My wife and I have moved into a new stage in our lives. We have recently become official Empty Nesters. It did not really hit me until last night when I found myself wondering what time Chelsea was coming home. I realized that she was not coming home any more. She is happily living with her new husband. Boo hoo for me and hoorah for her. I officially embraced being an empty nester. The house seemed eerily quiet. Cleaner and more organized but empty.
Just like any stage in life, the Bible speaks to how I should live out my gospel changed life. In the New Testament, the Word of God speaks to how our lives should be lived out in light of the change that came when we were welcomed into the family of God. We live as his children, in the power of the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the Word of God. In the Old Testament God revealed that same kind of life. It was called the righteous life. A life that is lived rightly before God. Each stage of our lives, each issue in our lives, is addressed in the sufficient Word of God so that we can walk worthy of the calling we have received in Christ.
Here is where God has led me, so far, in my quest to live my life as the gospel demands during my empty nester years. “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the vain days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil in which you toil under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 9:9. We usually do a good deal of kidding about our wives…”old ball and chain” or “I’ve been married 40 years. Murderers don’t get sentences that long.” (Thanks Pop) but Solomon, even though he had a number of wives, was not being sarcastic here. When he speaks of “your vain life” he is speaking of life here without hope of heaven. If living life under the sun (here on earth) was all there was, then it would be vain or useless. You live and then you die. But we live in light of eternity and it gives us purpose. When he speaks of living with our wives as part of our “portion” and “toil” it is in the context of speaking of what God has given us that will help us when life is difficult and troublesome. He has given us our wives to help and encourage. So, Solomon is not being sarcastic but is reminding us to take the initiative to enjoy our wives. That is key. Men are always called, from Gen 2 to Eph 5, to take the reigns in life and lead the way. In this exhortation, men are not to sit back and place the responsibility of enjoyment of life on their wife but they are to love their wives in such a way that they are leading their wife in enjoying life. We men may seek enjoyment in hunting, fishing, cars, trains, etc but we are also called to enjoy your life with your wife. No ball and chain here but a partner in whom you find enjoyment.
On the surface, that seems like a difficult job for my wife and I. We do not like anything the same. Not the same foods, not how we like to spend our time, not how we keep the kitchen, and not how we drive the car. It is possible, during this new stage of life, to realize that so much time and energy was spent with the children that you now find that you are living with a stranger. There is no son or daughter to share a hobby with or a favorite TV show. There is only one person left in the house and she does not care for super hero movies. So what do you do? You can compromise and “try” to like what your spouse likes. Kind of like eating your vegetables. Maybe, eventually, you might grow to really like them. The greater gift is that you are loving your spouse enough to try. I suppose that might work. It might also lead to a lot of bickering when someone is half hearting that thing that you love. Tough to share your passion with someone who is not as passionate. Tough to enjoy Thor 15 when you believe you just forced someone to spend two hours doing something that they just endured. I suppose that we will keep looking for things that we both enjoy but there must be a better way?
So, I must do what I always do when I think the Bible is just not hitting the nail on the head. I go back and reread the truth and ask the Lord to show me where I am adding my own understanding and not listening to his wisdom. That is what I did with Ecc 9:9. “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love”. Instead of trying to teach my wife to enjoy life as I enjoy life, I need to work at loving my wife in such a way that it causes me to enjoy life. There is enough beauty, kindness, love, mercy, godliness, service, and helpfulness in my wife that if I learn to tap into that gift that God gave me in 1986...I will find great joy in life. The same is true with every man who has been blessed to be married. The key to enjoying life is to not try and change your wife into a mini me but to love her enough to see who she truly is in Christ. Love her for who she is and not what you can do together. Even the thought of how she fulfills your life brings a smile to your face right now. Think of how enjoyable life will become when you simply learn to love her for who she is.
My wife and I have done our job with our children. They are all off establishing their own families now. We have a new role as grandparents but we also get to be empty nesters. I do not know how God will lead my wife to live her gospel changed life in relation to her role as a wife (maybe he will give her a passion and love for a fishing boat...power of prayer) but I am learning how he wants to change me. Take the lead, enjoy life with the wife whom you love. I will lean on him to empower me to choose to love my wife and I know he will bless me with the enjoying part.