Briefly

  • One of the greatest benefits of family is that they provide emotional security and well-being to its members. What’s this? It is a bond that people share together, providing emotional support that gives us confidence to try out new things, go on new adventures, or face challenges.

  • Children can get this from their parents, but where can adults get this? God has given us a second family, the church family, to journey with us and to be a healthy source of encouragement, inspiration, and advocacy.

  • A biblical example of this can be found with Peter. Peter was given vision by Jesus to be a leader of the Church, but Peter had failed during Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Jesus came to Peter after the resurrection (John 21) to affirm him and remind him of God’s vision. Jesus demonstrated to Peter that they were family, just like Jesus described in Matthew 12:50.

  • Family doesn’t abandon family. Friends may move on from you. Acquaintances, co-workers, and church people may become disappointed and not want to have anything more to do with you. But family? As you are pushing forward in life, family sticks with you and pushes with you.


Introduction

Families work together to develop health in four areas: emotional well-being, care-giving, provision of basic needs, and rearing and socialization. The first item in that list, emotional security and well-being, is not as easily understood as the other three roles.

Emotional security and well-being is simply a state of calmness and confidence as a person explores, expresses, and faces challenges. This is different than simply breathing through life in a routine – most people can find calmness and confidence with that which is familiar and predictable. But, there is an important feedback that is provided by people around us when we are trying out new things, going on new adventures, or facing challenges. Will we be supported, or will we be rejected? Are we alone in all this?

Abraham Maslow, the psychologist famous for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, expressed that just above our need for basic resources, there existed a need for family and connection which provides emotional well-being and security (among other things). One of his comments had to do with facing the world with security or insecurity. People who face the world with insecurity, he says, “perceive the world as a threatening jungle and most human beings as dangerous and selfish”.

I believe Maslow’s comment provides a helpful contrast. If we are emotionally insecure, we become unsure and lack confidence, perhaps becoming stuck and maybe even hopeless. But with emotional security, we are able to push into these challenges because we have confidence, a sense of hope, and safety if we should stumble. What’s more, when we fail or get off track, the people around us may provide helpful guidance so that we can make adjustments. Emotionally we are reinforced, because family doesn’t abandon us when we fail, and so failure in a small part of life doesn’t feel like a total life failure. We get up, brush off the dust, and get going again.

An Analogy From Extreme Sports

If you’ve ever watched BMX jumping or freeskiing, you’ve likely seen the acrobatic tricks that they do as they are sailing through the air. Flipping and spinning, they come down successfully. What we see in those few seconds, however, took lengthy practice sessions.

One of the strategies that is used in these sessions is a foam pit, which is a large landing area filled with foam pieces. No matter how poorly a person performs the trick, they know that they won’t get hurt because the foam pit is always there. It gives them confidence to try, and keep on trying, even when they fail over and over again.

Emotional security and well-being that is provided by a family operates in a similar fashion. Even though the challenge seems risky and dangerous, family is there to catch them and tell them to try again.


The Importance for Followers of Jesus

Success as a Christian, or a follower of Jesus Christ, can feel like a challenge. Following Jeus adjusts the ways we love and relate to others, and it redirects the ways that we participate in the world. In many ways, it can feel like we are swimming against the currents of a strong river. We need to feel supported and encouraged.

Of course, there are many places in Scripture that affirm that we will be supported, such as:

I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

But, God doesn't just turn on a magical emotional ray-gun, point it at you, and zap you from heaven. Though the ultimate source of all vision and strengthening is God, he uses other people to deliver both to us. This is why we function best as we are in a church family that builds one another up and encourages one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

If you are trying to accomplish something, it is difficult to maintain energy and focus without people believing in you and sticking with you. And, when people move on from you because of your pursuits, perhaps telling you that you are incapable of success, it is like a parent telling their child they’ll never amount to anything ... and sometimes even abandoning their child.

But what if the opposite attitude happens? What if a person dreams with another person, engages with them, explores with them? What then? A person feels that their direction is promising and you become like that foam pit for them.

And this is how family works for one another. Family doesn’t abandon family.

Sometimes this may be delivered as encouragement and support, and sometimes it is helping a person to make adjustments to their vision (for perhaps the vision is not mature).

When Dr. Suess was almost not Dr. Suess …

Theodore Geisel is an example of someone who needed adjustment. His first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, had been rejected by 27 publishers. He had resolved to burn the manuscript. But, then he ran into his old college friend Mike McClintock, who, as luck would have it, had just been appointed a children’s editor at Vanguard Press.

McClintock brought Geisel into his office and Vanguard ultimately bought the book, launching the career of Dr Suess, one of the world’s most enduring children’s authors. McClintock helped Geisel make adjustments as he refashioned and restructured his book. Ultimately, this was the style of emotional support Dr. Suess needed to move forward. McClintock believed in him!

Now of course, we don’t want to encourage impractical directions or directions that are ungodly, but still it is valid to walk with someone as they discover whether or not it is practical. The point is that we continue to walk with them without abandoning them. Family doesn’t abandon family.


Jesus Does Not Abandon His Family

As I suggested earlier, Jesus saw all people who were seeking to follow the will of God to be within his family.

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35)

And, Jesus reaffirmed his steadfastness with when he said these words:

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20).

One of best illustrations of this is found in John 21. Peter, the fisherman, had risked it all by following Jesus. Jesus declared that Peter was going to be a great leader for the Gospel in Matthew 16:17-20. This is the vision that God had laid out for Peter. Yet, in a time of fear, Peter abandoned Jesus. He failed. And, I assume that Peter resigns himself back to fishing, thinking that the failure would mean that the vision was no longer valid.

But, family doesn’t abandon family, even when we fail. Jesus comes to Peter and reinforces the vision that God had designed for him. Peter needed a shot of emotional well-being and security.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:4-17)

Jesus did not reinforce the shame that Peter held, but instead provided the antidote. And we should operate the same way. Rather than dismissing a person, we serve the vision God has for their life. This is part of being a servant.

Family doesn’t abandon family when family is pushing the boundaries toward the vision God has laid out for them. Friends may move on from you. Acquaintances, co-workers, and church people may become disappointed and not want to have anything more to do with you.

But family? As you are pursuing what you believe to be good and noble, family sticks with you, dreams with you, supports you, maybe makes adjustments with you, and ultimately celebrates with you when you succeed in following God’s plans He has given to you.