20: Singles, Couples, Children
IN THIS CHAPTER
The family of Christ is commanded to love our neighbor, so that means singles, couples, and children loving “our neighbor” unique to our time of life. Singles have great freedom in action and can focus on serving one Lord and Master. Marriage, as God gave it to His creation, is between one man and one woman (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:18-25; Matthew 19:4-6). The blessing of marriage is that the labor of two people is multiplied, and the home becomes a place to develop and grow toward greater effectiveness in outreach. Those who have children get to develop within them a vision that they are part of the parent’s military calling and spiritual work.
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THE FREEDOM OF SINGLENESS
Single individuals without children have a freedom to be flexible and spontaneous that is different from those who are married, or those who have children. The apostle Paul focused on singleness in his first letter to the Corinthians, saying, “the unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord … And the unmarried … woman is anxious about the thing of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).
Singleness may last for a few years, or it may be for a lifetime. Whatever the case, take advantage of the freedom to bless others, to volunteer, to be flexible when others must care for their families, and so on. Paul wrote his instructions to the Corinthians, “to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (v. 35). Singles have one Master and are able to submit to one Lord without the distractions of a marriage relationship.
Married couples can bless singles through hospitality, since many enjoy being in homes where children are polite, loving, and willing to interact with the adults.
Children who have been trained to be comfortable with guests will amplify the fun, vulnerable, relational aspect of a home.
THEY ARE WATCHING: THE FAMILY AS SALT AND LIGHT
How you live, talk, drive, shop, and play as a family will be the aroma of Christ to the world. Daily conversations and the habits of home have a way of proclaiming your priorities, making Christ Jesus visible to family, friends, and house guests.
Even if you tend to stay quiet, the children often tell family details that surprise the adults. Deuteronomy 6:1-9 commands what is a normal, everyday declaration of truth, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one … And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
We keep the Word of God before ourselves day and night and regularly proclaim it by how we live. Consider whether others will hear God’s truths from your lips and see them in your actions.
We make other decisions that reveal both the kingship of God and the priorities we live. Family finances, our use of time, where we choose to live, and who we allow to be part of our lives, are all areas that give us a glimpse of whether we are developing a temporal or eternal mindset. Either we seek to use our resources and energy to impact souls today, or else we will prioritize pursuits of comfort, happiness, or other distractions that cause us to fritter away our limited time on earth. Are you regularly inviting others into your life to show them friendship, community, and Christ-like love?
Earthly assets should bless others. If you are single, you might find you have more freedom because you have fewer people to coordinate decisions with than a married person. If you have a roommate, honor them by asking how often and when you might open your room, apartment, or home for hospitality or Bible study.
Teach and regularly remind one another of God’s sovereignty as He brings about His purposes through the everyday decisions and actions of His people. Speak of His goodness.
Have conversations about separation, loss, and death, even speaking of preparation in case a uniformed member of your family is killed, taken prisoner, or goes missing. God is working out His plans (Proverbs 16:1-9), so we worship Him amid pain, uncertainty, and loss (Job 40:8; 42:1-6). Decide ahead of time that while His ways are not always understandable, we are confident they are best. Consider that assignments are not only for the person in uniform, but for the household as well. Strive to keep the family together by moving as one household to assignments that permit you to be accompanied.
Many families have paid out of pocket to arrange their own housing, even when the military didn’t pay for the move, since they counted emotional, relational, and spiritual health more important than things like education, music, sports, house ownership, separate jobs, etc.
PRACTICE MAKES BETTER
Practice forgiveness, love, and reconciliation within your family so that you can act the same way with those outside your family. Recognizing our sin and brokenness helps us to be humble about our own faults—especially when others get close to us and confront us about those faults. Even as we struggle against the faults of our own nature, we are not to shirk from the discipline and training of our children to be the sort of people who can serve the Lord in all that He has for them (Proverbs 13:24; Hebrews 12:7-11). Yet do so with gentleness and self-control.
Lessons we learn in the messy relationships we have with friends, spouses, and children will translate into our better decisions as leaders in our communities and workplaces. Within your home, ask for God’s help to become the person you would like to be outside of it. Seek to be a Christian leader, helper, elder, and mentor, managing your household well and caring for your relatives (1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12; 5:4, 8, 14). Do not avoid wrestling with the conflict of relationships or the hard situations that come your way. Seek God’s grace to overcome any introverted/shy tendencies you might use as an excuse to not live in community with others.
Whether you are single or married, you are only on this earth for a short time. Have a sense of urgency. Spend the time you have for God’s glory — using each segment of time (season of life, TDY/TAD, deployment, time between PCS moves) to make God and His Word heard, seen, and felt by those around you. Go love your neighbor in a way that is unique to you.
CHILDREN ARE A BLESSING
Scripture declares that children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127), and that God’s normative work on earth is accomplished through the offspring of His people (Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39). God alone opens and closes the womb (Genesis 30:2, 22; 1 Samuel 1:6, 19; Psalm 139:13; Luke 1:13; John 9:1-3). Being willing to have children and trust God with all His rich provision is putting faith into action.
Obey what the Holy Spirit teaches you in Scripture about what it means to desire a fruitful marriage, and do not be anxious that they have been brought into a military family in which there are frequent moves, long hours, and deployments. Those things will be good for them as God develops the character of children in the context of your military life.
Life in the military is tougher on some marriages and families than others, but we can generalize and say that military service requires adaptation that isn’t found in some other careers. Military duty often results in long duty days, separation, dangerous deployments, or similar experiences for you or your family. Knowing that you are obeying the Lord as completely as possible, and with a clear conscience, will be a comfort that helps sustain you through long days, deployments, and other trials.
These times of personal and relational testing will look different for every generation of uniformed military professionals, yet there remains a camaraderie among the generations, because military life has always been tough on individuals, marriages, and families.
Help children find joy in learning the language, customs, and courtesies of military life as they live within the culture where God has placed you. You can help them find meaningful fulfillment as members of the big-picture purpose God is accomplishing through your family (1 Timothy 3:4-5). This way of thinking is useful whenever your family becomes involved in the work of the church.
Seek to have your whole family involved in whatever the Lord sends you to do. Dual military couples might spend more time than others working to discern what to volunteer for, how long both might stay in the military, and how to use their various gifts to serve the military society.
If you are convinced that you and your family are called to serve within the military community, then meet together in Pray-Discover-Obey sessions to see how you can get everyone invested in the mission God has put before you. These PDO meetings might be monthly or quarterly but should be repeated at least annually. In the PDO process, it is helpful to hear from the different perspectives of family members and consider possible family adjustments that are needed. PDO gives each person the opportunity to talk through expectations and apprehensions.
You can strategize ways your whole family can equip and prepare themselves to serve as effectively as possible in your mission field. What are ways you can train and equip yourselves for perseverance and sustainment in the field (Hebrews 10:36)?
The children of Christian believers ought to have the privilege of growing up in a home where Scripture is read to them regularly, where they can ask tough questions about life and death, where forgiveness and reconciliation are demonstrated within secure and loving relationships, and where they are trained to be polite and respectful both in their own home and outside. Many children do not have parents who read to them, or who are willing to talk about sickness, death, and eternity, or who can extend forgiveness because God has forgiven them so much.
If your children sit with you at a meal, remember that most kids in the neighborhood do not regularly have opportunities to sit down to a meal with parents and siblings. To be honest, your home is unlike the cultural norm if you provide a loving environment by spending time together over meals, around board games, and if you train your children to know truth.
CHILDREN HAVE SPECIAL ACCESS
Now think about the fact that your children have access into the lives and homes of the military community in ways that adults are not free to trespass. They probably do not care what a friend’s family rank is, and they do not withhold their love for others because of the military role someone fills. The transparency of children often allows them to say true things without giving or taking unnecessary offense.
The embrace and kind words of a child have a universal impact that requires little interpretation, and the focused attention of a teenager who actively listens to an adult will greatly encourage a cynic who thinks that the younger generation is without hope.
Teaching our children to know and love God should mean they are also learning to love their neighbor. Youth often grasp the idea of being a neighbor faster than we might expect. Pay attention to whether your children are quick to be a neighbor to hurting people, seeing them like the Samaritan who stopped to help the man who fell among robbers (Luke 10:25-37).
While you can encourage compassion and love for others, parents can actually create opportunities and environments for children to be stretched out of their comfort zone. Invite guests into your home, but before they arrive, talk with the children about God owning everything in the home, how to behave, questions they can ask to stir conversation, and practical things like offering drinks, taking a coat, or playing with the children of your guests.
If our children are with us when we go to someone else’s home, we should think about similar conversations that will prepare us to bless our hosts and minimize stress. Give the children enough guidelines for playing in your neighborhood so that they will be known as peacemakers, as helpers, and as those who are careful around other people’s property (such as cars, flower beds, windows, tools, etc.).
In previous chapters we encouraged you to expand the focus of a family PDO to include your children and their lives. Expanding the PDO will help military offspring see themselves as valued participants (active laborers) in the work of having a positive impact on the community in the name of Jesus Christ.
What are the passions that God has given them? Whether it is music, science, teaching, film, or something else, their interests and giftings can be used to make the gospel visible to friends, neighbors, and guests.
Help them find areas where they can grow in skill and put their abilities to use for others. Enable the building of close friendships within your local church and Christian community, and help them sustain those friendships even after moving away.
Within OCF small group and Bible study contexts, it is helpful to have a babysitting network. Parents can drop kids off at a common house where focused babysitting can take place.
If the little ones come to a group gathering, one idea is for the oldest children of the families to care for the younger ones or for the babysitter to be present in the host home. Be generous in payment and designate someone to collect the money to pay whoever is doing the babysitting. Babysitters are doing you a valuable service, and you want them to come back. Once your children are past babysitting age, try including them in your OCF gathering.
Experiment with ways to connect your entire family in the mission that the Lord has for you. PDO is a helpful method to refine your ever-changing processes. Keep praying for your children to catch a vision for lifetime service.