[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
As any responsible South African citizen I have been glued to my screen this last week watching the State of the Nation address in parliament. I am always interested to see what our leadership has outlined as a way forward for the country and what changes and plans will be implemented to get our country forward.
On Thursday the 11 February I listened to the SONA while driving. I was alone in the car and was listening intently to the president as I didn’t want to miss anything he was saying. I am sad and embarrassed to say that I could not listen till the end of his speech because of what transpired at parliament. The chaos that transpired that evening in a place that is supposed to model orderliness gave me a momentary feeling of hopelessness as I remembered the pride one felt about being a South African post 1994 and how that feeling is slowly changing daily to feelings of shame.
I agree that opposition parties have a right to call government to account and clarify areas of concern. What I do not agree with is the way that these disagreements are carried out. It seems ukuhlonipha (the value of respecting one’s elders) is slowing decaying. What has happened and what continues to happen in our parliament is a reflection of what is happening in our greater society. We are a nation now whose children talk back to their parents. We are a nation who has forgotten ubuntu. We have sadly abandoned values of integrity, honour, respect for others and respect for oneself.
The state of our nation is sadly a reflection of what is happening in our homes behind closed doors and embarrassingly out in public. How did we get here? The Bible tells us in Proverbs 27:23 to pay attention to our flock. As a nation we have not paid attention to the grievances and the continuing complaints of our fellow citizens. Each party has only been concerned with making their party look good and as politicians battle it out the ordinary citizen has been the one who has suffered the most. Because they are more concerned with winning arguments instead of service delivery they have not paid attention to what is most important. They have not found ways to work together to take our great nation forward.
When you pay attention to your herds you know their needs and you are able to respond accordingly. When you do not pay attention you will not know your sheep and they will not know you. From the outside you can easily see a house that is not well managed. The grass is not cut. The house needs repainting, the branches need to be pruned. It is only when you live in a house that you really know the state of your home. It is when you pay attention to the changes in your home that you know there are cracks in the wall. The windows don’t quite close. The cushion covers in the sitting room need to be changed. We need other cups and teaspoons. We last bought duvets almost 10 years ago and need new ones. The roof leaks when it rains…all these you will know when you pay attention to the condition of your house and what happens in your home. You will know the state of your home when you are genuinely interested in knowing and you will do something to apply the needed changes.
It starts with the leaders
The state of our nation will only change when we who live in this country begin to take ownership of this great land of ours. This is our house and if anything is going to be fixed it is going to require all of us to do our bit in being involved in the fixing process. As our leaders fight it out in parliament so will normal citizens fight one another! It always starts with the leaders. We know that in a home when mom and dad fight the children suffer.
You only know the flock when you spend time with them. Do you really know the people in your life? Do you intentionally take time to spend with them? It is only when time is spent with someone that you will know their life and their heart. Our lives are continually changing. The way we view the world and our challenges in it are constantly changing. That goes for our spouse and children as well. You might share an address with someone but not really know them. Let us be more committed to know our loved ones. They are the precious gifts that God has given us to appreciate and love.
Do you pay attention to your spouse and children? Husband when was the last time you complimented your wife? When was the last time, you told her she looks beautiful or she has cooked a delicious meal? If she has a new hairstyle and has made an effort to look good tell her. Continue to court her. If you do not make an effort, know that there are others who will. Do not take her for granted. She yearns to be noticed by you. Give her a compliment and mean it. This will happen when you truly pay attention.
Wives pay attention to the things that your husband likes and those that he hates. Commit to eliminate his hates from his home and spoil him with more of the things that he likes. This is the only husband you have; pay attention to him. Listen to him. Do not let him compete with a soap opera; a television show or your children but genuinely give him your ear. That shows respect.
One of the reasons couples give for divorcing is a lack of fun. A couple becomes buried in the “busyness” of life and in fulfilling responsibilities. As a parent you are always there for your kids, taking them to every event and extramural activity. You want to be the model employee who wins employee of the month working so hard, even taking work home. You want the promotion and the career advancement. These activities in a couple’s life can drive them apart so they wake up one day and realise that they are incompatible. The incompatibility did not happen overnight. The two once were genuinely in love and wanted to be together until their last breath but life happened along the way. They paid attention to everybody else except each other. They were successful at other roles but let their marriage suffer. Let us go back to our ‘loves”…that moment where you loved spending time with your spouse. That time when you loved seeing is smile, holding her hand, listening to her, pleasing him, dressing up for him and dressing up for only her eyes. Let us pay attention to each other.
We cannot do much alone in bringing about the much needed changes in this country but as a collective I believe we can go a long way. We can look at the state of our relationships and homes and begin to bring about the changes we want and the changes that will eventually bring about our desires.
Pay attention to your herds…
Really pay attention to your spouse and you will be glad that you did. Unlike parliament where it is a daily occurrence, sadly, that honourable members of parliament leave the chamber, you will maintain order and peace within your “chambers”. This past weekend my husband and I conducted a number of seminars for different churches. We spoke on love and marriage. My husband led the session where he shared the leading causes of divorce in South Africa. Research shows the top two reasons couples mention are finances and sex. Both of these areas go wrong because a couple does not pay attention to each other’s wants and needs.
Intentionally make time to spend with your spouse so you can become close again if you have become distant. The beauty of marriage is the realisation that you have a companion you can spend all of your days with. You have someone who is there for you and with you through it all. Let us cherish this fact.
Let us pay attention to studying our spouse, to pleasing our spouse and to serving our spouse by doing things that they like. Let us commit to pay attention to mend areas that needs mending and fixing places that need to be fixed. May God mend broken marriages and mend broken families.