Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24). This verse holds firmly in our hearts as we live out our journey of marriage and parenthood. We have learnt that the call and desire to give life to each other does not happen effortlessly, but it requires intentional sacrifice and an unending flow of God’s grace.
As individuals, we used to think that the romantic love that we had for each other would be sufficient to sustain our marriage. Boy, were we naive! Through our joys and tears, we have realised that being self-sufficient, relying on our own plans and strength will eventually lead us towards a path of division and anxiety. And that the surest way of walking through our difficult conversations (which we’d rather sweep under the carpet), choosing to forgive (even when we don’t feel like it), and entrusting the areas within us which requires God’s healing (instead of numbing them), is to first love our Lord Jesus.
God has been gradually revealing to us that parenthood is truly a school of sacrifice – one that we never graduate from. Each day, we are called to continuously recognise how self-centred we can be, and how we need to respond to Jesus’ invitation to serve one another.
Brandon: Our children, Sarah and Nathan, were born in 2013 and 2019. It was truly His miracle to receive them into our lives and a privilege to be their earthly guardians. Yet, it is constantly a struggle to adapt to the responsibility of nurturing their souls and the many sleepless nights that come with this commitment. I still recall our kids’ new-born phase when they would wake up every 2 to 3 hours to nurse or to be soothed… It was a battle of dying to self! Pulling myself out of bed to cradle our baby with my eyes half closed is truly a moment of grace and self-denial. At times, I secretly wished that maybe if I stayed in bed long enough, Samantha would get up and do it. But in such moments of self-centredness, the Holy Spirit prompts me to consider the interest of Samantha and to attend to our children’s needs in a more wholehearted manner. Witnessing how my little acts of love and service lifts the stress off Samantha reminds me that sacrifices are never done in vain.
Samantha: In order to ‘get our life back’, we even considered the popularised way of ‘sleep training’ children so that they learn to be ‘independent’. However, Jesus reminded us to look to the crucifix and how a life-giving sacrifice is never built on convenience or sheer practicality. It then hit us hard that we would be neglecting our baby’s needs by letting them cry on their own in a different room, instead of attending lovingly to them. I was also prompted that even as an adult, I wish to be heard and consoled by Brandon and my loved ones, what more our little children whom Jesus welcomes freely! While it would definitely be nice not to have our sleep disrupted every other night by them, I have realised that responding sensitively to their needs has connected our family in a much deeper way. We are grateful that Jesus renews our minds to not follow trends and cultures that promote instant gratification and self-indulgences, but to continually draw inspiration from the wisdom and way of the cross as we grow in our parental journey. Providing our kids with a sense of emotional security and trust as they grow has hopefully allowed them to encounter an extent of our Heavenly Father’s intimate love.
Brandon: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4) Being disciplined is tough, disciplining our children is even tougher! We find ourselves having to consult one another and to pray for God’s wisdom as we discipline and correct our kids lovingly. Not through fear and anger, but with compassion and reason through many time-in, time-out moments of reflection and firm correction grounded on God’s truths. Although this takes a lot more effort and self-control versus disciplining them without restraint, I am thankful that drawing counsel and wisdom from the heart of our Heavenly Father has continually helped us to discipline our kids while maintaining their God-given worth and dignity. There have been times when we were unreasonable and disciplined them out of frustration, but Jesus humbles us as we gently seek our kids’ forgiveness for our moments of weakness.
We’ll be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary this December and we praise God for rooting our hearts to strive to love like Him. Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) As a family, we’ve been journeying with the Tree of Life Community for the past seven years. Being and serving in the community strengthens our three-fold cord even further. And just as marriage has sanctified us, our children and community have extended and deepened this call of sanctification. As we commit our family to the wider family of God, we pray that the crosses of love and self-sacrifice we carry for one another will bear fruit in our relationship with our spouse, children and community. In the moments where we falter and try again, we know that it is truly not by our efforts alone, but through the power of Christ who lives in us! Amen.