Our children learn most from watching us.
For example, when I was growing up my parents must have repeatedly told us that we should tell the truth (I confess I don’t remember these conversations but I do remember getting spanked for lying – so clearly it must have been important to them…).
However, what I do remember (apart from the spanking) was the time they told us to lie about our age so we could get cheaper tickets to the circus. So what did I learn? It was unfair that I got spanked for lying but they didn’t. Lying is ok (as long as you don’t get caught).
As we see in this example, two things will happen if our actions don’t line up with our life:
- Firstly our children will see that we’re a hypocrite and will lose respect for what we say.
- Secondly, our children will copy what we do and not what we say.
However anyone who’s ever been a parent for more than 5 minutes will know that we will always say one thing and do another. The temptation is to ignore it (or worse: try and justify our actions). It’s always far better to be honest about our failings and apologise to our children for letting them and ourselves down. That way they will learn that we have integrity – that we are calling them as well as us to the same standard. We’ll touch on this more in our next post.
Bringing this conversation back to sexuality: our children’s primary understanding of sexuality is going to come from how they see us interact.
So there’s no point having conversations if our actions don’t back it up – children can see straight through this.
For example, I never saw my parents kissing, holding hands, hugging or any kind of affection to each other nor to us (and this was simply a product of the austere environment that they themselves grew up in). The thought of them making babies from what I heard in biology lessons was simply unthinkable. And from the dirty jokes I heard in the playground I reasoned that it was never mentioned or expressed at home because it must be something dirty. This thinking was one of the foundations that led me to get ensnared in pornography in my teenage years.
Hence, we need wholeness (as mentioned in the previous post) so we can model this wholeness to our children.
But what does wholeness in our sexuality look like?
As we shall see throughout this course, our God’s divine nature is made known through created things:
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. (Rom 1:20a)
And since out of all of creation we are singularly made in the image of God:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
Our sexuality, especially within the context of marriage, is actually a prophetic declaration about the nature of our three-in-one God.
So if we want to to know what our sexuality should look like we need to take time to understand the nature of the God whom we are imaging. An overview (as represented in our icon) is that:
God is a community of three distinct persons (Father, Son and Spirit) and so a marriage is a community of 3 distinct persons (man, woman and Spirit).
- God is also one (Jn 17:21-23) and so man and woman (as physical spirit beings) are designed to become “one flesh” in marriage.
- God is love (1 Jn 4:8) – the Father (the lover) eternally loving the Son (the beloved) by the Spirit (Jn 17:24) and then the Son loves the Father back (Jn 14:31). In the same way the man (the lover) is to created love the woman (the beloved) by the Spirit and then the woman loves the man back.
For this post we’re just going to briefly look at the third aspect: husbands you need to love your wives like the Father loves the Son (Jn 17:24) and like the Son then loves His Bride (Eph 5:25).
“One of the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” (Howard W. Hunter)
And wives need to receive this love and then love their husbands back.
How can we do this in a way that our children see it clearly? Gary Chapman in his excellent book speaks of 5 love languages: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and gifts (or for those who like alliteration: touch, time, talk, tasks and tokens).
Let’s look briefly at each of these in turn:
First we need to show physical affection in front of the children – by modelling this they will see this as a natural expression of love (and not something that they only see in a lustful context such as on MTV or late night telly). So I make an effort (well most of the time it’s not) to kiss my wife when I get in from work and to regularly cuddle her in front of the children. And the children love it! So much so that when I’m cuddling my wife I find one of my children popping up in the middle of our embrace! Isn’t that godly? Don’t we just delight in the love of God that we want to be part of it too?
“But I’m not a physical person!” you might cry. Well that will change as we’re all becoming like Jesus who became flesh (Jn 1:14) and then showed love in a physical way. For example he touched the unclean leper (Mt 8:13) , he held the children in his arms as he blessed them (Mk 10:16) and at the last supper he had the disciple John leaning in his bosom (Jn 13:23 NKJV). If you are struggling, then ask for prayer for the Spirit to highlight the issues (which is often due lack of affection received growing up or abuse) and receive the Father’s embrace and healing in those areas.
Secondly we need our children see us taking our spouse out on a date. Even better involve them in the planning. If money is tight then our children need to know that we have special mummy/daddy time on certain nights. The disciples saw Jesus spending time with the Father and this led them to cry out “teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1) they saw something in the intimacy that made them want to experience this too.
Thirdly, we need to say how much we love our spouse and affirm them in front of the children. So as I struggle with cooking and directions I regularly say to the children things like “I’m so glad I married your mummy as otherwise we’d be eating oven food every night” or when driving “thank you so much for map reading as I would be lost without you”. The disciples saw the Father affirming His Son when He declared “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mk 9:7).
Fourthly, we need our children to see us serving our spouse. So my wife loves a tidy house so the children often hear me say “I’m just going to tidy this up as I love your mummy and your mummy likes it tidy”. I want to model to them that this is one way we show love – not just the “easy” gifts and physical affection. In the same way Jesus demonstrated His love for the Father by being obedient to Him (Jn 14:31).
Finally, we need our children to see us buying gifts for our spouse. So when I’m doing the weekly shop with my children they often see me buy a little something for mummy as she would love it. In the Trinity we see that the whole world was an extravagant gift to Jesus “all things have been created through him and for him” (Col 1:16b)
With any list like this the danger is that we can see it as something we must strive to achieve – but that’s living under law whereas we live under grace (Eph 2:8-9). We love because he first loved us (1 Jn 4:19) – so we need to receive the Father’s love for us, receive His Spirit of love (Rom 5:5; Gal 5:22) so that love just flows out of us . Trying harder will just lead to resentment or discouragement. Receiving the Father’s love will lead to rivers flowing out of our heart (Jn 7:38 NKJV). Spend time letting him love you – just rest in His presence and listen to Him sing songs of love over you – it’ll be time well spent and your spouse will notice the difference.
Father, thank you that you love me. Thank you that you’re loving me right now. I receive Your love now. Fill up all the dark areas of my heart with your love. Let me know how You rejoice over me with singing. Let me know how You delight in me, that You are proud of me. Let me know that nothing I have done can separate me from Your unfailing love. Let me know that You have plans and purposes for me to prosper me and give me hope and a future.