There’s Something I Discover Through Observing
I watch how others raise their children. How men talk about their wives and wives their husbands. How they encourage – or discourage. How they seem to be doing it well, or – not so much.
I observed families together in a little village when I was in Lebanon, a few years ago. They were families of Islamic faith and I remember noticing and marveling within how close they seemed, even when walking in the streets, sometimes a mother and two children and a father – all hand in hand, strolling through streets and narrow alleys. The love and respect shown was so obvious. It seemed different, startling, not something I’d seen as much – or at all, at home in Canada in public displays of affection and bonding.
I remember reading about other cultures before I visited in Kenya some years back. And there too I saw families living in ways that showed closeness, love, respect and inter-dependence in ways that I think have been lost to us in the West, with our hyper-focus on iindividuality andn independence (rather than the inter-dependence we need), in our know yourself, do-your-own thing society, often with the casualty and loss of family nearness, wholeness, in bonding and cooperation in shared living.
In some ‘clan-based’ cultures, brother will fight with brother but if you intervene, brothers will join to fight you as a threat. Families will fight families but they make up a clan, and if the clan is threatened, they will cease their inter-family hostilities and turn together to ward off the danger they share. And clans will join in unity as whole nations, when the nation is threatened, and go back to almost tribal warfare with each other when they have occasion to do so and the wider, larger threats are past.
Knowledge of family and clans and how they work in such cultures is key to understanding when there is the danger of giving offence or showing threat in some way, in sharing faith and passing on new information and new ways of any kind. There are patriarchal cultures still, and matriarchal ones, too, extant in our times. An understanding of clans and families is key to understanding many of the stories and their corollaries, in the Old Testament Scriptures. It was also by families that generational vocations were passed on, in kingships and priesthoods, in the important and lesser trades and contributions that contributed to making farms and villages, cities and nations.
Of course there are exceptions and we talk about the break-down of the family in our own nation, though in some places still, perhaps, some rural values still reflect the older values and traditions with respect to family care, respect, loyalty and obligation, all of which is what some young people want to reject and escape when they leave for the city. It’s also what they wish they could go back to, as they mature later in life, or as they experience the cold and aloneness that can so often be their experience, even though living with and among so many in urban centres. But they can’t return, can’t get back to the old days, the old ways in the old familiar places, for any number of reasons.
When I was growing up, our small farm was adjacent or near to seven other small land holdings owned by close family members. We were all uncles and cousins, siblings and parents, side-by side in life; all of the families were market gardeners. I could be encouraged or disciplined by any of the uncles and aunts, depending upon what trouble or goodness I got into, in proximity to or on our or their land, within their sphere of influence.
We already have experience of family, in our early and formative years and during the brief time allotted to us on this planet. Recently, I celebrated a siblings seventieth birthday; I’m not far behind. My mother is in her 94th year, as I write. "Too soon old . . ."
It’s important to reflect on our family and upbringing, though often we don’t want to do so. We all have wounds, some of us very deep wounds. The chance or deliberate words of a father or mother, or a sibling we carry in our deep heart, and they affect us greatly still. “You’ll never amount to much.” “You’re bad – lazy, stupid, too much of a dreamer . . .” Thank God for positive words too. Have we retained them as well? We need to learn to forgive as well as to welcome the fact that we can receive forgiveness.
There’s Something I Discover Through Research
I have a passion for genealogical research and now have close to 20,000 names in my extended family tree – of names going way back - and stretched out to cousins near and quite far. My searching and questing started when I moved thousands of miles away from my original family and home contexts. I didn’t know I had such a sense of ‘family’ and ‘roots’ and of ‘place’ until I didn’t have any of those realities near to hand. I’d taken them for granted. Now they were far away; I missed them greatly.
The old family picture shows my father's mother's family - the James Green family of the North Riding of Yorkshire. They lived at Welburn Lane Farm, Huttons Ambo, NRY and came to Canada (on the SS Canada) in 1906, residing first in Winnipeg and then in Guelph, Ontario. My Dad's mother, Alice Annie Green, is the young lady on the left-front. Born in 1890 in Cowesby, North Riding of Yorkshire, England, she died in Burlington, Ontario, in 1976.
I feel, in some ways, that in discovering information about so many family members I have found a huge organic network that reflects the mystery of life, but alsoGod’s providence and care.
We have all come from somewhere and from long lines of persons, each with individual stories but also with shared lives and experiences, and intersections that seem whimsical at times, or perhaps with many ‘chance’ and ‘almost' happenings.’ And yes, there are skeletons - and happpenings awful at the time, likely not talked about and certainly not passed down. Horrible tragedies had to be overcome and great losses lived with, hard work and deprivation or, in some cases, obvious wealth, and prestige, are revealed. Long stays and long, dangerous trips play their parts in the many stories.
I feel like I know some of these people even though they’re long gone. Knowing something about them, beyond the mere facts of the dates of birth and baptism, and where they lived and where they died. I look forward to meeting them One Day.
There’s Something I Discover Through Scripture
God has set us in families. God seems to put a lot of interest into and emphasis upon the way in which parents are to parent, how they are to pass on The Faith, how blessing (or its opposite) comes down to and through the various generations. Families are unique in how they respond to God, how they worship, how they share the faith in practice and in word. A dynasty of Faith can be started in any generation and blessings may then be passed on and on . . .
I think of God’s gifts of marriage, of child-bearing love and caring. The gift of mothers and fathers who nourish, carry, protect and train us ‘in the way we should go.’
And there's always more.
Following, are some verses for contemplation - for discovery: for 'hmmm' . . .
Genesis 2:18 – It is not good that man should be alone . . .
Psalm 68:6 - God sets the lonely in families . . .
Psalm 22:27 - All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him.
Job 21:19 - 21 - God stores up the punishment of the wicked for their children.’ . . . What do they care about the families they leave behind when their allotted months come to an end?
Galatians 6:10 - Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Ephesians 3:14b, 15 – I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
I Thessalonians 4:10 - And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.
I Peter 2:17 - Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
I Peter 5:9 - Resist (the Evil One), standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.