Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Definition of a Family

"Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'...So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.' For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."
Genesis 2:18, 21-24

For the last several years I have contemplated what "family" meant. Stop and think for a moment about the word "family." What immediately comes to mind? Many people go directly to the poster image of a mother and father with their daughter and son. Some families may include a single child or more than two, some may be all girls or all boys, or a mix. Whatever the case may be, you'll rarely, if ever, hear someone say "a husband and wife." I think about how often Wes and I feel excluded from various "family" activities...family days at whatever location, family photos in which only parents with their children get that special picture while we look on and think "maybe if I hold the camera with this hand and in this position, we'll be able to get a picture of ourselves together," and the list goes on. Dictionary.com has the first definition of family listed as parents with their children. Merriam-Webster first defines a family as "a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head." I like M-W's definition a lot more, not only because it doesn't define it as having children, but also defines it as being under one head. Talk about a biblical approach, in spite of it being a dictionary!

I've been thinking about the above passage in Genesis and how the real first family came to be. God realized that it was not good for Adam to be alone, that he needed someone. So does God put Adam to sleep and POOF! there's his wife and kids? No! He creates a wife for him...and that's it. Adam is now complete. Adam didn't need kids for God to know that the situation was now perfect. And the passage doesn't go on to say, "but Eve felt incomplete and desired children in order to become a family." Again, no! They already were a family! Notice that kids didn't enter the picture until sin did... Ok, please don't twist my words there, I am not saying that kids are a result of sin and anyone who has children are sinning...what a laugh that is! But what I am trying to point out is that so many people miss the fact that Adam and Eve were already complete before kids entered the picture. It's not like God saw them as any less of a family and thought them incomplete. If that were the case, I doubt Eve would have been the only one created when He put Adam to sleep.

Wes and I may never have children. It's a reality we have to face. But we are no less a family. So when you're organizing a family event for something, perhaps think of activities that the not often thought of family groups can participate in. When you're snapping family portraits, ask the husband and wife family if they'd like one too. If you have some sort of family support group, maybe include a small group for the families that don't have children. Just think of ways where the childless ones can feel included.

We're a family too. Dictionary.com may not say so, but the Bible definitely does.

Photo by Kara Guffey

4 comments:

david mcmahon said...

I could not agree with you more, Mary ...

CrazyCath said...

Oh what a wonderful post! Congratulations on making David's Post of the Day - it is well deserved.

I am blessed with children. My sister is not. She does not (currently) have a partner - but she is still family. She is part of OUR family. Always included. Always important. Often declines in favour of peace and quiet (who could blame her?) but often delighted to come along.

You express that need to be included in this world so eloquently. Thank you.

Mary said...

David, you are such a blessing to me!! :)

CrazyCath, welcome!! It is so encouraging to me to see how you include your sister, even if she declines. And I bet she is so blessed by your invitations!!! I wish there were more people like you!

Jules~ said...

Mary, this is a wonderful post. I am so glad you shared your views here. I completely agree with you.

I think 'those' people tend to look differently at whatever doesn't look like them...with children or without. When I first got married, I was step-mom to 3. People would say, oh you have it so easy because they don't live with you all the time. Then they would also compare their parent hearts to mine and say I just don't understand all the complexities of parenthood because...I am just a part time mom. Like they weren't my flesh and blood so the same tye was not there.
After having our two girls, there was still times of exclusion because there were only two in our home instead of 6.

People are just funny. I am so glad it sounds like you are confident in where God has you and the size of your family.
I say Amen!