By Guest Blogger Adam Story
I remember my brother coming into the house and telling my father that he had just crashed the tractor into the side of our house. As if to add insult to injury, it turned out that he put a hole in the wall of my parents’ bedroom, providing an unwanted window. The interrogation revealed that there was no earthquake, no UFOs, and no temporary lapse of consciousness. My brother just didn’t see the twenty foot wall in front of him. I have four younger brothers, and I remember thinking, “and then there were three… ” As it turns out, my father did not even raise his voice. He looked over the damage and the situation, gave a consequence, and forgave my brother. I learned more about forgiveness in that moment then I could have in any amount of scholarly reading. That day forgiveness was defined in action, and this, I think, is what the family does for our faith. The family defines the most important terms in our vocabulary of faith – terms like forgiveness, love, authority, patience, and so many more.
The family is the place where our terms are defined, because the family is the place where the most important realities of life are first and foremost encountered. Children are taught at an early age that “God is love,” but what does that mean to them? For me it meant God is willing to scratch my back when I am sick, as my mother was always ready to do. Trying to understand God’s nearness, a child will think of a parent’s running aid when he or she falls. When a child contemplates the omniscience of God, his closest experience will always be the answers his parents provide to the wellspring of questions asked.
The family is the context for our encounter with God, it is the soil in which the Gospel is planted, and so the health of the family radically impacts our experience of God. Our family shapes our faith in the sense that it defines our terms. What a profound reality this is! God trusts humanity enough to be His representatives. Created in His image, we become the signs of Him. Jesus told the apostles that others will know they are Christians by their love, but it could also be said that others will know Christ by our love. And the place that love is first encountered is in the family.
As the father of a five month old son, this reflection has caused me to tremble many times. My son will understand The Father through his father: me. Why would God trust families to express and teach the most profound and important of truths? This too is a part of the mystery of faith, that we worship a God that has such respect and love for His creation that He invites them to be co-workers with Him!