What do you think of when you hear the word family? Joy and security? Frustration and anger? Hurt and self-doubt? Longing and emptiness? Or perhaps a jumble of many feelings, some profoundly good and some painfully bad?
Scripture reveals a similar jumble of family scenarios. We see the first family created as a salve for human loneliness; we see love and loyalty; we see a spiritual legacy passed from parent to child. But we also see (major!) dysfunction: sibling rivalry so brutal it leads to fratricide, marriages torn apart by adultery, parents abandoning children, and many, many more ugly scenes that are a far cry from the seemingly idyllic family photos we mail out during the holidays.
Our human families showcase the very best of us—laughter, affection, loyalty, self-sacrifice, friendship, feeling known and at home—and the very worst of us—bitterness, cruelty, resentment, self-centeredness, spitefulness, feeling unknown and alone. I know my own little family experiences both my very best (my most deeply-felt prayers, my truest affection, my whole-hearted efforts and service, my undying love) along with my very, very worst (ahem . . . mood swings, irritation, impatience, resentment, frustration, self-centeredness, tears). It can get ugly, folks!
As I wrote in my book Cherish Your Family, “Family, in all our human frailty, is still God’s blessed idea and is yet God’s wonderful gift to us. In fact, even the tough parts of family life can be a blessing to us, providing us a training ground for spiritual growth and discipleship.”