In late 1975, then General Superintendent Eugene Stowe came to visit the new work of the Church of the Nazarene in the Dominican Republic. His wife, Faye, invited my 25-year-old wife, Toni, to join her for breakfast. Faye gave us an awesome gift - her words of wisdom. "Toni, the church will place great demands on your husband. You must insist on a weekly romantic date with him." That simple recommendation became our life pattern over the coming years. Whether or not we had money, we scheduled and protected our weekly outing.
A plaque hung on the wall of our missionary home for many years: "The best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother." On one occasion my wife and I were arguing about something. Our toddler daughter, Amy Jo, tugged on my pant leg and said, "Daddy, take mommy and go!" I did not understand. She repeated it a few more times, and then I realized she was asking us to leave her with a babysitter and go on our weekly date.
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery - but I am talking about Christ and the church. "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband" (Ephesians 5:31-33).
Simply stated, the Christian home is built on our Lord's love expressed between a husband and a wife.
A few months before our son's wedding, Bill had a heart-to-heart conversation with me. "Dad, it is amazing. You are a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene. Congratulations! Of all the general superintendents, you are one more. You are not the best and probably not the worst. You are a mediocre, average general superintendent."
He then drew a donut on a piece of paper and said, "The donut represents the Church of the Nazarene around the world. Those are the good people you are serving. In the center of the circle is your family. The people in the donut love you and are delighted when you come to their church or district. One day, however, you will retire or die, and they will be just as excited about the new general superintendent. If you dedicate yourself only to the donut and do not invest in the core - your family - you will be a very lonely old man, by your own choosing."
I was deeply moved by my son's request that I become more intentional about investing my life in him and his family. My wife and I have taken Bill at his word, and we now live 10 doors down the street from their home. We are richly blessed to be in a wonderful relationship with our son and his precious family!
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). It was a beautiful thing when my son became a discipler and mentor to me.
What does it mean to be Christian parents, whether we are ministers or dedicated laypeople? It means loving our wives or husbands the way Christ loved the church. It means intentionally loving and investing our lives in our children and our grandchildren. If we get this right, everything in the church and in society will go right. If we get this wrong, no church ministry or government agency will be able to rescue us.
Thank God for our families!
Jerry D. Porter serves as general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, May/June 2013