Real Families Are Messy

Whenever I start feeling bad about my job as a husband or father, I find it helpful to go to the Bible.  I don’t go for the inspirational quotes.  I go to be encouraged, those families are way more dysfunctional than mine!

The Bible is a holy book filled with unholy people who often live embarrassing family lives.  I used to wish I could be one of those heroic Bible characters, but now I’m pretty thankful I can just read about them.  God seems to delight in telling the parts of the family story that we like to leave out of our Facebook and Instagram posts.

Do you feel guilty for failing to have regular family devotions?  Ever blown your temper in front of your kids?  Have you felt the sting of past mistakes coming back to bite your family years down the road?Has addiction to substance, sex, or soul food left you feeling ashamed to try to encourage your children to any righteous standard?

Check out this short list of lowlights from our Sunday School heroes:

  • Abraham married his sister.  Then lied about her being his wife.  Then slept with another woman to get a son.
  • Isaac’s favoritism led to fraud, deceit, and near murder between his sons.
  • Jacob raised such dysfunctional boys, they sold their brother Joseph into slavery.
  • Judah slept with his dead son’s wife, who was posing as a prostitute.
  • David committed adultery and murdered someone.
  • One of David’s sons raped his sister.  Another of David’s sons killed his brother. That same son created a literal civil war against David.

These guys were so messed up, if they were alive today they’d be the top rated reality show on TV.

At the same time, these same family members are our spiritual heroes.  Their families changed the world.  Or more importantly, God changed the world through their families.

We’ve been going through a series with our church called “Messy Faith”, based off of Proverbs 14:4

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
    but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

If you want a picture perfect stable, don’t have any animals.  But if you want to be useful and productive, you’re going to live in a mess.

Real families are always in the midst of some kind of mess.  One kid might be telling their friends about Jesus.  The other is failing algebra.  Or maybe it’s the same kid.

You finally manage to get the whole family around the dinner table for a cooked meal. You have visions of meaningful conversations.  Your kids have a burping contest and complain about imaginary lines being crossed.

You save up money for date night, bathe, shave, and put on smelly-good product.  Then your youngest starts puking.

You manage to actually get your kids to church on time.  But they forgot to bring their Bibles.  Or their shoes.  Again.  And you’re one of the pastors.

Lest you be fooled by social media and television, real family life is messy.  Stop agonizing over the mess.

Your house is going to be dirty.

You’re going to go to McDonalds because 20 chicken nuggets for $5 is way more convenient than free range tofu on a bed of greens.

You’re going to be mortified at your kids habits, and discouraged that you can’t figure out any way to train them out of those habits.

I don’t have to tell you that it’s going to happen,  because you know that it is happening.  I can promise you that it will keep happening.  Family life is messy.

But it’s worth it.  You’re building little humans.  Your shaping character (yours and theirs).  In the midst of the mess, you’re getting opportunities to instill things that can never be taught in a classroom.

And if you’ve been so bold as a family to step out in faith, to try to use your family for the sake of others, it’s going to be even more messy.  People are complicated, broken, unpredictable.

And they’re also the only things on this planet made in the image of God.  They are so, so worth it.

Let me encourage you today to free yourself from the expectation that you’ll ever have your household under control.  There’s always going to be something, probably lots of things, that are out of wack.  Stop fretting, stop wishing away the mess.  Just live in it, enjoy it, and take pleasure in the joy that God put you where you are to bring a little bit of order to one chaotic corner of the world.

One final thought: stop coveting someone else’s mess.  Maybe you feel like you’ve been given a particularly unfair load, that the trails and chaos of this world aren’t evenly distributed and that life would just be easier if you had someone else’s load.  Who knows, maybe you’re right.  But it really doesn’t matter, because God has placed you in YOUR life, to lean on Him, depend on Him, find Him in the mess, and look to Him for rest.

If you’re in Christ, you’re built for eternity, and it won’t always be like this.  Stop wishing away the mess and enjoy the grace that comes with it.

Your manger may be dirty, but there’s a crop in the ground, and harvest time is coming soon!

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