I have been thinking a lot about family lately; your family, my family, everyone’s family. I am fascinated by how each one works differently and how so very much of who we are is wrapped up in how, and by whom, we were raised. In “studying” families I can’t help but be drawn to all those that have been torn apart and some that are still together but very broken. It seems clear that we were created to exist in families. But, if God has designed us to live this way, why is it so hard to live out? If it should be natural to us, then why are so many families falling apart?
I think the first reason: family is hard work and exhausting. We want to come home from work and rest. We want everyone to wash their own clothes, make their own supper and do their homework without help. Our selfish nature wants to ignore everyone and be left alone, better yet, have someone take care of us for a change. But when we choose to love our family more than ourselves, we choose the hard work of taking care of them and meeting their needs. One of Paul’s teachings in the Bible says that love bears all things. I have been learning that this means bearing each other’s needs, struggles, imperfections and junk in general. We bear for others because we love. If we want to be free of “bearing”, then we will no longer be truly loving either. So when we choose self first, we can’t choose family first.
Another reason why families struggle seems to be perfection. If you look at what we fill our minds and hearts with daily, there is no wonder why we find constant fault in everyone and everything around us. We are constantly tuned in to snapshots of people’s perfect homes, perfect marriages, perfect faces and perfect vacations. We look around and see that no one and nothing in our lives seems so perfect; least of all our spouse and kids. We compare our life to someone else’s and everyone comes up with the short end of the stick. When we surround ourselves with a world craving perfection but having none in it, we are destined to see our family and all the people in it as failing. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want my husband and children to feel is that I view them as failing. I am ashamed to say that at times I am certain I have made them feel that way. How could they not when held to unrealistic expectations? If we choose love and acceptance over perfection, then we choose our family over ideals.
I think the biggest threat to thriving families is isolation. If we can justify for ourselves whatever selfish desires we have, then the wedge has begun it’s work. I have seen in my own family that selfishness is not only not putting others first, but is doubly destructive because you are then isolated from your family. When this pattern is set we can be sure the rest of our family will follow. We are selfish people and can convince ourselves that this is the only way we are truly going to get what we want. God created us as social beings who crave the love of others. Facebook and Pinterest don’t fill that need, but our imperfect families full of imperfect people can.
When you are alone Satan can do his very best work. When we choose self, he can convince us that our desires and accomplishments are more important than our family’s. He will make you believe that your purpose is greater than theirs- but it isn’t and you aren’t. Please guard your heart and your family. Please see them as the blessing that they are. Let’s all open our eyes and see that God has put us exactly where we belong and He has entrusted to you the very people who are in your family. Let’s be dedicated to do the hard work and accept our imperfections together. Let’s choose to leave the people in our family with a legacy of a reckless and ridiculous unconditional love.
“ Love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8