We all have one, but not all illicit warm, fuzzy memories. Sometimes families can be difficult. Estranged – or just plain strange!
What is it about this dimension that can be so difficult and yet so foundational to every other aspect of our lives?
You were born into a family.
It may have been a loving family eager to welcome you or a single mom so stressed in her own life situation that she had no idea how to even begin caring for you. Maybe she began by giving you up for adoption, and you’ve always wondered what was wrong with you. You’ve been told that giving you to a caring family was the greatest act of love she could make, but it always feels like the greatest act of rejection to you.
Perhaps you created your own family through marriage. You pledged yourselves to each other, only to find somewhere down the road that you are more courteous to strangers in the grocery store than to your own spouse. Or you simply go your own ways, living like strangers in the same house. How did you drift so far apart?
Maybe you are single – either by choice, death, or divorce. Possibly you are happy with your independence and freedom – or maybe desperately lonely, searching to share life alongside someone special, but never quite finding your soulmate.
In every case you have the potential to be part of an extended family or community. And if you are a mentor, sooner or later you will encounter mentorees with every imaginable background both in their immediate family and the widespread layers of their extended families.
Often a mentoree will address family as a primary focus for your mentoring relationship. If this area hasn’t come up within the first few meetings, don’t hesitate to inquire about family life.
All of the dimensions
of the Circle of Life work together
to promote a life of wholeness,
and family/marriage is foundational
because we experience it daily.
Perhaps your family is a true source of joy. One where love is the language of choice –constantly demonstrated in new ways. My family feels that way to me now, but I wasn’t raised that way. My mom was married three times, and I experienced plenty of family turmoil as a youngster. My husband also came from a broken home and was going through a divorce when he came to the church I attended with his young son, looking for a new start.
When we got together I didn’t know how to be a wife or a stepparent, but I knew plenty about the kind of family life I didn’t want! My husband was equally clueless about how to have the happy home he’d always dreamed about, but as a new Christ follower he knew that God would need to be at the center of our home.
Fortunately for us, several of the older married couples in our church took us under their wings and mentored us along the way. One couple had met coming across the nation on the same wagon train as teenagers, so their experience went back a long way!
It didn’t take long to notice some common elements in each of the families. We watched various couples in their homes as they prepared meals for us and noticed how kindly they spoke to one another and how quickly they responded to help each other, working as a team with attitudes that demonstrated joy and love no matter how menial the task. It was all new to us, and we couldn’t get enough of it!
One lesson made a particularly big impression on me. I still employ it regularly and share it often. When husbands and wives are seeking their own ways, it can become a contest of who gets their way most often. If the scorecard doesn’t stay relatively balanced, tensions rise easily. But, if instead of seeking their own way, both together seek God’s way they will often grow in the same direction.
This is pictured as a triangle with God at the top and the husband and wife at the bottom. As each of them get closer to God, they automatically get closer to each other at the same time.
I had plenty of opportunities to test this diagram in the early years of our marriage. Often my husband and I had very different opinions on decisions that needed to be made. After discussing our various viewpoints, I would wait and pray, “Lord, we have such different opinions, but ultimately we both want to do things Your way. Will you please lead us?”
You can imagine my surprise the first time I prayed that prayer and my husband came back the next day saying, “You know – I’ve been thinking about what you said, and you are right. We should do it the way you suggested.”
Or other times when the Lord whispered to my heart, “Carol, it really doesn’t matter which way you do this. Just follow your husband. I gave him to you, and he knows what he is doing.”
After numerous similar experiences, I’m convinced that family life must reflect the core of who you are and what you value. When that core has God at the center, He will lead you in the same direction. Trust me, I’ve tested that promise over and over in my 41+ years of marriage!
How about you?
What examples do you have to share in the comments
about how you’ve found peace and joy in your own family life?
In this series on Leadership Design Group’s blog, valued members of our Mentoring Development Team will be writing about the 8 Dimensions of the Circle of Life. In the previous post you will have read about the Financial Dimension. Return next week to read about the Physical Dimension. There’s much more to come…