“He made a mark on us young Christian men”: A tribute to a father who was role model to six sons-in-law

In the lead-up to Father's Day, Salt&Light honours the special father figures in our lives.

by Gemma Koh // June 17, 2021, 10:35 pm

Reids wedding

Newly weds Andrew and Heather Reid (right) in 1979, with the bride's parents, Max and Barbara McKay. "Max had this self-imposed rule that he would have a one-to-one talk with each of his prospective sons-in-law," recalls Andrew. Photos courtesy of the Reid family.

Australian mathematician and Masters record-breaking athlete, Max McKay, had six daughters.

Before each daughter got married, he would sit down, man-to-man, with her husband-to-be. 

First, he would talk about the woman his future son-in-law was marrying – about her personality, her gifts and her characteristics.

Then he would talk about what he observed about his future son-in-law.

“Max was a great model for his sons-in-law, and he and his wife gave them great women.”

Next, he talked about marriage in general.

Then he talked about sex.

This was in the 1970s when sex was still a taboo topic.

It was something the men’s own fathers had not talked to them about.

“Mainly he talked about the difference between men and women, and how patience was needed by the man if the wife was to have the best sexual experience,” said Rev Dr Andrew Reid, now 64, who married Max’s third daughter, Heather, in 1979. They were 23 at that time.

“So he had the best interests of his daughter in mind.”

Max’s openness on the topic of sex surprised his future sons-in-law. 

Max also wanted the best for his sons-in-law. So he was “frank and honest”. Max’s openness on the topic of sex surprised them.

“What it meant to be a godly leader in this area was something that just blew my mind. I had never heard an older man talk about such things.

“I enormously respected and admired him because he wasn’t an emotionally effusive man.

“What was here was a thoroughly Christian man who approached every area of his life committed to being godly.”

Andrew’s wife, Heather Reid, now 65, said: “It actually took my parents out of the comfort zone to talk about sex because you just didn’t talk about it in those days.

“The focus was on purity before marriage, rather than talking about sex within marriage.”

Andrew and Heather Reid approaching their 42nd year as man and wife.

At that time, there were few resources – in terms of marriage prep courses and books – for to-be-weds. “Basically, information you went into marriage with was what you got from your parents,” said Heather.

Heather recalls spending “hours reading Scripture” with Andrew and “working out what we wanted for our marriage”. 

“At that time, information you went into marriage with was what you got from your parents.”

In their 40 years of ministry, the Reids have worked mainly with students. And because students “get married all the time”, said Heather, she and her husband ran pre-marital courses combining the world’s wisdom with a Scriptural framework.

Andrew and Heather moved to Singapore in 2017, where Andrew is the principal of the Evangelical Theological College of Asia (ETCAsia), and where Heather is a faculty member lecturing in Hebrew and the Old Testament. She has also been tutoring the women attending the Singapore Expository Preaching Course (SEPC). Andrew is an occasional preacher at St George’s Church.

The couple will be moving back to Australia in July.

As they approach their 42nd anniversary as a married couple, Heather and Andrew sat down with Salt&Light to share about Max’s personal marriage prep for his sons-in-law.

Bringing up godly women

Heather’s dad, Max, was an academic who worked at the University of New South Wales and later at the University of Papua New Guinea. He later became a director of Bendigo College of Advanced Education. 

Max’s daughters wanted to be married to men who were like their father in terms of values and commitment.

“He was a very smart mathematician and administrator. He knew how to organise things,” said Andrew. 

It was not his intelligence, however, but his godliness that the couple admired most about him.

“He was a self-sacrificial man, like his Lord. And I could see this in his family life and how he led the family in being Bible-centred,” said Andrew.

“He brought up godly women. He was a great model for his sons-in-law, and he and his wife gave them great women.”

Every night, Max ran evening devotion at the dinner table, and would pray for his family.

Heather and Andrew with their sons, Daniel (second from left), 37, and Joel, 39. Joel has two children, and Daniel has four.

Heather and Max at Daniel’s wedding. Daniel’s wife, Joanna, is Singaporean.

In his latter days, Max would pray for the family by name – their six daughters and their husbands, 12 grandchildren, and then their great-grandchildren.

With Max praying for some 40 people by name, “grace became like an intercessory prayer at church”, recalled Heather. It would be so long that her mum would prepare a meal part way, and continue cooking after grace with the family.

Working hard at marriage

Heather’s mum, Barbara McKay, “was a Proverbs 31 and Ephesians 5 sort of woman”, said Andrew.

“She was an incredible example to their daughters which we, men, are incredibly grateful for.”

Max and Barb’s daughters “wanted to be married to men who were like their father in terms of values and commitment. And they wanted to be married, as wives, like the mother”, said Andrew.

Barb and Max at the wedding of their grandson in 2008.

Barb, as she was known, came from a strong, well-known evangelical family in Sydney.

Heather’s mum “was a Proverbs 31 and Ephesians 5 sort of woman”.

Numerous times, she was offered jobs at churches for her constant ministry work.

“But she kept saying, ‘Spend the money on somebody else. We have enough,'” recalled Heather.

Andrew said: “Max knew what the Bible said about men and women, and how they work together in a marriage. They worked really hard on it.”

Heather added: “Their marriage wasn’t perfect but it was quite special.

“Growing up, the only time I ever saw my father cry was when the girls hurt mum. He cried because we hurt mum.”

The father they needed

“Max had this self-imposed rule that he would have a one-to-one talk with each of his prospective sons-in-law,” said Andrew.

“It was more casual than we recognised. He was a very orderly man who managed to make things look casual.”

Said Heather: “He did it out of concern for us.

“His honesty, his godliness, made a mark on us. It formed a bond between him and us. And for me, it just left this enduring respect for him,” said Andrew (left) of his father-in-law, Max. Max was 94 years old when he went to be with the Lord in 2018.

“We were young and stupid when we got married,” she said half in jest.

Heather was the third born, and the third of her six sisters to get married. But she was the youngest in age when she put on her wedding dress.

“Our parents would have liked us to just wait a bit longer,” she said.

“Dad’s own father died when he was in his early 20s. So that meant Dad had no one to give him advice when he got married,” she said.

“Marriage is the place where you most practise, in some ways, what it means to be Christian.”

“So he had to work through how he had to be a good father. And I think he felt that he wanted to make sure that the sons-in-law had an opportunity to have …”

“… what he hadn’t had,” continued Andrew, in their typical fashion of completing each other’s sentences.

Andrew recalled: “He warned me that I was marrying the most feisty, strong-minded of his women! 

“This very smart man wasn’t a world changer. 

“He was a man whose marriage was strong, giving me advice from Scripture and from life.”

“He was a man whose marriage was strong and good. And he was giving me advice from Scripture and advice from life and from practise on ‘what it might look like when you’re marrying a woman like my daughter’.

“That is the way wisdom functions in the Old Testament and in the New. That is, you take Scripture, apply them to life in context. And that was what he was doing.

“I have not heard of anyone else who has done with his sons-in-law what Heather’s father has. 

“For a young Christian man, there cannot be anything more valuable.

“It was enormously important and beneficial for us. His honesty, his godliness made his mark on us. It formed a bond between him and us – and for me, it just left this enduring respect for him.”

An Ephesians kind of love

Max did not sit down with a Bible and open it up for Andrew.

“What he told me to do was to love my wife as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5: 25-33). And to always have the best interests of my wife at the forefront, just like Jesus did.

Max, and his younger Reid grandson, walking at the beach to visit the place where his wife’s ashes were scattered. Barb was 84 when she went home to the Lord in 2012. Max joined her in 2018 – two years after this photo was taken.

“And that my job is to make sure that Heather is growing as a Christian, as a godly woman. 

“Marriage is the place where you most practise, in some ways, what it means to be Christian. Because you are like Christ in the church if you’re a husband. 

“Ephesians 5:33 says, ‘Let each one of you love his wife as himself and let the wife see that she respects her husband.’ He was committed to that and lived by that. Not as an Old Testament legalist, but as a New Testament person redeemed by the blood of Christ. And that meant sacrifice.”

Redeeming sex 

From his memory, Andrew says that his father-in-law “did not talk about the act of sex itself”.

“He talked about the attitude: How I should be treating my wife – his daughter – sexually. And that I should be like Christ (Ephesians 5:28-33). That is, that I should honour her, respect her.

“And realise this is an expression of our love for each other.

“The Bible does in a number of places say how sexuality and the Christian faith work together. And so he tried to help me with that.”

“Christians talking about sex redeems sex. And it redeems it for the purposes that God planned it to be.”

Heather recalled Andrew telling her afterwards that the talk was “more just about caring for me, sexually, rather than these are the guidelines you should follow”.

“Max was more explicit about matters sexual than would be normal for his generation,” said Andrew. “We needed that.”

Since becoming a pastor, Andrew said: “I am unembarrassed about preaching Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs). I think it needs to be done.

“And because the Bible itself is explicit about these things and rejoices in it, we’ve been more explicit in our marriage preparation about sex and marriage.”

Said Heather: “Too many Christians avoid talking about sex, which means that the voice that everybody hears is the world’s voice. So Christians talking about sex redeems sex. And it redeems it for the purposes that God planned it to be.”

Respecting his sons-in-law

There were three times Max almost died in the last 10 years of his life.

He gathered his sons-in-laws one by one – those who were in the same country – and told them what he respected about them.

Heather with her dad Max.

“To Andrew he said, ‘We were a bit worried, but it’s been great’,” said Heather.

“They were justly worried,” she admitted.

Andrew added: “I was an opinionated young man marrying an opinionated young woman …”

“… A recipe for disaster!” added Heather. 

Said Andrew: “He told me that he had been wonderfully surprised at how I had grown into being a husband and father. It was unexpected.”

Andrew had experienced the pain of divorce in his own family, just after he and Heather started dating.

Both he and Max had been concerned because sometimes divorce spells trouble for the next generation of marriages.

The Reids’ marriage is proof that “you can rewrite your heritage,” said Heather. “You don’t have to replicate failure.”

Part 2 on how Heather and Andrew Reid adapted the marriage wisdom they learned from Heather’s parents is here:

Redeeming sex, apologising well: 5 pointers practised by pastor and wife who prepare couples for marriage

Sex and the city: Purity is God’s prescription

Is the Church ready to talk about sex?

About the author

Gemma Koh

Gemma has written about everything from spas to scuba diving holidays. But has a soft spot for telling the stories of lives changed, and of people making a difference. She loves the colour green, especially on overgrown trees. Gemma is Senior Writer & Copy Editor at Salt&Light.