How to define your family way
Unless you’re a horse owner or a sixth-grader on a field trip, chances are you’re not exposed to a blacksmith’s back-breaking work on a regular basis. That being said, our unfamiliarity with the violent artistry of old-school metal forging doesn’t make it any less fascinating.
When we see a perfectly shaped horseshoe, a twisted iron gate, or a flawless sword blade, the fact that it was once an unformed piece of iron or steel seems almost impossible. In its original state, the physical properties of the raw material suggested a form that was fixed, rigid, unchangeable. But when a blacksmith exposed the metal to intense heat, he was able to strike, bend, and sculpt it into something that served an entirely different purpose.
Through the focused effort and creativity of a craftsman, something once thought to be unchangeable was reshaped for a new purpose. “Just the way it is” gave way to “what could be.”
Can You Change Your Family Culture?
When explaining your actions or those of your family, have you ever used the phrase, “That’s just the way we [insert your last name here] are”?
If so, you’re not alone. I have a feeling we’ve all done it from time to time. We may have even convinced ourselves there’s a skewed sense of honor in being authentic — even if we’re wrong. Admitting our shortcomings is easier than committing to the hard work of changing unhealthy patterns. When it comes to the culture of our families, we don’t have to settle for a way of life simply because that’s how we’ve always been.
Admitting our shortcomings is always easier than committing to the hard work of changing unhealthy patterns.
In 1 Kings and 2 Kings, the Bible shows how a king’s virtue or wickedness sets the standard for their sons to follow. Just as one king’s disobedience had repercussions throughout the lives of his children, another’s obedience allowed his family line to experience the blessing of God.
As parents, this should cause us to consider how our actions now influence our family for generations to come. We’ve been given the immense privilege of shaping how our family loves God and loves others, and sometimes that requires us to take steps that are inconvenient and uncomfortable (Mark 12:28-32).
Keep the Good, Change the Bad
Since family culture is usually passed from one generation to the next, we often inherit beloved customs and beautiful traditions and weave them into our own family practices. Sometimes we drag toxic attitudes and tendencies along as well. The beauty of being a parent is that we get the chance to hold onto the things we love and change the things we don’t.
(Side note: This applies to grandparents, too. Don’t think for a minute that just because your children are grown your influence is no longer valuable. Acts 16 and 2 Timothy 1 show us the impact of a grandmother’s example in the life of her grandson, Timothy.)
If we’re blessed with a heritage that honors God and cares for those He’s called us to love, that’s an outstanding foundation to build on. However, if our history doesn’t mesh with the teachings of Jesus, we have the opportunity to choose a better way for our family.
And just as a blacksmith struggles and sweats to shape a piece of iron into something useful, forging a new set of priorities may require us to set aside familiar comforts in order to live the life God has called us to. Thankfully, God has promised we won’t have to do that challenging but worthwhile work alone (Philippians 1:6).