The Family as a Kingdom
How do we see our families? We often experience them as a great amount of work! Dishes always to be done, ironing never quite caught up with, squeezing in personal time together, running off to baseball games, being the eternal taxi driver, etc., etc. Family life can also be a source of great stress and worry when someone is sick, or money is not there for an emergency, or the job is not secure. It can also be the place of joy and sorrow when our children experience success, win a competition, or celebrate another birthday, or when a child becomes rebellious, or rejects our love. All of these are part of the mosaic of family life.
But there is one aspect of family that we don’t often grasp until it is over. Family life gives each father and mother the experience of having their own little kingdom for a short period of time. They are the supreme rulers (and yet are utterly bound by the needs of their children!) When the children are very young, there is a profound sense of being a community together. Mothers and fathers create their own unique culture in their home: what rituals they have for birthdays, how they will pray together, how to celebrate Christmas, what types of games they play together, how they will read books out loud, etc. Dad and Mom shape and determine the world they and their children live in, and are like rulers in a wonderfully small world. They get to say how things will go…at least for a limited period of time. The great joy when the children are young is that everyone is under the same roof. Everyone depends on each other. Gathering around the table, meal after meal, we become bonded together. Our differing personalities, our joys, our squabbles and our idiosyncrasies all become part of family history. (Once I had rented a log splitter and tried strenuously to start it up, but to no avail. I was preparing to hitch it up to the van to take it back to the shop, when my youngest boy asked, “What’s this switch for, Dad?” It turned out to be the On-Off switch which I had overlooked! Doctorates are of little use before the powerful common sense of a little boy! Needless to say, this incident has become part of our family lore.)
Father and mothers have their own kingdom, with their little subjects, for just a few short years. It is a time when children are totally open to their parents and long to be with them, absorbing their love and attention. In a way, God is giving us the opportunity to create our own Edens- at least for a brief period of time, and we need to make the most of it. Then comes the stage when each child must grow into their own identity, assert their own will power, develop their own interests outside and apart from their family. This is right and healthy. At this point, the family does not resemble a kingdom so much as a hectic flight school where each child is learning to take off and take hold of their own life. But the success of their flight depends upon how well Dad and Mom have ruled their precious kingdom and made it into a secure experience of trust and love. O Lord, Thy kingdom come… especially in our families.