It is difficult to do marriage counseling. You sit with a couple and listen to their stories, and then give them some advice. Then you go home and realize that often times you don’t follow very well the advice that you give. We find it is easier to give advice than to practice it.
It is also difficult to teach children. In children’s Sunday School, we have been studying together “The Fruit of the Spirit,” a list of nine qualities created by the Spirit within the lives of believers, features of our union and relationship with Christ. The list starts with “love,” which is expected, and not all that painful to talk about. But it ends with “self-control.” That is the quality for this coming Sunday, when I will be explaining to the children how self-control is really God-control, and when we don’t practice self- or God-control, then we have to admit that there is some other factor, some other power at work in us, perhaps called the flesh, and maybe even the devil. That sounds pretty strong, but if we admit that a spiritual force, the Holy Spirit, can influence us for good, then why should it be so difficult to admit that another spiritual force, Satan, could influence us for bad? But then, maybe we don’t even need the devil’s help to resist handing control over to God, and instead man-handling ourselves, which, oddly, does not result in self-control.
So, before my own children tell you the story, I will tell it myself, on myself. We were traveling somewhere, the four of us, and were in a motel room. This was several years ago, and the kids were younger, watching TV or something. I had to get an email sent out on my laptop, something dreadfully important, I am sure. In that era, the mystery of establishing a working internet connection in motel rooms was buggy at best. And I tried, and I tried. I was muttering away, and the kids did their best to ignore me, at least until I slammed the lid of the laptop down in disgust. That got their attention. And so they were watching closely when I opened the laptop again to find that the screen was now a ruined, fractured mess. I’m pretty sure God-control was not much involved in my actions.
So pray for me this week, as I sit with this class of children and teach them about the Spirit and the fruit He produces, especially self-control. And pray that I would learn the lesson as well, and maybe you too. And then, maybe I can come over and give you some advice about your marriage. I know it will be difficult.