Family Ties? But Why?

In our country, there has been a tremendous breakdown of our families. We have all kinds combinations and family structures. Look at the chart to the right. It is illustrating the changing structure of families in the U.S. In 2002, only 7% of families in the U.S. were “traditional” families in the sense that the husband worked and earned a sufficient income for the wife and kids to stay home. Now, most families have dual-earners. The “other” group includes households that are headed by a single parent.

Frankly, this is sad to look at. But is it any different in Christian homes? I’m sad to say, I don’t know, but I am guessing it is the same.

As one health professional stated:

Families are the ultimate relationship arena. It is here that we experience our first, deepest, most complex, and sometimes most painful interactions. In spite of the inevitable dysfunction that exists in all families, they generate a certain intimacy and honesty that we rarely encounter elsewhere. There is permanence to families – even broken ones. They remain a part of our lives on a fundamental level, regardless of the passage of time or the distance between members.

This year, my wife and I will celebrate 33 years together. For the most part, it has been great. Yes, there have been some very trying and difficult times, but those times seemed to have strengthened our commitment to each other.

As I grew up, our family was fairly close  Well kind of. We did family trips together and ate meals together. As kids we played together2nd even argued amongst ourselves. And, despite the difficult times, my parents remained married for 60 years. (They would still be married, but my dad died February 14, 2010). Together my parents weathered the difficulties and trials, because as my mom says, “IF people would put as much work into marriage as they do other things IT might work- in some cases – there is no chance for the Marriage to work – BECAUSE = BOTH PEOPLE — were not dedicated to making it work –  OF course – one person can keep it together–BUT TAKES TWO to make it strong–Marriage is NOT for cowards.”

However, I married into a family that is as close knit as Peanut Butter is to Jelly! At first, I felt it was too close and at times, intrusive. But I grew to love the closeness and commitment to family! Which is what we have attempted to build within our own family. As our kids have grown older and formed their own families, we continued our monthly Family Game Night. Sadly however, as their families grew along with the responsibilities of work, the game nights became much harder to plan and organize. Yet, we still try to continue our closeness.

My wife and I will joyfully watch any of our six grandchildren when needed; as often as possible, we still share meals together. I still call the twin boys, “Our Twins,” the same way since I am the youngest in the family, my mother still calls me her baby. (Despite the fact that I am 57 years old). We celebrate the birthdays of each of our children and attend the birthday parties of our grandchildren.

The point is, our kids are still our kids (even though they are beyond being children), and their families are simply extensions of THE family.  And I hope that as our grandchildren grow, they see themselves as members of the whole family.

Now, if someone married into our family and never had such a close family background, I can certainly understand how uncomfortable it can be. A friend of mine ran into this. As he explained it, he grew up in an extremely close knit family (similar to my wife’s family). However, his wife came from a broken, strained and distant family that rarely (if ever) had anything to do with each other. With some members, they don’t even acknowledge them as being related. That is sad. Because of such a dysfunction family situation, she has a very skewed view of the importance of maintaining family intimacy and connections.

As you can imagine, when she married into such an intimate family structure, it was extremely difficult to deal with. In her mind, her husband may have had a close family, but now he has his own, and there is no need to blend with the old family. How sad.

One of the most noticeable traits of family relationships is that while the definition of the role  stays the same (once we are a son/daughter, brother/sister, or father/mother, we are always that). However, its meaning and importance in our life changes as we grow. As we grow from child to adult, spouse to parent, who we are is characterized by our place in the family.

Which brings up another issue. We have lost the distinctiveness of our families. To this day I still call my parents friends Mr/Mrs. I never call them by their name. In school, I addressed every one of my teachers as Mr/Mrs/Miss. And I taught our children to never address an adult by their name, even if they were given permission from that adult. (In fact, I had to speak to the mother of  one of my daughter’s friends. She insisted that they call her by her name and I told her that was unacceptable. I don’t care how nice she was, my daughter was to see her as an adult, and to address her as such).

I always refer to an uncle, as Uncle So-and-so. And, my parents best friends were never an Aunt or an Uncle. They were not family, so the remained as a Mr. or a Mrs. We understood the difference (and value), between a family member and a friend. When there was a family reunion, some attending my be an extremely distant relative, but they were still related. That is how I was raised, and that is what we taught our children. Our society has lost that sense of family, and that is a terrible shame!

After my friend told me his story, I started thinking about the role that families fill, and have tried to understand how our Heavenly Father feels about it. I heard a great comparison on the radio. The teacher was explaining how we are able to recognize an artist by their most important creations. The examples he gave were Michelangelo and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or Beethoven by his “Fifth Symphony,” George Lucas by the Star Wars saga. Each one of those masterpieces reveal something of its creator.

Well, that got me thinking about the God of Creation. We catch a glimpse of the Artist as we gaze at a mountain or watch a sunset. He spoke entire galaxies into existence, formed the mountains, filled the oceans, and planted forests with a magnificent range of color and variety. We can see His playful side in creatures such as humming birds, ostriches and yes, even skunks. But for me, the masterpiece that reveals more about our God than anything else, shows up when He created what we call “family” (Genesis 1:27-28).

There are two essential elements of a family — marriage and parenthood. They reveal our God’s character unlike anything else in Creation. The love between a husband and wife give us a glimpse of Christ’s passionate devotion to us as His bride. In the same way, the ups and downs of parenthood offer a compelling picture of God’s tenderness and patience toward us as His children.

My wife and I were married in 1982, and I can distinctly remember the moment I prayed, “Father, I have walked with you for all of these years, and I have experienced and understand what it is to be a ‘son,’ but please, before you return, can I experience what it is to be a father?” Which is a request He honored, as He allowed me to father four tremendous children.

And, after all of these years, I will be totally honest, and tell you that I have not been as proficient at it as He is, but He has allowed me to see parenting through His eyes! I have witnessed the joys and the sorrows. The love and devotion of my children, as well as the periods of rebellion and anger. And through those times, He taught me how to react to them, and how, no matter what my children did, I would always love them, and would never disown them. In fact, we taught our kids that no matter what they did, as long as they told us (confessed it), we would never condemn them and would work to fix whatever their actions caused. (However, if we found out on our own, the results would depend on the situation).

However, through all of these experiences, I have come to realize that a family does more than reflect God’s character. Ideally, a Family provides a safe place where children can experience God’s love (through their parents) and learn how to love other people. Have all families successfully demonstrated this? Sadly, no. However, we cannot deny the intention, the goals and desires of what our family could be like.

You know, if you think of it, even Christ himself was born within the context of a family. He had a loving and tender mother who loved him and cared for him, and a father who counseled and taught him. As a result, the “God in the flesh” was able to submit to His earthly mom and dad to model for us, what it means to honor parents and to benefit from their loving direction. It was within the nurturing care of His earthly family that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

This morning, I want to speak to young families. I want you to reexamine your role as a parent, and understand that our children need to know that God has a special purpose for placing them within your family. Help them explore this truth and lead them into a deeper appreciation for the family God has given them. It may not be perfect, but it is, what it is, and the Lord can use that family to teach you about His desires for your life.

Doulos Studies

(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)

I do thank you for your gifts
It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.

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