A Prayer For a Family
This weekend, my youngest brother will become the wedded spouse to fellow-minded companion in humor, his life coach and motivator, his faithful supporter and encourager, and his dear friend, Brittany.
This is the second wedding in seven months in the Gish household (perhaps a sign that they’re a hot commodity- ladies take note, as there are few and fewer Gish in the sea). But more seriously, this has lead me to pray and to consider the covenant of marriage as I think about my brothers. But, even more than this, it has prompted me to consider not just what is being created anew (a marriage), but what is being renewed and expanded afresh- the family.
Paul uses marriage to richly illustrate how it is a type that points to the ultimate arch-type of the relation between Jesus the bridegroom and the People of God, his bride. Thus, marriage helps us to understand the relationship between man and God. Yet, equally important is the image of family, which aptly not only reveals the church’s relationship to God, but provides unarguably the richest paradigm for how the People of God relate to each other.
I become more enamored with Jesus words:
“And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mar 3:33-35 ESV)
Jesus is clear in his redefinition of family. And, when we consider how “family” was the primary group in a radically strong group society, the bedrock of one’s identity, the starting point of one’s name and honor, and the authoritative dictation of one’s purpose… we begun to melt as we realize how scandals Jesus statement really is.
Today, I believe we don’t truly realize how critical it is to have both the cognitive and emotive experience that the People of God are a believer’s truest and first family. Jesus provides several examples of how blood family absolutely may be sacrificed when Jesus, and His people, become one’s new primary group.
Now, if you have a blood family that is saved- what a BLESSING! You truly have the best.
BUT, this doesn’t mean that this super-true family (your believing blood relatives) always automatically take priority over your spiritual family. Sadly, the myopia that comes with over tending and over concentrating on one’s nuclear family leaves many believer’s blind to the crowds of those living on the relational and spiritual fringe of their congregations and at their places of worship. A Christ directed nuclear family is perhaps one of the richest tools one can be given for manifesting and propogating the adoptive and sacrificial love of what it means to join one’s family. What if, instead of keeping their married lives hidden and locked from the church, married families invited and added to their household the empty nesters. What if they adopted those single adults who are from backgrounds of recovery- they may have lost their family and all at their rock bottom moments, and although they have found Christ, have they really found in the church their new family? What about those struggling with same sex attraction? Do they receive, alongside the biblical demand for holiness, also the grace of feeling a part of a family and community that embraces, cares for, and pursues them?
By opening up marriages, opening up the experiences of parenting and rearing to others to experience and to help alongside you, is perhaps what will make or break successful discipleship in our increasingly emotion driven society.
With this prophetic concern and challenge in place, Conner and Brittany, I offer and direct this prayer to you:
“As you learn to open up your hearts, with intimacy and care,
May your marriage also open up to the lonely standing there;
Those missing spouses of their own, their partner day and night,
Who also crave intimacy, their soul’s deep reaches craving light.
Their life is filled with broken blood, perhaps victims of divorce,
Or saintly souls in recovery, but who’s past did relationships torque.
Invite those who may never feel tears and joys the like,
Of coming home to thrilled children, smiling, beaming with eyes a’brite.
May your hearts be open, and your homes, to those of nomad pasts,
And in your family may they find the Church- true family, at last.
In giving love and giving self, may the church be so blessed,
But may you learn its you who find help that’s of the best.
In households from old centuries past, was more than father and sons,
And more than mothers and daughters, a household had other ones.
Those not by blood, but bonds as strong, who raised and reared the youth,
And experience that their belonging is in clan of God- a sweet truth.
As you explore and struggle to die to self, to love, sacrifice for her,
And as you likewise do for him, may your memory also stir,
To let your altar of learning include your family in Christ,
Willing to die, willing to love, His body with your life.
As you begin a life of share, and learn how much you can give care,
May your family serve His people, and so your own covenant never tear.”
May you find the richest of eschatological delights, and give the richest of salvific gifts, by inviting the church into your marriage and family, both to receive, and to re-invest, in your nuclear family. May you see what the Lord gives (spouse and progeny) you as an extended stewardship of His kingdom people.