I am thinking of five Christian entertainers or conference speakers right now. I have heard or read interviews of them all being asked the same question in one form or another, ‚ÄúIs it hard to promote the Christian values of home and marriage when your ministry takes you so far from home?‚ÄĚ I don‚Äôt remember their pat answers, but I do know that all are now divorced. The reason this has come to mind is that one of the questions I am often asked is how I managed to juggle my personal applications as taught in the Family Discipleship Seminar with my travel schedule. My response is, ‚ÄúI didn‚Äôt!‚ÄĚ Not that I didn‚Äôt apply the FDS to my family but rather I did not travel. I stayed home, behaved myself and fulfilled the Biblical commands concerning leaders in the church until my children were grown and on their own.
When my children were small, I turned down multiple ministry opportunities that would have entailed travel and was told to my face that my career would be a dead-end if I kept saying ‚Äúno.‚ÄĚ As my children matured and neared their entrance to college, Eleanor and I began to prepare for our new life. I began taking a single one-week-to-ten-day mission trip apart from the family each year and a single one-week-to-ten-day mission trip with Eleanor each summer while the children were at Church camp or on their own mission trip. It was my experience that as long as you were there to put them on the church bus and there waiting when the church bus pulled into the church parking lot, our children did not care where we were in-between. (Now, I will say of our youngest, Lizzy, that she was not a ‚Äúcamper‚ÄĚ so she negotiated to spend two weeks or so each summer in Colorado Springs with her Aunt Mary and Uncle Jon. Uncle Jon worked at that time for Focus on the Family and Aunt Mary was a stay-at-home mom. Both were devoted to the Lord with wonderful Christian children. I can honestly say that these summers were great times of spiritual renewal and refreshment for Lizzy.)
You show me a pastor or conference speaker who begins to say from the pulpit or podium, ‚ÄúOf course we all know that Proverbs are just truisms. Proverbs 22:6 ‚ÄėTrain up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it‚Äô cannot be taken literally or as a promise.‚ÄĚ And more often than not, I will show you a pastor with family problems at home or on his deacon or elder board.
I always want to ask these sages if Proverbs 23:27 ‚Äúfor a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well‚ÄĚ is simply a truism, not to be taken literally. That in fact, sometimes the prostitute and the adulterous wife are not deep pits. That this passage is not universally true. Or Proverbs 3:5-6, again is simply a truism, not to be taken as a universal promise: ‚ÄúTrust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.‚ÄĚ Is this simply a nice sentiment that may or may not be true in all circumstances? A generality, yes, but not all Christians can expect God to direct their paths when they trust fully in Him. Of course, both Proverbs 23:7 and Proverbs 3:5-6 are always true, as is Proverbs 22:6!
Proverbs is the Revelation of the holy, eternal, inerrant, written Word of God. It is to be taken as true, perfect and universally applicable to all. These Scriptures warning that the prostitute and adulterous woman are a deep pit and heinous sin are true in all cultures at all times. In the same vein, it is true and universally applicable to all people that if they sincerely trust Christ and follow Him as Lord that He will in goodness and grace direct their decisions, and (yes!) it is true for all people and all times that if you train your child in the way he would go that when he is old, he will not depart from it. As I have often said, when I hear a pastor explaining away passages in the Bible that deal with marriage and children, I assume there is trouble in the home ‚Äď either in his home or among the church elders, deacons or large donors.
The same can be said when I hear that the qualifications for Pastors, Elders and Deacons in the Pastoral Epistles are not ‚Äúcheck lists‚ÄĚ but generalizations on lifestyles. Such speakers, of course, mean verses concerning marriage and the family. They do not mean that the verses on teaching sound doctrine, honesty or drunkenness are to be overlooked but rather only the ones dealing with marriage and family. It is amazing how selective we can become concerning God‚Äôs holy, eternal, inerrant, written Word when it comes to marriage and the family.
As for Eleanor and me, our work as parents is over. My children are grown, independent and all walking with God. We have an empty nest. We are free to roam the world with a clear conscience. I was once asked about the empty nest. Personally, I love the empty nest!! I remember that first week without any kids in the home. Chasing your wife around not worrying who will hear. Never having her whisper, ‚ÄúDo you think the children can hear?‚ÄĚ I remember stopping off at Taco Bell, picking up dinner to go, picking up El at work, heading south to Galveston, watching the sun set and making out like bandits. We stayed out as long as we wanted, all night if we wanted, with not a care in the world. Great work if you can find it. The only prerequisite is to stay at home and raise your children when they are home and to live faithfully, lovingly and biblically with your wife.
But what about now? It is a great joy to us the way our children are devoted to us in such a loving way. We hear every week from one or more of them by SKYPE, e-mail, texting, pictures, updates and more. We feel so loved and affirmed. Before we are home, our children have divided up our time and make it clear that they have ‚Äúfirst dibs‚ÄĚ on grandma and grandpa. We can expect home visits from Joe and Lizzy, Sam and Anne, and Megan. Joe and Lizzy and Becca and Aaron also look forward to visits in their homes as well (Dallas and Mississippi, respectively). Sam and I have lunch on Fridays, and Megan is over several times a week - she and El love to go "bling" shopping together, get peddies and eat Sushi. Anne will bring the grandkids over and stay for a nice long visit; often they will ‚Äúsleep over‚ÄĚ so Sam and Anne can have a fun date night. Picnics, fun days, exchanging eating at each other‚Äôs homes - all are the order of the day when we are in the states.
A second question I am often asked concerns the Biblical role of the grandfather. Well, the long answer will need to be reserved for another blog. The short answer again harkens back to Proverbs. Once again, this passage is not a truism but rather an eternal truth transcending both time, geography and cultures (as do all the passages of Proverbs). In Proverbs 17:6, God the Holy Spirit teaches us that ‚Äúgrandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers.‚ÄĚ This passage is in two parts, and I have experienced first-hand the truth of the first part of this passage, namely that ‚Äúgrandchildren are the crown of old men.‚ÄĚ Truly my grandchildren are my crown.
As I have reflected, there is not event for which you are heaped with so much praise and for which you had so little to do than the birth of a grandchild. When people hear that I have eight grandchildren, I get slapped on the back and praised as if I had actually done something.
The second half of that verse is equally true but should be sobering for all grandfathers wherein we are told that ‚Äúthe glory of sons is their fathers.‚ÄĚ It is my sober and earnest prayer that in my old age, I would indeed be their glory. Just as they honor me with grandchildren - in the naming of the boys with my name, in the visits and respect they require of the grandchildren, in the way they overlook our shortcomings and encourage the children to express love, gentleness and respect - so I strive to live out my life in a way which will bring glory to them. That I would not embarrass them by my behavior in my final years. That I would be a godly, mature grandfather, an example to all. That I would finish strong in the ministry and Christian life - not bring them shame or embarressment in my last years. That I would be their glory in terms of maturity, devotion to the Lord, faithfulness to Eleanor and consistency in my example as a Christian gentleman, minister and disciple of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Yes, my family is still important to me, and I praise God for children who walk with God in such a way as to provide me with a platform from which to travel the world teaching and preaching our Lord Jesus Christ. I praise God for a wife who will travel with me. And I praise God that we are missed both while we are away and when we are in the country because we have children who love us, want to hear from us and lovingly care for us.
By His mercy, II Corinthians 4:1 Rev. John S. Mahon Grace Community Int. ‚Äď Tyumen, Russia (Deep in the heart of Siberia BUT we will be home with our grandkids before you know it!!!!)