The Queen and I first met at a bar. It’s not something we advertise. Similar stories usually end in hook ups and poorly. Ours, blessedly, led to meeting again the next day at church, and eventually marriage. We downplay the ‘bar’ thing, instead saying it was a ‘restaurant,’ they technically did serve food. Why we do this, I’m not entirely sure. It may have something to do with the images ‘bar’ convey, or maybe it’s too similar to my former marriage, she and I also met at a bar, one that didn’t have food. If you’ve visited this website before, you know how that ends. So there’s a fear not to jinx it. But perhaps, and I think this get closer to the point, our story reflects a complete lack of intentionality. I mean, honestly, how uninspiring and unoriginal?
Besides, it models nothing positive for our kids except to demonstrate that a good way of going about the most important earthly relationship in life is a great happy hour and ‘winging it.’
As I’ve written before, when it came to sex and dating, I was naive from the onset. My parents, God love them, told me nothing. Maybe that’s because they knew I wouldn’t listen. So, as I entered those pivotal young adult years, I had no idea about relationships, though believed I knew everything. I could tell you where babies came from, and I’d seen enough porn to explain how it happened, but besides that, I hadn’t the slightest notion of what was important. I didn’t know what to look for in a woman and future wife. I had no inkling of what to pay attention to in her character, her virtue, or her self-respect. I was left without a rudder and drifted aimlessly, and that vacuum was filled with my own expectations formed entirely by the world around me. Ultimately they boiled down to this – was she reasonably attractive and did she have a southern drawl? Those were my deal killers. If she looked relatively good and didn’t sound like she walked out of the trailer park, everything else was negotiable. But I don’t think I was alone, at least on the first point. It seems looks are all that matters for most men. The accent thing, well, that requires a whole other essay.
This is something that has been ‘praying on my mind’ of late as my kids get older. The biological aspects of sex and relationships are thoroughly established. My son, at 12, has more knowledge about the birds and bees than most kids in high school. I started those conversations at a young age, probably too young. But it’s the more refined elements of relationships that have my attention, the ones that cause us the most enduring problems.
I’ve come to believe the ‘sex conversation’ with our kids should happen on a continuum, moving from the tangible to the intangible. In the early years, it’s the mechanics of it all, how this works and where that goes. But as they get older the abstract elements become critical. How to ready them for the more elusive details, those that can lead to divorce and heartbreak, become more important. Helping them to form a clear mental, emotional, and spiritual picture of what that other person and their relationship should look. To educate them that sex can lead to more that just pregnancy or STD’s.
That begins by trying to model it in my own marriage. Perhaps the very best thing two parents can do for their children is having a great marriage worthy of imitation. To show them in real time what to love, honor, and cherish looks like. Talking is one thing, but living it is where the best lessons get learned. Yet talk we must, otherwise our kids may still end up just like I did, moving off into the rest of their lives lost and searching for answers with wrong questions.
The story of Isaac and Rebekah drives this home for me. Abraham is nearing death and his son, Isaac, the one promised and whose back story isn’t as weird as his brother’s, remained unmarried. So Abraham, knowing he wouldn’t be alive long enough to do so himself, instructed his servant to ‘get a wife for my son.’ What happens next is what’s stuck in my head. Abraham and this servant demonstrate what, I believe, parents, are called to do for their children, minus the creepy oath.
Matthew Henry, in his exhaustive commentary, explained it this way,
He (the servant) knew that a prudent wife is from the Lord. He desires that his master’s wife might be a humble and industrious woman, bred up to care and labor, and willing to put her hand to any work that was to be done; and that she might be of a courteous disposition, and charitable to strangers. When he came to seek a wife for his master, he did not go to the playhouse or the park and pray that he might meet one there.
Nowhere did this servant look for a wife who was ‘hot’ or with a ‘smoking body.’ He didn’t care if she was outgoing or easy to talk to. He knew Abraham wanted much more for Isaac. Instead, this servant looked elsewhere, paying attention to the things that mattered most, to what wouldn’t wrinkle or sag with time and age. He looked for those timeless character traits that don’t require Botox or a personal trainer.
May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this, I will know that you have shown kindness to my master. Genesis 24:14
Imagine for a moment if we were as intentional with our children? What if we helped our kids see love, sex, and marriage in those more concrete and lasting terms? What if we, through observation and our own experiences, helped our children not to just understand the physical aspects of what love, sex, and relationships mean but to go further and assist them in crafting a better image of what ‘the one’ should look like. What if I reinforced for my kids the necessity of being equally yoked, how to spot in another a right view of money and why that’s so important, or the necessity of faith? What if they were to begin painting that picture with more than just the superficial colors of a beautiful face, great job, or six pack abs, and instead used the more boring, but longer lasting, hues of self-respect, integrity, and kindness? What if we taught our sons to see beauty in one’s modesty and our daughters to honor another’s humility instead of his arrogance? To begin looking intentionally for those qualities, which are rarely found at the bar or club. What if we helped them to emphasize the characteristics of compassion, sacrifice, and goodwill instead of accomplishment, gain, and ego?
I spend so much time molding my son be the right guy, but am I showing him what to look for in the right girl? I want my daughters to be strong and courageous but am I teaching them how to spot the same in the men they will meet? I think, if honest, our answers would cause us pause and embarrassment. Mine does. Maybe we don’t do this because we feel it’s not our place. We’ve made too many mistakes, we’re screwed up ourselves, who are we to tell another what should be most important and what to look for. Maybe our relationship or marriage isn’t what we want so we would feel like hypocrites to give another advice.
I don’t believe any of that.
In fact, it’s because of our mistakes, the poor choices, and our selfish motives that makes us not only qualified, but actually obligated, so perhaps we can help our kids avoid similar futures. We will unlikely ever be asked to get a wife for our son, or husband for our daughter, but you can be sure when they’re ready they’ll use whatever map is available to find that person. It will either be one traced with the love and support every parent desires for a child, or it will be one they draw themselves.
It’s only a question of which leads them in the right direction.