1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (NIV)As a married man for more than 11 of my 34 years, I am here to report I am indeed concerned about the affairs of the world and, more importantly, how to make my wife happy. There are plenty of times I am thinking about my wife and children before I’m concerned with the Lord’s affairs, though I realize logically I am a much better husband and father when I view the former through the lens of the latter. But still, I get what Paul is saying, to a point.
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs — how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world — how he can please his wife — and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world — how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
Because for nearly 23 of my 34 years I was not a married man. And for a great, great deal of those 23 years, I was heavily engaged in thinking about what it might take to one day become a married man. In fact, I would suggest on balance I’ve been more concerned with the Lord’s affairs in the third third of my life so far than the first two thirds. It’s not unheard of to suggest young people are more inclined to think beyond their own interests — and often that includes a turn or return to faith — once children enter the picture.
On the simplest level, I want to be someone my children can be proud to call their dad, and I hope to raise them to be better citizens of the world than I have been. I don’t think that makes me special or unique. Part of the way I hope to accomplish these goals, a personal choice, is to seek God’s direction and will. This is not to say “I go to church to be a better husband and dad.” That’s far too simplistic. But I am trying to let faith drive the train, to keep the Lord’s intent at top of mind and through that devotion to live as the type of person God wants me to be.
Does it work? Some days better than others. Has it ever let me down? No, but I’ve failed to hold up my end plenty of times. Living in a right way, in undivided devotion, is monumentally difficult. Many folks would suggest it’s an impossible feat given the limitations of being human, and I’m not sure I disagree.
I don’t find these lines from Paul’s letter too difficult to swallow. If I’m devoted to God and actively seeking guidance and direction, I’m going to be able to please my wife and help care for our children. If I’m not properly caring for my wife and kids, I’m no longer right with the Lord. I’m not advocating for trickle-down parenting or anything, but I have been able to clearly identify in my own life the ways I live and love better if I am paying attention to what God wants on a consistent basis.
I would love to be free from concern. But anyone — single, married, parents or otherwise — truly lives a life free from concern. We can say no concerns of this life amount to the matter of our eternal soul, and that’s true, but when there are people in our life to love deeply and care for, well, concerns are a part of that deal. And so on we go, day after day, trying to make the right choices and just be good people. At least that’s what I hope we’re all doing. It’s certainly how I hope my sons view the world as they grow into maturity. And it’s my job to lead them by example. May God help us all.
A prayer for October 1:
Lord, I am thankful for the concerns in my life. There are so many important people for whom I care deeply — and who in turn show their care for me — I now realize the occasional heaviness in my heart is the reward that comes from loving and being loved. And yet I imagine it pales in comparison to the love you have for us, whom you lovingly made. How many times have I let you down? How many ways have I been a disappointment? I am so sorry for my shortcomings. Please help make me whole, set me on the right path and guide me each step of the way. Amen.