10.) Perfection is a myth: It doesn't take two perfect people to work it.
I know this will come as a great surprise to my parents who are reading this…but neither of them are perfect. I’m joking, they aren’t surprised. Both of my parents are deeply aware of their weaknesses, shortcomings, inadequacies and brokenness. I believe that's one of the reasons why they’ve made it. I often hear people wishing they had a perfect spouse. Why wish for something you can’t be yourself. There is no perfect spouse. There is no perfect marriage. There is only imperfect people who make a promise to one another to stand alongside one another through the thick and the thin.
9.) Presence trumps Perfection:
I was once standing on a balcony of a hotel room with my father and I asked the question, “Dad, we’ve had our dysfunctions as a family. How is it that you kept Todd and I out of jail.” He thought about it for a moment and said, “We never tried to be the perfect parents. We simply tried to be present parents. We made you boys a priority in our lives. If it was important to you, it was important to us.” Throughout the years and the struggles that life has delivered, I can say with 100% truthfulness…THEY WERE THERE! They were there for one another and for their children.
8.) Realistic Expectations:
Make sure the big things remain the big things and the little things know their place. As a pastor, I can say it seems as though some families feed off drama. They don’t seem happy unless some pot is stirred and some minimal issue has been blown out of proportion. Our parents refused the drama train. Instead, they battled against that by setting realistic expectations for one another and for the family. We were taught early on…and I think this is because of their life experiences…some things REALLY matter. Some things just don’t.
7.) Hold on tight to what matters most:
How often do we expend our lives for all the wrong reasons. My parents taught me to cling only to what is important. There were seasons in our family when we had financial means and seasons when those means thinned out. My father left a very lucrative position in a corporation that had him on the road 5 of 7 days a week because I asked him to come home. He started a small business and struggled daily to build a business at a later season in life. Why would he make this decision? He was holding on to what was more important…family.
6.) The only thing that is constant is change:
My parents refused to cling to the illusion of constancy. Life is best lived in seasons. Seasons can be weathered, but eventually they change. Certain seasons are filled up and spilling over. Other seasons are drought-ish and dried up. However, my brother and I were taught that “this too shall pass.” When those difficult seasons come, you lock arms. You make up your mind and heart…we will survive this together. If this is a season when you don’t have the emotional and physical resources to carry others, we will carry you. When we do…we will be better and stronger as a family.
5.) Vows matter:
I’ve had the privilege of officiating dozens of wedding ceremonies over the years. When it comes time to share the vows, I pray a very similar prayer each time. “May the words they speak be more than lip service. Instead, may these vows be promises etched upon the hearts of this couple that no matter what life throws at them, they will remain true.” My parents were the epitome of staying true to those promises. They’ve known rich and poor, health and sick, better and worse, and yet they lived out the integrity of their promises each and every day.
4.) Forgiveness is a must:
Did I mention, NO ONE IS PERFECT! If that’s the case, the necessary ingredient is forgiveness. Bitterness is a cancer that corrupts relationships. It steals the joy from those moments when joy should be felt. The only way to combat that is by a regular practice of forgiveness. Did my parents hurt each other’s feeling…well, of course. They are imperfect, at times, broken people like all of us. However, when they did…they forgave.
3.) Sacrifice is a Both/And not Either/Or:
Sacrifice without reciprocity is co-dependency or manipulation. Too often in families, only one spouse sacrifices. This is unfortunate. I had the privilege of watching two people sacrifice in extraordinary ways in different seasons of life. My father sacrificed years of being away from his family to provide a good living as a regional sales manager. My mother sacrificed years of retirement after the downturn of the economy in 2008. They both sacrificed to ensure that my brother and I had the “realistic opportunities” for our growth and development. Their sacrifices have been then the fertile field for our family’s longevity.
2.) Sorrow may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning:
My parents were no strangers to sorrow. At 2 years old, my sister passed away suddenly and tragically. Grief gripped the lives of these this young married couple. Many marriages won’t survive a loss like this, but my parents clung to one another amidst the sadness and sorrow. Throughout the decades together, grief came upon them like waves upon the seashore. However, amidst the grief and sorrow, they clung to the hope of joy. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized that my sister had died one year to the exact day that I was born. She died July 9, 1975 and I was born July 9, 1976. When I asked them why they hadn’t told me, they responded, “We didn’t want this day to be marked by the sorrow of loss, but instead the joy of life.”
1.) Don’t forget to laugh:
The memories that stick are the moments of laughter. I could tell you of sitting in a really nice restaurant in California for vacation and our family laughing to the point that we nearly got kicked out. I could tell of you the numerous times our family tried to “out-pun” one another and I’m certain we were the only ones that thought we were funny. I could tell you of the moments my mother would get “tickled” which would cause everyone else in the family to erupt in laughter. Our family weathered some very serious times, difficult times. But my parents made it priority never to take themselves so seriously that we couldn’t laugh. Laughter has and still does mark our lives together. That’s a gift they’ve passed down to my sons and I pray my sons will pass down to their kids.
My parents aren’t perfect! But my parents are amazingly faithful! I am blessed to have their example that has shaped my life. My wife and I have often applied these lessons and are nearing our 19th year of an imperfect marriage…and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.