January 15, 2006
Dear Paul and All My Friends at Grace Fellowship Church,
Well, well, well. It's been longer than a Hereford's tail since I wrote last and I am glad to get back to pen and pad. The colder weather makes sitting still a might easier to do, and all that time on the tractor this fall has filled my head with perhaps a couple good things to share with you. Mrs. Walter is all in a wonder that you would want to hear my babbling again, but what's a wife for if not to remind you that you're not half as good as you once thought you were!
Now, your pastor has asked that I write on "the family" and from the last pictures I've seen of all of you I can see why! You are getting to be quite a big church family and based on the number of under -21's in your crowd, you're made up of quite a few individual families! So families it is!
I suppose the first thing to remember is that Adam and Eve were a content little family long before Cain and Abel showed up. That means two things to me. 1. You don't need kids to be a family and 2. The most crucial relationship in any family is the one between husband and wife.
Now, I know that not every family is made up of a man, a woman and 2.1 kids, but for the sake of simplicity, let's talk of it as if they were. The husband and wife team in that family is like an ox team pulling a cart. If one don't pull, the cart goes in circles. Where mom and dad aren't pulling in the same direction the family is going to spin around in circles too. I can't stress this enough. It is as important as spokes in a wagon-wheel that mom and dad make their relationship the priority. Now, I realize that might sound a bit funny to some ears, but think of it like this.
A dairy cow likes predictability - meals and milking at the same time every day, day after day. Then she's free to spend her time grazing and rambling as she sees fit. Her milk is better and she lives longer all because she feels secure. I think your kids are bovine-like in this regard. A child needs predictability, routine, and security. All kinds of so-called experts have got to baking up their high-falutin' "studies" that show a stay-at-home mom helps prepare a more stable youngin'. Well, this just makes sense to me.
But it is not just the "staying at home" part that creates that environment - it is the obvious love between two sinners of the opposite sex that shines a little hope into the world and a world of security into your kiddo's hearts.
Children need parents that love each other to show them how to love. So how is it a man and woman ought to love one another in a family? Let's be polite and start with the ladies.
Solomon said the one who finds a wife "finds a good thing" (18:22), but he also asked, "An excellent wife who can find?" (31:6). I take it then, that we ought to be a might picky in our spousal selection.
So what ought you young unmarried men to be on the scout for? What makes that wife "excellent?" Answer: She is prudent. "Prudent?" What's that? A "prude" with dents in her face? I think not!
Best as I can tell, a prudent woman is one that don't rag and nag.
Proverbs 11:22 "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion."
Beauty is only skin deep as they say, and one blunder many young men make is mistaking "nice to look at" with "nice to be with!" A woman lacking tact can't make up for it with tresses and dresses. She may be all gold to look at, but mud and mire to be around. A woman without discretion says the wrong thing at the wrong time - and in particular has a hefty talent for saying and doing things that bring shame on her husband.
Proverb 12:4 "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
I've never had a bone rot in me, but I've read of a disease called Rocky Mountain Fever. Seems that's just about what happens when you get the tick bite - you rot from the inside out. Well, some wives bite like ticks until they suck the lifeblood out of their husbands. Rotten bones are quick to break. If you're going to have a family that pleases the Lord, then you need a wife who is prudent, not one who rots your bones!
Proverb 14:19 "House and wealth are inherited from fathers, [says Solomon] but a prudent wife is from the Lord."
A prudent wife supports her husband - there ain't much more to it than that! She is for him and not against him.
I once had a beautiful young colt given to me by a neighbour. She was a thing of beauty, and seeing my quiver was full Mr. Rooney sent her over for the kids to ride on. Thing is, that beautiful colt became an ornery horse. In fact, I eventually got to calling her ornery. "Ornery." That was her name! And rightly so - she fought you all the way. Fight a husband long enough and soon you'll be shadow-boxing.
Proverb 19:13 "...a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain."
Proverb 21:9 "It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife."
Proverb 21:19 "It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman."
Now Solomon was wise and I think he had a progression in mind here. From annoyance, to avoidance to abscondance! (Okay, I made up that last word. I thought the preacher would like one that started with an "a." Basically it means abandoning - wait, that's an "a" word too - should've just used that!) The desert is no pleasant place to live from what I can tell - but it's nicer to eat locust and honey in 128 degrees than dip your fruit in chocolate fondue with a nattering wife in your ear! My point is that the annoyance comes first. A rock may not budge in a single earthquake, but years of water dripping on it from above and soon it is gone. If you want to get rid of your husband, just nag, rag and complain. He'll desert to the desert!
Proverb 27:15-16 "A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one's right hand."
So, what a wife needs to remember is to support that husband, as hard as it may be! It may surprise you to see what happens. My Amish neighbour told me, that if you need an extra mile out of your ox, you're more prone to get it through kind words than the whip - from encouragement rather than discouragement! Beat a dog and he'll do what you say - and that is about it. Show him some love and affection and he might save your life one day!
So wives, I say, do all you can to build up and strengthen that man that is yours. Focus on his good points (or point, or half-point, or potentially good point) and make him want to be around you.
And husbands, just sit back and enjoy it. Don't ever change or grow or help or love - just kick back King Tut and let everyone tell you how great you are while they fetch your slippers and feed you grapes!
Being a husband for pretty near 48 years, I think I have a few things to say about it. Sure Solomon has some to say about how a wife ought to act, but there is more than 9 words waiting for a husband too.
Proverb 27:8 "Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home."
I know what it is like to be a man and a married one at that. So did wise old Solomon (a few thousand times over!) - and the first bit of wisdom he had to share with men was all about staying close to your nest. That makes Walter think that a prime temptation to the married man is to move from frustration, to the corner of the roof, to the desert! In other words, it seems men have a bent toward running away - whether relationally, emotionally or physically!
No wonder Solomon commands husbands to enjoy their wives. What a funny thing!
Proverbs 5:15 Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
Now do you see what he's done there? He's commanded the thing you thought you would never stop doing the day you said, "I do." But sin is a sly monster and even the best marriages run up on a few shoals, so the Lord sees fit to tell us what to do. Enjoy that wife - and to do that you will need to love her!
Now recall I am talking about the husband and wife and their relationship as being the cornerstone or foundation to a good family. What I am getting at is that this husband and wife thing needs to be firing on all cylinders before we can expect any other good in the family. You can paint up your '47 Chevy all you like, but it ain't much good without an engine that runs. Your marriage is the engine of your family.
I once knew a man who took great pleasure in belittling and bemoaning his wife. She bore it patiently for many a year, but those 3 boys of theirs - what a truckload of sorrow they brought into the world. Seems they had no peace in their hearts or their heads and each one fell prey to his own vice. My own view is that much of the problem started with the division between husband and wife. Life was always uncertain and the future dim for those boys.
Just like a wife without discretion shames her husband, a husband who wanders shames his wife. A good husband will decide early on to stay as close to the nest as he can. The way I figure it, everyone should be a farmer. I may get tempted to hide from my wife in my barn, but there's no one there to tempt me even further. From what I see on the little bit of TV I watch, you city folk have a million offers to wander from home.
You remember Solomon's warning against the seductive woman:
Proverbs 7:21 With much seductive speech she persuades him;
with her smooth talk she compels him.
22 All at once he follows her,
as an ox goes to the slaughter,
or as a stag is caught fast
23 till an arrow pierces its liver;
as a bird rushes into a snare;
he does not know that it will cost him his life.
The bird that wanders is sure to get snared. I've even read of men committing cyber-adultery - living a fantasy life with a bunch of fake photographs. Knowing my own heart, it makes me glad we don't have that internet, as it sounds like a deceptive trap. A trap that leads to spiritual death!
Proverbs 7:24 And now, O sons, listen to me,
and be attentive to the words of my mouth.
25 Let not your heart turn aside to her ways;
do not stray into her paths,
26 for many a victim has she laid low,
and all her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is the way to Sheol,
going down to the chambers of death.
A man has got to decide that he is not going to run away, either in his heart or with his feet, from his wife. Jesus told us husbands to love our wives in the same manner that he loves his bride. Now it would do all us men a dump truck load of good to stop and ponder that command for a day or three. "To love as he loves." Patient. Kind. Generous. Forgiving. Helpful. Peaceful. Self-controlled. Laying down our life for our bride. I don't suppose we need many more specifics than that. The Lord simply picked the highest thing, the Law-fulfilling thing, the God-pleasing thing - and said, "Do that all the time and no matter what."
Now let me stray a bit from Solomon and Bible and offer a few Walterism's in this regard - some practical ways to keep your marriage running well.
1. Make time together. No one plows my fields. No one milks my cows. No one feeds my swine. Them and 200 other jobs are waiting to be done day after day on my farm and if I ain't there they don't get done. A log won't burn if it ain't in the fire. And you can't love the spouse you never see. The simple fact is, you have got to spend time together.
There are lots of ways to do this. Running errands together, sitting down on the sofa after dinner, eating breakfast together before the rest of the house is up... you have got to find the things that work for you. But what I am talking about is a mindset. You got to have your mind set on spending time together where you are going to find about that other person.
2. Commit to Ephesians 4:26-27 "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil." That devil is a rotten fiend. As rotten as he is, he is still smart - and one way he works is by finding our little grudges and resentments and wedging his wicked foot in there like a desperate mountain-climber. Old anger and long-cherished grudges make soft soil for that demon's toes. So, a smart couple will set an expiry date on all their feuds - sunset. That means that your happiest times ought to be in winter, I guess! If you know that you're gonna have to confess and forgive in a few short hours, it sure makes the getting angry part less attractive! However you want to exercise it, I think the important thing is that you decide that as much as you can help it, there'll be peace between your hearts before your heads hit their pillows.
3. Hebrews 13:4 "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." You simply have to commit to a purity of heart and body. Nothing drives a wedge between two lovers like lust.
4. 1 Corinthians 7:3 "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
It's always struck me as funny how we humans mess everything up! Look around the world today and you find lots of people willing to have sex with anyone. Then you find married couples that haven't fulfilled their conjugal duties in years! No, a Christian couple ought to be committed to great love-making to the glory of God. (And the single person committed to saving that act for the marriage bed alone!) I'm sorry if that's a might too personal, but I think I am standing on the authority of the Book. My own view is that this is all a part of the wisdom of God. For a couple to keep together physically requires them to stay together emotionally - they have to stay involved with each other and loving each other.
Most men I know have a healthy appetite in this regard! If you take away all the other forms of feeding that drive (as the Lord does), then you keep that husband focused on his wife. But maybe I am just too simple.
5. Agree to never talk about some things. Really, only one thing comes to my mind... and that is the D-word. Mrs. Walter and I have never discussed, even in jest, the idea of divorce. We never joke about it, threaten it, think about it or talk about it. We decided early on that death would be the only thing to separate us.
Now that does something to you! If you walk into a marriage with some ridiculous "escape clause," you are inviting division! Old Charlie McIntyre used to talk so much about how everything was going to go wrong it almost always did... for him! If he'd of just kept at has task and worried about pleasing the Lord more than what troubles might beset him, he'd lived a happier and no doubt longer life.
I read once of a sea captain who cut loose his own lifeboats so as to keep his men on board ship while they passed some tropical islands. Those sailors were tempted to sneak off to what looked like greener pastures when there was a way to get there. Once them lifeboats were gone, they were focused on the task and kept to their duties. A couple needs to take out the slightest thought of slinking off on a lifeboat to some supposed Tahiti. Life will always be better if they stick together and grow in the Lord.
Now, I have much more to say on this matter of the family, but I want this first and biggest point to stick in your eye. The foundation to a good family is a good marriage. There is no way around it.
Mrs. Walter and I didn't always have it so good. Fact is, life was a little awkward for us at the get go and, truth be told, we both were wondering a little bit whether we were going to make it or not. But then the Smiths came into our lives.
The Smiths farmed a mile or so up the road from us. We met them soon after we bought and they quickly became friends. We would spend a fair amount of our leisure time with them, mostly because there was always a warm fire and lots of fun to be had. But those days with the Smiths were more than just fun. The whole time we were around them we were learning. You see, the Smiths had been married for about 15 years at the time, and they had learned some things. They were both godly people and just plain nice to be around. More than that, they worked hard at their marriage and it showed.
At first, I used to say things to Mr. Smith like, "Boy, you picked a gem of a woman." Or, "You too get along so well, you've got it easy!" But he would have none of it!
"I'm a sinner just like you Walter and Mrs. Smith just like your bride. We all start from the same place. If there is any good in our marriage, it's of the Lord and because we have tried to follow Him. Don't try to act like the Holy Spirit's work is just luck!"
Wow! I shut my trap and decided to watch a little more closely. What I saw was just what he said. Those two saints lived to please God by loving each other.
Now, me and Mrs. picked up lots of practical little ideas on how to do that just from being around that couple. I would list them here, but I have a better idea for you. Spend time with godly couples! Find your own Smiths and stick close to them. Let their ways rub off on you a little and you will be better for it. Then one day you will be a Smith to some Walter!
Well, I am always writing too much, but I feel strongly about these things and I want them to sink in to your heads like a tractor into a muddy field. So stuck it won't get out!
I wish I could be there to discuss these things with you, but I trust your elders can carry the conversation along in a way that pleases the Lord.
Remember - keep your marriage a priority and your family is sure to prosper!
P.S. Please thank Josh for the nice Christmas card and ask him if he got that little note I sent down to him. I hope that helps him figure out which way to go.