I actually wrote this in the past and at the time I had been so busy lately that I have not been able to give attention to the part 2 of this series. I lost my job months ago and with it it brings all kinds of emotions on a man. I’ve tried to maintain consistent involvement with Celebrate Recovery. And there are the issues in my home; a son transitioning from a tween to a teen, dealing with a daughter with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Much of the time that I am able to give to myself alone consists of attempts at gathering my thoughts and catching my breath for the next responsibility.
I’m at a crossroads today. As the last semester wound down I found the drive for my desire to finish school and pursue a career in the field of psychology has dwindled down to nothing. I even find myself apathetic to the work and even the idea of graduating. Yet I have no idea what to pursue for my future. God says He has plans for me. “Plans to prosper and not for harm. So should I worry about my future?”
I can’t just sit back and expect God to handle everything. Of course not. I do have my part to fulfill. And at the same time I must still focus on the here and now and not lose sight of my main calling, what God has called me to do. My first and most important responsibility. That is the calling of my first ministry. My marriage. My wife. My children. Far too often this responsibility goes overlooked in spite of the fact it is something I worry about on a daily basis. It’s a difficult calling when you’re bipolar.
Not to often do people think of a husband’s family as a ministry. “Paul instructs us husbands to love our wives as Christ loved the church as he gave himself for it” (Eph 5:25). Christ’s whole purpose was to love the church as his own wife. His life consisted of ministering to the soon to be church. He also instructs us to live with our wives giving them honor (1 Pet 3:7). Our first priority is our wife. Even when I would rather receive I must still give.
You could assume that this 38 year old man who is married to my beautiful wife would be able to share with you the intimate secrets to having a perfect marriage or perfect little children. One that I happily see every opportunity to serve as an outflow of my undying devotion.
But I’m going to disappoint you. My wife and I don’t have a perfect marriage. Most of the time we do not see eye to eye. And quite frankly there are times I would rather receive than give. And my children probably couldn’t associate any of my behavior and love as attributions of Jesus. But I’m human. I’m bipolar. And much of my behavior and moods reflect that fact. And we husbands are called to be the very example of Christ to our families. We are called with an extra portion of accountability. We are not given the excuse as Adam did and blame our wives or even our children when things go wrong.
My wife and I have been put through some of the most thorny trials. A few times the word “divorce” had been thrown around in the heat of an argument but always from the bottom of our emotions and feelings. The trials and attacks would be enough to make most couples bail out on each other. However, the single factor that has kept us married for these years was that we always agreed on one thing: Divorce would never be an option for us.
Many men, if not most men of today, desire positions of authority. To be the boss at their place of employment. To be able to call the shots. To win and be better than the next person. Today men make better employees than they do at being a husband and father. We will go to work practically on our death bed while at the same time expect to be waited on hand and foot in the midst of our ailments within our own homes.
I came across a quote today that keeps jogging around my brain. It inspires me. It’s the truth. It the very essence of the gospel. “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”–George Eliot
Today, I don’t know where I’m going or what I am headed for. But what I do know is that I have opportunity be an example. That it is never too late. An example of trusting God when you have no idea what is ahead of you. An example of what God can do with what is behind you. An example of humble faith. Bipolar or not.
Family-ministry can’t be something we just try to get others to do at church; it has to be something we live out in our own families first for many reasons.
Today it concerns me how my wife and my children view me. What do my kids see when they look at me? Do they see a father who pursues God, who shares his faith with others, who genuinely worships, who is sacrificial in serving others? Unfortunately I do fall short in many areas of being an example. And for years I was an example not to be followed.
I realize I’m not perfect and they will at a point begin to pick apart the struggling areas of my life, but overall what do my wife and kids see? Will they see a man serving God and doing his best to teach others by actions and words, but fail to see how it all connects with every aspect of his personal life? The last I would want is for them see a follower of Jesus on Sundays, but man of the world Monday through Saturday.
My marriage and family are my first ministry. My wife and I were both planned for God’s pleasure. A man once asked Jesus, “What’s the most important commandment?” To which He replied, “I can summarize the entire Bible in two statements: Love God and other people!” (Mat 22:36-39). This includes my spouse.
Life is about relationships, not achievements. Serving God is when I love and sacrifice for my spouse. Read Romans 12 to find how it applies to your marriage. That brings pleasure to God. My relationship with my wife is not based on scores or looking perfect. I’m far from perfect. It’s about showing her unconditional love and grace. I don’t love her for what she accomplishes.
My wife and were and I formed for God’s family. It’s a wonderful promise God made for when believers gather:“For where two or three have gathered in My name, I am in their midst” (Mat 18:20). God is already in our marriage working to transform the two of us into a purpose driven family.
My marriage and family is a place for learning and teaching how to love like Jesus loves. Within marriage, God has created an opportunity for us to develop real authenticity with another human being. And this I present to my children.
With what am I filling my heart and, in turn, my children? Better yet, with what am I not?
I’m afraid that in the past the answers to these questions aren’t pretty. I’m a recovering alcoholic and all the bad things that go with it. I fed my heart with bitterness and anger. I fueled my depression and manic episodes with alcohol. I landed myself in trouble on more than one occasion. Those were the kind of things I was filling my heart with. Not with what God has to offer. Not His presence. Not His love or grace. By His grace, I am today.
I have learned the two obstacles to parents attempting to live out their faith.
1. Parents themselves are not at a place spiritually where they have a faith that’s worth passing on.
2. They really don’t know how to be spiritual leaders in their home nor what it looks like practically.
Even worse, we parents can be guilty of showing one side of our personality at church and another at home. I wonder, what a child does when his parents scream, yell and swear at each other at home, but raise hands in worship at church? Successfully we teach and train them to act one way at school but another at home. Our kids see that and learn to imitate. They see how faith doesn’t always influence what goes on during the week, and they adopt that “faith” exactly.
We parents cannot impress Deuteronomy 6 on our children unless we ourselves first impress it upon ourselves. If our own faith is visible in every area of our life when our kids graduate from high school, they will not also graduate from the church.
No one pursuing a career or education or in the ministry tells themselves, “You know, I prefer to build resentment in my family while serving others.”
How often do we flex instead of protecting our spouse, our family priorities and boundaries? I can’t proclaim that I myself am free from this. I’m learning today. Learning to love my wife as Christ loves the church. I’m learning to show my faith and discipline as my Heavenly Father does. But I admit I can be hard headed at times while other times I naive or blind. Even deaf to His words.
Together, my wife and I were both shaped for serving God. And how we treat each other embeds a lasting imprint in our children’s minds shaping their heart and spirits. Teaching them.
Our children need a model. No matter what, we are a model. But we really have to care about what’s going on in our own hearts and that of our spouses. Not just saying we care, but care enough to make necessary shifts in our families.
My bipolar marriage is not about me. It is about finding balance within myself in recovery. And through God’s grace I can obtain that balance.