Three of our daughters got married within seven months of each other. I was hemorrhaging money! My best advice to fathers of the bride is this: pray, pay and stay out of the way.
But, long before the wedding, I was convicted to invest some time in my future son-in-laws. They were, and still are amazing men and I couldn’t have a better relationship with them. But about marriage – they didn’t know, what they didn’t know. And I thought it was my job to tell them.
So, shortly after they were engaged, I made them each this offer; “I’d like to get to know you better and give you an opportunity to know me better as well. So, let’s go away for four or five days, to any place in the U.S. you’d like, and do something fun together. But there’s another reason for this trip. With your future mother-in-law’s permission, I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about marriage – how to handle your first temptation, what you should and shouldn’t do when you have your first serious fight and other real life issues they rarely talk about in pre-marriage counseling.”
The look on their faces told it all. The first part of my offer, about the fun, brought all smiles. The last part, not so much. They probably felt like I’d handed them keys to a Porsche, then told them to drive it over a cliff!
But, we went. Three separate trips. One chose spring skiing in California. Another chose rock climbing in Colorado and the last flat-boat fishing in the Florida Keys. And we had a ball!
The Preparation In preparation, my wife, Susan and I, prayed a lot for wisdom. We also made a list of topics I hoped to discuss with them. (I never got through the whole list, but nevertheless, it helped guide our time together) I’ve lost track of the list, but here’s what I remember.
1. The importance of reading the Bible and praying and having at least one meal every day together. 2. Never go to bed angry. (I had to confess violating my own rule more than once, but even that discussion was helpful). 3. How to avoid sexual temptation and what to do if you are. 4. Avoiding “words that wound” in a fight. 5. Always let your future children see you making up after a fight. 6. Begin every day by yourself, reading the Bible and praying. (We discussed how to study the Bible and even how and what to pray for and every day, we began by doing both.) 7. Learn your wife’s Love Languages. My wife and I gave each couple a copy of Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. 8. We discussed what biblical leadership looked like in a marriage. (And what it doesn’t look like.) 9. We discussed the unintended consequences of materialism and alcohol. 10. We talked about stewardship and how to invest, spend and give wisely. 11. When your wife suggests you both see a counselor, say yes. (Just make sure the counselor is serious about Jesus and the Bible.)
There was undoubtedly more, but you get the point. It was a vacation with a purpose. And I loved doing it and our relationships became just that much deeper. I’m not sure how much went in one ear and out the other, but that’s unimportant. What matters I that I tried to pass on the things I believed to be both true and important. I also tried to be honest about our own failures to do each of these things consistently. But even that was good to talk about.
I wanted them to know that when the wheels come off the wagon, which they will occasionally, they could call me. I’d be a safe person for them to talk through anything. (And all of them have.)
So, do you have a future son-in-law, or if you’re a woman, a future daughter-in-law who would benefit from a vacation with a purpose?
“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.” Proverbs 4:1
How following Jesus works in real life.
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