I saw a beautiful picture in church this Sunday. A family, mother father and son standing in a row together about five pews ahead of me. The boy was about fourteen or fifteen and his stance was an interesting statement of age and development. He was standing a bit off from his mom - too old to be a mommy’s boy now. That interesting switch had occurred, the one where they break off from the nurture of the opposite sex parent around puberty, to identification with the same sex parent. His arm was unconsciously hooked into his dad’s arm. And there they stood, loosely knitted together, linked in. The father and son were comically similar. Same mound of bushy hair except the dad’s was grey. Their height and forms a copy, except that the elder was wider at the shoulders and thicker in the middle.
The reading was from Deuteronomy chapter six, about the laws of the Lord. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
Father instruction might have more to do with this kind of thing - the laws. How things work, a solid grounding in the truths that govern life. We learn them at home. Otherwise we will end up learning the same lessons later on our own, when they cost us personally. Learning a solid grounding from your parents naturally, is a great blessing.
And so I watched them. During prayer the whole family linked arms in a group hug. A holy trinity made flesh. Something was working there. It is likely that what was being taught in church was the same stuff he saw modelled at home. Those laws, they will write them on their hearts when they see them played out in real life. That is truth you can take to the bank. It can sustain generations and it is worth passing on. They call them laws because they are solid ground, sturdy and unlikely to change. You can depend on them.
In the row in front of us was a small boy with his mother. No father there. During the “sign of peace”, he watched the people shaking hands and made to copy what they did. He looked back at us from the arms of his mother and reached out to grasp our hands. It is the first instinct of a child, and what happens next determines a lot, whether there is anyone there to reach out to and whether we reach back.
There is a hymn I remember from my youth. They don’t seem to sing it anymore and I don’t know why. “Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to thee, to death.” It could be that family is the original linked in. Arm in arm. Father and son as brothers in arms, fighting a holy war, against all that is wrong with the world. Linked in. It’s a good place to be. It all begins with family. You and me buddy, against the world.
It works with girls too. I picked my youngest daughter up from university for her first visit home since leaving. When we got inside the door of our house, she suddenly threw herself into my arms and burst into tears. At first I was alarmed, then I just held her there and didn’t say anything. I got it. This was good kind of crying, the “I miss you” kind. And I thought it was only me.
A lot of bad things are batted about regarding kids these days. Some people don’t even want to have kids. They don’t want the trials and responsibilities associated with bringing up the next generation. Still, kids are always interesting, and more than that, they are good company, the kind you feel good just to be around. It’s called family and it is a great blessing. The original port in the storm, designed by God.
A man’s home is his castle. It is also a temple. Sow good seeds in your children. They will come back to you.