It was a Sunday afternoon, I had just gotten home from our morning church service. I had taught that morning on “Fatherhood”. I had given the fathers in the audience an assignment. Truthfully, it seemed like an easy enough one to do. I had told each of them to go home and gather their children in the living room, sit down with them, look them tenderly, right in the eyes, and say these words, with conviction:
I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU, CHILDREN,
I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOUR MOMMY
It was about 2 pm in the afternoon and I was tired from the 3 services I had done that weekend when the phone rang. I debated whether or not to answer it, but looking back, I am very glad I did.
There was a father on the phone who I knew quite well. I had led him and his wife to Christ some years earlier. They had a couple of children who I also had the privilege of baptizing after they each came to know Jesus. This father was quite distraught on the phone. I asked him what was wrong. He said, “Mark, you gave us the assignment to do when we got home from church today, and I don’t think I can do it! I feel very, very conflicted about it.” I asked him, “Jack, (not his real name), may I ask you, why do you feel so conflicted about telling your children that you will never leave them or leave their mother/your wife?” He then said this, “Mark, I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t know what might happen in my marriage next year, or what might unfold, or how I might feel 5 years from now!”
To him, this seemed like a perfectly logical way to think and he was very perplexed that I had asked the fathers to go home and make such a declarative promise to their children.
“Jack, may I ask you a question? Have you ever been in debt?” He said, “Of course, I am now.” I said, “Jack, do you think maybe next year when the pressure comes down on you and if you lost your job, would you go out and rob a bank?” He said to me incredulously, “Mark, I would never rob a bank, what kind of man do you think I am?” I said, “Jack, suppose in the next couple years someone you know very well in your life, could be a friend or someone at work, suppose they wrong you terribly, or deceive you, or fire you from your job for something you did not do, and as a result you are out of work for a year. Would you kill that person? Would you plot a way to murder them?” Again, he was incredulous with me, and said, “Mark, really, that is absurd, I would never, ever kill someone!” I said, “Jack, how do you know you wouldn’t do something like that next year, or next decade? I mean you don’t know how you would feel then, or what might provoke you?” To which he emphatically stated, “Mark, seriously, I am just not that kind of man. I know for a fact that I would not go rob a bank, or murder someone, no matter what the circumstances.” To which I said, “And Jack, I know for a fact that I have chosen that no matter what the circumstances, that I will never leave my children, and I will not leave their mom”.
I said, “Jack, isn’t the real issue this? You know marriage can be hard, you know feelings can go up and down, and you want to keep your options open? Jack, you have made it very, very clear that you have already decided you won’t rob a bank, no matter how difficult things get, that no matter how bad someone treats you, you will not murder them in return. You have already made a vital decision right now, in the present, about what kind of man you will be in the future.”
Your children need to know today the kind of man you promise them to be for the rest of their life. They need that vital, tremendous reassurance and security that comes to their precious little minds and hearts when they hear their daddy say to them, many times throughout their lives, “I will never leave you, I will not leave your mom,” for that is what it means to love them.
Let’s be honest, our little children were not there the day we got married. They did not hear our vows to our precious bride, they did not see the gleam in our eye, the overwhelming pride, and joy we had the day we married their mom. Our little children live with us in the day to day of life. They see the good, the bad, and the ugly. They hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. They see us at our best, and they see us at our worst.
For their emotional stability, security, and well being, they need us to positively, absolutely, with conviction, tell them to their precious little faces, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU, SWEETHEART, I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOUR MOMMY!” Even more than financial security, our children need the emotional and psychological security of a father who says and lives out this promise, “I will never leave you, I will never leave your mother. Never.”
Our little children have friends whose parents got divorced, whose daddy’s left them. Their little hearts can be easily troubled, unsettled, anxious, or worried when they see the stresses and strains of our lives, for we all have them. All of us. They can think in their little minds, “I wonder if my dad will leave me? I wonder if my dad will leave mommy and get divorced?” No marriage is perfect, no spouse is perfect, and in fact, marriage is the most intense relationship you will ever have. When you put two sinners of the opposite sex, from different family backgrounds, with different temperaments and personalities, different life experiences and life traumas, under the same roof, challenges are going to arise. Conflicts will surface, feelings will get hurt, words will get said. Our children don’t live in a vacuum, they live with us!
This is why it is essential to pray together every day with your spouse. This is why it is essential to die to yourself. This is why it is essential to say, “I am sorry, I was wrong, would you forgive me?” This is why it is essential to strive to be the man God made you to be and to imitate God! This is why it is essential to living the Gospel message in your home because your spouse will wrong you, and hurt you, and sin against you like you have wronged, and hurt, and sinned against God. And you will need to apply the Gospel message to your spouse like God has applied the Gospel message to you.
This is why your children need to hear you say, more than once during the course of their lives, with real, heartfelt conviction, “I will never leave you, I will never leave your mom.”
That day when I got off the phone with Jack, he went and sat his kids down and told them, from his heart, “I will never leave you, I will never leave your mom.” He and his wife have been married for decades now and they are grandparents themselves. Jack decided that day what kind of man he wanted to be for the rest of his life, and he became that man.
In a few weeks, I will celebrate 40 years of marriage to Kathy. I have been through some of the most excruciating difficulties, trials, and tribulations as a man, you can imagine. There were things that have occurred that I would not have believed had someone told me 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 1 year ago, would happen. Some of them have brought me right to the edge of complete despair and an overwhelming desire to give up and quit. I have watched other men, fathers who I have known in my life, give up and quit. Men whom I thought would never do such a thing, did the unthinkable. Now as an older man I can grasp, with a deeper understanding, how a man might feel there is no way to go on, that he has no other options than to quit and walk away from his family. However, I can also say, now that I am an older man who has been tested by the very fires of hell, I choose what I chose before, over and over again, I will never leave my kids, I will never leave my wife, never, ever, ever!
Men, I want to urge you to make that choice today. I want to urge you to sit with your children and say these words to them, “I will never leave you, I will never leave your mom.” Then, live that out, every day for the rest of your life. Demonstrate to them and their mom each day, your heartfelt commitment to them. I promise you, you will be so glad you did.
As always, my great desire is to help you, encourage you, inspire you and impart wisdom to you. In that spirit, please listen to this series as I believe it will be a great help to you.
Helping you become a Strong Disciple,
Because of Jesus,