My father’s disengagement during my childhood left a void in my life. Even when he was around, I struggled with feeling that he couldn’t keep me safe. Because of the emptiness I experienced, I grew up determined that when I was a father, I would do family differently — better.
With that idea in mind, I married the cute girl I met in high school, Jesmae, in 1996. By 2007 we found ourselves nudging 30 and felt right about starting our family. I always liked the idea of three kids — I felt it was the perfect number for a perfect family. I calculated that three kids would be just a bit riskier than the standard mum, dad and a couple of kids, but not so risky that we’d have to upgrade our car to a minivan.
Four years later, we had a nice, tidy package with 4-year-old twin boys and a 2-year-old princess. But we had this hunch that the Sisarich family wasn’t quite complete. So we had Levi. And then came Tamir.
Since becoming a dad, I’ve spent most of my adult life trying desperately to keep my wife, my children and myself secure in our Christian faith and safe in our family bubble. I’ve been searching for ways to protect my family from all that is evil and overwhelming in our culture and our world. I didn’t want them to feel unprotected or broken in any way — I wanted them all to feel better than I had as a child.
More recently, however, I’ve begun wrestling with the question: What’s the point? I’ve realized that I’ve been pushing for what I have in mind for my family, and maybe it’s time to start asking what God has in mind for my family — for the family. Maybe the Sisarichs could be a part of something bigger, contributing more to culture than just protecting and striving for perfection in our own family.
Searching for answers
So when the opportunity to be a part of Focus on the Family’s feature-length documentary Irreplaceable was presented to me, I jumped at it. Here was my chance to finally discover God’s design and purpose for family.
I spent eight months searching the world for answers to my questions. Although I learned an incredible amount from some of the world’s leading voices on family issues, there was more. I met people who had experienced their own family brokenness and found God in the midst of it all. People like the inmates inside Folsom State Prison, the parents of a beautiful boy with Down syndrome, and a couple who carry on every day, despite having tragically lost two of their children. People who looked to God in their brokenness and now show God’s nature to others by offering grace amid the imperfection of life.
And I thought of my dad. I resented him for not being involved enough as a father, and I hated him for the pain he brought to my mum and siblings. If I really believed that we’re all created in the image of God, how could I withhold forgiveness from the man who loved me the best he could?
Then something happened deep within my heart. While I was in Russia, I found myself face to face with Rembrandt’s painting of the “Return of the Prodigal Son.” In that moment, I connected with God. As I experienced God’s amazing love for me, I knew He wanted me to share that love with others. And I needed to start with my family. With my own father and then my own kids. I needed to model God’s great love and forgiveness.
Discovering God’s design
So what does God have in mind for the family? Christ desires that we accept His love so we can in turn love ourselves and love each other. Family matters because we get to journey through life together, stopping along the way to give others a glimpse of the love we have for, and the love we feel from, a very real God who made everything in the beginning.
As I traveled the world investigating culture and the problems common to family, I realized that all families are broken. But I also realized that God wants to show himself in the midst of that brokenness. Could it be that as we each experience a measure of messiness with our family, we can all experience a measure of redemption from the Creator of family? More than perfection, God desires connection for each one of us. The sense of belonging that comes with family is where the beauty of God’s nature can so easily be revealed.
So don’t miss the opportunity to experience Irreplaceable, a one-night event playing in select movie theaters nationwide on May 6 — it’s sure to be as individual an experience for you as it was for me. My involvement taught me that, yes, we need to know what we believe and, yes, we need to pass that living faith on to our children. But I’ve also learned that the world will never be perfect and family life will never be neat and tidy. God’s design for family, my family, really is about something bigger. Together with my wife and children, I can become a small part of revealing God’s love and nature to the world. And that sounds like a great family project.
Tim Sisarich is the former executive director of Focus on the Family New Zealand and served as the host and director of Irreplaceable and The Family Project DVD set.