WHO’S KIDDING WHO
August 14-15, 2004
Earlier this summer I was invited to Florida to do some speaking. I spoke about three times there. After one of the services, the pastor took Lisa and me out to eat at a local Carrabba’s. I love Carrabba’s—incredible Italian food! Anyway, we were sitting there enjoying the meal and Lisa looked across the restaurant to the bar area where there was a television. And she said, “Ed, I think that is the Stanley Cup playoffs.”
I looked back, and I go, “Yeah, I think it is.” And she said, “I think Tampa Bay is in the playoffs.” And I thought, “Well, yeah.” And then she goes, “That’s Daryl Sydor!” And then it hit me: Daryl Sydor, Dallas Stars. He was a vital part of Fellowship Church when he was playing with the Stars. He had been traded and subsequently had ended up in Tampa Bay. I was kind of clueless; Lisa knew more than, of course, I did about hockey. And I thought, “Man, that’s pretty wild. We’re two or three hours away, and there he is playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs.”
So we thought, you know, we’ll just give him a call the next day and tell him we’re thinking about him. So we called Daryl and his wife Shar. And we talked for a while, caught up a little bit, and then they asked us this question. They said, “Hey, would you and Lisa like go to the 7th game of the Stanley Cup playoffs right here in Tampa?”
I said, “Let me think about…YES! Yes!” And they gave us the serious hook up. We made the drive to Tampa, two hours, we fought traffic for another hour, and we had some incredible seats right there with the players families—the wives, and all that. And the electricity was unbelievable watching Tampa Bay Lightning take the Stanley Cup. It was a cool deal.
Well, during the middle of the game—I think during the first period—I became hungry. I eat a lot of food. I try to eat often and I said, “Lisa, let’s go and get something to eat.” She said, “Okay.”
So I was following her down these steps. And these steps, you know in an arena, they’re pretty vertical, you know? And so we’re making our way down. It was a packed out place, of course. And for some reason, I don’t know why, I lost my balance. I slipped and my feet went completely out from underneath my body. I fell down the steps. I knocked Lisa’s feet out, she fell on top of me, and we tumbled down the stairs during the 7th game of the Stanley Cup playoff. People were looking at us like, “What’s wrong with them?”
Thankfully, we fell into the stands and a big hockey player father stopped us with his big hand, “Are you all right?” And security came over. We were in pain. In fact, Lisa still has a bruise on her leg she suffered about two months ago. And my ankle hurt for about, you know, a month later. So we got up, we popped up, you know, like nothing was wrong. You know how you do when you fall. And I was looking at my shoes and the steps like they caused the problem. And you’re all embarrassed, you know? And so Lisa and I were walking to the concession stand like, “Man, what happened?” “I don’t know.” It was terrible.
I’ve thought about that a lot because that’s the real picture of the family. That’s the real picture of this unit known as the family. Because if you think about it, husbands and wives, moms and dads, we’ve lost our position. We’ve slipped from where we should be and we’ve tumbled. And we’ve tumbled down the steps and it’s caused a lot of damage. A lot of people are hurting. A lot of families are fractured. And it’s embarrassing. Yet, a lot families pop back up and they go, “Hey, everything’s cool. We’re okay.” But it’s not cool. And when it comes to parenting, the joke’s on you.
As I said, when Lisa and I were making our way to the concession stand, limping and looking at our wounds, we said to ourselves, “Man, what happened?” Lisa goes, “Ed, how did you fall? Honey, you’ve got decent balance, what happened?” And we weren’t sure what happened. Did I trip? Did I lose my balance on some spilled soft drink? Was it because I had four beers earlier? I don’t know! [audience laughter] Nah, I don’t drink beer! I’m just joking.
But, families, we need to think about what has caused this fall? Why are we so fractured? What’s the problem? Why are we tumbling down the stairs? Why so much collateral damage? Why? Why? Why? I’m a why guy. I’m a why person. Why?
Well, I think to understand the why we need to go back to the genesis of the relationship. Think back to when a man and a woman became a bride and a groom, when they got married. (Ed hums the wedding march) Da, da, da, da. [A “bride” and a “groom” come on stage.]
We have a beautiful bride and a debonair groom. You remember that, don’t you? You remember those days? When a pastor pronounced them husband and wife, what happened? Well, they became married. We know that. But there was something deeper going on, something subterranean going on. On the surface, most people miss it.
You see, this bride carried with her some serious, some powerful presuppositions as she walked down the wedding runner. She’s thinking a lot of stuff in her mind. She’s thinking, “Oh, boy, I’ve got a commitment now before God, the pastor, and these witnesses. Whoa, romance will move to the next level! We will ratchet up the romance bar, and it will be ‘love is in the air, every sight and every sound’ 24/7.” She’s thinking that this is going to be awesome.
You know what he’s thinking? Come on guys. Let’s talk, you know, just you and me. We’re compartmentalized, aren’t we? We think, “Okay, I’ve got the marriage deal done. Signed, sealed, delivered.” Now, this responsibility thing just hits us. “Whoa! I’ve got to be responsible! I’ve got to provide for a family. I’ve got to take care of her, because you know a woman’s needs are all about security. So, man, I’ve got to really think it.” And we do this out of love, don’t we? Out of love. But something is happening. It’s kind of strange.
The man gets married within the marriage. In essence, he marries his career because he gets rewarded when he does well in the market place. And if the bride is like 3 out of 5 women these days, she also gets into the career thing. But everything is cool because all they have is the career and, you know, they’re still together and they’re still connecting and all that. But things are little bit different. Then, one day they do something. They decide to buy a pet. Because a pet, a cat or a dog, is sort of a precursor to the real thing—a child.
Fast forward it a little bit. One day the new bride comes in and she goes, “Honey, the pregnancy test has come back positive!” And…you guessed it, a child comes into the world, a bouncing baby boy or girl. And when kids are born, they demand a lot of attention. So, the kid, the child, sort of splits the marriage.
Well, after this takes place, the home is diaper driven. That’s just the way it is. But here’s what’s amazing. What starts out as a stage, what starts out as temporary, often becomes permanent. The bride goes, “Well, I’ve got to revolve and orbit my time around our child in this area just for a little while. It’ll change, baby.” And the husband, more and more, gets involved in the career. He’s chasing deals. He’s trying to provide. And then he decides to pick up something. He decides to pick up golf, you know. (We like hobbies.) And he picks up golf, and a lot of his free time is now spent on the golf course.
And this young lady, this new bride, this new mom, does something that women just naturally do. She’s a gatherer and she’s into the shopping thing. So you see a marital drift taking place. And you see the husband and the wife moving further and further apart. They’ve put the child in the center, the child is between them. What started out as temporary has now become permanent. So they revolve everything around the baby. And the baby grows and gets bigger and bigger. It’s not the baby’s fault. It’s not his or her fault. They’re just little ones. They need to be fed and changed and burped and cuddled and all that.
And once the child feels the warmth of the spotlight, once the child knows that he or she is the most important thing in the family structure, they’re not going to give up that position without a fight, without a battle. There’s going to be some high drama going on if Dad comes in, or if Mom comes in, and tries to push the child away from the #1 position. And this happens when kids are 10 and 15 and 20 and even 30.
Have you ever wondered why so many twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings are still living at home today? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because the home has been so kid-centric for so long, these twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings ain’t gonna give up the sweet deal they have! They’re the star of the show. They’re the feature presentation. They’re not going to give it up very easily.
In the marriage, throw in predictability, throw in boredom, throw in an attractive co-worker or neighbor, and you’ve got problems. Now, for the woman to get to the man, or for the man to get to the woman, they’ve got to crawl over the hobbies, and the career, and the crib; and she’s got to crawl over shopping bags and girls’ night out and the career, and…. It’s a fragmented family, a family that’s out of balance.
Well, here’s the question. How do you put the child in the right spot? And how do you join the husband and the wife? How do you make the marriage the top priority?
[Ed first answers this question sarcastically—referring to what many couples erroneously do to fix the problem.] Well, I know what you do! You turn to our culture. But wait a minute! Our culture doesn’t say that the marriage is the top priority. What kind of vibe does our culture give us? “It’s all about the kids. Let’s do it for the kids. It’s about the kids, kids, kids, kids. It’s about the super mom. It’s never the super wife! It’s about the kids.”
GOD’S POSITIONING SYSTEM
When we think about God’s positioning, though, something changes. Because obviously, the culture is not working; our ways aren’t working. But God comes along and God wants the best for the family. God knows the family is the structure. It’s the epicenter. It’s the foundational piece that can change communities and cities and states and nations and the world. God knows the potential of a great marriage and of great kids. He knows and he wants that to be experienced in every single family team and every single family arena known to man. That’s what our great God wants. But it’s going to take a fight. It’s going to take a struggle.
Let’s talk about that. And let’s also thank the bride and the groom for coming out here. [The “bride” and “groom” head off stage.] Off they go! Off they go.
What is God’s take on this positioning thing? What does God say? What are his priorities? Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to the book of Ephesians, Chapter 5 and Ephesians, Chapter 6. Right quick, let me go through this. And I’ll develop this later as we continue this series.
First of all, Ephesians says, “God should be the number one thing.” Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.” God’s got to be number one.
Number two is the marriage. Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Man, husbands, what an example!
Children should be number three. Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” The marriage, the Bible says, should be primary. Parenting, your connection with your kids, should be secondary.
But what do we do? We take this grid, this template, so to speak—God, marriage, and kids—and we put kids first, marriage second and God third. We invert God’s flow chart. And I’m going to tell you something. This inversion has become a perversion of what God wants in every single family unit.
I was speaking out of town a while back and I had a rent-a-car and I got lost, like four times in two hours. I finally made it to where I was supposed to speak. I dropped the rental car off at the airport and right before I was collecting my things out of this rent-a-car, I looked and I saw, staring in my face, a GPS system. I thought, “Ed, can you believe you did that? I mean, you had a GPS system right there! You even looked at it, but you didn’t use it.” I didn’t even think about it. I was thinking about speaking and all that stuff.
Well, this is God’s positioning system, a true GPS for the family. This system—God, marriage, and parenting—will bring balance back to the family. And that is what God wants, because God wants the best for all of us.
I don’t care if you are in a blended family. I don’t care if you are in a single parent situation. I don’t care if you’re in a typical nuclear family with 2.3 kids. I don’t care if you’re single. Because singles, this series has monstrous implications to your life. Most of you will get married. In fact, 90% of you, stats show, will get married. And once you get married, you’re going to have a family. So you’d better understand this stuff. And children, students, listen up, because these principles and these precepts will give you a great focus and a great trajectory when one day you have your own family.
THE DEFINITION OF PARENTING
Once you have kids, you are a parent. But it’s funny. We see the parenting position, but we don’t know what the position means. You talk to parents, “Oh, you’re a parent? Really? Okay. What does it mean to be a parent?” “Well, I don’t know. I got a couple of kids.”
Well, the Bible says that parenting is important. And I came up with a definition from the Bible several years ago, and this definition I believe really captures what parenting is all about. Parenting is this: Parenting is teaching and training your children to leave. Say it with me. It’s teaching and training your children to leave.
The teaching part is Deuteronomy 6; the training part is Proverbs 22:6; and the leaving part is Genesis 2:24. Our agenda, parents, is to keep the marriage primary and parenting has got to be secondary. Parenting is all about teaching and training our children to do what? Leave! To leave.
Well, how does this play out? You’ve got many families that are out of balance. You’ve got many families that are kid-centric. You’ve got many families that are orbiting everything around the kids and activities and hobbies and career. How do you put the marriage as the top priority? That’s a pretty good question. How do you do it?
Well, some people say, “You know, as a parent, I need to give my kids my undivided attention, 24/7. “Let me entertain you. What do you need? What do you want? Let’s go here. You said, what? Yeah, okay. You’re the most important thing. I’ll do whatever. I’m here to entertain you, to serve you, to be your buddy, your friend, your girlfriend. I’m it. I’m the parent.”
Is that parenting? The attention myth? Attention? We don’t need to give our kids our undivided attention, 24/7. Think about water. Do our kids need water? Yeah, they need water. But too much water will kill them; they’ll drown. Attention is the same thing. It’s the same way if I give my kids too much attention. So if you want to crank out some whiney, spoiled, bratty, selfish, mean-spirited kids, you put them in the staring role. If you revolve your life around them and you’re at their beck and call 24/7, that’s what you are signing up for.
Attention. We’ve got to spend time with our kids. And we would give our lives for our kids. But this attention myth is keeping the family out of balance because it’s telling our spouse, “You know what? The kids are more important than you.”
Scheduling is something else that we need to think about. We should put our children on our schedule. We shouldn’t say, “Hey, what’s your schedule? I’ll do what you want me to do.”
How about bedtime? We all have a bedtime, don’t we? How many people like to go to bed early? If you’re like me, man, I love to go bed early. Yeah! How about the night owls in the house? If you’re a night owl…. Okay, okay, okay. That’s all right.
Kids have a bedtime. “What should be their bedtime, Ed?” Well, do you let them decide? Are you kidding me?! You don’t put you kids down when they’re ready; you put them down when you are ready. You’ve got to figure out in your schedule how much time you need to connect with your spouse. So you put your kids down at a certain time.
Kids scream for a schedule. Do you know why? Because we are made in the image of God. Everything God does has an order to it—the creation, the Bible, the way he works and moves. It’s an order. And we have this desire, this yearning for order. And our kids do as well. They are screaming for it. They’re yearning for it. Have a set bedtime for your kids.
“Well, man I’ve got teenagers, Ed. What do I do?” Have a time where they go to their room and they disappear. I’ve got a 17-year-old; she’s almost 18. We say, “LeeBeth, its 9:30. Disappear to your room. Don’t come back downstairs because this is Mommy and Daddy time.” Bedtime…it’s important. You’ll have bedtime battles. You will. But parents, we win the war. We’re in control. We’re the leaders of the relationship.
I ran across these stats that were pretty telling about bedtime. It says that 51% of kids 10 thru 18 go to bed after 10:00 p.m. And 60% of kids 7 thru 12 feel tired during the day. And 15% of kids fall asleep at school!
So we’ve got too many comatose kids walking around because they are not getting the kind of rest they should. And parents, children, once again, are yearning for guidelines and guardrails. They are yearning for discipline and they are yearning for boundaries. Are we giving it to them? And are we consistent? I will talk about that and develop that during this series.
THE MATE DATE
Something else kind of evolves from this. And this is one of my favorite things to discuss when I talk about the family. In fact, this has probably been the most important thing that Lisa and I have ever done in our family. And I will continue to talk about it until everybody does it. You might be saying, “Well, man, I’ve heard you talk about this for a long time.” Well, get ready, I’m going talk about it more and more. I’m talking about the mate date. The mate date.
Do you have a mate date with your spouse? At least twice a month, you should date your spouse. Mate date.
“Well, Ed, why should I date my mate?” This might shock you, but it pays huge financial dividends. I talked recently to a Christian counselor. And this man has studied the family for decades. And he said, “Ed, do you know what the number one predictor is of financial security?” I said, “No.” I was thinking, you know, 401K, being diversified in your portfolio, investing in real estate and stocks.
He said, “You know what the number one thing is? Staying married.” He said, “If you stay married, you are going to be financially secure.” So just think about it for a second. If we date our mate and we spend money on our mate, then we’re going to be financially secure.
Let’s say you are doing a great job. Let’s say you’re dating your spouse, guys, once a week. And let’s say you are throwing down $50 a date. I mean, that’s pretty good. That’s a lot of money. $50 a week to take your spouse out, that’s $2,600 a year. That’s a good bit of money. Is it worth it financially to do that? Yes, it is! Because you are going to date somebody. You’ll either spend money on your spouse or the person you are committing adultery with. It’s your choice. And when you commit adultery many times there is divorce, and you’ve got to pay these lawyers 300 bucks an hour?
It doesn’t make sense. You’re hurting your children, you’re hurting yourself, and you’re hurting others. It’s not worth it. It makes financial sense. You’re investing in something that pays some serious dividends.
“Man, I’m romantic. I’m dating my spouse once a week.” Once a week! I was thinking about that. Once a week. I mean, that’s the goal. Once a week. Why is it once a week? Why do I have the desire to date Lisa once a week? I was asking myself that. Then I started thinking about God, and the way he’s revealed himself to us.
Now think about this for a second. God is a God of the week. He created the heavens and the earth in seven days. And he’s told us time and time again to rest one day and to take that one day to rest and to worship. We should connect, the Bible says, corporately—like we’re doing right now to worship God.
And invariably, I mean almost every weekend, I’ll meet someone around the community, and they’ll go, “You know, I almost didn’t go to Fellowship this weekend. I almost went skiing. I almost played golf. I almost slept in. But, Ed, I showed up and I’m glad I did. It changed my life. It was great! I needed that shot during the week.” I just love corporate worship. There’s something supernatural about corporate worship.
Well, we’re made in the image of God, and we should love our wives as Christ loved the church. So this seven day rhythm is given to us and it’s also in marriage. So, that’s why we should connect with our spouse, date night, kind of the worship thing about once a week. It will change the course of your week. It’ll change the course of your life, of your relationship. It gives you an opportunity to recalibrate and to refocus and to connect.
So there’s a huge financial, there’s a huge spiritual, and there’s a huge emotional benefit to date night. Many times the date night is like an oasis for us. And it gives you that opportunity to talk. It helps you to refocus and to remember the whole priority of the family. So, I want to challenge you and beg you to have a date night. The benefits are monstrous.
And we’re reflecting Christ’s relationship to the local church. What did Jesus do? Jesus has romanced us, he’s loved us, he’s taken the initiative. We’re his bride, the church. What’s the bride? We’re basically a colossal collection of moral foul-ups. That’s what the church is. That’s what I am and that’s what you are. We’re all sinners. Yet, God loves me so much he sent Jesus Christ. And Christ took the initiative and he loves me, even when I’m hard to be loved.
Well, husbands, we are to love our wives that way. Even when they are hard to love. Even when, maybe, they are a little moody. Forget that. Because of Christ’s grace and love and because of what he’s done for us, we should launch out and be that husband, that “house band” that keeps everything together. This is powerful stuff. Date night. It’s kind of an act of worship, I truly believe. And we’re going to talk about it and develop all these things during this series.
Well, you might be saying to yourself, “You know, I wonder if I’m out of balance. This is very interesting, Ed; and you’ve talked about some things. I wonder if I’m maybe out of whack. I wonder if something is kind of here and there. I wonder if I’m slipping down the steps. I wonder if I am tumbling down the family arena steps.”
Who caused the fall? Who caused the fall in Tampa? I did. I slipped. I fell. I knocked Lisa’s feet out from under her. And I would argue, men, that we are the ones who’ve caused the fall. It’s not just our fault. I’m not going to say that. But, we are the leaders of the relationship.
“Man, what are you talking about, dude? Are you saying men are superior to women?” Are you kidding me? No. In form, we’re equal before God. We play on a level playing field. But in function, God has given the men the spiritual leadership, the responsibility. And I would argue that men have started this slippage, this simultaneous fall.
Lisa and I did figure out what happened. We did figure out why I fell. You know what happened? I took my sandals off, and on the bottom of my sandal was embedded a greasy piece of popcorn. And that popcorn was so greasy it was like ice. And that’s why I fell. And next weekend we are going to talk about the parental popcorn, that greasy stuff that causes the family to slip.
THE BALANCED FAMILY TEST
But I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before and we’re going to conclude with this. I am going to give you a little gift, a little surprise after every one of these weekends. We’re doing this for four or five weeks, and today I am going to give you a test. So if you are seated on the end seat to my left, to your right, you are the row captain, girl; you’re the row captain, guy. Make sure everybody has a test and everybody has a pen, very quickly. Everybody has a test? Everybody has a pen? We’re going to find out whether we are balanced or not.
“But, Ed, I’m single, man. I’ll just skip this test.” No. Don’t do that, single. You fill the test out like your family of origin treated you. Because when you fill it out through your parents’ eyes, you’re going to see what kind of mate you will probably become. So, yeah, I’m not going to let you off the hook. In fact, I could probably say this is almost as much for singles as it is for those of us who are married. If you are a single parent, blended family, whatever, let’s take this test. And please, don’t show other people your scores or your answers. This is kind of some personal stuff, so kind of cover it like that, okay?
The “Who’s Kidding Who?” Balanced Family Test. Now we’re going to score these:
#1: Do you go on a date with your spouse at least twice a month? 1, Never. 2, Sometimes. 3, Always.
Be honest. This is church.
#2: Do you eat dinner as a family around the dinner table at least 3 times per week?
“Well, Ed, you know, I travel, man, and….” Well, if, if you’re out of town that much, you might want to think about what you do for a living.
#3: Do your children sleep in their own beds (not your bed) every night?
The marriage bed is holy. It should be for the man and the woman, the husband and the wife. Not for the kids. If your kids sleep with you, that should be an exception not the rule. If they do sleep with you, you know what you are telling them? “Oh, you know, this marriage is about three people, not two.”
#4: Do you and your spouse have TLC (Touch, Look, and Conversation) on a daily basis? And I’ll talk about what that means later.
#5: Do you get away for a weekend alone as a couple (without your kids) at least twice a year?
Let me give you a little question. Let’s say this afternoon my family and I—we have four children—cruised over to DFW Airport and took a flight to Tahiti. And let’s say we stayed in Tahiti for the next 10 days. Would that be a vacation or not? No! It would not be a vacation. That would be a family outing in an awesome place. That’s not a vacation for me and Lisa. No, a vacation would be if Lisa and I alone cruised over to DFW and went to Tahiti for 10 days. That would be a vacation! So, we have a family outing and we got a vacation.
We also have something called the “obligation vacation.” That’s when you hang out with your parents or your in-laws. That’s obligation vacation. I’ll talk about that later.
#6: Do you have sexual intimacy with your spouse at least two times a day? I mean a week! I meant a week!
And if you have a hard time laughing at that, you’re problem is not with me, it’s with God. Because God is pro-sex. He thought it up. And we should do sex his way—one man, one woman, in marriage.
#7: Do you and your spouse present a unified front when your children question your authority?
That’s tough. That’s especially tough in the blended family set up, isn’t it? Single parents, whoa! That’s a big issue. We’re going to talk about how you do that.
#8: Do you have a set bedtime for your kids/teens that’s consistently enforced?
#9: Do you regularly evaluate your calendar to prevent ECA-itis (over-scheduling Extra-Curricular Activities)?
See, we ask ourselves the wrong question. When something presents itself for the family, we say, “Is it good? If it’s good, I’ll do it.” That’s the wrong question. The question should be, “Does this fit God’s priorities for my family. Does this fit God’s GPS system? Does it fit this balancing thing?”
#10: Is weekly church attendance (age-appropriate worship/teaching) a priority for you and your children?
It should be, once a week. We have that seven day rhythm. We should connect. Something supernatural takes place when we do that and when we have our kids up here for age-appropriate teaching.
Now, total your score. Total it. And next weekend we’re gonna talk about the total. Remember your total. Remember the number, just to yourself, okay? Next weekend I’ll come back and we’re going to score these. And it’s going to be a sight, because we’re even interviewing couples about what they said. It will have them on video and we’ll score them. We’ll have a great time talking about parental popcorn.
You can do one more thing for me that will really help me out, that will help the ushers out. Take your pens and pass them back to your row captain. And if the row captain would take the pens and put them in the little baggie, you would help us out.
Now, remember, each week the gifts get bigger and better. This is kind of cheap, just a piece of paper. But I’m telling you, we’re going to give away some cool stuff! I promise you.