March is a very special month for us.
Back in 1990, it was in March that Serene and I moved our relationship from ‘dating’ to ‘serious’. Five years later, we got married on 11 March 1995. Yes, today, we celebrate our 23rd Wedding Anniversary!
Instead of the usual dinner date, after dropping the seven children off for service, we adjourned to a nearby café for a simple brunch. (No, we didn’t skip church. We attended the Saturday service.) The only romantic part was that we both ordered the same dish. Other than that, it was rather serious conversation as we talked – not about our marriage, but about the children, and how challenging it is to be parents these days.
At the end of February, our fifth child Ruth, celebrated her 13th birthday. That brings the tally to FIVE teenagers in The Lim Tribe! – just for about two months before David, our eldest, turns 20 in April.
When we first became parents, we determined to be this and not to be that, that we would bring our children up in the fear of the Lord. Although that is very much still our desire, we have discovered that idealism alone will not hack it. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice and prayer – add to that inches of thick skin and a very good listening ear PLUS grace upon grace upon grace from the Lord that we may extend the same to the children.
Over brunch, I confessed to Serene that I was so tempted to post: “Parenting would be so much easier without children.” – just for fun. Concerned that this might stumble others, I decided against it (grin). We both had a good laugh. (Another favourite phrase of ours is “If don’t laugh, will go mad!”)
The crazy thing is that Serene does so much more of the heavy lifting, what with homeschooling and all. I often say that she does all the hard work and I take all the credit! This is not to say that I fall into the category of absent and hands-off fathers (God forbid!). However, for ministry families, children often find themselves competing with the demands of the work of the ministry that take their father away from them. In my case, it is the pioneering and ongoing work of Archippus Awakening.
As much as I want my service and devotion to the Lord to be exemplary for my family, I never want to cross that fine line when the same becomes a stumbling block to my own children. Much can be argued both ways and whilst we know the principles and boundaries, at the end of the day, each family has their own dynamics and thus must find the delicate balance that works best for them.
And then, there are the growing up quirks of teenagers – puberty, peer pressure and affirmation, the need to belong, the search for their own personhood and identity, the pushing of boundaries, etc, etc, etc. As if that is not challenging enough, add the context of today’s post-postmodern millennialism and no wonder there are more and more classes and courses for fathers and mothers these days (as if we don’t have enough to do or worry about)!
How’s that for an anniversary brunch to celebrate 23 years of marital bliss? We didn’t have answers and we both know not to patronize each other with Christian clichés. As the two hours came to an end (it was time to pick the children after service), Serene said, “We will survive.” As always, my wife is right. Yes, we will survive. Not because we are good or able or strong. But because God who has seen us through 23 years – from just the two of us, to the nine of us – will continue to lead and guide our marriage and family forward.
At this point, allow me to state clearly that we are ok. We may not love our children perfectly, but there is no doubt we love them dearly. They are beautiful children, we are so proud of them and we give thanks to the Lord for each and every one of them. I am just sharing what I believe all families struggle with and go through. These struggles are not uncommon to us. Do not view our social media posts and think we have everything going for us. Do not be stumbled by my attempt at being authentic. Instead, my prayer is that you will be encouraged to know that we are real people with real challenges. And like everyone else, and every family, we so desperately need the love and grace of God.
Tomorrow, our youngest, Anna Joy will turn nine – the 3rd celebration in The Lim Tribe Birthday Series 2018! I remember when the older ones turned nine, we were so thrilled for them to grow older. These days, I see how they all grow up so fast, too fast. I am just not learning fast enough – haha! (I’ve always said that the Lord graces us with children that we may learn that which we would never learn if we were not parents.)
After 23 years of marriage and nearly 20 years of being parents, Serene and I are no longer that idealistic young couple we once were. I’d like to think that we have grown in the Lord and in our love for each other. Whatever challenge awaits us ahead, I am just so thankful that I have Serene to hold my hand and walk this walk with me.
Thank you for sharing this journey with us, and for sending us cheers along the way. Your love, prayers and support have been a constant encouragement to us.
In His love and for His glory
Henson & Serene