At the beginning of each New Year, most individuals select specific behaviors that they want to change. However, new habits do not usually translate into long-term behavioral change, unless a person is able to identify why he or she had the unwanted behavior, and what new behavior will replace the old behavior with an understanding of why it is more appropriate.
Anne Wilson Schaef wrote a book in 1988 called When Society Becomes an Addict. This book details how the world culture of the twentieth century is pathologically focused on the ways in which we hope to find self-worth. As individuals make these inappropriate substitutions, the relationships in their lives become empty, lonely, and full of despair. The appreciation for developing quality familial relationships around the dinner table has significantly diminished in our society. Focusing on other things, such as work, school, sex, alcohol, drugs, and even church activities, can hamper couples and families from experiencing the intimate connection that Psalms 128 declares will “be well with you.” The following is this author’s own translation of this beautiful passage:
1 Song of Ascents: Blessed is everyone who fears Yahweh, who walks in his ways.
2 You will eat the product of your hands; your blessedness will be well with you.
3 Your wife is like a fruitful vine by the sides of your house; your sons are like slips of olive shoots around your table.
4 Surely will be blessed the man who fears Yahweh.
5 Yahweh will bless you from Zion and you will see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
6 And you will see sons of your sons: Peace upon Israel.
Imagine yourself for a moment as a farmer who is listening to these words for the first time. You have been taught all of your life about the ways of God. You have heard the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Israel, Moses, Joshua, and others. You recognize that walking in the ways of Yahweh is in your own best interest. You have enjoyed some times where your crops have been plentiful. All of that seems great.
Then, you hear that your wife is like a fruitful vine by the sides of the house. You know that a fruitful vine growing there is a tremendous resource. As a farmer, you also know that you must provide that fruitful vine the environment that it needs. You can’t (or shouldn’t) just treat that vine like any other vine. You have to investigate and specifically know the needs of your vine, which may be different from another vine. You must provide the right amount of water, fertilizer, and ensure that it has good sunlight. Otherwise, it will stop producing fruit. It then occurs to you that if your wife (or husband) is like that, then you must do what you can to provide the right environment for her or him to become all God created him or her to be. You can be assured that if you do your part in providing that environment, then most likely your vine will continue to produce fruit. By providing the environment that your spouse needs, she or he will most likely produce the environment that meets your needs.
You also know that olive trees will live about 500 years and then the tree above ground will die, but the root system will not. Around the base of the trunk, olive shoots begin to sprout. Once the dead part of the tree has been cut down, these olive shoots will become the new branches. Therefore your olive shoots that are around your table will help your family live forever.
As you focus on the behaviors you want to change, remember the “ways of the LORD” brings peace. Family is where the sense of self and happiness begins. Be satisfied with what you can do with your hands. Don’t look outside yourself for the sense of who you are. Providing that your family is not abusive, recognize the peace that comes from family being together, and let it “be well with you.” Otherwise you may be destined to join those who are a part of the society that has become addicted to things or activities that ultimately will not foster peace.