By Barbara Rainey
Ten years ago a young wife and mom of two very small children made a crucial decision.
Her husband had just begun his intense four-year residency program in a new city. So she unpacked all the boxes in their new home, wandered around town looking for the nearest grocery store, researched local pediatricians, and prayed for a few friends, while he was focused on learning a totally new routine with a team of doctors and fellow residents.
It was the perfect setup for marriage troubles and isolation.
Medical residency brings grueling hours that lead to husbands and wives living unintended separate lives. Many marriages do not survive.
This wife knew the stats. She understood that it would be a hard journey for four years. Though it was often lonely and difficult, she was determined they would not be all-too-common casualties. She devised a marriage keeping plan.
Presence was her first line of defense.
As many nights as she could, she made dinner and packed it in a box, changed two little boys’ diapers, loaded the car, drove to the hospital, and hauled in food balanced precariously with two kids in a stroller, diaper bag and purse dangling from each shoulder. Why would she go to all that trouble? To have dinner with her husband as a family. It was a lot of work. The easier decision would have been to stay home. But those on-call nights when he couldn’t get home, she took home to him.
She wanted her husband to get time with their kids. She wanted her boys to be with their dad. She wanted her husband— and everyone else in that hospital—to know that her man had a wife who cared enough to be present in his world. And her presence might give some young single nurse second thoughts about showing interest in her man.
By the end of four years, she was exhausted. He was exhausted. And a third baby had arrived. But this couple survived residency. Yes they had outstanding needs in their marriage, but their family was still together, focused on a future with hope because they had endured well.
Our modern world is so focused on the moment, on individual needs that living for the future, serving each other, and sacrificing for marriage is almost a foreign language.
Didn’t we promise on our wedding day to stay together?
Did your promise sound anything like this famous quote; “I will be with you forever”? Jesus spoke these words to His disciples before He left for heaven. The words are also repeated in the Bible at least 40 times to make sure we get the point: presence matters. Jesus promises His presence to us forever.
You spoke these words the day you solemnly said “till death do us part.” Your presence matters in your marriage too, just as much as it did for this young couple.
My husband, Dennis, has said hundreds of times in our over 40 years of marriage that when I travel with him, even when traveling isn’t my favorite thing, it says to him that he matters to me, that I care about what he cares about, and that I share in and support him in his responsibilities in life.
We get married to be together, to do life together. Make the choice to make time for together.
Your presence doesn’t just matter to your marriage; it also matters to your children. Oneness in marriage, being there for each other, tells our kids that their home is going to last. In a culture of rampant divorce, every child wonders if their home is next. Presence gives security.
Children need to know their mom and dad will never leave or forsake them because children thrive with two parents they can count on. Watching parents relate to each other and work through difficult challenges, teaches children commitment and necessary relational skills. Presence causes growth.
When a mom and a dad are consistently present in the home, their children learn the foundations of an important truth in the Christian life: the fear of God. We don’t like the word fear; we much prefer the love of God. But fear means respect. Children who learn that their parents are always around, understand more easily the idea that God is always around and sees all that they do.
The opposite is also true. When parental presence is not the norm, children and especially teens can become prey to evil as a victim or as a perpetrator as we’ve seen too frequently in the stories of young men who become mass shooters. An empty home creates confusion and insecurity in still formative hearts. Parents who love and invest in their children give crucial perspective and create guardrails for life. Presence creates accountability.
Your presence is an invaluable gift. Like my daughter who was the young wife who took dinner to her husband at the hospital I pray you too will be present—in your marriage, with your children, in your home.
May you give yourself generously and sacrificially, knowing your future happiness and your family’s is at stake. May your husband and children rise up and call you blessed for your investment of presence in their lives.