While reading one of my favorite authors recently I had to stop and laugh at his view of the family. It struck me both as incredibly funny and so very true. He was making reference to the fact that some critically assess the family institution as being full of problems, and therefore an unhealthy or bad institution. While that criticism certainly has the element of truth within, it is nonetheless shortsighted. What family does not have problems? What family always gets on well together? In what institution do human interactions always commence in an orderly, congenial fashion? To even mention the political institution at this point is laughable to say the least. And what of the institution we call church? Whether you disagree with my referencing it as an institution or not does not alter the fact that some human interactions within the church can be less than congenial. These interactions are, however, vitally important in our lives. As such, we should be realistic in our expectations.Our families will not always run like a finely tuned and impeccably maintained machine. (If you disagree, please do not respond with the five steps to a healthy and perfect family. Or perhaps do, I certainly enjoy a good laugh.)
To quote G.K. Chesterton from Heretics, "Of course the family is a good institution because it is uncongenial. It is wholesome precisely because it contains so many divergencies and varieties. It is, as the sentimentalists say, like a little kingdom, and, like most other little kingdoms, is generally in a state of something resembling anarchy." If your family is anything like mine you recognize the truth in that statement. I sometimes have wondered why my children and wife do not think just as I do. How much easier would life be if the people in my home could simply be more like me? But then, in a moment of realization, I see that I do not think exactly as my parents do. I do not see things as my brothers see them. Though we agree on many, many things, I can think of specific differences of opinion that I have with each member of my family; and given enough time with any other person, I would find differences of thought there as well. Chesterton makes reference to the fact that the family is a training ground. It is in learning to work through our differences with our families that we are prepared to work through differences we encounter in the great, wide, and often wild world. He states it best when he says, "The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born."
May my home always be a place in which we disagree respectfully, challenge one another politely, and love one another unconditionally. "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Gal. 5:14) Oftentimes your neighbor sleeps in the next room and eats at the same table.