In my favorite marriage book, The Mystery of Marriage, Mike Mason beautifully describes and unpacks God’s ultimate purpose in marriage – to make us holy. We are sanctified as we live alongside someone we dearly love – and through whom we see our own flaws so clearly and personally. “The truth about marriage,” Mason writes, “is that it’s a way not of avoiding any of the painful trials and subtractions of life, but rather of confronting them, of exposing and tackling them most intimately. It is a way to meet suffering personally, head-on, with the peculiar directness, the reckless candidness characteristic only of love. And so it is a gradual unfolding of interpersonal consecration, a process in which all the pain locked up in two lonely, self-centered lives is no longer hidden or suppressed (as it tends to be everywhere else in life), but rather released, that in the hands of love it might be used as the raw material for sanctification. Marriage is not a way to evade suffering but to suffer purposefully.” I’ve been pondering and living through these truths since I got married nearly 10 years ago.
Only recently, however, was I exposed to the idea that parenting is also a form of sanctification. God uses our efforts to rear our children to work on us – to purify us, rid us of sin, and make us holy. It makes a lot of sense, actually. Some days it can feel like all your efforts to love your child, lead him well, train him in godly ways are going… nowhere. No matter what you do. A dear, godly friend once said of her son, then four, “He can make me angry in a way that no other human on the planet can.” I can relate. I adore my children and would gladly lay down my life for them… But when things are going terribly despite my best efforts, they can also arouse a sense of helplessness and despair in me that I rarely meet in any other setting. (more…)