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When you think of family, you may think of your mother and father, as well as your children. Perhaps your grandma and grandpa come to mind. Or maybe even a cousin, or an aunt and uncle. Nieces and nephews also come to mind for many people. But in my world, it’s my children. Even above my wife, which is okay with her, because she is cool with that. My personal experience with other relatives has been quite a mix. I will explain more about my “mixed” family in another chapter.
In the summer of 2012, I had the honor of baptizing my one and only son. It was an amazing experience. As a matter of fact, words cannot describe the joy that the experience has brought to me. I was privileged to lead my son to Christ when he was six years old. And although it took eight years to walk into those baptismal waters, it was well worth the wait. I will cherish the moment for the remainder of my days. Alex is an amazing young man. He is not only extremely intelligent; he has the heart of a lover. I am excited to witness the path God has ordained for his life.
I also have a twenty-four year old daughter. As I shared in chapter three, on the day she was born, Jessica was the first blood relative I had ever laid my eyes upon. For the first seven years of her life, Jessica and I were inseparable. There are hundreds of photographs, hours of videos, and an imprint in my heart and mind of our times together that neither time nor space will ever erase. Her mother and I divorced in 1997, and not long after that, Jessica made a decision that has torn away a piece of my heart. She decided that she no longer wanted to have contact with me. There is obviously much more to this story; but the bottom line is that my daughter and I have not had any sort of relationship since that time. For years I have prayed for reconciliation with my precious daughter. Only recently have I prayed for that very thing, but added, “If it is my Father’s will.”
Somewhere within the heart of this rebel, I only desire a reconciliation if it is within the will of God for both of our lives. Jessica received Christ when she was seven, so I know that someday we will be reunited; even if it happens on a street paved in gold.
In June of 2012, I married a woman after God’s own heart. And when I say “after”, I mean she is relentlessly pursuing the heart of God. One of the many blessings of this union is that I now have three young daughters as well, and the responsibility that comes with that is all at once amazing and fearful. Like the example given within the life of Job, God will so often replace that which we have lost. What I have also learned is that even though God gives us back much more than we ever lose, we still often times live with the heartache of our loss.
Such is the power of love.
My wife is an amazing woman, if for no other reason; she somehow “gets” me. She has signed on to this rebellious call on my life. And I also have extended family that I cherish. Family is important to me.
In Luke chapter 14, verse 26, Jesus gives His thoughts on all of this. He says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.”
Now hold on there. Jesus is saying I have to hate my family? Hate my children? I have to be honest when I tell you that for a very long time, I avoided this scripture. It was pretty much the “deal killer.” I’m sorry, but if you expect me to hate my children, then I am pretty much done. Besides, didn’t he call me to love my neighbor as myself? How could you possibly expect me to love my neighbor, who insists on sitting right outside my window, telling profanity laced “war stories” and hate my children? Or hate my wife, who they are keeping awake. You want me to love the prostitute selling herself outside the truck stop, but hate my mother and father?
And as I hurl these questions into the cosmos, instead of immediate answers, I am reminded of Matthew 5 and verses 43 thru 45 which records Jesus as saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
And there I am, seemingly being instructed by my King to “hate” my family, but to love and even pray for my enemies. What a peculiar way of living. All at once backwards and Holy.
Some might say rather rebellious.
Hate is a word that we tend to give too much power. By definition, it’s simply a lesser form of like. So I am not supposed to have a “lesser form of like” for my enemies, yet somehow conjure up one towards my family.
Semantics are a strange animal.
I’ve thought about this passage a lot. Prayed about it. Meditated upon it, whatever you want to call my basic analytical approach to most everything. I have ripped the word “enemy” apart. In my mind, an actual enemy is someone who is pro-actively seeking to cause me harm. In all honesty, I can’t come up with one. The devil is referred to as being our enemy, and I can assure you that my feelings toward him way surpass a lesser form of like.
It all can appear to be rather confusing if you slice and dice, replace truth for metaphor or simply try to over analyze the Word as I have a tendency to do. But in all actuality it is pretty simple.
Love God and people.