One of the greatest myths about family is that somehow it is possible to experience a perfect family. Some Christians believe that because they follow Christ that it is possible to be the perfect family.
Now some may know this and yet many of us spend much energy trying to project to one another that we have the perfect marriage, family, children, etc. Perhaps you know people like this. Someone asks, "How are your children?" "Wonderful!" Or they may ask, "How is your husband?" "Awesome. He is really doing well." Those answers may be correct. However, it may seem strange to continue hearing such answers when you know that the family is experiencing heartache with the children or the spouse. Yet, they are always "wonderful."
Is this reality? Or, is this about image management? Could it be that in order to protect their image, some people never really tell the truth. Instead, they are content to settle for something superficial.
Some believe that the church is the place where all of the successful, happy, families gather. No problems. No heartaches. No struggles. Everyone has it all together. Now if you view the church like this, you may feel somewhat intimidated by being a part of the church. What if you are struggling in your marriage? What if you are having financial problems? What if you have come out of horrible home life? You may wonder, "Is there anyone else in this church like me?"
When our children were growing up, I tried to be especially conscious of this problem. I wanted them to grow up in a good home, where we loved one another and Christ was at the center. Yet, I did not want them to think that they were supposed to project some sort of image about our family because I was a minister. I did not want them to think that they had to be dishonest about life in our home in order to make me look good.
There are no perfect families. They are not in the Bible. They are not in the church today. You may be a part of a really good family. You may have a good marriage. Yet, there are no perfect families because there are no perfect human beings.
All families, like all people, are imperfect.
What would help so many of us is to get the right perspective toward our families. Instead of being preoccupied with managing my image before others, I need to be focused on living with the intent of loving my family with a God honoring love. Consequently, I am to love God and love others, especially my own family. Such love is sacrificial, self-denying, forgiving and persistent.
On July 20 of last year, I heard a segment of NPR’s, "This I Believe" which especially caught my attention. Listen as this speaker reflects upon his earlier years:
I don’t know why I came to the decision to become a loser, but I know I made the choice at a young age. Sometime in the middle of fourth grade, I stopped trying. By the time I was in seventh grade, I was your typical degenerate: lazy, rebellious, disrespectful. I had lost all social graces. I was terminally hip and fatally cool.
It wasn’t long after I dropped out of school and continued my downward spiral. Hard physical labor was the consequence for the choices I made as an adolescent. At the age of 21, I was hopelessly lost, and using drugs as a way to deal with the fact that I was illiterate and stuck in a dead-end job carrying roof shingles up a ladder all day.
But now I believe in do-overs, in the chance to do it all again. And I believe that do-overs can be made at any point in your life, if you have the right motivation…
Yes! This is what a family is about. Families are not places where pretend we have reached perfection. Families are places where human beings can struggle with life and even experience a do-over. Christ-followers believe that God’s grace through Christ gives the ultimate do-over.
I am curious. What have you observed about the myth of the perfect family in the churches with which you are familiar? In what ways does this myth do damage to other people?