Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Last Day of Class

This week my Marriage and Family class ended.  Working as a principal normally takes away my time to teach, so it was a joy to work with my twenty juniors and seniors this semester.  But, I felt a little like Jesus in John 16 when He said He had so much more to tell his disciples, but they weren't ready and He knew His time was short with them.  I had so much more to say!

So, I was down to one class to try to give them everything important about marriage and family, summarizing what we studied and covering what I left out.  Here is the handout I gave them:
(I did not know it was going to look like a face as I drew can make the bottom line smile or sad, or turn it into a mustache so it looks like me.)

Let me explain, although I can only take a stab at the thirty minute talk and what the students knew from the semester.  I believe that the key elements for a positive marriage and family are here.

1. The triangle.  God is at the top.  The closer you and your spouse get to God, the closer you get to each other.  Restoring intimacy in marriage that was lost in the fall is a major goal for a couple.  Emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical intimacy grows as God is included and both get closer to Him.

2.  The left circle.  Marriage.  Number one to make a marriage good is to know "It is not about you."  While each person in a great marriage enjoys many benefits and joys, what makes it work is each person's commitment to serve the other.  As long as we focus on our job (love or submit/respect) and not on what we get, marriage is a lot more likely to be a great one.  Marriage is one of the best ways to mature because we have to learn "it is not about us" for it to work.  Giving up self, just what Jesus did, makes marriage work.

3. The right circle. Children.  Number one is to "Be there."  Parents cannot abdicate their responsibility or give it away to schools, babysitters, or churches.  Only a present parent can model, teach, and answer questions (a la Deuteronomy 6). Being there allows a parent to "bring them up" in God's discipline and instruction.  Children don't need you there 24/7 or smothering, but they need to know that you are on their side, always watchful and ready to be their parent. Even if you can't be there physically, let them know you are there for them and on their side.

4. Above the line.  Unconditional love.  In all relationships, commit to the other person's best, no matter what they do. Love that is unearned, that does not require performance, that never waivers in spite of the actions of the other is God's type of love for us.  It is there, even when discipline is needed and even when the prodigal leaves.  It waits and welcomes back.  It is about the other person. Know them and love them so they know they are loved.

5. Below the line.  No regrets.  This doesn't mean perfect relationships, but it means reconciling when things aren't right.  Asking for forgiveness and giving forgiveness.  Keeping accounts short.  What will you regret in twenty or thirty years?  Do what you have to do now, right now, to fix it.  You never know what is going to happen in life, so by God's help, live with no regrets.

That's it.  Creating a marriage and family where bravehearts can thrive, where love is free and life is lived well.

Oh, and one more.  Pray.  In class we prayed every day for our families to be protected.  Good families are under attack.  And we prayed for their future spouses.  They are alive now and need their prayers.  And, pray for those God calls to singleness, it is gift and a high calling.

May God help my class as they move into their futures.  May God heal what is broken and protect what is sound.  And, may God give you joy in your marriage and family.


  1. I am more than glad you took on the very extra responsibility of teaching this class. They real real truth from a real man, husband and father. Proud to know you, Joe. GBA

  2. Mr. Neff,

    Thank you. Thank you for this post, and for the example you have been and continue to be.