Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Marriage – A slice of heaven on earth!

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right…Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22-6:4).

Felistas and I were guests at a wedding anniversary dinner of our uncle and aunt, Patrick and Petronella Chisanga (seen below on their wedding day), last Saturday evening. They were celebrating thirty years of being together in marriage. It was quite an honour to be among the thirty carefully chosen couples invited to this occasion. Those who know them will understand when I say that their guests were a dignified assembly. Uncle confessed that it was a daunting task to reduce all the family and friends to a list of just thirty couples to be invited. Well, we are very grateful that we survived the editor’s scalpel!

Marriage is God’s greatest gift to mankind (apart from salvation). It is the most intimate relationship that any human being can ever experience. It intertwines two lives inextricably together in a lifelong friendship of love and trust. It is also a school of perseverance and forgiveness. It is the cradle in which the next generation is nurtured and finally released to take up the responsibilities of a very demanding world. The welfare of entire nations depends on it. Marriage is what makes the phrase “home sweet home” so full of warmth. It provides protection for both parents and children in the midst of the howling storms of life. So, any opportunity to show support for this institution deserves our heartiest commitment. Hence, attending this thirtieth wedding anniversary was a great honour.

One of the greatest challenges in marriage, after the initial bumpy adjustment process, is the task of child-upbringing. It demands the best even from the best among us! Usually, you can tell how well the job was done by looking at the final product when the children leave home to set up their own homes. God blessed the Chisangas’ thirty-year union with three children (pictured below at Mubanga's graduation) –

  1. Mubanga (the female graduate on the photo, who now lives in the USA),
  2. Changala (the gentleman at the back in a red shirt, who also lives in the USA, is married to Caroline and they have two children), and
  3. Patrick (the gentleman in a suit on the right, who came back from the USA recently, having completed his tertiary studies there).

Of the three of them, only Patrick (affectionately known as “Junior”), was present for the occasion. The other two sent messages expressing their appreciation of the parental care and guidance they have enjoyed. The one statement that kept coming up in their messages was that of the values that their parents inculcated in them. That is what parenting is all about – the passing on of values that enable a person, when he finally leaves home, to deal with the temptations and trials of life. These values are inculcated by consistent parental example and exhortation. As I look at the children growing up in my home, I pray to God that he will help Felistas and me to excel in this awesome responsibility!

Every marriage has its four seasons – winter, summer, spring and fall. I say that, not simply because of my own experience, having been married now for some twenty-one years, but also because a lot of my work as a pastor has to do with crisis marriage counseling. Every so often the phone rings and a spouse sounds as if the end of the world has come. A few words from Scripture to restate God’s blue-print for marriage soon show where the error that needs to be rectified is. And, as long as the erring party is willing to make amends, you meet the couple a few days later looking as if the sun always shines in their marriage! It is the capacity to keep getting back to the Creator’s modus operandi for marriage that makes for thirty or forty or even fifty years of wedding anniversaries. Like the rest of us, I am sure the Chisangas have their fair share of such tales to tell. May we all keep going back to God’s blueprint for marriage in order to joyfully remain married until death parts us.

This is where the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ comes in. The relationship between Jesus and the church stands as an abiding example for the way in which marriage should be lived out in order for it to be a little heaven on earth (see the biblical passage quoted above). Also, those who fail to play their part honourably in this glorious relationship of marriage may pray to the Lord Jesus not only for forgiveness but also for spiritual empowerment so that they can live up to its demands. Jesus is a Saviour. He delights in bringing wholeness where there is confusion and despair. Indeed, he heals broken hearts and broken homes. His grace is sufficient for all of us. May we all (the Chisangas, the Mbewes, and all the readers of this blog) turn to him again and again for grace upon grace to help us in our times of need so that our marriages may truly be a slice of heaven on earth. Amen!

So, to Uncle Patrick and Aunt Pettie, happy thirtieth anniversary! Let me end by citing the beautiful poem that Mubanga sent for your anniversary, because I think she speaks for many of us! –

“I can't repay the lessons that you taught when I was small.
Or give you gift for gift the daily treasures I recall....
I can't return encouragement and loving words of praise,
In quite the way you did for me through all my childhood days.
But there is one gift I can give; it's all the love you've earned.
For love is what you always taught.....and love is what I learned.”


  1. Very Beautiful Uncle. Love Bana Chomba ~ Caroline Chisanga

  2. Uncle Beautiful posting.
    Love Bana Chomba

  3. Well, bana Chomba (Caroline),

    You have been married into a family that is worth thanking God for. I can assure you of that. All I can do is use my blog to tell the world about them. May your marriage prove to be a slice of heaven too!

    Conrad (bashi Mwindula)

  4. Thank you Conrad for your reflections on this occasion. They not only guve thanks for your Aunt & Uncle's marriage but encourage renewed committment to the ideals of marriage in the reader. I have recently reinstated in my own routine the practice of reading a chapter of Proverbs every day. One of the things this constantly reminds me of is how so many of the richest blessings Christians experience come to us as the fruit of many years' faithfulness. The outcomes of our marriages, by definition, take a long time coming but we discover that God is faithful to his people who take him at his words. Sent to you with very happy memories of time spent in Zambia and in your home. Ian Jemmett

  5. Ian, thanks a lot for those insightful words. It was certainly a pleasure to have you in our home. Your legacy, the Zambia Book Fund, is still alive and well over 10 years later, with about 60 pastors benefitting every year. Thanks for your vision!