553) Just Passing Through

By James Dobson, Love for a Lifetime: Building a Marriage that Will Go the Distance, 1987, pages 115-117 (a book of advice for newlyweds).

     In August, 1977, my wife and children joined me on a trip to Kansas City, Missouri, for a short visit with my parents.  We enjoyed several days of family togetherness before it was time to leave.  As we drove to the airport where we would say good-bye, I asked my father to pray for us.  I will never forget his words.  He closed with this thought:

Lord, we want to thank you for the fellowship and love that we feel for each other today.  This has been such a special time for us with Jim and Shirley and their children.  But Heavenly Father, we are keenly aware that the joy that is ours today is a temporary pleasure.  Our lives will not always be this stable and secure.  Change is inevitable and it will come to us, too.  We will accept it when it comes, of course, but we give you praise for the happiness and warmth that has been ours these past few days.  We have had more than our share of such good things, and we thank you for your love.  Amen.

     Shortly thereafter, we hugged and said goodbye and my family boarded the plane.  A week later, my father suddenly grabbed his chest and told my mother to call the paramedics.  He left us on December 4th of that year.  And now, my mother is paralyzed by end-stage Parkinson’s disease and lies at the point of death.  How quickly it all unraveled.

     Even today, so many years later, my dad’s final prayer echoes in my mind.  An entire philosophy is contained in that simple idea.  “Thank you, God, for what we have… which we know we cannot keep.”

     I wish every newlywed couple could capture that incredible concept.  If we only realized how brief is our time on this earth, then most of the irritants and frustrations which drive us apart would seem terribly insignificant and petty.  We have but one short life to live, yet we contaminate it with bickering and insults and angry words.  If we fully comprehended the brevity of life, our greatest desire would be to please God and to serve one another.  Instead, the illusion of permanence leads us to scrap and claw for power and demand the best for ourselves.

     A very good friend of mine left his wife and children a few years ago to marry a recently divorced woman.  They were both in their fifties.  I remember thinking when I heard the news, Why did you do it?  Don’t you both know that you will be standing before the Lord in the briefest moment of time?  How will you explain the pain and rejection you inflicted on your loved ones?  What a terrible price to pay for so short an adventure. 

     To young men and women on the threshold of married life, I hope you can bring your attitudes into harmony with this eternal perspective.  Try not to care so much about every little detail that separates you and your loved ones.  Have you ever tried to recall a major fight you had with a friend or a family member six months ago?  It’s very difficult to remember the details even a week later.  The fiery intensity of one moment is a hazy memory of another. 

     Hold loosely to life and keep yourself free of willful and deliberate sin.  That is the key to lasting happiness.

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James 4:1  —  What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

James 4:13-14  —  Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Mark 10:6-9  —  (Jesus said), “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

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Dear God, you have given to me wife, children, house, and property.  I receive these as you desire, and will care for them for your sake.  Therefore, I will do as much as possible that all may go well.  If my plans do not all succeed, I will learn to be patient and let what cannot be changed take its course.  If I do well, I will give God the glory.  I will say, O Lord, it is not my work or effort, but your gift and providence.  Take my place, O Lord, and be the head of my family.  I will yield humbly and be obedient to you.  Amen.  

–Martin Luther