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by Jacob Ninan

Aren’t families one of God’s greatest provisions for mankind? When God created man in His own image, one of the characteristics that He gifted to man was the ability to relate to others. ‘No man is an island’, as they say, and everyone recognises the need for others in their lives. Of course, one of the reasons for creating families was to have children and the propagation of generations. But the more important goal was to meet the need to relate. After Adam was created and he had everything in the world to enjoy and nothing to trouble him, he was still found lacking in something. God saw that it was not good for him to be alone. That was when He created Eve and gave her to Adam, and it was after this that God could declare everything was very good! If we take some theological liberties just to make a point, we could say that Eve too, had she been created first, would have found it hard to be alone, perhaps more so! Adam found what he needed to complete him when he met Eve, and Eve too got what she inherently longed for. Why didn’t God create Adam and Eve together, and why did He create Adam first and then Eve later, except to teach us that it is not good for man or woman to be alone? What emerges from this is that companionship is one of the greatest blessings from marriage and the resulting family set up.

What has happened over time is that, in many cases, companionship is not what people have looked for in marriage. When a man marries a woman because she gave a better ‘dowry’ than others (people have found ways of renaming this practice because it has become illegal), what would be his interest in her once he got the dowry? People get married with all kinds of other reasons too, such as to alleviate concerns about age, pressure from parents and fear of the stigma of remaining single, to have someone to take care of practical necessities and chores of life, to have someone to take care of them in their old age, to facilitate getting a visa or emigration to another country (!), to enhance one’s prestige in getting linked to a family of great repute, to improve business connections, and what not! What would happen to the relationship in such marriages once these goals are achieved, and what interest would such people have in family life?

What happens when a husband expects his wife to be ‘supportive’ of his ambition to become great in his work or ‘ministry’ and gets to be preoccupied with his work to the neglect of his wife and children? In a similar way, we can also see an increase in the number of wives who choose their career over their family, deciding to postpone having children until they are well settled in their work or have got their promotion, or passing on the bringing up of children to grandparents or servants. What happens when husbands and wives are virtually living in their own worlds and when they are together at home find it hard to bear with each other or interruptions from the children? Companionship seems to have gone out through the window!

It is an undeniable fact that life nowadays is not what it used to be a couple of generations ago. Now we have to bear with several practical constraints and challenges which contribute to the pressure of day-to-day life. Especially in cities when nuclear families have to manage all the household responsibilities, take care of children, take long and exhausting commutes to work, handle work pressures coming from corporate competition and greed and even the need to survive, and then take on spiritual responsibilities in the church, the fast pace of life can become unmanageable many times. These practical demands that husband and wife face are sometimes beyond their ability to overcome. In such cases, how much mutual understanding and support they give to and get from each other will determine if they will survive or break down. But it is very sad when people are not even aiming for companionship and especially when they take out their frustrations on each other!

In some cases, the relationship has become merely functional, where each one takes a share of practical responsibilities. Things seem to be going fine as far as others can see. But what is missing is that the couple is not enjoying their relationship or cherishing it, but even beginning to consider it as a burden!

In many cases, life has become a daily battle of words where each one points out where the other is lacking, each trying to force the other to change so that their own life can become more comfortable. They have not learned to overcome their selfishness and self-centredness or to recognise the blessing that their spouse is to them. This may even lead to different forms of abuse.

In many families, one sad thing that we observe is that the fathers have left all the responsibility for children to the mothers. It is not an exaggeration to say that some fathers do not even know which class their child is studying in, which subject he has difficulty with, who his friends are, what troubles he is facing at school, etc.! In sending their wives to work in order to increase their earnings, some husbands do not realise the extra responsibility they have imposed on their wives to manage their home as well as their work! They sit like maharajas in their homes, watching TV or the computer, saying that they have to relax after their hard day’s work! Companionship does not seem to be in the picture at all!

Some pastors seem to be chauvinistic in their understanding of scripture when they relate man to woman. They point out that Eve was created as a helper for Adam (and not the other way)! They place women always in a supportive role towards men and do not see any incongruence there when they consider the balance of scripture. The Bible tells husbands to love them and show it by giving themselves to their wives (Eph.5:25)! A husband or a father who does not take responsibility for the family cannot assume authority over it too. Isn’t it when he shows his love in taking responsibility for the family that he gains respect from his wife and helps her in submitting to his authority?

Some wives, on the other hand, imagine that the whole duty of their husbands is to make them happy! That is how they define a husband’s love. Then they make sure that they let their husbands know without fail whenever they come short! Some of them are unable to understand the pressures their husbands are facing at work, and they become unrealistic in demanding that their husbands make changes in their work as if it was entirely up to them!

Think of how family life would be if husband and wife saw themselves as companions for life whom God has gifted to each other! It would start by looking for someone to marry who would be a good companion, with whom one can grow together. Once they are married, it would go on to sharing more of their lives with each other as they get to know each other, sharing life’s joys and sorrows, facing challenges together as a team, raising up children together and enjoying watching them grow up from infancy to adulthood, and supporting each other as they serve God in the church and society.

They may have come together from different family backgrounds, with differences in personality, educational levels, abilities, skills, etc. But now they can learn to work together in partnership, bringing synergy into their relationship by complementing each other and bringing out together more than what they could have accomplished by themselves. This is a skill that has to be cultivated by deliberately learning to accept and then accommodate each other’s differences, contributing one’s strengths to compensate for the other’s lacks, and bearing with and forgiving each other when imperfections show up in different ways!

As they work on understanding each other better so that they can be understanding towards each other, they each find the other as someone to exchange ideas in order to formulate their thoughts and plans, as supports to lean on and to get comfort and encouragement when no one else understands them, and as a joint team in raising children.

Of course, things like this don’t happen automatically just because one desires them. But just think what a difference it will make in one’s family life if companionship becomes the goal towards which both spouses strive! When they think of each other, when they listen to each other because they realise they have need to receive from each other, when they talk together about their struggles, their ambitions, their observations – if only they could keep in mind that they are heirs together (companions) of the grace of life (1Pet.3:7 KJV)!

-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, September 2018

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