Family — The Endangered Species
The idea of what a family is has been turned upside down, flipped over, twisted and distorted into any number of things, soon to be seen as nothing more than a tax status. Marriage is under fire, with study after study showing its decline and “irrelevance” in today’s world. Gay marriage is being backed by the president, which would undermine the strength of God’s first institution in this world.
We have shows like The New Normal and Modern Family which are doing something very dangerous, and very effective — indoctrination by humor. When seen as funny, the idea of two men raising a child and teenagers who are openly disrespectful to their parents are seen as harmless.
Just like in politics, we have received what we asked for, or perhaps more accurately, didn’t object to. And so we are left with perhaps the most endangered species yet — the family.
When we study why a species has become endangered, it is typically due to one of two primary factors: their number has been severely dwindled because of environmental conditions, or because they have been hunted as prey. I would suggest both are significant in the endangerment of the family unit, but the effects of being hunted we will save for another time.
Instead, we will focus on environmental conditions, specifically the environment in which we live that says no family is worth pursuing if it is not perfect and gives you absolute satisfaction.
Perfection is no longer seen as a condition or state of being. We now perceive it to be something not only attainable, but expected. In the same way our steak had better be cooked with exactly the right amount of pink in the middle, our families must exist with the right amount of satisfactory grades, good behavior, dinner-making and room for man caves.
Of course, these feelings and ideas are put into our minds by various sources, marketing and and pop-culture among them. But really these are nothing more than conditions. Where we have strayed is letting these conditions affect us. Perhaps we are more vulnerable than ever to being blown about by cultural headwinds because there are more “nones” in religious affiliation than ever before in this country, and so we have to sense of true north in which to head.
If a family cannot be perfect, are we to accept the messiness and hardship that comes along with building a family? Of course! We are seeking the wrong virtue in families today. What matters is not the perfection we seek, but the continuity which we lack.
Continuity is generally defined as the state or quality of being continuous. Applied to family life, this simply means pursuing the continuation of God’s design for family life as handed down to each generation since Adam and Eve. It takes continuity and perseverance to realize the beauty of God’s design for the family. This means there will be messiness and hardship, but also joy and comfort.
This idea of family continuity is to be given the utmost importance. With half of marriages ending in divorce, this notion is more countercultural than ever before. Our marriages and families cannot be viewed with an exit sign over the door, so that we flee at the first sign of discomfort or responsibility. When that happens, we have fallen into the trap that we deserve perfection over all else.
Look at how Edith Schaeffer, wife of Francis Schaeffer, put this in her artful work on family, titled simply What is a Family?:
“...the deep underlying sense of the importance of family continuity must be stronger than the insistence on having perfection. People throw away what they could have, by insisting on perfection which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it.”
Published in 1975, these words may have never rang more true.
Parents of families today must begin working for the family which God wants for us. Families marked by Christ, learning, love for one another and their fellow man, respect and a sense of their temporal and eternal significance. They must not insist on perfection, but continuity.