By Katie Dobbins
On Loving Your Family Well
When you’re a kid, you don’t realize that your parents had lives before you. Are they even real people of their own, or do they just exist to serve you and take care of your every need? Are you guys with me, or was I just a really self-centered kid? Either way… as I grew into my own person the epiphany hit. “OH… maybe my parents experienced struggles like this too. It’s possible they might actually know what they’re talking about.” I’m being silly, but once you realize your parents are more than just your parents the relationship completely changes.
I’m an only child, and I’ve always been close to my parents. I was the kid at birthday parties who brought all the sleepover gear but never actually stayed because I was too homesick. I literally would not disobey them ever, even when they were in an entirely different town. I used to hang out at the public library with my friends after school, and they would all cross the street to the town store to get snacks. Well, I wasn’t allowed to cross the street without my parents. It was too dangerous!! So I would stand there at the crosswalk watching my friends and anxiously awaiting their return with my Sweethearts. Even though my parents were working 40 minutes away! I talked to them about everything – I mean everything – to the point where my friends would say “I’m going to tell you something, but please don’t tell your parents okay?” Are you laughing at me yet? Cool.
I’m lucky to have grown up in a home that valued family. Family always came first, and it gave me a rock-solid foundation that has always made me feel safe and loved. The model of love that I grew up in has also helped me understand God’s family and His church. But I know this isn’t the case for everyone. What really struck me when I pondered on the topic of “loving your family well” is the idea that love starts whenever you let it. In church we always talk about planting seeds, and even if you haven’t started your own family yet, if yours needs a lot of healing, or if you don’t even know where to begin, you can start planting seeds of faith, hope, and love now. You can’t force things like this, and you can’t control them, which can be so frustrating. But the good news is that’s where God can step in and rock your world.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7
I often wonder why I have always been so drawn to Jesus and the church. Growing up, we were pretty much a CEO family (often attending church on Christmas & Easter only). But I remember loving church so much that sometimes on random Sundays I would wake up and beg my mom to go. My mom would read me bible stories from our children’s bible, and when I was eight years old I made the decision to get baptized, and I went through a whole course leading up to it learning about Jesus and the meaning of new life. Even though we didn’t attend church regularly throughout my high school years, I still yearned for it when I got to college. I joined the Bates College Christian Fellowship and would attend the local church about once a month. But why? Why was I constantly drawn to God’s house?
There are probably a lot of reasons, but what I’ve learned is this… the seeds you plant now matter – not only in your life and the lives of those around you, but in the lives of future generations. As it turns out, when my dad was in his twenties, he was super involved in his local church. He served often and would occasionally deliver the Sunday sermon. Every day he carried the word of God around in his pocket. He studied the Hebrew translation of the new testament and started translating it word by word to English to better understand its meaning. It turns out my Nana was also heavily involved in her church community when my dad was growing up. They rarely attended church as a family, but she was often serving meals and contributing to various church events. Reflecting about this makes me wonder just how many generations back this servitude, faithfulness, and love for God’s house goes. God reaches his children many ways, but I can’t help but think that the seeds of faith my family has planted for generations have impacted my life in a big way. I mean, what greater gift than a love for God that you simply can’t explain?
How do you love your family well? Not everyone has or knows about generations of family members who have sewn seeds of faith and prayer into their lives. But the cool part is that it can start with us – with our generation, now. Some of us haven’t started families of our own yet, and we’re not even sure if we will. But the seeds we are planting now can have impact far beyond what we can see or imagine – impact on our parents, our extended families, and even our yet-to-be loved ones. Let’s not wait until we’re “settled down” with a family (which is a hilarious phrase, because I’m pretty sure having kids makes your life hectic as heck) to start living out and modeling the values we want to see in our children. Let’s start now!
“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” -2 Corinthians 9:6
How do you love your family well? I believe that StoryHeights Church has provided a great model of loving your church family, and this extends to our personal relationships as well. Practically, we plant seeds of prayer. We share the greatest story ever told whenever we have the opportunity to do so. We have grace for everyone (yes, even our families when they drive us bonkers!). We put God first and let him work in our lives and in our families. We prioritize our families, and we bring our struggles into the light so that we can heal (we get help when we need it!). The way my parents love me helps me understand, in a small and still incomprehensible way, the expansive and unfailing love of God. I pray that the way I love my family shows them a small glimpse of Heaven, too.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:12-13