I DON’T: MARRIAGE
November 24, 2002
We’ve been rocked by the corporate scandals, haven’t we? It is amazing what has occurred with Enron and WorldCom — unbelievable things. These corporations look great on the outside with beautiful buildings and the glowing annual reports. On the inside, though, they are riddled with fear, with greed, and with apprehension. Basically, you have a bunch of CEOs leading these corporations who should not be CEOs.
But guess what? There is even a bigger scandal than all the corporate scandals we’ve been reading about. This scandal is going on right under our noses; I’m talking about the scandal in the corporate family business. The scandal occurs the moment the OB/GYN slaps your baby boy or girl on the bottom and says, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” The moment that occurs, something weird happens. The little boy or girl looks at the corporate chair and says to himself or herself, “I am going to do a hostile takeover of the family corporation.”
Now, while this is going on, parents do something tragic. The wife resigns from her number one priority, that of being a wife, and she becomes a mom. She chases the kids. The husband resigns from his number one priority, that of being the husband, and he chases his career. The husband goes one way, and the wife goes the other way. You have marital drift. Throw in fatigue, throw in some problems, throw in an attractive co-worker, and you see where it’s going to lead. While this is going on, the parents move from the executive staff position into the support staff position and the kids move from the support staff into the executive staff position. Once they become CEOs, I’m talking about your kids, once their behind feels the leather of that chair in the corner office, once they look at the view, once they fly in the corporate jet, and once they experience the parties and the perks, you no longer have the parents in control.
Have you heard this before? I did the same exact introduction last weekend! I saw some people say to themselves, “Man, he’s doing the same thing he did last weekend.” Others of you were probably here last weekend, but you were asleep during this time and you totally forgot what I said. Now, some of you missed last weekend. Last weekend I kicked off a part of this series called, “Kid CEO.” I had no idea we would have the kind of reaction we have had over the last week. We have had more comments, more interest in last weekend’s sermon than almost any topic we have ever covered here at Fellowship Church. I’m going to delve deeper into this topic today. What I’m going to talk to you about tonight is something that I call, “Parent CEO.”
Last weekend it was “Kid CEO.” In a number of households, the kids are running the show. The kids are in the corner office. Well, we need, as parents, to be parents. We need to demote our children — not fire our children, demote them. We need to take over the corner office. We need to sit down and run the show. We need to speak the truth in love. We need to vision cast. We need to be parents. And to do that, we have to have the marriage as the most important priority in this earthly thing called “the family.”
Now why in the world do you have a bunch of kids running the show? Why in the world do you have a bunch of kids calling the shots and flying the corporate jet and doing all of that? Why do you have that? Well I’ll tell you why. You have it because, basically, we are all selfish. We all have this sin nature. We all have this desire to control, and kids show this desire at strikingly young ages.
Another reason why a lot of parents usher their kids into the CEO role is because they’re just detached. They don’t want to mess with it, they kind of want to do the Heisman trophy thing and keep everything at bay, so they allow this to happen. [Ed poses like the Heisman trophy – illustrating how some parents “stiff arm” their responsibility away.]
Some parents do this because they believe what the culture says. The lie of our culture is that the kids are the nucleus of the family cell. That is bogus, it’s ludicrous, it’s wrong, and it’s not biblical. The marriage is the nucleus of the family cell. If you know anything about science and biology, you know that as goes the nucleus, so goes the cell. The nucleus is the stuff. It’s the power that gives a cell the ability to relate to other cells. The same is true in the parent CEO home.
Our goal is for parents to run the show, to call the shots. Our goal is for our kids to be on the support staff. Parents, we have got to be on the administrative or executive staff.
ALPHABET SOUP PARENTS
I brought something up here. See this? [Ed is holding a can of soup] This brings back some fond memories. I’m talking about Campbell’s condensed soup, Chicken Alphabet soup. Do you remember eating alphabet soup? As a kid, I used to tear this stuff up — alphabet soup. I’ll just be gross with you for a moment. Oftentimes, I would dip my spoon in this hot piping soup and I would take my fingers and arrange the noodles on the spoon to spell certain words. I would just do that. It was fun; it was enjoyable. I don’t do it now, because we don’t eat this stuff anymore. It has way too much sodium, but I used to do it. I’m sure you’ve done it as well.
This is one of the problems that we have in parenting today moms, dads, and single parents. A lot of us are what I refer to as alphabet soup parents. Some of us here, we hate to admit it, are the EMT parents. We take our little spoon out and we spell EMT in the parent bowl. We rescue our kids. Nothing is ever their fault. It’s always the teacher’s fault, the coach’s fault, or the other person’s fault. We’re over-indulgent, we’re overprotective, we’re over-committed to them and it ends up taking our kids and putting them right in the CEO’s chair. They become spoiled, sassy and rebellious. Some of us are the EMT parent.
There’s another alphabet soup type parent out there — the NCAA parent. You know, those Bobby Knight-ish parents, those Errol Wood-ish type parents. We say, “Hey, give me forty push-ups. If you don’t hit at least forty push-ups, then you’re not going to make it to the NBA, you’ll never to do this, or you’ll never do that.” We are over the top. We’re overboard with discipline. We’re like the drill sergeants — we’re hard, we’re mean, and we’re too rigid.
There are also some parents who are the YMCA parents. Now, the YMCA is the organization that invented the “buddy system.” Have you ever seen the YMCA buddy system? You’re out swimming at a pool and the lifeguard blows his whistle, “Wheeeeee!” And everybody holds up the hand of their buddy and yells, “Buddy! Buddy!” That means you’re swimming with your buddy, with your friend, with your pal, or whatever it is you might call this person. Parents, it’s not our goal to be our kid’s best friend. I see this all the time. “I just want to be a buddy to my child, just a friend, just one of the gang.” I’m all for camaraderie, and the Bible is, too. It’s great to do those recreational things with your kids and to spend quantity and quality time with them. That’s great, that’s cool, and that’s fine. But, we’re parents. We are leaders, and yeah, we have friendships type stuff with them, but we are not to be just their friends. That is not the goal. That is not putting the ball through the net.
Now, some here are PhD parents — the over thinkers. We psychoanalyze everything and we can kind of move into what I talked about last weekend — the permissive parent role. We try to treat our kids as adults. We’re into that whole Dr. Spock mentality that says everything is equal and everything is A-OK. We’re kind of communist type parents. Do you know what I’m saying?
None of these types of parents work, they’re not biblical. If you want a “wheels off” family, if you want your kids running the show, if you want them in the corner office, if you want to have a messed up marriage, then just go ahead and go for it. But, God comes along and says, “Become a CEO parent. Become a parent CEO.” Take the leadership role, demote your kids and do what you should do. Now, when you do this, when you have this exchange of roles, when your kids move from the executive corner office into the support role, what’s going to happen? What should you do?
Number one — you should keep your eye on God’s agenda. Number two — you should recommit to the marital relationship. You should realize that it’s God first, then right behind that is the marriage. Number three — expect, wow here it is, conflict. Expect conflict. Now, your kids have been there for a long time. These chairs have fit their rears for years and years and years. They like the spotlight, they like leading the show, they like running it and they are not going to leave without a fight. But remember, as a parent, you’re the leader.
We talked about the definition of a parenting last week. Parenting is the process of teaching (Deuteronomy 6) and training (Proverbs 22), your children to leave (Genesis 2, and also the Book of Ephesians 5 and 6). So, it is the process of teaching and training your kids to leave.
DO THE PARENT RAP
Now sometimes parents, when your kids are rebellious and when they talk smack at you, I encourage you just to talk right back to them. Now I do not like Eminem, I don’t like Ludacris, and I don’t like Snoop Dogg. But it’s OK parents to go ahead and put on a hat like a rapper and go ahead and rap back to your kids. I made this rap up several years ago; it’s called the Parent Rap. Some of you might remember it if you’ve never heard about it, just listen and learn this rap. One, two, three, say this to your rebellious kids:
[Ed begins to rap] I’m the parent. I’m legit. There’s no use arguing, you might as well quit. You can roll your eyes and say it’s not fair. You’re telling God you really don’t care. So do what I say all of the time, then your life will have serious rhyme. All the time, yours and mine, peace of family mind. [The audience applauds] Thank you very much.
FAMILY SHAREHOLDERS MEETING
Here’s what we need to do to become parent CEOs. This is very, very, very, practical; yet, very, very, powerful. We need to have a shareholders meeting, a family shareholders meeting. Now, I didn’t say a board meeting, because your kids aren’t on the board of directors. Do you hear me? You and your spouse are the board. You constitute the board. You are the co-chairpersons of the board. Now your family, your kids, do have some stock. But, you have something like 95 percent, parents, and they have maybe 5 percent. It’s not some 50/50 deal here. So, have a family shareholders meeting. Now, in this meeting you have to talk about God’s org chart, you have got to talk about some great stuff.
Looking back in the rear view mirror of my life, I was only a part of two family shareholders meetings while I was growing up. The first meeting was when my father announced to us that my mother was pregnant. The second family shareholders meeting was when my father announced to us that we were moving a thousand miles away before my junior year in high school. I left both meetings in tears. I’m not telling you to have family share holders meetings like that, but I am saying that you should sit down with your family team, your shareholders, and cast the vision to them.
THE FAMILY’S VISION
The Bible says where there is no vision the people will perish. We discovered at Fellowship Church that people forget the vision of Fellowship Church after about eight weeks. That’s why we say it, we spray it, we wheel it, and we deal it. Fellowship Church exists to reach up — that’s worship, expressing love to God. We also exist to reach out — that’s connecting Christ with others. We also exist to reach in — that’s discipleship; that’s having Christ fully formed in our lives. That is the mission of Fellowship Church, and we try to communicate it in as many ways as possible. So, you should have a vision, a mission for your family.
Now, some of you are going, “That’s cool man, I like that. Well I better go out and try to formulate a vision for my family. Um, I wonder what the vision should be. I don’t know.” You don’t have to worry. Just chill. Just relax, because the vision is right here before you in the Bible. I turn your attention to Joshua 24:15. Here’s what Joshua said, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” It’s pretty simple. Joshua didn’t take a vote. He didn’t consult Robert’s Rules of Order. He didn’t put together a focus group, think tank, or committee. What did he do? He said, “As for me and my house.” Basically, he said, “I’m the parent; I’m legit. There’s no use arguing. You might as well quit.” That’s what he said. “I’m the man. I’m the chairman. This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to follow the Lord. We’re going to seek him.”
CAST THE VISION
Last weekend we learned that God’s flow chart is very simple and strategic. It’s God, marriage, and then the children. It’s God, marriage, then the children. That’s what Joshua did. We have to cast the vision.
BUILD THE VISION
As we talk about the importance of vision, you have to do something else. You have to build the vision. Now, we have staff retreats here at Fellowship Church all the time. Our staff goes off somewhere and we will talk about the vision of the church. But, we don’t just stop at the vision. There are a lot of people that have all these visions that they talk about, “This is my vision.” “This is my vision.” “This is my vision.” Well, that’s great, that’s fine. But, you’ve got to build the vision. You have to build the mission. Vision is cool, but you have got to strap that vision to commitment, endurance, and the stuff to carry it through. I know a lot of men and women who talk vision all day and night, but they have never done the stuff. We’ve got to do the stuff.
In our staff meetings we say, “What are our goals? “What are our objectives to meet the goals? Yeah, it’s great that you have goals, but what are your objectives? How are you going to do it?” We tell our staff members to be very, very specific on the goals. Are you asking, “What? You mean the church has goals?” Yes, we do. God has goals. Goals are mentioned throughout the Bible.
I challenge you to do something Lisa and I did a long, long time ago with our kids. Oftentimes we will give our four children goals. “Here’s a goal for you. And here is 1, 2, 3, A, B, and C; what you need to do — your objectives to reach the goal. Let me cast the vision. Here’s the vision for the Young family. Now, here is how we’re going to build the vision.” Are you doing that with your family? That’s what it means to be a CEO.
If you don’t have leadership, what happens? A vacuum is in place. I’ve seen it happen in churches, I’ve seen it happen on athletic teams, and I’ve seen it happen in companies. Whenever you have a leadership vacuum present, take a wild guess who begins to lead? People who are clueless about leadership begin to lead.
That’s why we have Kid CEO families. These families are hydroplaning, and they are messing up our entire culture. They’re not biblical. They’re not honoring God. Everybody thinks everything is A-OK. They think they’re doing the right thing, but they’re wondering why everything is wheels off. It’s the wrong model. We have the wrong leader in the wrong chair. So we have to build the vision.
Now, I was thinking about how we build a vision this past weekend. I was thinking about it and I talked to people about it on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Here’s what God gave me. I want you to write the word KIDS down vertically on your worship guide — kids, K-I-D-S. Now, the family unit is not to be “kid centric,” but I want you to remember the word KIDS. The word KIDS signifies, it symbolizes, what we are to be as a “Parent CEO” family.
“K” stands for “knowledge.” We have to have a knowledge that’s grounded. We have to understand, as parents, God’s structure, his flow chart. We have to realize that we know more than our kids know. And, because we know more than our kids know, we have to help them with decisions as they try to negotiate the maze of life. We’ve got the knowledge and we have to give the knowledge out.
Here’s the major problem. A lot of us have this reservoir of knowledge, mom and dad, but it’s dammed up. We can either become a reservoir of knowledge and have it dammed up, or we can become a river of knowledge and let it flow through us. God wants you to be a river of knowledge. Do you remember Deuteronomy 6? We talked about it last weekend. I don’t have time to go through it again. Check out the tape and listen to Deuteronomy 6. That’s the river of knowledge that we must flow to our kids.
“I” stands for “intimacy that’s intentional.” Intimacy that’s intentional. Do you realize the more children you have the less intimacy that you have? Go to the national marital stats; talk to husbands and wives. They’ll tell you, “Oh we wish we had more intimacy. We wish we could get together more.” But most of us don’t, and I’m talking about that date night or that date day. But, also, I’m talking about something else.
You know there is an incredible author who wrote a book called The Creative Marriage. I’m going to read you an excerpt from this book on sex. Now everybody will pay attention. Page 85 of The Creative Marriage by Ed and Lisa Young — here we go. This is called sex builder #6, “Take a Romantic Get-Away.” The sex builder is to get onboard the B-52. Remember this B stands for “break,” and 52 stands for 52 weeks out of the year.
Husbands and wives, I challenge you to take two breaks out of the year — just for the two of you. Go away for a night or two twice a year, every six months. Go away for romance, go away for intimacy, and go away for sex. Some people tell me, “Ed, you just don’t know our finances. We can’t afford that.” I say that it’s better to pay the price now than to end up relationally bankrupt later on down the road. Take out a loan if you have to. You don’t want to neglect the B-52 only to one day find your covenant carpet-bombed and destroyed. Taking these breaks is worth it and will reap huge benefits in your marriage. We have to fight for intimacy. We have to fight for the date night. We have to fight for the B-52. We have to fight for it.
Parents, it is worth the fight. The best thing you can do is to have a great marriage. The best thing, parentally, that you can do is to have a great marriage. If you don’t, your kids will never launch from your home with great projection. It’s not going to happen for you. So, what do you have to do to have a great marriage? We have to spend time to connect — relationally, sexually, and emotionally. “For this reason,” Genesis 2:24, “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That’s super-glue, that’s coming together. It takes work to cleave, to be joined. It doesn’t just happen in a vacuum.
This is just kind of a side note: Do you know what the word KIDS stands for? Not this acrostic; it’s another acrostic: Keeping Intimacy at a Distance Successfully. That’s what KIDS stand for, but you have to work on that. A few of you got that. It went over most of your heads.
“D” stands for “discipline” — discipline. You’re asking, “What did he say?” It stands for discipline that’s consistent. Hey, Parent CEO, we’re going to have to discipline our children. It’s not a popularity contest. It’s not the YMCA buddy thing. It’s not the PhD thing. We’re going to have to discipline. And let me tell you something. Kids cry out for discipline. They cry out for it. They do.
Owen Goff taught me a good lesson a long time ago. Owen said, “You watch a kid, Ed. Watch this child move and kind of see where the boundaries are. If the boundaries aren’t there, then they will move closer and closer to the ledge. If the boundaries aren’t there, then they will move closer and closer and closer until one day, ‘Aughhhh!’” Kids crave boundaries. A lot of parents will change the boundaries all the time. One day the boundary is here, the next day it’s over there. We have to be consistent.
God disciplines you and me. He disciplines us out of love. God never punishes his children. Christ took the punishment on the cross for our sins two thousand years ago. God does discipline us. He disciplines us with the goal in mind of improving and developing our faith.
“S” stands for “structure that is strategic.” Everything is about structure. I’ll tell you the org chart once again: God, marriage, and kids — God, marriage, and kids. A lot of your families are so unstructured, so “off the wall,” that your kids are just screaming for structure. They’re saying, “I want it! I want it!” Parents, give it to them!
IT’S ABOUT PRIORITIES
OK, all that stuff was for free. Now, I want to end this whole talk by just getting practical with you. Let me just sit behind the Parent CEO desk and talk to you a little bit. It’s all about priorities. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s all about priorities. Jesus said in Matthew 6, specifically Verse 33, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” It’s all about priorities, Mom. It’s all about priorities, Dad.
Let me stop here for a second. Singles, if you don’t think this message is for you, what are you drinking? What are you smoking? You aren’t married; yet, most of you will get married. You had better learn this stuff. I’ve got 20 years of marriage under my belt, and 16 years of parenting. I’ll teach you what I have done right, and I’ll teach you what I have done wrong, straight from God’s word. It’s for those single people here, too. So, you had better listen up. You’re making a major mistake if you miss this one — a major mistake. Some singles think, “Well, I’ll show up when Ed’s talking about marriage and, you know, dating. But … kids? I’ve got something else.” Man, how dumb can you be? I’ll just say it right up here for you. OK.
Priorities — I love the word “priorities,” because the word prior is in priorities. See, we need to set our priorities prior to the activity. See, a lot of us aren’t living priority-driven lives. We’re not doing things prior; we’re letting the “ity’s” kill us — the “ity’s.” We say, “Oh that ‘ity,’ that ‘ity,’ and that ‘ity.’ I’ll just go ahead and make my decision when the ‘ity’ hits me.” No, no, no! You make it prior to the “ity!” Do you hear me screaming now?
You don’t say, “Well here is the activity. OK, I wonder what my priorities are?” No, no, no! Before the activity, what are your priorities? God, marriage, kids. “Does this activity, again in your shareholders meeting, does this activity encroach upon my development in my relationship with God and His church? Does it encroach upon my marriage? Does it encroach upon my children?” You have to ask yourself those questions. Those are hard questions to ask.
If we have kingdom marriages, if we’re seeking the kingdom first, then we’ll have kingdom kids. And with kingdom kids, wow! Katy, bar the door! Kingdom marriages, empowered by God, produce kingdom kids. Parent CEOs are always mentoring their kids, and they know their kids will leave and become other Parent CEOs. That’s how they learn it; that’s how they get it. So, set your priorities prior to the “ity’s” and you’ll be way, way ahead of the game.
Let me tell you something that has happened to us just this past week concerning priorities. I live a pretty busy life. We’re all busy; I’m not any busier than you are. We’re always saying, “You know I’m busy. I’m just busy you know.” Every time we say we’re busy, do you know what we’re saying? “I’m important, I’m big.” “I’m important, I’m big.” We’re all busy. But, I will just share a little bit from my world, just to conclude this whole talk.
I have to do five weekend services, have some fresh stuff, and get prayed up. To get ready for every single weekend, I have to write a term paper that’s about 30 pages of research. I have to read all these books, listen to tapes, talk to people, and all that. My wife is also very busy. She is an author. I’m an author as well. I do some speaking and traveling. We just finished a book. I just finished a book several days ago. We’re busy. We have four kids. My oldest daughter is 16 and she’s playing varsity basketball — 40 games a year. My son and twin daughters start basketball next week. They practice on Tuesday nights and have games on Saturdays. We’re pretty busy as a family.
Well, our date night this past week was kind of up in the air because we had this activity that was important. The activity was good, and we needed to be there. Lisa and I looked back and we realized we hadn’t had a date night for the last several weeks so we thought, “OK, let’s prioritize.” This is what we’re doing, I’m telling you, in our world. OK God — God is number one. OK. Number two is the marriage. Number three is the kids. So, we had this important deal on our date night and we needed to be there. But do you know what? It was a good thing. A thing where you’d say, “You know, Ed, you and Lisa should have been there. I mean, you know.” But, we said, “No,” and we went out on the date. It was a typical date and I had a great time, but we missed this other thing.
Do you know what priorities are? Priorities are simply saying “Yes” to the best. That’s what it means to have great priorities. The best thing is God, because God wants the best for you. But, to say “Yes” to the best, you have to say “No” to the good. We’ve got to say “No.” Because remember, the evil one uses the good to eclipse the best.
I’ve made many decisions where I have not made the right call. I’ve let activities or something else, those “itys,” mess up the structure of God, marriage, and kids. But, this past week it really helped me. I’ll tell you; the sermon last week helped me to make that call.
That’s what I’m talking about. It’s very practical, very simple. But, when you begin to do that, empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, you will begin to take a long look at the corner office and realize it’s for you, moms and dads. It’s about your marriage, and it’s about your kids. I’m telling you. You will know the meaning of what it truly means to have an “I Don’t” marriage. God knows we have to say “I Don’t” to really have great “I Do” stuff going on. That friends, is what it is all about.