Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Family Planning

We are approaching our 37th wedding anniversary. That's what the math says but don't ask me how it happened. It doesn't seem that long but it is. Marriage has taken a battering since we got married. It was a rare thing for couples to live together when we were young. We never considered it. Maybe because I was heading to seminary but we didn't know that at the time we got married. We never heard of any marriage except between a man and a woman either. That was what marriage was. We heard about divorces but we had not experienced one since our parents stayed married til death did them part. Broken families seemed much rarer in our early days than they are now.

Christianity Today did an article recently on whether the church should encourage marriage at younger ages, such as the early twenties. That was when we got married. Today, it is more common to wait longer. We got married and figured it out. It didn't seem all that hard. We had some good older married friends who mentored us, we had good role models in our parent's marriages and we were involved in a church which had many families. We didn't realize then how fortunate we were.

Time had a cover story recently on marriage, as well. It talked about the new studies coming out that show the importance of children being raised by male and female parents. It didn't come right out and say it but it was talking about the value of a long term commitment to marriage. That would seem to need to be said today. We have many models in the media of high profile marriages that break up because of affairs, or financial stress or due to some other crisis in the family. It is always hard to recover when your parents divorce. Something profoundly important has been taken from you. And it is most always better to be raised by a mom and dad.

In the next issue of Time, there were some letters from gay readers who protested being totally left out of the story and from married couples who chose not to have kids and were happy about their choice. If they say they are happy, then they probably are. But, I have always felt that children are a blessing. They help to round us out as people. I don't know where I would have learned some of the lessons I have learned except from the experience of raising children. I know I am a better person because of my kids.

Old Testament teacher, John Goldingay, asserts that Genesis 1-2 "implicitly sets sexual expression within the context of a lifelong heterosexual marriage designed to image God in the world." One of the purposes of that marriage relationship is children. The family in Scripture is not perfect but it is pretty important in God's great scheme of things to bless the world.

Hillary Clinton received a lot of scorn in Christian circles for her thesis that it takes a village to raise a child. I think she was on the right track. I would say it takes a church to raise a child. In today's world, family can be a troubled and troubling place. That comes as no surprise since the first family in the Bible had troubles, too. But, God still works out his blessing through family.

In the New Testament, we read about the family of God and how we are brothers and sisters in Christ. In the church we can re-envision what family is supposed to be. We can learn about marriage and family what we might never have had the fortune to experience. We can be healed from abusive situations. We can experience forgiveness and forgive. There are role models and mentors for our marriages and parenting adventures. The church can model what marriage and family can be to the world. In fact, that is what we are called to do.

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