"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another."
John 13: 34
King James Version
"Family Feud – It's Not a Game"
"The union of the family lies in love."
Is my family life more like a feud than a haven filled with harmony?
"Family life! The United Nations is child's play compared to the tugs and splits and need to understand and forgive in any family."
"Nobody, who has not been in the interior of a family, can say what the difficulties of any individual of that family may be."
Over the last few months, our journey studying the lives of all the women in the Bible, has taken us into the lives and homes of all the women mentioned in the book of Genesis and now we are studying the women in Exodus. We have met Shiphrah & Puah, midwives who were life-protectors of baby boys born in Egypt. We studied about Pharaoh's daughter and Jockebed who was Moses' mother. We have become better acquainted with Miriam, the first woman in the Bible to be called a prophet. As we found out, this outstanding lady was called by God to be a "prophet of praise" to the Israelites during their bondage in Egypt and subsequent journey to the Promised Land – Canaan.
For the next five days we will continue our study of the women in Moses' life by gaining a better understanding of his wife Zipporah.
As we learned from our study of Moses' sister Miriam, just because this family was blessed by God and just because God used all of them to help liberate His children from Egyptian slavery – it doesn't mean that everything in their family life was "peaches and cream." Everyone didn't automatically get along.
Sometimes, I think it's easy to believe if we are Christians, we should have immediate and automatic harmony at home. Yet, we forget that being a Christian doesn't mean every other person's personality will blend with our own. In the New Testament two of God's most stalwart leaders in the young Christian church, Paul and Barnabas, had such a profound disagreement over the "worthiness" of John Mark to come on one of their missionary ventures, they split up and Paul chose to take Silas and Barnabas went with John Mark. They could not agree on this issue and for some time a wedge was driven between the two men.
Family life is no different!
This weekend my father-in-law turned 89-years-old. My husband and I, along with Jim's older sister Irma and her husband and several grandchildren helped celebrate this milestone. As I reflected on all of us, I was reminded of the variety that encompasses what we call family. My husband Jim's parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the 1940's. My dad was English and Irish. My mother has a German heritage. My niece's boyfriend is Portuguese. And now we're one big melting pot called a family.
However, diversity, while interesting, can bring dissention. Social and cultural differences in families can divide rather than unite. In our current study, we will look at the ways unity can be brought into some of the most convoluted situations in a family.
Not long ago, my husband, Jim, and I were talking about the changes we've seen in our two families through the years. Along with marriages and divorces, there have been the addition of new little lives and the passing away of members of our beloved family group. All these changes affect the interaction of the members of the family. What I have found is that unity doesn't happen because we all become more alike –- unity comes when we choose to respond in a gentle and Christ-like manner to the differences that will always prevail in a family circle.
Tomorrow, we will note how love bloomed in the desert when a girl from Midian and a boy from Egypt met. Then we'll spend three days looking at the qualities we as women can develop, with the help of God, qualities that will make our family life all God intends it to be. Author and humorist Erma Bombeck wrote some of the most hilarious and poignant essays on family life. I like this description:
"The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together."
It is my prayer that as we consider family issues, we will, with God's help, identify those golden threads that when woven into our families, will turn our homes into havens of protection in a harsh and often heartless world. I love the words of Desmond Tutu: "You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them." May we learn how to appreciate and treasure this gift from heaven – our family.
"We cannot destroy kindred; our chains stretch a little sometimes, but they never break."
Marquise de Sévingné
"God you have shown yourself as a welcoming father and a tender mother. I have yearned to have my own parent be like you. I feel wounded, disappointed in the behaviour that I have experienced. There is constant struggle and pain in this relationship. Deep down inside I yearn to have him/her meet my needs and expectations for love and acceptance. It is difficult to love my father/mother because of the human weaknesses and flaws which I so easily see. I have a mixture of feelings tumbling in me – anger, guilt, discouragement, love, self-doubts, concern.
You are a God who heals the wounded. You bless the pain in us when we are overcome with the hurts of life. You promise us a future full of hope. See here in my spirit all the hurt of the past. Heal me of my disillusionment, the distress of differences, the heartaches and tensions over past problems. I beg of you to help me to forgive my parent for his/her faults. I also beg assistance in lowering my expectations of all I want my parent to be for me. Help me to see the strengths and the goodness which are also there. Most of all, draw me to a deep love which accepts this parent as he/she is."
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus