Sixteen Chapters

My wife and I recently celebrated our sixteenth wedding anniversary.  I wanted to make this occasion special, so I carved out some time just for us.  With three kids, a dog, a cat, and two full time jobs, weekend getaways do not come easy.  This was important to me however, so we dropped off the kids with the grandparents, and away we went.  

It was a fantastic time.  We dined at an excellent restaurant, squeezed in some shopping, and even managed to walk along the river bank on a sidewalk that seemed designed just for the two of us.  My wife has been with me through all manner of trials and all types of unexpected events.  We have shared many wonderful things together as well.  She has been a guiding light for me and the kids from the very beginning.  

Anniversaries are a time to celebrate what you have accomplished, as well as what lies ahead.  Anyone who has been married with children can tell you that you will have both good times and difficult times, but one thing is certain - it is never boring.  Boredom is not an affectation granted to parents!  It is a wild ride, and I have a feeling that is the way God intended it.  

As I look back through these first sixteen years, I cannot help but think of them as interesting chapters in a really good book.  We are sixteen chapters along so far, and I wouldn't change a thing.  How many more chapters will God grant me I wonder?  Will there be a chapter where I get to hold my own grandchildren?  Maybe a chapter or two written expressly for the purpose of living a long and healthy life.  One can only hope.

And how do we make certain that each chapter in our proverbial book of life is lived well?  Is it enough just to do the best we can with what we have?  What part does faith play in all of this?  Can we expect God to partner with us to raise our kids and to help nurture them through times of difficulty?

There is a wonderful piece of Scripture in the book of Proverbs that talks about this very thing.  I firmly believe it is a description of how God desires us to view the world.  A mantle of guidance for how the spiritual man or woman can - on his or her best day - make their way through this strange and wonderful life and be able to look back with satisfaction.

Proverbs 9:10 says this, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."  We should pause for a moment to define what is meant by the first part of this passage I think, because to misinterpret it is to confuse its real meaning.

When people in ancient times talked about fearing the Lord, it wasn't just the idea that we should be literally afraid of God.  Something up there so big and powerful that we are to cower under His mighty stare.  No, rather it means that all things being equal, it is best to have an awe and respect for God.  That it is good to obey His commands as best we can, and to revel in the knowledge that we are saved by faith through grace, and that not of our own hand (Ephesians 2:8).  

In other words, living with a healthy reverence for the one who created us ... all the while seeking to learn more about Him.  This is the real beginning of true wisdom.  This is actually one of my firm foundational beliefs.  If we do not participate in some way in this endeavor, then we are "missing it" I think.  We are living the empty shell of a life that was made for so much more.  We are only going through the motions.

I believe that in this way, God's wisdom (the fear of the Lord) can help guide all the chapters in our book.  Both the sixteen chapters that my wife and I have already shared, as well as the next sixteen.  

I suppose it would help to think of it from the perspective of a life lived without such reverence as well.  Let's say for the sake of argument that I lived out the first sixteen years of my marriage without any knowledge or appreciation for Biblical fortitude (and surely this was true for the first few years at least).  I work hard so that I can make a good living, so that we can afford cars and a decent home.  But to what end?  So that I can work even harder as time goes on, maybe get a promotion, and eventually buy a better car and a bigger house?  There must be more to life than this.

Or maybe I raise my kids in a loving environment, but there is no time for church or faith.  The children go from one activity to another.  They play sports and enjoy it, and maybe one of them goes off to college with a scholarship.  But to what end?  Don't other kids in other homes play sports and get scholarships?  Where is the grand importance here?  What meaning does any of it really have if it isn't grounded in some type of lasting faith tradition?  Again ... there must be more to life than this.

Proverbs 9:10 flies in the face of all of this.  It asks us to wake up from our slumber of being busy for the sake of being busy, and it requires us to take action.  It asks us not just what we are doing, but who we are doing it for.  Just how are those chapters in our book of life coming along?  Are the pages woven together by faith and a commitment to something greater than ourselves?  If not, it may be time to pause for a moment and reflect.

These are not silly platitudes, and I sincerely hope that what I'm saying doesn't sound that way.  How we live out the chapters in our life determines where we end up for all eternity, and whether or not we are pointing our children toward (or away) from a life with God.  The stakes are high, we dare not misstep.

I don't know, would I have been happy with the first sixteen chapters if they were Godless?  Maybe marginally.  But as my favorite author and philosopher C.S. Lewis writes in his book 'Mere Christianity': "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."     

The only reason we have chapters at all is because God grants them to us in the first place.  Why not give back to Him by simply seeking His light, and fearing Him the way a child should respect its parents.  We can partner with Jesus in a way that allows for our faith to grow and mature over the course of our life, and in so doing, pass along that tradition to the rest of our family.  We have the ability to transfer this faith to our children, our friends, and even others in the community.  We have a calling to live a Proverbs 9:10 type of life.

As I finish writing this article, my kids are tucked away in bed.  It was another busy day full of rushing around here and there.  I am actually surprised that we got everyone to bed at a decent hour.  It's time for me to turn in for the evening as well.  Time to put the finishing touches on this particular page in my sixteenth chapter.  I am looking forward with anticipation to the next chapter.  I haven't looked ahead yet, and there isn't a table of contents.  No cheating allowed.  Fear God and love him, and that will surely be enough I think.  I wish the same for all of my kids; and for yours as well.  



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