Many things are undergoing a “reset” as a result of the Covid-19.

For example, we are relooking the way we work and do business, how we treat and house our foreign workers in Singapore, and how our economy can progress while trying to keep the coronavirus from spreading.

The environment is also seeing a reset of sorts. With everyone kept at home and factories closed, nature has been given a chance to flourish. We’ve read reports of rivers becoming clean again, and animals being seen in places that used to be polluted. Many things are being reset.

What about our families? Is this an opportunity for us to press the reset button and change the way we relate to each other?

Lockdowns in the Bible

I can think of two biblical equivalent instances of a “lockdown”. One was that of Noah and his family, who had to stay in the ark for a full year before it was safe to emerge. Another was the Passover, when the Israelites had to stay in their homes for a day as the plague passed over them.

These two lockdowns were a time of transition, when things were being reset so that they would be better after.

In these two cases, there seemed to have been a reset. Before the flood, there was great moral decline in society, so God wanted to start all over again. The flood reset the entire world. In the Passover, the whole nation saw a reset after hundreds of years of slavery and oppression.

These two lockdowns were a time of transition, when things were being reset so that they would be better after.

It Starts with the Family

After God created the world, He created man. Then He created woman for the man. Then He told them to be fruitful and have children (Genesis 1:27–28). Here, we can see three relationships: between God and man, between husband and wife, and between parent and child. They form the foundation of the family, and by extension the building block of the nation.

The family is the foundation of a nation. The Chinese word for “nation” is made up of two words—“country” and “home”. If we want to reset the whole nation, then we need to reset the family. And if we want to reset the family, we need to reset these three relationships.

These three relationships are interconnected, like different parts of a river—upstream, midstream, and downstream. Problems upstream will flow down to problems midstream and downstream.

Often, upstream problems in their relationship with God will lead to problems in their marriage, and these lead to downstream problems with their kids.

Whenever I talk to fathers and they grouse about their problems at work, I will always ask, “How is your family?” Often, they will say, “Aiyah, my children give me a lot of problems.” Then I will ask, “How’s your marriage?” Likely they will say, “Yah, marriage also got problem.”

Ultimately, I will ask, “But how about you? How are you and God? Have you been doing your quiet time, have you been praying and spending time with God?”

Often, upstream problems in their relationship with God will lead to problems in their marriage, and these lead to downstream problems with their kids.

Let’s take a look at them, one at a time, and see how we can press the reset button in each one.

Resetting the Parent-Child Relationship

Let’s start downstream. Covid-19 and the resulting measures have led to many restrictions and closures. One notable one that struck me was the closure of schools and tuition centres, which had got many parents worried. Some said, “What’s going to happen to my child’s education? What’s going to happen to their future?”

I find this significant because it seems that academics have had a huge impact on parent-child relationships in Singapore. The relationship between parents and their children is often affected by the performance of the children in school and in exams.

Now, we naturally have expectations of our children.

Many parents are familiar with Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (KJV).

Our children’s value does not lie in their exam marks.

For the longest time, I thought this verse said that I should train up my child in the way I wanted him to go! But then I realised that this verse was telling me to train up my child in the way that God intends for him to go—that is, according to God’s design and will, not mine.

I learnt this truth in a very personal way. My daughter Sarah did very well in the PSLE, which got her into a good secondary school and into the Integrated Programme, which was open only to the better performing students.

But then everything went downhill from there. She nearly had to repeat a year of studies in JC1. Imagine that—from one of the top students to nearly staying back!

After her A levels—she didn’t do very well—I tried to assure Sarah that she was gifted in other ways though she might not be strong academically. For example, she was good with children, compassionate, and had good leadership skills.

The relationship between parents and their children is often affected by the performance of the children in school and in exams.

I encouraged her to try working in a childcare centre, but it didn’t work out because she realised that though she enjoyed being with children, there were too many to handle at one time. So I suggested exploring child psychology, but that, too, did not quite work out.

In the end, my daughter became a speech therapist, and today, she works with children—something she had always wanted to do.

My lesson? Our children’s value does not lie in their exam marks. The world and education system may measure us by our grades, but Albert Einstein famously said, “Everyone’s a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.”

Now that we have more time with our children—thanks to Covid-19 restrictions—we have a great opportunity to discover their gifts. Play with them, observe them, let them try different things, understand how they are wired. Watching Sarah interact with the kids in our cell group helped me to see her talent and passion in children.

Let’s strengthen the parent-child relationship by not letting their performance in school affect it.

Resetting the Child-Parent Relationship

In many families, the hearts of children and parents are turned away from—or even against—each other because of things that have happened in the past. But Malachi 4:6 says that God “will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents”.

Once, while preparing for a mission in Malaysia, one father on the team told me that he had signed up partly because he wanted to visit his father, who had divorced his mother and had started another family there. After many years, he had decided to turn his heart to his father.

Before we arrived, he had messaged his father, but had not received any reply. At the airport, however, he was surprised to see his father waiting for him. They spent the next few days reconciling with each other.

The father, who had become a Christian, confided to me, “Jason, I’ve been a bad father and husband. I don’t know if God will forgive me.”

Being a former prisons officer who had worked with condemned prisoners, I was able to assure him that God could forgive and restore anyone. But what helped him forgive himself most, I believe, was seeing his son forgive him.

Sometimes, we may also need to understand why our parents behave the way they do.

On the day of departure, the father took us to the airport and just before we entered customs, the son asked his father for a blessing. It was something he had been yearning for. Never having done this before, the father did not know what to do, and turned to me for help.

After I gave him a two-minute tutorial, he turned to his son, stretched his arms over him, and gave one of the most heartfelt prayers of blessing that I have ever heard from a father. The two men hugged, and after that meeting, both father and son became truly different men.

Some of us, having grown up, have hearts that have been turned away from our parents. Perhaps this is a time to reset our relationship with them, to turn our hearts back to them.

It won’t be easy, of course. I believe God doesn’t expect us to do it immediately. It took the son many years just to say, “I will go and visit my father.” But once the heart has turned, the actions will follow.

We can ask God to turn our hearts, then ask Him to show us what we should do next.

Sometimes, we may also need to understand why our parents behave the way they do.

Another young man I know was grousing to me about his father when God suddenly prompted me to ask him: “Do you know how your father was treated by his father?”

The question stopped him cold. He looked at me, then told me that his grandfather was in fact a bad father.

“We cannot give what we have not received,” I replied. “If we have received love, we can give love. If we have received pain, we may have no choice but to pass down some of this pain.”

While we may expect a lot of our own parents, perhaps they are unable to give it to us because they have not received it themselves from their own parents. That’s why Jesus said on the cross, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Resetting the Husband-Wife Relationship

Lockdowns in many countries have resulted in many quarrels and tension among couples. Some just don’t know what to do, now that they’re together all the time! Divorce rates have also risen in some places.

As Christian parents and couples, however, we can lead by example. When Noah and his family were spared in the flood, they were expected to repopulate the earth and “reset” it. Strong marriages are critical for a reset.

One Bible passage that has guided my wife Donna and I over more than 27 years is Ecclesiastes 4:9–12.

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labour:
if either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Until the last line, the passage mentions two people. But in verse 12, God appears as the “third strand” of the marriage.

I have not been a perfect father or husband. At one time, I let my frustrations at work affect my family. Every night, I would come back and destress by watching TV. This made Donna unhappy, because I wasn’t helping with the chores.

“Jason, everyone knows and respects you at work and in church. But no one knows what you are like at home.”

The following afternoon, I received a long email from my wife telling me why she was frustrated with me. My first response was anger, and I began drafting a reply in my head. “Well, I’ve had a terrible day, too,” I thought. But just as I was about to type it out, I heard a voice in my head saying, “Jason, don’t you dare.”

“Why not?” I replied. And I heard God say, “You should come to Me, not your television.”

As I argued with God, I realised that I had wanted to be a good father and husband when I first got married, but I failed to live up to it.

I took out my mobile phone, and sent a message to Donna, “I’m sorry, I will never watch TV again.” I must admit I regretted it a bit right after that! Perhaps I should have said I will not watch so much TV again.

But then I went back to Donna’s email, and was struck by her last paragraph. She said, “Jason, everyone knows and respects you at work and in church. But no one knows what you are like at home.”

Then she also said, “I didn’t want to share this with anybody, because I didn’t want you to look bad in front of them.”

I realised how right my wife was—and how, despite her frustration, she was still protecting my reputation.

At that point, I teared and immediately repented before the Lord. Ephesians 5:25 came to my mind: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.”

That day, when I went home, I did not switch on the TV. On my way home, another line had come to my mind: “No point being a hero outside and a zero at home.”

Many of us have been busy working and building our career, while some of us have also been busy with church or ministry. We may even be heroes outside. But let us take this opportunity given by the stay-home restrictions to reset our marriage. If we don’t get it right, our midstream problems will flow downstream, and our children will suffer.

Resetting the God-Man Relationship

Can you remember how proud you felt whenever someone came up to you and told you that your son or daughter looked like you?

As God’s sons and daughters, we are supposed to look like Him too. We’re supposed to reflect His image, for that was how He created us (Genesis 1:27). The question is, do we reflect Him?

Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father . . . I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me” (John 14:9–10).

Imagine if everyone of us behaved like Jesus—how peaceful all our homes would be! Our families would be such powerful testimonies of God’s love.

But how can we be like the Father? The answer is really quite simple: spend time with God. You’ve probably heard the saying that the more time you spend with someone, the more you become like that person.

It’s about encountering God relationally and intimately, and learning and drawing from Him. Jesus himself spent time with His Father every morning. He talked to His Father first before He talked to any man.

When we get our relationship with God right, it will flow downstream to our marriage, to our family, to the nation, and to the marketplace.


This article is adapted from a talk by Jason Wong. Used with permission.
Jason Wong is the Chairman of the Board of Focus of the Family Singapore. He was formerly a Senior Director with the Ministry of Social and Family Development. He founded the Yellow Ribbon Project in 2004 and the Dads for Life movement in 2009.
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