I am a third-generation True Jesus Church member and grew up in the church. When I was young, I enjoyed going to church and experienced many blessings, but there was one thing that bothered me so much that I felt I needed spiritual freedom: I was not given the choice to go to church. When I entertained the idea of not going, my mother would fear that Satan was destroying my life and start showering me with verbal abuse. Although I was not ready at that point to be as devoted as my parents wanted me to be, I felt it was no reason for them to verbally abuse me and that if they were truly Christians, they would not have treated me this way.

This treatment led me to see the discrepancy between God’s principles and how my parents (and other adult church members) carried out these principles in their daily lives. As I grew up, I began to focus more and more on these discrepancies rather than the blessings of being in church. Eventually, I married someone outside of church because I believed that this was the only way I could choose freely when it came to my faith. I was worried that if I married another church member, I would be in the same situation and lose the freedom to decide whether or not I wanted to come to church.

In the beginning of our marriage, everything was fine because my spouse respected my choice of faith. But after we had children, the situation became very complicated. It was then that I understood why my parents did not give me the choice to go to church. Although I did not agree with the way my parents taught me, I understood that they wanted me to stay in church. After I had children, I too had the same desire for my children.

I began to think of how I could build up my children so that they would draw closer to God of their own accord and not because I forced them. How would I raise them so that they would actually enjoy spiritual pursuits? This task is very challenging when only 50% of my child belongs to me and the other 50% belongs to my non-believing husband.

SUPERIORITY vs. LOVE

In the beginning, I would have huge confrontations with my husband every time we wanted to go to church, and both of us would end up very unhappy from arguing.

But one day, I had an epiphany. I realized that the reason for all this conflict was because I viewed my husband as inferior. Since he was not a church member, I felt that he was obviously inferior and I was superior. Because of this perception, I did not respect him and felt his opinions were not even worthy to be heard.

I dug deeper into how I could feel this way, and I realized that I was a third generation church member but also a third generation Pharisee. Up until that point, I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was righteous because I went to church and read the Bible every day. I felt I was a representative of God, and whatever decision I made was God’s decision. But it was not. I never realized that Christian values had never entered my heart—they had only stayed on the surface, on a very superficial level. Whoever I thought I was before—the good Christian that I thought I was—was all a lie.

I was shocked to learn that these wrong conceptions were rooted so deeply inside of me. I knew that if I continued to look at my husband this way, there would be no solution to the problem. Once I was able to see this point, I began to ask God to change me and give me a Christ-like heart.

Once I began praying this way, I realized that I had inadvertently been teaching my children the same attitude toward their father. The first thing that I needed to help my children do was to love and respect their father. Even when there was a conflict on the issue of worship, we still respected him because we realized that he did not understand the issue.

This change of attitude really changed our family situation. It did not happen overnight—sometimes, my husband would object to us staying at church too long, and we would come home because we knew that this upset him.

But as we continued to love him, he slowly began to realize that it was beneficial for the children to go to church. He saw the difference between his children and other children. His children would greet him when he came home from work, show him affection, and even talk to him about God and how God could change a person’s life.

Even when there was a difference of opinion, the children would willingly concede to their father’s wishes for the sake of God. When my husband came to this realization, the issue of going to church no longer existed.

When I look back at that day, it was the grace of God that allowed me to see myself clearly. Prior to that day, I always felt superior to my husband—and not only to him, but to many people! But God showed me that if I continued to look at people this way, I would be worse than a sinner. This attitude is totally against God’s teachings and the essence of truth. I did not know that before, and this understanding and change of heart is something that God has to give to you.

IMPOSITION vs. COMMUNICATION

During the course of my marriage, I experienced times when my husband would do something or ask us to do something directly contrary to God’s will. In this case, I would put this in prayer, and at the same time, I would try my best to help my husband understand why we could not do it.

I learned that conflict resolution and relationship growth must be built on understanding. He may not agree with you (and vice versa), but it helps to understand where you are coming from. This has really helped my husband overcome hard feelings. I would explain to him that we can’t do something because of our beliefs, not because we don’t like or respect him.

The key is to communicate all of this in a loving way. Just because we are “doing God’s will” does not give us license to be rude or imposing. Many of my conflicts stemmed from bad communication. Because I was carrying out God’s will, I felt I was entitled to a louder voice. Although my goal was right, my method was wrong. This made me only 50% right. When we are 50% wrong, we are still wrong.

Attitude is very important. Sometimes our attitude becomes very imposing because we feel we are God’s representative and doing His will. Although it is correct to strive to do God’s will, we are actually not carrying out God’s will if we do not have the correct attitude.

Even if you have a very stubborn husband, God will open a door once He sees that you are trying 100% to conform to His will. That is when a miracle will happen. But with every miracle, there is a human factor to it. If you study all the miracles performed in the four gospels, there is always a human factor involved. You have to put in the effort. You can’t just sit there and wait for God to perform a miracle.

Although you might not be able carry out God’s will 100% correctly, if God can see your effort, that’s when miracles will happen.

CRITICISM vs. RESPECT

There were also times when my husband would do something contrary to God’s teachings in front of my children. I realized that it was very important to be able to explain to my children why they should not follow my husband’s example in that aspect. The challenge then became how to help my children understand that they should not do these things without disrespecting my husband.

I discovered that the trick was to never do the explaining in front of him. When my husband would say or do something against God’s teachings, I would make a mental note that this was something I needed to straighten out with the children afterward. This was my way of showing my husband respect, so that he didn’t feel criticized in front of the children. He still maintained his fatherly position in the family.

It is up to you how you want to explain to your children, but it is very important that you do not criticize your spouse in front of your children. In the twenty years of our marriage, I have never criticized my husband in front of my children, no matter how difficult the situation. The moment you begin criticizing your spouse, you are leading your children astray because you are not setting a good example.

My husband has a very hot temper and sometimes he gets very angry, but I do not say anything during the episodes. Afterward, my children expect me to say, “Your father is a monster…” They may have the freedom to think that in their heart, but as a mother, you should never say it. This is a very important principle to keep in mind when you are explaining to your children. If you criticize your spouse, your children will begin to fall into the “superiority/inferiority” mode again, that he is inferior and we are superior. That is an attitude that I never want to see in my children.

An important phrase to remember in these situations is that “God hates sin, but He loves sinners.” Sometimes, it may feel like our spouse is “The Enemy.” Instead of working together with you to bring your children to the Lord, it feels like they are constantly against you, undermining you, or destroying your work. But God has taught me that no human being is our enemy. Sin is the enemy, but not that person. This principle doesn’t just apply to our relationship with our spouse, but with everyone.

OUR WILL vs. GOD’S WILL

When I would come across the Bible passage that says we need to raise our children in the Lord (Deut 6:5-9), I thought that I already qualified because I brought them to church and prayed together with them. But in actuality, I did not, because children look at how we live our daily lives—how we solve our problems, how we relate to them, what kind of advice we give them.

One of the most important lessons that I have learned throughout the course of my struggles is that I cannot teach my children if I am not connected to God. There’s no way. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, how many books you study, or how many classes you take, because the situation changes every day. If you don’t have this vibrant life inside of you, constantly teaching, comforting, and refreshing you, it is mission impossible.

You may be thinking, “By the time I build up a relationship with God, it will be too late for my children! I would already have one foot in the grave and my children would have grown up and left!” But it won’t happen this way. God will start working once you start devoting time to building that relationship with Him. God does not prepare you 100% so that you can teach your children. God actually teaches you through your everyday struggles and weaknesses.

You can start anytime. Don’t worry that you have drifted too far away from God. Don’t think that you need thirty years to catch up. God doesn’t teach this way.

A lot times I found myself applying or imposing my will in the name of God. The consequence of this is that our children will have a distorted image of God. For example, mom might say, “God will not be pleased if you do not get good grades.”

When the Bible teaches about raising children in the Lord, this means that parents should raise their children according to God’s will, not their own will. This requires daily practice—from small events, small conflicts, to personal advice, relationship issues, extracurricular activities—everything.

If you don’t know the answers at the time or know how to guide your children, it’s okay to tell them, “I don’t know at this point, but I’ll think about it and put it in prayer and then I’ll let you know,” instead of just saying, “Oh, I’m sure God wants you to do such and such…” We may be inadvertently using “God’s will” in the wrong way when we speak too quickly.

It is so important, especially if you are the main spiritual support of your children, to teach them only according to God’s will. You need to be connected to God in order to learn His will, and only then can you teach your children. Once we make this effort to understand His will and to bring our children before Him, God will reveal His mercy and grace in our lives, and He will teach us to be parents according to His will.

ALONE vs. PARTNERED

Someone recently asked me, “Now that your children are almost adults, do you feel that it is possible to raise godly children with just one active parent?”

My answer is: “It is definitely possible.”

When we talk about raising our children in the Lord, it actually means bringing our children to God. Once our children come to God, they will have to fight their own battle. They will have to travel the journey of faith by themselves.

A big mistake is when a parent expects to see a “completed product” when a child turns eighteen. You might be thinking, “I have put in so much effort and I expect to see a complete work of art.” But we are not completing a piece of art. We are trying to connect our children to God so that His work in them may continue as God continues to work in them.

If your goal is a completed product by the time your child turns eighteen, you will be very disappointed, because when you look at your child, you will see that they are not even 70% complete. I experienced this myself. I was very discouraged and felt that all my effort went down the drain because I did not see my beautiful, completed work. I told God, “I thought you were going to help me build a beautiful piece of art.”

Then I realized that it was not my job to complete the work. I was expecting a completed product, but I realized that my focus was all wrong. That wasn’t my purpose to begin with. My purpose is to bring my children to God, and let God do His work.

We might want to take over God’s job because we can’t stand to see any flaws in our children. But it’s okay; they still have many years down the road. As long as our children understand that God is the master of their lives, that is the most important thing. God will work in their lives in His time, in His way.

An example of this is when my oldest child was a teenager. She was treading in dangerous waters and playing with temptation, and she wouldn’t listen to any of my advice. I felt bitter that I was the only parent fighting this battle. Sometimes when I was very discouraged, I would look around and envy the children who had two parents in the Lord. When one was down, the other could continue to fight. But being the only one in this family, I felt like I couldn’t even have five minutes’ downtime.

As every day went by, I didn’t see any improvement and I began to feel that God was not listening to or helping me. Then, many years later, I saw a testimony written by the same daughter. She said that during her teenage years, every time she fell astray, God would give her a severe headache that made her head ache so much that she felt like it would split into pieces. She said she even tested it, and every time she was tempted to sin, the headache would reappear. At that point, she realized that I had been praying for her. I was very touched because all these years, I never knew that God had helped in that situation and to that extent.

Year after year, God has been shaping my children’s lives. I could see, to my amazement, that the less I talked, the more God worked. Because of this, I truly believe that this is all God’s work. I have been comforted that I am not the only one fighting this battle. I am not alone—I actually have a partner, more than a partner. All this time, God has been fighting with me, before me. I am just following His lead.

 

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