Sunday, September 6, 2009
Yesterday we received the announcement that our second great grandchild, Cole Ryan Alexander, has joined our family. We are grateful to God for his safe entry into our world, and that mom, Joelle, is doing well. We assume dad is doing OK too!
Our direct family now numbers eighteen souls, scattered from Eastern and Western Canada to New Zealand. Our greatest joy is the close relationship we have with all our family members, despite the geographical distances between us. We have endeavoured to remain in touch on a constant basis, visiting whenever possible and convenient, and our pleasure is doubled as family members frequently take time to be with us.
However, as we enjoy our family closeness, it makes us keenly aware of so many families that are torn apart and are a cause of heartache and pain, not joy. While we are sure that closeness results from the efforts of family members to express their love for each other, that is not the whole story. Many members of families have poor relations with each other in spite of the genuine efforts of one or more of them.
Furthermore, some families have good relationships despite poor performance by some members. We are personally only too aware of our own parental shortcomings when our children were young—selfishness, over strictness and inconsistency—a cause of regret in our old age. And then, of course, there is the heartache caused by loss of family members due to illness or accident. A few days ago, a local young family lost their mother to a blood clot four days after the birth of their third child.
It has been said that we can only plan to be good parents, not plan to raise good children. Children are individuals who will make their own choices often in spite of us as well as because of us. We recall a local family devastated when their beloved but rebellious daughter became pregnant. Fortunately, she is now reconciled to God and her family and married to a fine young man who adores her and her child. But not all tragedies turn out this way.
What are the characteristics of parents that are likely to raise fine children? Here the Bible’s wisdom has something to say. What are the characteristics that God displays in his dealings with his people? God revealed those features—with which we are familiar by being made in God’s image—to Moses in Deuteronomy 34:6 and 7: compassion, graciousness, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness and justice.
Do we display these qualities in our interactions with others, members of our own families, and particularly our children? If, as we believe, most character formation is taught by example, then making these the goals of our family relationships will at least lay foundation for probable joy as the family expands.