Dear fathers and mothers in Christ, I am grateful for the experience and wisdom given to you from God for raising godly families. As you know, many of us are just beginning to start our own families. How desperately we need your encouragement in this time.
Statistically speaking, homes with a married father and mother are becoming less common. Recent Pew research states that since 1968, there has been a fourfold increase in the number of unmarried parents in the United States. While this reality has affected all races and ethnicities, the prevalence of unmarried parents strikes particularly close to home for me as someone from a Hispanic background. Almost a quarter of Hispanic children are now being raised by single mothers. I was one of those children, raised by a hardworking single mother. For many of us, there was no such thing as a “normal” family upbringing. We didn’t get to see husbands who loved their wives as Jesus loves the church or wives who modeled the grace and holy submission described in Scripture (Eph. 5:22–33). Now, we’re trying to lead our own homes, but it isn’t easy. It’s like entering a dark, furnished room for the first time. You inch about, but you can’t help but run into the couch or the coffee table. The ultimate hope is that we’ll learn the landscape of marriage and family before—to continue the metaphor—knocking over an expensive vase and doing serious damage. Your guidance is critical, and I’d like to share just a few ways I think you can provide it.
We need to be reminded that changing diapers today is a part of long-term discipleship lest we lose heart.
First, would you be honest with us about your past failures? Some of you (regardless of your own upbringing) have knocked over vases. You’ve made mistakes in the home and can trace the steps that led you to them. They could have been mistakes in the way you loved your spouse, in the way you handled finances, in how much time you devoted to work, or in how you raised your children. The gospel gives us the freedom to open up about our past failures because they are forgiven. Of course, forgiven failures still have consequences, but they can also be used by God to teach important lessons to others. There are warnings you can give us that we need to hear, and as hard as it might be for you to share them, it can be of great benefit to us, your children in Christ.
Second, we need your perspective. By this, I mean not only your advice but also your outlook. I’ve noticed that it’s easy to get tunnel vision with small children in the home. We need to be reminded that changing diapers today is a part of long-term discipleship lest we lose heart. I suspect that this perspective is what you’re beginning to share with us when you say, “Enjoy these days; they go by so fast!” Don’t stop there. Continue to encourage us when “these days” feel exhausting. Remind us of our ultimate hope, the Son of God. When we’re so wrapped up in our own families that we lose sight of His family—and eternity—speak the truth in love to us.
Third, teach us how to lead our families in worship. We understand the concept of a personal devotional life, but praying and reading Scripture together is something we don’t do very well. We need your encouragement to cultivate these godly practices, and we need your wisdom on what works best in the different stages of a young family. How does a new husband wash his bride in God’s Word? How does a new mother plant the seeds of faith in her children? What has worked for and blessed your family, and what would you have done differently if you could have?
Fathers and mothers, you are a gift to our generation if you set for us the godly example commanded by Paul, and pass it down:
Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity and sound speech. (Titus 2:2–7)
May God help you to model these things, and may He help us to learn them from you.
Rev. Adriel Sanchez is senior pastor of North Park Presbyterian Church in San Diego and cohost of the Core Christianity radio program.