Family life is like a Smith Island cake.
For generations, the women of Smith Island have mastered the art of the Smith Island cake. They skillfully assemble 8-10 layers of paper-thin buttery bliss to create a towered architectural wonder swathed in cooked, fudge frosting. Even the most experienced, dexterous Smith Island bakers find themselves routinely concealing flaws in this amazing feat of bakery construction. With a quick swish of a spatula, applying extra icing renders this confection flawless.
If we are honest, most of us would like to find a quick, easy way to cover-up the flaws that accompany family life. Some of us stay so busy that there isn’t enough time to deal with the layers of imperfections within our homes. Or maybe you are accustomed to addressing the tier that everyone sees right away rather than going deeper to unveil the root of an impending issue.
I have a large, imperfect family so it would take a vat of frosting to hide all of the flaws we possess. In case you are in the habit of covering up the flaws in your family and pretending that conflict or problems do not exist at your address, I am letting you know that imperfect families are not only normal, but they are opportunities in the making!
Family life is comprised of layer upon layer of complicated human imperfection. Categorically, most of want to bushwhack our way through the layers rather than gently slicing through the flaws and humbly letting the crumbs fall, finding teachable moments amidst the mess.
Family Life Mirrors Imperfect People
The late Mr. Rogers wisely stated, “Little by little we human beings are confronted with situations that give us more and more clues that we are not perfect.” It gets messy when people share life together. Family life causes us to bump into the unhappy business of human imperfection and deal with it… Click To Tweet Family serves as a mini congregation where we get to practice grace and reconciliation.
Bono, lead singer for U2, reminds us:
The hardest thing to do is stick together. Mates, family, marriage, business, bands…
It’s like resisting gravity. The alternative is too predictable. You rid the room of argument.
You empty your life of the people you need the most.”
There isn’t one perfect family in the Bible. The Bible chronicles nothing but imperfect families. Jesus, who is perfection, was born into an imperfect family.
Decades of parenting helped me to realize that there isn’t a blueprint for the perfect family because they don’t exist. I used to wring my hands with worry when conflict reared its ugly head in my household.
Finally, after years of hand-wringing, I now view conflict in family life as a redemptive opportunity. Going through the redemptive process is the hard part. In the thick of the process expect that tears will probably flow and harsh words will most likely mash hearts.
Darkness and messiness will spill throughout your home. At the end of this slow and sometimes excruciating process, know and trust that God will have done a supernatural overhaul in the hearts of everyone in your household.
Family Life is Where You Practice Being Selfless
Family life is where kids learn to develop the habit of loving others more than they love themselves. For many households, the training ground for loving others begins with the sharing of a bathroom. Explosive hallway squabbles arise among siblings when someone leaves globs of toothpaste or hair in the sink. It usually escalates from there.
In his book, When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man (Resources for Changing Lives) Edward T. Welch aptly forecasts the difficulty of applying the act of loving your neighbor, ” loving others makes life less comfortable. It means that I give up my agenda for a Saturday morning to help a neighbor.” Loving others more than myself translates into acts of service like rinsing out someone else’s mess from the sink. Family life serves as a launch pad to love difficult people for the “sake of God’s glory and fulfill the purpose for which we were created.”
In the heat of conflict, Paul David Tripp suggests that “parents see every instance of trouble, failure, and sin as another opportunity to teach their kids to cast himself to Christ.”
Family Life is Practice in Reconciliation
Children learn through practice and repetition. With that in mind, as often as possible, approach dinner table disagreements with an evangelical purpose. Eventually, you will see progress because “sanctification is like a clumsy, slow walk rather than a light switch that we turn on from off .” Matthew Henry notes “reconciled relationships within the faith community can bear witness to God’s triumph over society’s corrupting influence.” Home, there’s no better place to prepare our kids to live out the command of loving your neighbor.
C.S.Lewis was right when he wrote, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” Forgiveness requires the unraveling of enough knots in the heart so that the offended can love the offender.
Family Life is the Place to Practice Grace
Perfect families only exist in the movies. Gospel-centered families view family life with eternal significance. Click To Tweet It’s a noble task to show kids they need a rescue plan, and that God bequeathed his greatest treasure to an imperfect family.
There are those days of parenting when I day dream about catching the trolley to the “neighborhood of make-believe” and never come back. Instead of the trolley escape, on days when you score an epic failure as a parent, maybe you think about gobbling down multiple pieces of Smith Island cake with a milk chaser. Remember, God often chooses the most unlikely people to serve as his ambassadors.
I remind myself, after all, God delivered the greatest, earth shattering news to a bunch of raggedy, scruffy shepherds. Fred Rogers dispenses this bit of wisdom: “knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people” (I am right on the edge of Fred Rogers hero worship). Loving our people exactly as they are—means loving those we live with even on the days they are undoubtedly unlovable. There are days when that is a very tall task!
However, I know that God’s grace bends to my lowest weakness. When I get knocked down in the first round by my parental shortcomings, I look to Him before getting back into the boxing ring of family/parenting life. Our strength to finish this overwhelming and intimidating job of family life comes from Christ.
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