Imagine that you are out taking a walk in your neighborhood and you stroll down a street that is a little unfamiliar. The road is lined with sidewalks and trees, the houses are evenly spaced with a bit of yard for each. The houses are nothing fancy, just small, American Dream with a white picket fence sorts of houses. As you stroll along, just as the shadows begin to lengthen and the creeping dusk begins to carry with it the scent of a coming rain, one lighted window catches your eye. You pause and find yourself caught by an image. Young adults, seated around a table with a card game on it, joined by an older couple. Children playing together on the floor. A gray-haired elderly man walks in using a cane. You are not sure why the scene has so captivated you, you really must be getting home before the rain begins to fall, but something about the sight of extended family enjoying each other’s company keeps you rooted for longer than you should have stayed.
What are your thoughts as you stand there, feeling chilled by the damp in the air yet unwilling to walk away just yet? Are you filled with a longing you can’t quite explain? Does it remind you of your own family and the time you had with them just the other week? Do you wonder what bitter fights and disappointments lurk in a room more removed from the street views?
What is it about a family?
We all want one. Even those who say they don’t need anyone around would, I dare say, wish deep inside for a perfect family to love them.
Even the word itself brings a picture of love and peace, acceptance and light. The idea of multiple generations caring for one another is enough to set our hearts yearning for an ideal.
Does family really matter? In this world that would tell us that career is more important than children, that independence is better than living intertwined, is family truly that important?
Yes. Emphatically yes.
Families were designed to bring us back to God. There is much about the workings of a family that draws us in, that points our hearts toward God.
The miracle of the birth of a baby, for instance, turns your mind toward thoughts of God, especially God as Father. When you hold your own baby for the first time, your heart is drawn to mystery, drawn to contemplate the miracle of creation. I just read this in WORLD magazine:
The baby daughter of writer Whittaker Chambers helped to move him from Communism to Christ. Chambers wrote inWitness (1952), “My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear—those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: ‘No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.’”
These children are gifts from God sent to turn us back to Him.
Other purposes of family? Those who have been raised in godly families are more able to see the goodness of submitting to God’s authority because they have seen how good life is when we submit to the authority of our parents. Birth and death connect us to God far beyond most other events in our lives, and we can truly experience this connection best if we are surrounded not by institution alone but by those who know and love us best.
Our families are shrinking in size. We think nothing of moving far away from our parents and grandparents. We fill our lives with so many activities that we lose sight of the hearts of those who are most precious to us.
Sometimes these things are unavoidable. Yet if we do not at least deliberate and ponder this mystery of what was intended by the One who created the very idea of family, I fear that we will lose something sacred, some thing that keeps us close to the heart of God.
And anything that keeps us close to the heart of God is too rare and precious to be tossed away careless.
Are you going home for Christmas?
It is, perhaps, a time of year when we most think about home. Many of us think back to a particular place, a place where we were given gifts of peace and compassion, grace and love. We think of those people, or perhaps one person in particular, who gave those gifts to us. Those who were not given such gifts had at least, perhaps, the dream of such a home.
We try, in our own ways, to create that sort of a home in our adult lives, yet it is difficult sometimes to believe that such a home can exist in this world, this world that makes it hard to believe in much of anything at times.
In every home, however, no matter how full of beauty and love, there is something missing. Something small but crucial. Perhaps we can’t fully describe what that something is, but we search for it and long for it our entire lives. It is something that gives us a sad and lost feeling, something that makes us feel a bit homeless wherever we happen to be.
This small but crucial missing piece is what the author of Hebrews talks about at the end of that great chapter detailing those who lived by faith. After naming some of the greatest heroes and heroines of our faith, the author writes,
These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
And so home is, after all, only where Christ is. Home is at the manger where even the oxen kneel at midnight. Home is at the foot of the cross and at the door to the empty tomb. Home is the place we will find when we finally know even as we are fully known.
I believe that…the home we long for and belong to is finally where Christ is. I believe that home is Christ’s kingdom, which exists both within us and among us as we wend our prodigal ways through the world in search of it. ~ Frederick Buechner
Are you going home for Christmas?
“Be holy” says God.
But we don’t want to be holy. We want to cling to our busyness and our pride and our little insignificant sins that really are more foundational than we would like for them to be.
Yet every once in awhile we surprise ourselves with a momentary longing to be holy. Will you join me over at Embracing Grace as I talk about what this means? I’ll meet you there.
(http://embracinggrace.net/2013/09/i-dont-want-to-be-holy/ if the above links didn’t work.)
I am a logophile, a lover of words. I love the way that different words evoke different emotions, and even when two words have the same dictionary meaning, they can still have very different connotations.
I love searching for just the right word that paints exactly the picture I want so that others can see what is in my mind.
Every Friday, I get a writing prompt. Just one word, to challenge me to write for five minutes without editing. Just to practice my craft, to practice being able to find exactly the right words. A few Fridays ago, the word was “join”.