Does the term, “Holy Matrimony” ring a bell?  Well, it should.   It has been an expression used for years to describe what transpires in Christian wedding ceremonies.   The origin and meaning of the term “matrimony” itself is interesting enough but I want to focus on in this article is the term, “Holy”.

This is a term having at its root, the idea of  “set apart” …… “dedicated” …… or “like no other”.

So, our marriages are to be like no other relationship.  They should be in a category unlike any other in our lives.  Sounds pretty special, right?  But there is a pitfall in going too far with even the holiest of ideas.  Let me show you what I mean.

 Marriage is sacred.  It is holy.  It is like no other.  To build a good marriage, however, you must interweave things, ideas and activities which are part of other segments of  your life.  Marriages don’t exist in a vacuum.  They exist in a context.  Therefore, to have a good marriage, a holy marriage, you must skillfully integrate your marriage into the rest of life.  You cannot compartmentalize your marriage as though it exists as something running under a different set of rules.

To make marriage work, it must exist as separate/holy yet somehow be integrated with the systems, values and behaviors which bring the rest of your world into order.

All too frequently I have heard couples lament in marriage counseling sessions  that they feel  their spouse doesn’t treat them as well as others in their life.  A wife will say, “you listen so patiently with your co-workers and you never talk condescendingly to them”.  “Yet with me, you are so critical and defensive, I can hardly talk to you.”  And a husband will similarly complain,  “You put up with imperfections in others and yet you put the hammer down on me anytime I mess up or disappoint you in any way.”

 Sound familiar?  Truth is, many of us as couples hold one another to a far more rigid set of expectations than anyone else in our life.  And we seem to think that the patience, kindness and self-control we exercise in other compartments of our life are somehow not necessary in the marriage context.

So here’s what I suggest.  Set a time with your spouse with the understanding that you will review the standards you use in all other areas of your life as your core principles.  The golden rule…. “doing unto others as you would have them to do to you”.  The fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5….. “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.   Look into the scriptures for other passages illustrating the basis of what makes for harmonious, healthy relationships.

Then review them with one another.  Ask your partner how you can better express these attitudes and actions toward them.  Pray with one another.  Forgive one another.  Celebrate the holy.  Love your mate with a sacred love.  In other words, change your behavior for the better.  It’s a holy thing.

– Gary Cleveland


I’ve always wished the Bible gave more explicit instructions to parents…

Don’t misunderstand, I know that the Bible is full of information about shaping character and that is, what parenting is chiefly about.  I realize that scripture is full of instructions about that kind of thing.

But I get questions all the time from parents asking, “How do I get my kids to clean their room?” or “My child always pitches a fit in the supermarket and I don’t know how to settle them down”.   I remember having young children and this can make for one hectic, stressful shopping day.

 I read a familiar Bible passage today and it resonated with relevance like never before.  Ephesians 6: 4 says,  “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

 What struck me here is the two words, “discipline” and “instruction”.   The second one, “instruction” has, as a chief component, “talking”.  The first in the pair, “discipline”, is about “training”.

 It occurs to me that as parents, we do more talking than training.   Training is about investing time and energy into taking control of a parenting situation.  I’m convinced most of us have only minored in this parenting strategy (training) and majored in the other (talking).  The reason should be obvious.  Talking….yelling…screaming…threatening etc. can be done quickly and then a parent can get back to their phone conversation, or TV show, or housework.

 Training means a parent must stop what they are doing and direct their energy and action toward a parenting action.  More profound losses are sustained in this model, because a parent must break off a conversation with another adult, walk away from a task, or break their concentration on another matter.  Parents with other children often must break away from one parenting action to take care of another more critical situation.

 It’s no wonder parents are so exhausted.

 But I’m convinced that training, as opposed to talking, is the way children are most profoundly and positively affected.

 I have a book entitled, The 7 Worst Things Parents Do by John Friel, Ph.D. and Linda Friel, M.A.  Number 6 in their list of seven is “Failing to Give your Child Structure”.  In this chapter they outline the process of parenting by talking and training.

 Consider these words:

 “This method, by the way, is the way many excellent parents already do their teaching.  Don’t lecture your children or tell them a strategy.  Take the strategy that you use internally and talk it out loud, as you go through the task you’re trying to teach.”

 To summarize, parenting is hard work.  It requires a sacrifice of time, energy and will rob you of time you would rather spend on your own pursuits.  Bottom line:  Unless parents invest heavily in training of their children, character will be formed in other ways.  Talk alone is not enough.  It is a vital component but without training, the results will be less effective and productive.

 For further enhancement of your parenting skills, I suggest:

      1) Reading of good books on parenting.

      2) Networking with other parents of kids similar to yours in age

      3) Attend a parenting class sponsored by an agency you trust

      4) Seek counsel or guidance from those who have raised children whose lives you respect and admire

— Gary Cleveland

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