I love the Old Testament. I've never understood why entire denominations think it unnecessary. Not only for the theology of it all... I mean how could one even begin to "get" the New Testament without the foundation of the Old. Which may be why some don't "get" the Gospels... but I digress.
I love the power of Story and there is none better than found beginning in the book of Genesis. All that begetting and dysfunctional family stuff, why it is enough to make a lady blush.
Except when I read it I am so relieved. I've mentioned before that my mother rejected all things having to do with the Church after being condemned by a legalistic sister and father (her mother was a sweety). My seven siblings were basically pagan and darn proud of it.
My husband's family were religious and charter members of a very liberal mainline church in his hometown.. one of those which scoff at people who believe the Bible is true. Ironically, they read a passage from the Bible before supper, attended services each Sunday, belonged to many of the church organizations, and knew the right answers to all the questions. He found Jesus in college and had a significant spiritual experience on the beaches of Hong Kong (during the Viet Nam war). His parents never forgave him.
When we make the decision to really, really follow Christ we enter into a battle that has gone on since Lucifer decided he wanted to be equal to God... since Eve wanted to know as much as God... and mankind fell to the side of the Evil One. Quite often it means our families on both side of the battle... those who are pagan and those who earn their way to Heaven with religion... will cause us grief.
When I read the Old Testament, I know families have been the same since the beginning. We may think ourselves more civilized these days but in reality... we are all the same. Should one ever think we are alone in the midst of family craziness... read Genesis. It didn't take too long for the first murder between brothers. God knows all about dysfunctioal families.
Have you read the liniage of our Lord? As I read through the accounts of those who came before... the Ancients who first walked the path in the Word... I must admit to being confused by it all. I mean, really... if I were writing the Story there are incidents I would have swept under the rug and tucked within an obscure section of Leviticus which only the most ardent student of the Word would read.
Instead the Writer of it all puts it right out there in the open, the dirty laundry for all of Time to read. I, for one, am quite happy about it. For if Good can come out of that line of humanity, He certainly can use me and mine. Family life my friends... is messy. Some are just a little crazier than others but all live with imperfect humans.
Yes, my husband and I got a lot of "guff" from both sides but to be honest, I'll take mine every time. At least they knew they were sinners even if they were proud of it... and fun... there was a lot of laughter. Perhaps that was because there was a lot of Jack Daniels... but I digress again.
As for my siblings, the relationships failed and the liquor no longer filled their emptiness, many of them did come to Christ. Most are gone now but unlike my husband with his family... my memories are good. I never expected perfection as they repented. I always knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was loved... what better gift could they have given me. They knew family life was messy.
The Prodigal... knows he is broken as he returns to the Father. The older brother... cannot understand his own need as he looks at the sinner and turns his back on both... the Brother and the Father. May I never fill my heart with religion to the point it doesn't break for the sinner and for those in need. It can be tempting you know, to look at all that mess and want to stop loving. I hope my brother-in-law's story gives you hope.
Of course, there are times we must put physical distance between us and those who throw angry darts. Which is what we had to do with my husband's sister as her uncontrollable rages have caused dangerous situations. One must be careful to take their children into family situations where there is drinking and lewd conversations. It doesn't take any thought at all to stay away from all forms of abuse. But nothing stops us from continuing to hold them up in prayer, even if it is done from a distance.
It happens in the best of families and true healing comes when the darkness is brought to the light. I think of Tullian Tchividjian's account of the day his parents called the police and had him physically removed from their home. I cannot imagine his mother's pain as she wondered where he was and what he was doing night after night. He was still in his teens but she had to physically protect the younger children. Did she... in her mother's heart... ever have any idea he would become the pastor and writer he is today? Did her parents... Ruth and Billy Graham... pray through their tears? Of course they did... family life is messy in the best of them.
Now, there are families who are blessed with more normalcy than others. I remember reading Elisabeth Elliott's beautiful book, Shaping of a Christian Family, for the first time. I felt such sadness that I don't have a Christian Heritage such as hers. I still loved the book and have re-read it a couple of times since that first reading. I learned from the wisdom of her lineage many ideas to implement with my own family... but I still would wonder what my life would have been like if both my family and my husband's were a little more.... ummm... sanctified (realizing, of course, that I believe the sovereignty of God places us in the families where we belong).
Then I heard a lovely statement which freed me... from where I can't remember. Did I read it or hear it on the radio? The speaker has long been forgotten but the Truth remains...
"If you don't have a heritage, you have a testimony." Amen, brother! :)
God places the lonely in families and as I look back on my life so far... He places those who know how to pray in families which need it desperately. Never give up... it may be your prayers that break the bondages over those who need Him most.
You may come to the end of your path here on earth finding yourself scarred, bruised, bumped, and worn to a frazzle... much like the Velveteen Bunny. Living among fallen humanity does that to you. But the journey itself forces you to rely on His wisdom and grace and patience and kindness and goodness and forgiveness... drawing closer to Him yourself so you can be salt and light to your family.