Leaving/Cleaving is Easier When Identity is Firm
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
“Our parents are crossing the line.” is one of the biggest complaints Chris and I get in pre- and post-marital counseling. We have the “usual” of what we recommend, but a few days ago, I posed a question to a friend of mine who has married children. What boundaries have you set to give your children space in their marriages, I asked. Any tips? Her response was that she and her husband have encouraged their children to set the boundaries — it is their marriage after all. Also, she hopes they come to them for advice, but that’s not really up to them as parents, either.
I would say Chris and I have come from the same direction when advising couples. We help couples discern what it looks like to set up healthy boundaries with their parents while honoring their parents. You know what’s hard? Having the courage to tell your parents “you’ve got it.” We’ve got it mom and dad. You did a good job. Now, we’re holding fast to one another, and we’ll take it from here. And, you know what else? We’ve even got it with the kids. That’s difficult stuff, but it’s what is needed. If you are getting married or are newly married, some of the most important boundaries you will set are with parents. Sometimes your actions will show, but most of the time, words have to be said.
The reason Chris and I have to take this angle is because it’s the only one we’ve got. We’re meeting with the married couple. Not the parents. So, what would we say to the parents? My friend with married children helped me with this one, too.
Parents, if your identity has been so wrapped-up in your children that you no longer know who you are, it will be very difficult for you to loosen your grip. When you no longer have a place of authority in your married child’s life, that loss of control will turn you into a possessive maniac. A healthy parent stakes their identity in Christ, not their children, not their grandchildren. When the tides turn, the core of their existence will not be shaken because Christ is a firm foundation. There is no control to lose with Christ as the surety of our status — not mom, not dad.
Overwhelming – that’s the feeling I get even now when thinking about handing our kids over in marriage, but there is wisdom in my friend’s words — Our children’s identity has to be in Christ, not us, so they can stand firm without us. Our identity has to be in Christ, not them, so we can stand firm without them. We were never meant to find our value in earthly status but in an eternal status that will never perish or fade.