I sometimes dream of all the things I would rather be doing than living a domestic life. Between doling out innumerable cups of juice, picking up the family room floor and cleaning bathrooms, I often fantasize what it'd be like to scream down a trail on my mountain bike, tour museums with my wife, read in a quiet café or just have long moments free of "Dad, can you . . . ?" I'm sure you harbor similar dreams.
It's easy to get overly focused on the daily details of family life — the tasks and chores and meals and care — that we don't always appreciate the big picture of family, how it overflows with divine significance. Here are three truths about family that help us understand what we're really participating in — and why it is indeed sacred:
Family reflects God's nature
We begin to understand the importance of family by looking at creation because that is where it all starts. Here, God speaks the material world into existence and declares it to be good. But as good as creation is, humanity becomes the crown of this glory.
God said, "Let us make man in our image" (Genesis 1:26). As a family, you may have talked about what it means to be created in God's image, and how we reflect many of God's traits such as His creativity, intelligence and spirituality. But look together at what God says about himself here. Notice the pronouns us and our. In Scripture, God reveals himself as a plurality: Father, Son and Spirit. This "community" of persons creates humanity in its own image and likeness, and it is this same Trinitarian God who declares, "It is not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). God wasn't admitting a mistake in the design. He was simply addressing something important about the nature of God and of man: Adam's aloneness didn't yet mirror the image of God.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all fully God, coequal and eternal, having the same essence but different manifestations. None of them can be understood in isolation from the others. Likewise, what is Adam without Eve, this other coequal being who shares the same essence, but in a different physical, psychological and emotional way? As man, Adam was made with certain distinct qualities. But without Eve, it's difficult to fully understand those qualities. The two complement each other. And what is the third part? God tells man and wife to be fruitful and multiply. Through the union of marriage, man and wife become one flesh, a fruit-bearing relationship resulting in children, who share their same flesh.
Nothing reflects the image of God like a family. We're made for love and intimacy with God and with other humans. That's why loneliness and rejection are so painful. And it's why a century of medical, social and psychological research shows that adults and children are more likely to thrive in every measure of well-being when they are in strong family relationships.
We understand God's love through family
The family is often a part of God's grandest plans. Consider that God established Israel not by conversion or political power, but by starting with a family. (See God's covenant with His chosen people through Abraham, found in Genesis 17:5-7.)
But notice also how often the language of family helps us understand God's love and His kingdom. We see God as the Father, with Christ the Son referring to Him as "Abba, Father," a term that communicates the intimacy and tenderness of a God who unconditionally loves His children. And Christ's parable of the prodigal son vividly communicates the unbounded grace of the Father.
Christians enter the kingdom of God by being "born again," as Jesus explained to Nicodemus. And Christians become children of God, not as direct and natural descendants of Abraham, but through adoption. God adopts us when, through faith, we accept and trust in Christ's gift of salvation. And Christians will experience the great culmination of the kingdom of God at the glorious wedding feast when the bride of Christ, the church, weds Christ the bridegroom.
It's not insignificant that God chose to communicate the beauty, truth and wonder of His holy and glorious project in the language of family. This language wasn't chosen for dramatic effect. God chose it because it communicates something true and beautiful about His nature, His heart and His relationship with humanity.
Jesus was one of us — intimately involved in family life
We can't fully understand God's love of the family without examining one of the biggest events in the Christian story — the Incarnation. We all know how the story begins. Mary, who had favor with God, and her carpenter husband, Joseph, were traveling to Bethlehem to participate in the census. While there, Mary gave birth to a son in a stable. Of all the grand options at God's disposal, He chose to enter our realm through an ordinary family.
Joseph and Mary had to go pay their taxes, at a time when Mary was in no shape to travel. They had to find lodging but could only get a stable because Joseph couldn't secure a room. Imagine the anxiety both must have felt. Do you think they felt a little overwhelmed? It was in this "family moment" that Christ our Savior came into the world. And this wasn't just a convenient or dramatic entrance. Jesus remained active in family life for His time on earth.
Scripture says He studied at synagogue, and He probably played with other children and did chores at home. Tradition suggests that Jesus would likely have learned the carpentry trade and helped Joseph run the family business. Surely, He took pleasure in completing a nice table and delivering it to a customer's house and perhaps felt frustration when a customer was late in paying. He swept up sawdust and got splinters. He went to the market. He came to the aid of neighbors. He enjoyed meals and probably didn't care much for having to clean up afterward but did so with a gracious heart.
No, Scripture doesn't record these details. But we can assume that for the first 30 years of His life, Christ was content to simply linger in family life. His participation in it sanctifies the whole endeavor. Think about that tonight as you prepare dinner, wash clothes or fix a broken door. Jesus did those things, too, and He didn't see them as a waste of time.
When we recognize this reality, it can help us get through those days when we feel overwhelmed with the press of family life. We're participating in what our Lord participated in — and He can identify with these struggles. And so we need to appreciate that our mundane family routines aren't something we should try to escape or merely tolerate. They are something very sacred, worthy of celebration.
This puts washing dishes, paying bills, cleaning clothes, helping with homework, fixing broken toys and appliances, brushing teeth and all of what it takes to run a household in a whole new light.
Family is big stuff. Live in it!