family ties

Thinking about the attempts by our institutions and organizations to redefine our relationships got me thinking about family. Family is a group that often appears to have characteristics similar to man-made institutions, but family is clearly natural, God-given, and not just a human fabrication. I think the clearest difference has to do with the relationships involved.

In our human institutions and organizations, the “relationships” among the members of the group are clearly “created” (I’m using a lot of quote makes here because I don’t think the relationships are actually real) and defined and enforced by human beings. And they only have any reality among those people in the group who believe in them. Such “relationships” are only ideas, figments, in certain people’s minds. We see evidence of this in how easily they are redefined, shuffled, or dissolved. And also how human power and money are required to enforce respect for such “relationships.”

Relationships in a family group, however, have markedly different characteristics. They are not just an idea. There is flesh and blood involved and a deep psychological connection (I would say also a spiritual connection, in that God’s giving of children also includes a spiritual call to care for them, and a call to the children to care for their parents as well). Not at all easy to dissolve or redefine.

Our human societies do try to redefine family relationships, however. These human groups often try to impose family roles and authority structures in accordance with their own laws or religion. That’s where families can start to look like other human institutions, inasmuch as they adopt the rules and roles of the society pressed upon them (or try to impose their own peculiar inventions). But there are real, natural, God-given relationships in families that struggle against these false impositions, making us yearn inside for a real father, perhaps, or maybe for the freedom to be a real child. We can try to redefine these relationships, or renounce them, but God and our own inner being resist when we attempt this.

That gives me hope for family. It’s not just another human institution, for us to shape and enforce and defend. It’s real relationships that God has created. Relationships that can be discovered and honored and submitted to, as we recognize how God has connected us to others with the love that is as real as He is.