Friday, February 24, 2012

What Defines Your Family?

"Your family will be a blessing to all people."  (Genesis 28:14b, CEV)

Dating back to the mid-12th century, a family coat of arms was used to identify soldiers in battle, so warriors could determine whether a man was friend or foe.  A full century later, even the most common citizens were using this symbol as a seal to identify their family.  Even colors upon them held significance.  Blue meaning loyalty.  Red meaning martyrdom or military strength.  Gold represented generosity, and so on.  Some pictures within the shield needed no explanation, such as crowns, crosses and the like. Others like the lion, which stands for bravery or power, and the fleur de lis, which stands for the Trinity, need some deeper exploration.

While it may serve as a curiosity in our modern world, this background begs the question, What would your family coat of arms look like if you had to design it today?  What defines your family?  What are the hallmarks that your family is known by?

No doubt a family with a special needs child could have things like wheelchairs, medications, the letters IEP or even tears on their family coat of arms.  Few of us would have symbols related to great wealth on our shields, as finances seem to be drained by all the therapies, hospitalizations and extras required to care for children we love.  In fact, our heads may be so foggy from all the extreme demands required just to get through each day that it would take us awhile to contemplate such a thing.

I would challenge you not to be defined as a family by your tragedies but by your triumphs.  As an example, my family could be defined by over 2,000 needles our son has been jabbed with, but we'd prefer to be recalled for our silly impressions of Sponge Bob characters.  People might know us by the rejection our youngest daughter has experienced due to her ADHD, SPD, severe allergies and social deficits.  But we hope instead that people remember us as a family who enjoys any sort of ski, and who has a youngest child that is an incredible athlete.  In fact, you couldn't accurately capture who our family is without including the cross of Christ, some sign of hysterical laughter, dogs, cats and lots of books.

My point is this -- God blessed each of us with our own little families.  They may not include all that we had hoped for or expected.  But there are many unique qualities that belong to that small group of people alone.  Common experience, likes and dislikes, memories, treasures abound for no other individuals but those in this small circle of love.  We need to take the time to pause and reflect on this gift.  Thinking on such things strengthens us as a family.  This is how God designed us to be.  And it is His gift to each of us as we face the challenges of the wider world.

Pray:  Lord, I know sometimes I wish there were a return receipt that came along with them, but I thank you for the gift of my family.  Open my eyes to the good in each member, and to treasure those things that uniquely define us.

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