Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cutting the Proverbial Apron Strings

Among our favorite things  to do over  the holiday season  is spending time with our adult children and grandkids.    One of our children lives in Southern California  and every Christmas their family makes the trek  to Northern Nevada,  no matter how nasty  the road conditions are.   
We  always look forward to  the blessed chaos that descends upon our home—rosy cheeked kids playing in the snow,   late nights together  by the fire,  copious amounts of food,  and clutter everywhere.    And when everyone leaves and all is quiet again,  I  am reminded why  God made parents young [smile].     

It’s always  hard  saying good-bye because  we only get to be together  two or three times a year.   I can’t imagine how heart wrenching  the  farewells  must have been for my European  ancestors when  adult children set sail for America knowing  they may never  see their parents again.  

But  the idea  of  leaving  parents and cleaving to one’s spouse was God’s  good  design for marriage  and  it is  so vital that  Genesis 2:24  is  repeated  three times in the New Testament:  Matthew 19:5,  Mark 10:7-8,  and Ephesians 5:31.   Christian parents need to teach and model  these principles so that  their children will be prepared to transfer their deepest affections and allegiance to their spouse when they marry. 

The Hebrew word for  “cleave”  used in Genesis  is  dabaq,  meaning  to  cling or adhere to like glue.   There is a divine purpose in this  exclusively intimate relationship that Ephesians speaks of  as  a  profound mystery  illustrating  the relationship between  Christ and  His beloved Bride the church.    

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church."   Ephesians 5:31-32

Problems can arise though  when  parents overstep their boundaries and meddle in their married children's business,  or  married  children  continue to be emotionally dependent on their parents.    Therefore, it’s important that everyone has this sorted out before adult children decide to marry.     

Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“The leaving of the father and  mother in reality means this,  that he must not allow his father and mother to control him as they have always done hitherto.   This is the point at which difficulties arise. …And, of course, when you look at it from the standpoint of the father and mother the situation should be equally clear.  They must readjust themselves even as their son does.    They have to realize that their son’s first loyalty now is to his wife,  and that he is a very poor specimen of manhood,  a very poor husband,  and ultimately,  a very poor son if he fails to show that loyalty.   They must not interfere in his new married life. … they must not think of their son any longer as simply their son.    He is now married,  a new unity has been created, and whatever they do to him they do to his wife at the same time. 
It is really the essence of the Apostles teaching about marriage that all parties involved have to realize that a new unity has come into being.  It was not there before but it is there now.” 1
In former times young adults typically stayed at home until they married but now it’s common for them to move away  before marriage.   That transitional  adjustment as a young adult can be every bit as trying for both parent and child,  and in some ways perhaps even more so.     

As a mother of three married children I know that the  doing is not always as easy as the saying,  and  I confess that I have not always succeeded in keeping my thoughts to myself.    It’s hard letting go when you love your child and have devoted your life to nurturing them to adulthood.   It is only natural  to want to continue helping and protecting  them  because no  matter how old they are,  you never stop being concerned for  their wellbeing.     My mom was still reminding me to wear a sweater  when she was in her 80's.     Nevertheless, once our children reach adulthood,  and especially when they take a spouse,   they have embarked upon their own life journey and our job is done.    Unless of course, they actually ask for our two cents.


1. Life in the Spirit, in Marriage, Home & Work; An Exposition of Ephesians 5:18-6:9,   D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones,  Baker Book House 1975, pg 224-225

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