This is the second of two columns offering hope for today's families.
It is the powerful pull of family members toward each other that keeps our society from simply flying off the face of the earth under the centrifugal forces of a culture spinning out of control.
With all the negatives, is there still hope for families? Yes! I’m genuinely enthusiastic about today’s families. I believe they can soar. Here are a few reasons for my optimism.
The Family is God’s creation. Who would give up hope in something God created? That’s why those who serve God through specialized ministries to children see every child not as a problem child, but as a child with problems. We don’t abandon hope. Each child, and each family, was intentionally formed by a loving and just God and is a part of God’s plan.
God created man and woman, and joined them together, for fellowship and for family.
God is still in control. Although evil abounds in the world and the world is clearly in bad shape, the Bible teaches us that God is in control. The sun rising this morning told me the same thing, as did children waiting at the bus stop, the dogwoods blooming in season, and my dog licking my hand. There is order in the world. While bad things will always happen, God’s natural order moves time and space in a consistent pattern. Love begets love; justice issues in justice; smiles multiply; consistency in child rearing is rewarded; hugs melt defiance; tomorrow will come. As we move toward the future, the measuring rod of all history remains the same. God is still in control.
There are family units modeling healthy families and children are paying attention. Look around. Someone you know is holding to a standard that promises positive results. Kids on the honor roll are volunteering at the hospital, studying in the library, sacrificing summers in volunteer missions, and working hard at home, school and church. Parents are diligent in their duties, delaying selfish goals, leading young people as volunteers in school, in church and in neighborhoods. Someone is modeling and encouraging that behavior. This tells us that the standards and values are not lost. Support young families in their efforts. If your family is solid, mentor a young couple just starting out. Have them in your home. Take them an unexpected present. Help that family anticipate the rough spots and be there for them to steady their boat.
The very flux and turmoil of the American family in this transitional epoch provides opportunity for the next great step forward as adults react to the disorder around them by making the creation of a healthy family a priority.
Life and its elements undergo swings to the extremes. Since the American family seems near the peak of the negative extreme, the pendulum should begin swinging the other way.
The Church hasn’t given up. Churches are striving to provide positive answers to the question, “What can be done for our children?” without succumbing to the notion that church is just for children. Many parents seek a “positive socialization and values education” for their children. The best answer lies in their response to the question, “What can the church do to help parents enjoy a close, personal, meaningful relationship with God?”
Churches are ideally pro-family. Clergy know that the most positive way to support the family is to provide each member with a nurturing circle of spiritual friends who can encourage, challenge, and support their common journey toward God and the doing of his will.
The church is now more accepting of “flawed” families than in the past, making it more willing and more able to minister to hurting families. Not long ago, divorced persons often felt cast out from the church. Today churches are taking the lead in divorce recovery, single-parent classes, day care, job-net-working groups, physical fitness to go with spiritual fitness, marriage retreats, couple times, and classes to help adults gain parenting skills.
Because the church has the answer to all questions of ultimate significance in the person of Jesus Christ, it is some- time slow to respond to new questions. But family issues light up the night sky like the “rocket’s red glare.” When “dawn’s early light” breaks, the faithful church will seek to be equipped and found standing by the shore, ready to carry on in redemptive witness and ministry.
In relation to today’s families, four basic assumptions stand out:
People want to change for the better.
Other people can help people change.
As an individual, “I” can help people change.
Jesus Christ is the source of all positive change.
Can we see ourselves in this picture? As fewer people throw up their hands
over the way things are, and more people roll up their sleeves to change the way things are, we can become more encouraged about the future of families.
A family is a living, breathing entity with a life to preserve, a future to secure, a destiny to claim. God is in control.