Family ’14

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dear Linwood Family and Friends,

Faith, Family and Friendships.  These three have been central to Linwood from the beginning, and they are our focus this coming season.  Last week I talked a little about faith.  Today I want to move to family – and perhaps approach it a little differently.  While there are many ways to consider and discuss “family,” today I am drawing simply upon personal experience.  After all, I have been a member of a family for 68 years!  Surveying that vast expanse of time, what do I remember and, perhaps more importantly, what have I learned?

I grew up in the perfect family.  That was my childhood view.

My family consisted of a dad and mom who loved each other, and two kids, a girl and a boy (me), who were loved by their parents and always got along with one another.  We lived on the perfect property, four acres of woods, creeks, hills, frogs, etc. – the perfect place for all kinds of fun.  And we had a dog, a collie named Sandy.  So, you might think of my family as a combination of Ozzie and Harriet, Hopalong Cassidy, and Lassie! I, of course, never disappointed my parents, was an excellent student, a good athlete, and active in my youth group.  I even received a Hymnal for perfect attendance at junior choir at our church!  You may be thinking that I am exaggerating.  However, if you were to ask my mother even years later, she would also tell you that I was the perfect son and we were the perfect family.

I could go on, but I am sure you get the picture.

I grew up in a terribly dysfunctional family.   This was my conclusion as a young adult.

When I was eighteen I left my perfect family to go to school at Michigan State.  I talked with other students and heard about their families; I dabbled in psychology; I began to think more about relationships and marriage; I engaged in deep late night soul searching conversations over a coke (or was it a beer?).  I found myself wondering, “Was my perfect family really that perfect?”  Yes, my parents loved each other, but there were also ways my mother often manipulated my dad.  Yes, I was obedient (usually) but how much of that was the result of how they exercised control by their disapproval? Yes, my sister and I got along, but there was a seven-year age gap, and how much did I know her at all?  Yes, I achieved, but how much of that was driven by not so subtle messages to work hard and please everyone?  Yes, I was active at church, but did I ever really have a choice?

Have any of you also ever changed your mind about your family?

My family gave me some real blessings as well as some real burdens.  My view of my childhood family changed once again when I got married and had a family of my own.

Jan and I of course were going to do much better than our parents! We were going to correct the mistakes of our families growing up.  And, we did (at least some of them)!  But, guess what?  We also added our own inadequacies and our own dysfunctions (including some we couldn’t even blame on our parents!).  Yes, we did give blessings to our children, but in spite of our grand intentions, we also gave them burdens as well.  There are few things – if any – more humbling than being a parent.  And that experience brought to me a third view of my childhood family.  It was not perfect, but it also was not a complete disaster!  I received some wonderful blessings.  Without them I would not be the person I am today.  And I received some real burdens.  I also realized that the time was long gone to feel sorry for myself and blame my parents. I was now responsible for how I dealt with the past – good and bad – and how I sought healing.

Are there any of you who cannot say the same thing?

What now?  My childhood family is in the distant past (my 50th high school reunion is this fall!)  My own children were launched almost 20 years ago.

Praise God there are still the two of us – and that is really important.  There are the grandchildren – and that is a whole another story and topic.  And there are moments of reflection.  How could I have made the blessings of family greater?  How could I have lessened some of the burdens?  What choices and decisions could have been made to make life richer for all the various family members?  How could my faith have been a greater blessing to those that I love the most?

I suppose the tendency is for us to say, “I did the best I could.”  What does God expect when He keeps entrusting children to people who are young and inexperienced?  Somehow for me the “I did the best I could” is not enough.  No, I do not want to go back and try it again!  But I do need to know that my efforts at family – good and bad – are not the end of the story.  Fortunately they are not!

The Lord is an active presence through this entire journey of “family.”  That presence preserves and increases our moments of faithfulness.  That presence limits the hurts and offers healing in the wounded places.  And, that presence assures us through Christ that one day He will provide an eternal home where every tear is wiped from our eyes and every burden (especially the burdens of families) is healed.

So I praise God for the family – and for my families – not because they were perfect, but because the Lord cares enough for the family to be an ongoing presence and a vehicle He uses to dramatically demonstrate His love and grace.

Blessings in Christ,
Hu Auburn, Linwood Park Pastor

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