Many years ago, my husband was trying to explain to someone how your relationship with your spouse, if you have one, is more important than any other earthly relationship.
The other person quickly said, “No, it’s with your kids.”
To which my husband said, “It doesn’t mean that you love your kids less, it’s just that they will move on and all that will be left is you and your spouse. If the marriage breaks down, everything falls apart.”
The other person didn’t quite seem to get what my husband was saying.
This is often what happens. When someone says your relationship with your spouse is one of the highest priorities, people often hear, “Don’t love your kids as much as your spouse.”
I think we’ve gone about explaining this not quite accurately enough so that people understand. This weekend, at our Sunday Bible study with our kids, my husband and I were talking about love with them. I’ll try to capture what I said to them.
Our number one relationship in all of life should be with God. God is love and if He is love then a relationship with Him is how we come to truly and fully understand what love is and how to love well. God loves us perfectly, fully, wholly, immensely, and eternally. There is no flaw in His love and there is no measure to it.
When we put God first in our lives and really truly try to live our lives for Him, we are graced with the capacity to love more like Him. The more we tap into God, the more we open ourselves up to being more like Him and the more we are like Him, the better we love.
It isn’t like I have a cookie jar full of love where I dole out my love to those in my family. It’s not as if I say, “Okay, Dustin, you get 1/2 of my love. Kids, you get to divide 1/4 of my love up evenly between you, and there will be 1/4 left over for my mom, dad, brother, sister, other family members, and friends.” This is not how love works when done right.
When we order things as they should, with God at the top of our priority list, the love is limitless. We don’t have to measure our love out to those around us. We don’t run out; our love doesn’t dry up. Quite the opposite, we are able to love more fully, wholly, and immensely, because we have tapped into the source of love–God. There is not an X amount of love in the world and when we’ve given it out, then it’s all gone. No, the beautiful thing about love is that the more we give away, the more we have to give away. It just keeps coming.
When I order my life with God at the top, I am able to love my husband more completely. This in turn allows me to love my children more completely. My marriage comes from God and through the love in our marriage came our children. It flows perfectly: From God, our marriage; from our marriage, our kids. Loving God first frees us to love in a deep, deep way. Our children come through the love in the marriage and it only makes sense that to keep the family happy, intact, and loving, the parents must make sure that they are loving each other well.
There has never been a family in the history of the world that has fallen apart when the spouses were both loving the other deeply, truly, and fully. There have been families–many in fact–that have fallen apart when the spouses neglected each other and focused all their love on their kids.
The point is that when someone says your marriage needs to take precedence over your other earthly relationships, they are not in anyway implying that you should love your kids less. No one is saying to completely ignore the young’uns and just stare into your spouses eyes all day. A healthy marriage, however, is more necessary, more essential to the well-being of all in the family.
But, what about single people and single mothers and fathers? No matter your situation in life, your relationship with God is the most important. Growing closer to God only helps you to love better all who cross your path. It helps you to offer a smile to a stranger, to say a kind word to the cashier, to help a co-worker who is feeling overwhelmed. We are commanded by God to love everyone, but how I show that love looks different depending on the closeness of my relationship with a certain person.
I often times get a feeling that people have a certain “pride” in saying that they love their kids more than their spouse. It is important to remember that kids desperately want their parents to love each other. They need to see that you do, because it gives them security and peace. Each month, my husband and I have date night and my two older children watch their younger brother. They never gripe or complain. In fact, my oldest told me that she loves seeing us go out on dates. The question is why? She loves it, because her foundation is her father and I. If we are broken, or teetering on shaky ground, our children will feel anxious, fearful, nervous, and doubtful of the state of the family.
I grew up with both my parents giving me and my siblings tons of attention and love. Sadly, they couldn’t find a way to love each other and I always ached for that. In fact, I wish in many ways, they would have put their effort into each other more than into us kids. My parents didn’t stay together and it is a truly difficult thing when your foundation breaks. I vowed in my heart that my kids would always be assured of my love for their dad. It is a great gift I can give them. This means that I have to make sure that our marriage is not sinking in the deep, while my relationship with my kids is sailing along beautifully. The most important thing, though, for all the people I love, is that I am allowing God to be immersed in my life all day, every day. On days that I don’t invite Him in, I don’t love as well. On the days that I work diligently at my relationship with God, I have more patience, more gratitude, more kindness, and a greater ability to love. When I’m loving God right, everyone wins.