Monday, July 14, 2008

Is this (Really) What God Had in Mind?

“. . . the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise” (Isaiah 43:21).

The task was simple enough. Marnie had asked me to change out a light bulb in the fluorescent light fixture in our kitchen. She was making dinner at the time, and I had offered to help. Dinner was under control, but the lighting in the room was dim. Some bulbs needed changing. That’s where I came in.

As simple as the job sounded, things went south in a hurry. To get to the long florescent bulbs I had to remove a wood frame from the light fixture. No sooner had I removed one screw than the entire fixture dropped from the ceiling, showering flecks of drywall down on the kitchen floor, leaving me stranded like Moses with my arms raised supporting the fixture.

I tell you the story for this reason: The great gift of that moment was the fact that my wife was right there. A partner. Someone there to help me. As I held the fixture above my head with increasingly weary shoulders, Marnie managed to detach the wires that held the fixture in place and I lowered the wreck to the floor.

I will also admit this: The great challenge of that moment was the fact that my wife was right there. We immediately began a lively exchange of opinions as to what had happened and why it happened and how it might have been done differently or not. This was rather unpleasant.

Got any stories like that? Details may vary but the basic plot is all too familiar. The recurring motif is the peculiar nature of family life. It is at once a gift of grace and a source of trial and testing. Is this really what God had in mind?

A little more than a month ago we began thinking about God’s design for the family. The very first reflection of this series spoke of God’s basic intent for human-kind; we were “made to stick.” The family exists because we need to be connected to others. To be alone is not good.

At the same time we recognized that sticky is sometimes messy. Being connected to other people means having to deal with those same people in all of their humanness. It means being there for each other when light fixtures fall from the ceiling and someone has the flu or a nasty diaper needs changing.

Family is both a blessing and a burden. Family holds us up and pushes us to our limits. Family can sometime drive us nuts, and quite often drive us to our knees. Maybe this is exactly what God had in mind. The original design for family assumes God. Remove God from the equation and family life becomes difficult indeed.

Every family arrangement is given to us for one reason: it mirrors God. Marriage, parenting, brothers and sisters – all of it reflects God’s covenant bond with his people. And what’s true of families is certainly true of the church. God has always been about the business of forming a people for himself, a people who exist to proclaim God’s praises and goodness and excellence. It’s a risky plan. We don’t always do it well. The church as God’s family. That’s what we’ll be thinking of this week as we wrap up our reflections on God’s design for the family.

Gracious God, remind us yet again that there is more at stake in our families than happy children and a loving spouse and a well kept yard. You have called us to live in such a way that the world around us sees something of who you are. Help us to do this not only in our families, but in our churches as well. Let us be a people who declare your praise by reflecting your goodness and love, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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