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Beautiful marriages & families don’t just happen by themselves.

Christopher Harris

This is a couple, Charles “Spanky” & Jennifer, who are soon to be celebrating 14 years of marriage, but they have been together for 24 years. I am proud to say I’ve known them and called them “family” for 20 of those 24 years.

Spanky & Jennifer - Article - Wedding Day

I remember being there in their wedding, nearly 14 years ago. There were so many naysayers along the way who told this couple that they couldn’t and wouldn’t make it. They told them that they were too young, and that childhood sweethearts relationships don’t last. They told them that the distance between them (while they were in college in different states) was too great. And when they couldn’t say something that sounded logical…they just made up crap!!

Spanky & Jennifer Gilliam - Article 2 - Rings

The majority of those naysayers are far behind them now, and NONE of those naysayers are as stable and prosperous as they are. I’m not at all saying that they are perfect, because only one perfect person ever walked the face of the earth. And I am certainly not saying that their marriage is perfect, because once again, the absence of perfect people precludes the possibility of a perfect marriage. However, I am saying that you would be hard pressed to find a marriage that is significantly better. You would be hard pressed to find a man who strives harder than Spanky, to love and respect his wife in the way God told a husband to love and respect his wife in Ephesians 5. You would be hard pressed to find a woman who strives harder to be a Proverbs 31 woman than Jennifer, to respect and love her husband in the way God told a wife to respect and love her husband in Proverbs 5.

I remember watching this video from Dennis Prager’s “Prager University” entitled “What Did Your Parents Most Want You to Be?” and it immediately made me think about Spanky & Jennifer, and how they are raising their children.

When parents boast about their children with other people, what do most say first? Is it how nice they are to strangers? Or how much volunteering they did last year? Usually not. More often, they talk about their good grades in school, or the prestigious college they went to, or the much sought after summer internship they are on. But this is backwards. Acts of kindness are what parents should talk about with others, and what they should really praise their kids for. According to Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, the best way to make a better world is to praise people for what counts–goodness.

See, you would be hard pressed to find parents who strive harder to lead, nurture, and raise their kids in a Christ-like manner, like the Bible says to do in Ephesians 6, than Spanky & Jennifer do with their kids. Their sons aren’t perfect, because once again, there is no such thing as a perfect person, so perfection is not expected of their sons…but goodness is. Now I have to admit that I am a little biased (just a tad bit), because I also happen to be the Godfather of their first born son, but I can tell you that goodness is an absolute requirement in their family. They expect goodness out of their sons, because they strive to live and model that for their kids. So because of the principles that they actively teach their boys, they have a significant head-start in life, and the boys know that greatness is very attainable, because it starts with goodness.

Spanky & Jennifer Gilliam - Article 3 - Whole Family - edit

This is not a fairy tale couple. This is not a Hollywood fabricated couple. This is not a couple created for political purposes to hood-wink the masses. This is a real couple, real Americans, brought together by God, and no man (or woman) shall tear them apart. Who ever might desire to come between them, has to come through me first, because nobody messes with my family without suffering massive consequences. Whatever I can’t handle…God will take care of the rest.

If you want a marriage & family like this, where people will speak so passionately and sincerely about their love, respect and admiration for you…get to work on it, and never stop working. Virtually every failed marriage I have ever seen, has been the result of both individuals deciding to give up on their marriage on the same day.

Everyone wants their marriage to be like that perfectly manicured lawn and landscaped garden you see on the cover of magazines…but very few people want to get down on their knees, and get dirt underneath their fingernails, and be out there in the heat and humidity, getting sweaty and dirty, in order to have that lawn & garden.

Spanky & Jennifer Gilliam - Article 4 - Green Grass

They want the green grass and colorful garden, but they don’t want to till and aerate the soil, plant & fertilize the seeds, water the soil, and then wait as God does his part to make the grass and garden grow. Once the grass & garden begins to grow, they think their job is done. They think they can sit back on the porch and that they will perpetually have a beautiful, lush, green lawn and colorful garden, without realizing that this is where the real work begins. They don’t even want to cut the grass on a regular basis, because that would simply be more work, and they feel that they have put in enough work just to get the grass and garden to begin to grow. Heck, anyone can plant grass and a garden, anyone can get started…the real work is in maintaining that lawn & garden. What they don’t realize, is that it actually takes less work to maintain a beautiful lawn & garden, than it does to start from scratch, or to frequently have to renovate a lawn & garden that has become overrun with weeds due to constant neglect.

Spanky & Jennifer Gilliam - Article 5 - overgrown

Meanwhile, many others have also watched, and instead of learning, they have let hate and envy consume them to the point where they have attempted to toss weed seeds over into Spanky & Jennifer’s lawn & garden. The shame is, many of those people have been so distracted by their hate and envy, that they have neglected their own lawn & garden, and now theirs is overrun with weeds.

Understand that there are seeds of weed plants that are constantly floating around, and they are looking for a place to land and take root. Incidentally, they happen to grow very well in the exact same soil that your beautiful, lush green lawn & colorful garden grows. In fact, all it takes is a little bit of neglect of your lawn & garden, and those weeds will quickly take root. The funny thing about weeds, is that they survive and thrive by choking off the nourishment that your lawn & garden needs to be beautiful and pleasing to you and to God.

Spanky & Jennifer Gilliam - Article 6 - weeds

No lawn & garden is without weeds, just like no marriage & family is without weeds. Weeds are a part of life, and they actually do serve a purpose, otherwise God would have never created them. The challenge we all face, both in love & marriage, as well as with lawns & gardens, is recognizing that they exist, and being on the lookout for them. When you do find them and identify them as weeds, you must remove them, or you will quickly find that your beautiful marriage & family, and your beautiful lawn & garden, is overrun with weeds.

Once again, I can’t tell you how much I respect and admire Spanky & Jennifer, because I have witnessed 20 years (nearly 14 years of marriage) of them working on their lawn & garden. I know theirs is not an “AstroTurf” marriage & family, because I saw them till and aerate the soil, plant & fertilize the seeds, water the soil and then wait as God did his part to make the grass and garden grow. I have witnessed as they’ve gone out there and put more fertilizer down, and aerated the ground and watered their lawn & garden, and cut the grass, and pulled weeds, year after year.

I obviously wish them many more years of lush green lawns & beautiful gardens in their marriage & family. But most importantly, I wanted you to know about them, not to make you feel bad about where your marriage & family is (or is not), but to give you hope. I need you to know that, just as no two lawn & gardens are exactly alike, no two marriages & families are exactly alike…but with the right thought process, care, and maintenance, greatness is attainable, because it starts with goodness.

Spanky & Jennifer Gilliam - Article 7 - Gods Garden

**I originally wrote this as a “Note” on my Facebook page back in 2013. It has been edited and updated to make it into this article.**

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