In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!

. . . from the BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Family Values

One of the saddest things one sees these days--and regrettably, one of the most prevalent--is the disintegration of families. In western countries divorce is now rampant, to the point that stable, long-term marriages are a distinct minority of adult relationships. But even in "whole" families it is disturbingly common to see parents, children, and siblings (even as adults) deeply alienated from each other, always squabbling over things great and small, and doing their best to avoid meaningful contact. I know too many members of other families who live right around the corner from each other but haven't spoken in years, and some in which a sibling left home at the first opportunity and was never heard from again. In how many others do family members share little more than a mailing address, all caught up in personal pursuits and rarely, if ever, really communicating with each other or chatting around the dinner table?

God instituted the family for many reasons, not least of which is to provide us with guidance, support, and comfort in times of trial, or just to enrich our day-to-day lives here on earth and make us happy. Family is where we are meant to teach, learn and practice commitment, caring, self-sacrifice, patience, faith, and love--all of which are vital to reaching our full potential here on earth, and to attaining eternal life with the Lord and each other in Heaven. Indeed, we should strive to make our families a microcosm or preview of Heaven itself--especially since, if you believe as I do, that we'll still be together as family in that beautiful world! Our material circumstances in this life may be meager, but our lives can be richer than any king's if we share love one with another.

Certainly this is not an easy task, but how could we grow without challenge and perseverance? No two or more human beings can live together in a small space without friction and some conflict. We're weak and fallible beings, and are bound to say and do things, now and then, that may hurt or disappoint our loved ones. So, repentance, patience, and forgiveness become a way of life in strong families. For them, love means ALWAYS having to say you're sorry--and always saying, "That's OK--I forgive you." Faith and prayer are indispensable for all family members, and when shared hold them together like nothing else.

Scripture is such an important and inspiring guide in this work. The Bible is permeated with wisdom concerning families and their generations, and how family members should live together (see, for example, Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7). This wonderful passage condenses it into a nutshell (Colossians 3:18-21):
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
These lines immediately follow Paul's characterization of a true Christian (Colossians 3:12-17):
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
This is the formula not only for a strong faith community, but for making and keeping a strong family!

I was immeasurably blessed to have grown up in a loving, resilient family. Working together peacefully could be difficult, and we often had to ride out storms of conflict. But thanks to the teaching and good example set by our parents, we hung together and grew in love over the years. We learned what a strong family looks like and how to build and maintain one, and hopefully are modeling those things to our own children so they can have the same blessings. My siblings and I are scattered about the USA now, but we've never been "closer" to each other.

If your family is less than what it should be, start rebuilding it TODAY: recommit to your spouse, reconcile with your children and with your own parents and siblings--don't let ANY past wrong or hurt stand in your way. With a contrite heart ask their forgiveness, and forgive them freely and eagerly. Involve yourself actively in their daily lives. Make the tent as big as possible, and welcome grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins under it. Find humor and the joy of discovery in everything. It's never too late to start over, on the right road. For the road to Heaven is paved with family love.

NOTE: This post was adapted from another of mine on Faithful Feet, a collaboration of people from around the world dedicated to sharing the Good News and simple insights into a life of faith and joy.

2 comments:

Carole said...

You might like this quote on it being "never too late" - the author of it was a female novelist. http://caroleschatter.blogspot.co.nz/2012/03/it-is-never-too-late.html

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful article--and GREAT photos of your whole family! Sadly, my family's a bit fractured at the moment, with my twin sister not speaking to me, or our elder sister. I feel sad that it's come to that. You are SO blessed to have such a close family bond. Long may it continue!