Heart of the Home - Part 1

Scripture: Proverbs 3:6, Psalm 25:9, Matthew 10:37-38
There are so many unhappy homes in our world today. God intended our homes to be a little heaven on earth. What is the basis of happiness in the home? Preparation is a foundation. Many young adults need to think realistically and plan carefully for marriage. Love need not be completely blind.
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While we don't like to admit it to ourselves, the majority of American homes today are anything but happy. The collapse of the home is so obvious that we need not waste time proving it with statistics. I could quote figures on the prevalence of divorce and other evidences of the breakdown of the home, but surely this would be a waste of time when it is so obvious. As I hold large evangelistic meetings in various cities I get close to people's hearts, and find that there is so much sadness.

This is why I make this the subject of so many broadcasts. There is nothing in the world that has a greater potential for genuine happiness and satisfaction than the home. And there is nothing that has the potential for so much unhappiness and tragedy and heartache as the home. We spend most of our time with our families and yet so many homes are a hell on earth. God intended that our home should be a little bit of heaven, and we can make it so-that is, we can if both partners are Christians. If not, we can at least do our part and make it better than it would be otherwise.

Of course, even if we knew all of the answers to this problem it would be impossible to give them in a single broadcast or series of broadcasts. The home is indeed a complex establishment, and I am keenly aware of the fact that because of the brevity with which this subject must be presented, I run a greater risk of misunderstanding. And, of course, there is no one right way, no single arrangement, that will work well in every home. But we can discuss the basis for happiness in families and I think we can make a lot of progress in this during the next few days.

Happiness at home is more the result of our attitudes, understandings, and principles of Christian conduct, than of specific rules or forms of home organization or methods of home direction. Please notice that statement, because it will underlie everything I say today. With this as a foundation principle, I want to present what seems most important to me in bringing happiness to our families.

First, the most important fundamental in finding success and happiness is involved in our preparation for marriage, before the home is established. Of course, I realize that this is too late for many of us, we are already married. But there are many young people listening and I am speaking especially to you for the next few moments. To you I would say that your future happiness in marriage will depend to a great extent on the foundation you are laying before marriage. And if you will do this wisely, so much can be done to make happy your life afterward.

During the teens, during courtship, the attitude toward the sacred privileges, relationships and duties of marriage are being formed. Young people, take seriously your thinking and your actions before marriage. The genuine respect and appreciation you have for the whole personality of your intended spouse is very significant. How many times young people get infatuated with just one quality of the boy or the girl, just one part of his or her personality which they think is great, and they fail to consider all the other attributes of the individual. This is what is meant by the saying, "Love is blind." Love is only partly blind. You know there is color blindness which like other types of blindness is not a total blindness. Well, that is the way love is, blind only in some areas.

A boy may have very good eyesight when it comes to seeing the loveliness of his girl's face or form, but he may be very blind to her personality. He may have good eyesight when it comes to her talent, she may sing beautifully or play the piano nicely or do something else well, and he may see this but be blind to the fact that she can't cook. Or he may enjoy her cooking and be blind to her lack of interesting and challenging talents, or to the fact that her intellect is not compatible with his. Or perhaps she is a brain and he admires her grades in school and this is all he sees; yet she may be lacking in the practical phases of life that would make her a good mother and homemaker. And so it is wise to take the whole look, young people. To see all that another person is and to accept him realistically before you marry him, this is important.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm sure none of us can find a mate who is well-rounded in every area of life. It would be unrealistic to wait for this, and we probably wouldn't deserve all that, if we found it. Often people don't accept this before marriage. They think that the one they marry is going to be perfect in every detail, and lo and behold, they find out it isn't so. Then they get disappointed and feel let down, and there is the temptation to feel that someone else might have fulfilled more completely their particular dream. Disappointment sets in and unhappiness results.

Young people, you need to be realistic; and those of us who are already married can use this advice, too. We need to accept the fact that our husbands or wives are not perfect. If they were, they probably could have married someone much more perfect than we are! Did you ever think of that? So even before marriage we should learn to accept the weaknesses and the imperfections of our marriage partner and be happy with him as he is. And you can be sure of this, you won't be able to reform or change one another very much after marriage. Your wife will still squeeze the tube of toothpaste in the middle! And you will still have trouble putting your socks and shoes away!

Then, too, a part of courtship involves wise planning for the future, a discussion of home finances, when to plan for children, and other vital considerations. If there is no planning for what the home is to be, misunderstandings are bound to arise, and differences and quarrels may never be ironed out completely.

Then, the planned union should be surrendered to God. What could be more important than surrendering to God our plans for marriage? Young people, if you have never prayed before, you should pray before you get married, pray long and hard and many, many times. Give your whole plan to God and express your willingness to carry it out or give it up as He might direct. Unless you are really willing to surrender your courtship to God, you may be headed for disaster. God knows the future; you don't. The one you intend to marry may be all right today, but five years from now his character and personality may change and make you very sad. Therefore, if you ask God to guide you and if you surrender your way to Him, He will direct you in the way that will be best. "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." Proverbs 3:6, we are told; and "the meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach his way." Psalms 25:9. The Lord will help you to know the way to go-whether to go ahead with your plans or to give them up-if you will really surrender to Him.

Another essential for a happy marriage is maintaining unity-keeping a oneness and a closeness with each other. And this begins with a mutual consecration to God. Two hearts, each in supreme dedication to a higher allegiance can be even closer together than two hearts dedicated only to each other. This may seem paradoxical but it is true. And if we pray together and our hearts are united in our faith, we can have a oneness that will be more precious than words can describe.

If we have not had the privilege of entering into wedlock united in God's truth, we must recognize that after marriage there are times when God calls us as individuals to follow new truth that has come to our hearts. The Apostle Paul counsels us in Scripture saying that we must follow the truth even if our marriage partner leaves us on account of it. I Corinthians 7. We have a responsibility to God that is higher than any human consideration, and when God calls, we must follow regardless of the results in our home life. Jesus said if we are not willing to forsake our home relationships for him, we are not worthy of Him. Matthew 10:37, 38. So it is important that we follow the truth, even though it means one of us must step out alone. No one can have genuine respect for a mate who does not obey what he professes to believe.

Next we must face the fact that after we are married, differences will exist. We must be realistic about the fact that marriage partners will not always agree on everything. There may even be some quite pointed differences on things that are not really of life or death importance; and yet we may find ourselves disagreeing in a way that could lead to considerable difficulty. It will help if before we get into such a problem, we recognize that there will be a difference now and then, but it doesn't need to be unChristlike in its nature and it doesn't need to go to embarrassing or damaging lengths. You see, things don't always go like a storybook. There is no such thing as a perpetual honeymoon. So many people get sour on their marriage because they expect the impossible. The home can be happy and it can be a tremendous blessing but anybody who thinks there is always going to be a honeymoon just doesn't know the score!

There are going to be problems to face, adjustments in learning to live together. Magazine stories and television shows don't portray life as it is. In most fiction and drama, there is either perfect bliss or a big fight and a divorce. Well, that's an over-simplification; life doesn't work that way. The sooner we come to grips with reality and recognize that life is made up of a certain proportion of problems that marriage is made up of some disagreements and some adjustments, the sooner we will learn to be happy in spite of the imperfections. Let's be realistic, it will help!

The next point I'll bring up just to tell you I'm not going to bring it up! I'm not going to talk about the sex problems of marriage. I realize that it is a very important area of married life and many difficulties exist concerning it; but I don't feel that this is the time or the place to discuss it. If there is any phase of marriage that has been discussed and over-discussed, this is probably it. You can read articles on it any week in the current magazines-and a lot of what is said is more harmful than it is helpful. But in any case, there are perhaps better times and places than now to discuss marital intimacies. I am not implying that sex is unimportant. I certainly wouldn't go back to the days when it was a closed book; when people didn't discuss it and didn't know the facts concerning it. Enlightenment is helpful; but on the other hand it's obvious today to any thinking person that enlightenment has been overdone. Christians need to take a sane and sensible attitude to these problems. They should seek counsel and help when they need it, and then live a good, reasonable life in this regard. The Bible gives sound advice on this subject, I Corinthians 7. I should say this much. If you need help with trouble in this area-go only to those professionally trained to give it: doctors, marriage counselors or your minister. Never discuss it with in-laws or friends, especially anyone of the opposite sex. It will only lead to sadness.

Now I come to a list of attributes that will promote happiness between husbands and wives. There is nothing that will bring happiness to the home more than the ordinary, unglamorized garden variety of the following qualities.

First of all is kindness. There is nothing that will bring as much happiness and cover as many incompatibilities as kindness to each other-thinking of kind little deeds that we can do to make each other happy.

There's probably nothing in the world that helps more than kind, thoughtful words, saying something nice to each other and about each other frequently. We do it to win hearts. We do it in courtship and it works-it wins love, there is no doubt about it. The Bible says there are several mysteries under the sun and one of them is the way of a man with a maid. Proverbs 30:19. It's uncanny how one can win a heart when one sets out to do it. Probably one thing the wise man didn't care to speculate about was the way of a maid with a man! It's wonderful, though, what can happen when a person sets out to win the love of another person by bringing flowers and chocolates and saying nice words. It really works! But why do we stop doing these things? Why don't we realize that this method still works after we're married? That's the thing that's unbelievable. People use this way of winning affection until they get married and then they start taking everything for granted; they don't stop to realize that the same attentions that won love in the first place will keep it alive and glowing.

Another very important ingredient for happiness in the home is mutual respect. We must have respect for each other and it doesn't help to say, "Well, he doesn't earn my respect." He did once; why not now? "Why," you say, "I know more about him now than I did then." That's your fault, not his! You found enough to respect in him before you married him, and those qualities are still there. It may be true that some things have come to light that you didn't see at first; but remember we all have weaknesses. Probably he's discovered some things that are not perfect in you!

Above all, show respect for each other in public. It always hurts me to see husbands and wives criticizing each other before others, tearing each other down, saying hurtful things, even before friends. Many marriages fall apart on this score. Wounds are made that are tragic. If you have differences and they need to be settled wait till you're home alone. Don't say disrespectful things to your marriage partner in front of others. It makes him want to fight back. He's a human being; when you wound him, he's going to wound you back. Then you'll try to wound him more. Things like this escalate, as we say today; they get worse and worse until finally wounds are made that take days, weeks, months to heal. Many a divorce has started because of a lack of respect on the part of husband or wife toward each other.

We should respect our children, too. If we don't respect them, they won't respect us. And, children, you must respect your parents, whether you are proud of them in every regard or not. Respect is something the human heart needs. Respect for others is something we can develop, even some of us who are older can learn it, and we can certainly teach our children to respect others. I could say more on that, but my time is gone. We'll continue this in our next broadcast.

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