On a Sunday night in June, we’re standing in a line. After grilling brat burgers over an open fire, we’ve taken a leisurely drive to a family favorite, the local ice cream stand.
“Peanut Butter Explosion is the flavor of the week!” I’d chirped blithely to my crowd over here. It was a simple observation that sparked a mass exodus from the campfire upon the burgers’ demise. No one, I noted, had raised objections. Dad was buying, they were chomping, and off we went into the sunset.
Now, as the evening sun cast its lengthening rays, the mood of the crowd was festive. Two lines of people, all ages, colors, and shapes, ribboned up to the windows where high-school kids took orders, dispensing treats.
Just in front of us stood a young couple. The mother held an infant girl. The father carried a toddler, a darling boy, and three more little boys circled around their legs. The oldest one wore a too-big baseball cap that settled down low over his ears. I watched, enthralled, transported to years gone by when our own quartet was young and wiggly.
The seven of them waited patiently in a happy, little group. Bare feet scuffed about in the dirt. Over her mother’s shoulder, the baby smiled shyly at me as a brother tugged on one of her tiny feet. It was a lovely tableau, gilded by that setting sun. I could feel the parental love and peace, for it was reflected in those precious children.
All week long, that picture has stayed in my mind. A father, a mother, and the children they’ve created together, a delightful family unit whose pattern was first laid out in Genesis.
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27).” With His very breath in their lungs, He blessed them and sent them forth with the command to multiply and replenish the earth. Image bearers they were, Adam and Eve, and image bearers we are today.
We take far too lightly the great privilege and responsibility this truth confers. Knowing that we bear the image of God Himself should infuse us with awe, gratitude, and a holy determination to reflect that glory as purely as we can. What purpose and meaning this gives to our time here on earth. That is how it should work.
However. Just as there is divine good in this world, there is evil, too, and evil always works to pervert (counterfeit) the good.
“Hath God said?” It’s the serpentine hiss from the garden of Eden. Injecting doubt, planting the original seed of discontent, it took root. Eve’s fall became our downfall, too, and so began the grand story of redemption. Christmas and Easter give the witness.
Male and female. Father and mother. Two halves of one whole, reflecting God’s image to the world. Together they reveal His nature and character. Small wonder that an enemy opposes.
This side of Eden, there are no perfect families. There are, in fact, many awful ones. Countless souls have suffered at the hands of abusive parents or suffered for the lack of a parent. I see. I hear. I know.
Human failure does not mean that the pattern is flawed. It means that the humans are flawed. The family design was meant for our blessing, for our good, and we can reclaim it. This is critically important work, for as the family goes, so goes society. Indeed, civilization itself is dependent on God’s original design, males and females procreating (no other substitute can make a child) and raising the children they’ve made.
The design isn’t broken. It still works.
If we have had negative experiences in our families of origin, there is real hope for us. We are not doomed to repeat familial sins and patterns. We can start something new.
Last week, a conversation with a friend reminded me of this. It was having children, she said, that ushered in her greatest healing. She saw that she was parenting her young as she had been parented, and she didn’t like what she was seeing. But then she offered this. “God told me to parent them as He parents me.” And that changed everything.
It is a wonderful thing to be parented by God, the perfect parent. It is a blessed thing to parent our own children from the divine wisdom and love that we’ve received. Imperfect humans, bearing the image of a perfect God in families that reveal His glory to the world. This is our high and holy calling.
May God bless America. May He strengthen her families and, through them, bless the world.
You can hear America’s small, caffeinated mom every Saturday morning on 77 WABC with Bo Snerdley.