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Thursday, December 12, 2013

What's in a family?

If you haven't figured out by now, God's plan is for us to get into family relationship and learn to grow there.  Now, we have all kinds of family relationships, don't we?  For some, their own biologic family may be a little bit of a challenge because it is somewhat dysfunctional.  For others, their main "family" is that of the extended kind - those who are closest to them in kindred spirit, but not necessarily in a biologic sense.  God has one more "family" he focuses on a whole lot and this is the family he places us in to grow spiritually - the fellowship of others believers in Christ.  For some, this is found in their local church, while others may find this closeness in a small group or at a local support meeting.  Regardless of where we "find" this family relationship, it is important for our health and well-being as children of God.

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.  (Ephesians 3:14-19 MSG)

It is within "family" that we truly learn to relate to one another.  No other type of relationship demands so much of our effort than that of "family".  If you have a dysfunctional family, you know what I mean.  If you have a dysfunctional family, you may spend a great deal of effort trying to change some element of the dysfunction.  God's idea of how we move from dysfunction to close family relationships is a little different than we might think.  It is a myth to believe God works by "redesigning" or "remodeling" our dysfunction.  His main goal is not to "remodel", but to make new.  

Galations 2:20 tells us, "My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (NLT) God is all about making things new - not just making us some "fixer-upper" project.  We live an exchanged life, not just one which is fixed up.  So many times we focus on what needs to be fixed rather than asking God to make it new.  If you don't think there is a difference, try a little experiment.  Get a stale piece of bread.  You can wrap it in a moist paper towel, stick it in the microwave for a few seconds and "reinstill" a little moisture into the bread.  At best, you have moist stale bread!  It isn't fresh bread right from the oven, but rather "fixed up" bread!

Sometimes I think we focus on going to church, being part of a small group, or a member of a support group because we want a place to learn something new, but we don't shed the old when taking on the new.  The truth is, as long as we hold onto the dysfunction in any part of our "family" lives, we will always know dysfunction in some form or another.  It is in placing ourselves in those places where we might learn how to shed the unwanted dysfunction that we have the greatest opportunity to actually embrace the new as the way we come to relate within "family".

In God's economy, he puts his seed in us in the form of his Son's divine grace - not to "overgrow" our dysfunction, but to allow a brand new creation to blossom.  I am so glad God is not put off by the dysfunction of our lives.  In fact, he embraces us WITH that dysfunction!  In the connection of his embracing us exactly as we are, we come to a place of learning to relate to him exactly as we are.  To some, this is a strange concept because they cannot see approaching a holy God in their total dysfunction.  Truth is, he already embraced ALL that dysfunction when he put his hand on our lives in the first place.  If we think we have to "pretty up" our dysfunction so we can relate to him or within his family, we have a warped perception of how God's family works.

God's family is made up of a whole lot of dysfunctional people - just like you, just like me.  No one of us is without our dysfunctional moments or habits.  In his family, we have the ability to come "as we are" and are allowed the "space" to have his seeds of grace grow within until they come to a place of full maturity within us.  He doesn't just "pluck away" our dysfunction, but instead, he replaces it by his tender care with new growth and tender shoots of mercy.  The place he chooses to focus on this growth is in family.  To be outside of "family" is to be outside of the place of his purpose.  

So, the next time you complain about the dysfunction of one of your "families", remember this - God's purpose is to make new what our selfish sinfulness has made pretty dysfunctional.  It is as we "plant our feet solidly" within the family he places us within that we can begin to live exchanged lives.  It is there we learn what it truthfully means to love one another.  It is there we learn the value of stabilizing relationships.  It is there we come into contact with the hope of newness rather than the frustration of "fixed up" members.  Just sayin!