Last night I watched the end of Jon & Kate’s marriage on national TV. What a mess! It was sad to watch two people who, by all appearances, totally can’t see the forest for the trees. I was amazed that they can’t seem to get a grasp on what some of the roots of their problems have been. I am no expert counselor, but as my wife and I talked about it, we were both saddened at the lack of perspective they had. Has anyone been counseling these people about anything other than money and ratings? I don’t know. I don’t condemn them and I would never put myself above them, but I think there are some lessons for all of us in this saga. I hurt for this family who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ. Here are a couple of thoughts and observations we had:
- Repeatedly they both said, “I don’t really know what happened.” Really? You’re kidding, right? Kate said that she didn’t think the TV show had anything to do with their break-up. Really?! The $$ and the fame and the invasion into their lives had nothing to do with it?
- Jon said that he had become passive and let her rule the roost. Perfect observation, just a little too late. They let their personality strengths become their weaknesses. This can be true in any relationship. It can be true in family, ministry, leadership, work relationships. Those unique personality traits that God built into us by His design, when not understood by oneself and one’s spouse and other relationships, can become a great weakness. We can easily fall into our natural default and the negative aspects of that trait will rule. Key to that in a marriage is communication, understanding, and SELFLESSNESS. We can let pride rule our lives and consequently our relationships or we can let Christ rule. Pride is most easily identified in the strong personality as arrogance or doing things in our own strength, but it is really anything that focuses on me. Shyness and passivity can be manifestations of Pride, because they are self-focused. Anything that is self-focused is pride and is sin. It’s a constant battle for me. Both Jon and Kate appear to have been struggling with pride. It just looks different in each of them.
- The seeming antithesis of this however, is in the statements that they both made repeatedly saying that “It’s all about the kids. I love my kids. Everything is for them. This show is for them. This new house and this land is for them. Everything we’ve done is for them. We love them more than anything.” That sounds like a pretty selfless attitude right? Well, that is a problem in most marriages and its a cultural phenomenon that has had a negative impact on more families and, I believe, on our culture…and even the church. It’s a philosophy that says, “Put the kids first. Its all about them. They are our future.” Sounds logical. The problem is it isn’t biblical and it isn’t healthy for families and marriages. The first relationship God established was between Adam and Eve. At that point, they were a family. (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:22-25) The problem we have that I believe the Enemy has used for too long is that of what some call “child-centered parenting.” What this looks like is the children become the center of everything in the family.
- Imagine this picture: a husband and wife holding hands forming a small circle, a family. Then the first child comes along. A child centered philosophy places the child in the center of this circle. Sounds fine and for the first couple of months with only on child, it might work out okay. But as the child begins to understand (or even demand) being in the center of the circle, he/she realizes that they are the driving force. Self-centeredness (which we all are naturally bent toward) begins to take hold. The expectations rise. Everything becomes about them and their happiness. This is what seems to have happened to Jon & Kate. We call it spoiled, but it isn’t really something that is intentional most of the time. What happens as the child grows and more children come into the marriage is the most potentially devastating part of the picture in a marriage.
- Imagine the picture again of the mom and dad holding hands now with several kids in the middle of the circle who have all gotten bigger. It gets crowded. Mom and dad get pushed farther apart. Notice I referred to them as “mom & dad” not “husband & wife” any longer. You see child centered parenting pushes the original, most important relationship in the family farther and farther apart. The identity of those two individuals becomes all about the kids. Now the kids are important, but they are not the most important relationship in the family.
- Now imagine this picture: the mom and dad holding hands in a small circle. Along comes a child and instead of being placed in the center of that circle, he/she is held with one hand in mom’s and the other in dads, allowing the husband and wife to still stay connected. This makes the circle extend and everyone stays connected…especially the husband and wife. That relationship never changes. Children thus become an extension of the family, not the center of it. The only thing that needs to be in the center of this ever expanding circle is Jesus Christ. The most important relationship in any family, after each individual’s relationship with Christ, is the relationship of the husband and wife. Someone once said, “The greatest security any child can have is knowing that mom and dad love each other“, without question. Child centered parenting…”its all about them”…points the focus in a different direction, and pushes the parents apart ultimately, because the focus on their own relationship with one another becomes secondary.
- Those kids don’t need any of the things that they’ve been given. The more stuff we give our kids, the less content they will be. They need a mom and dad who love each other and will fight for their marriage.
- Finally, child-centered parenting is ultimately a pride issue, because it usually becomes about US. It can become, if we’re honest, about how we think other people see US and what they think about US and how OUR kids turned out. My focus needs to be on how people see Christ in my marriage, because it is a picture of His relationship with his bride, the church. My focus needs to be on the mandate of Deuteronomy 6 and the challenge of Psalm 78:1-8. My passion should be about raising up a generation that will impact another generation, not about their temporary “happiness” as seen in the world, right now.
Just a couple of observations that we made as we looked at a very sad situation. I pray for Jon & Kate. I pray that God might miraculously intervene and heal and restore their marriage. I pray that they would recognize that He loves them unconditionally and that He loves their family more than they do. I pray that we as parents might have a Christ-centered perspective on our family. I pray that each of us will focus on keeping that first relationship in the family a priority, second only to our own individual relationships with Jesus. Date your spouse as regularly as possible. Let your kids see how important that relationship is. That will give them GREAT security…and much happiness and contentment.