by Cindy Hester
"The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people - no mere father and mother - as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born." ~Pearl S. Buck
Let's face it...in today's world where individual family relationships are fragile at best, the ability to maintain close extended family relationships is almost miraculous. As we have learned more each day since my Dad went home to be with the Lord, a strong family heritage does not just happen nor remain by chance. Among other essential ingredients, it takes time. For generations before I was born, my ancestors laid a foundation of taking time for family gatherings, creating countless priceless memories and giving us kids the desire to continue that tradition. In order for family members to develop lasting memories, each member must choose and make an effort to make those memories happen.
Singing Christmas Carols
Another important ingredient is love. As the saying goes, "Love covers a multitude of sins." Not only do family members have to choose to love, they must choose to be loved. There are so many instances in which a family member refuses to be loved or expects to be loved only on his or her terms. As a result, it is often necessary to distance one's self from that relationship. God is most able to step in and create wholeness in that person and restore fellowship, but God does not force His way on any individual. Therefore it is ultimately a choice each individual makes as to whether to love and be loved as a part of a family unit.
Respect is also essential. Webster defines respect as deferential regard; willingness to show consideration or appreciation. So often we make our way through life giving respect to individuals who have not earned that respect only to treat our own family members with disrespect. It seems to be a natural instinct to do so. Maybe it is because we become so comfortable with those we love that we often take them for granted. Strong families make the choice and effort to show respect to one another. Conversely, each member must make the choice to behave in a manner that earns the respect of others.
To love and respect, add tolerance. Tolerance is defined as the recognition of and respect for the opinions, beliefs and/or actions of others. However, God is a God of balance, and the definition goes on to include "the amount of variation from a standard that is allowed." There are boundaries. There are standards. This is not a free for all kind of tolerance, but instead a tolerance based on Godly truths that must be upheld in order to remain strong in love and respect for one another. Let's face it, we are each individual creatures by God's design. Each of us brings a unique and essential talent or calling to our families. Also, each person brings a unique set of circumstances faced throughout his or her lifetime. We must not expect everyone to think or approach life in exactly the same manner as we do. Further, tolerance is the ability to withstand pain and hardship. This is not a surface thing. Families go through painful, difficult, and trying times. Strong family relationships are such that they are able to withstand even the most horrendously painful events standing strong together in love.
The last of my list of ingredients that creates a strong family heritage is forgiveness. This is perhaps the most personal and difficult ingredient of all. While it is important to hold one another accountable, it is also imperative to be quick to forgive. No matter how much love, respect, and tolerance there is in a family unit, we are merely human beings. At some point something will be done, whether intentional or unintentional, that hurts someone. Maybe it is a small thing, but if given a foothold, it can create a huge chasm that is hard to bridge. Satan delights in creating confusion. As the author of confusion, if he can do anything to create discord in anything good, he considers himself successful. We must be faithful in searching our hearts, confessing any hurts, and asking God's help in forgiving. Sometimes forgiveness is a process, but it is one well worth completing. Also, forgiveness does not automatically mean restoration with the offender, but it always means restoration for the forgiver.
In closing, I am so thankful for my family. I honestly do not know where I would be in this life were it not for them. Are we a perfect family? Heavens no! Are we shielded from sin and mistakes? Of course not. We fall and fail just like anyone else. Do we always practice using the ingredients mentioned above? My answer to that question is with a question...are we in heaven yet?! My point is the only way any of these principles can be applied in our human state is through the power of God's Holy Spirit. The more we pray for one another, encourage one another, and help one another, the stronger that spiritual bond becomes that ties us together in Christ's love.
The Way of Love
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
English Standard Version (ESV)
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.