January 13, 2014

Lesson 165: Our Family Philosophy

I recently visited some friends in the hospital as they joyfully welcomed their new daughter to the world. How fun it was to be present as they began this new chapter as parents! Though both were profoundly pleased with their daughter, the husband reflected, "It's so crazy that we are her parents, but we barely know her. We have to get to know her."

It's true. One day there's a bump in your abdominal area, and the next you are holding a chubby, helpless infant in your arms and being told its yours. Even more incredible, two days later you are sent home with said infant and given the task of loving and caring for it for the remainder of its life.

You become a parent before you have any experience being a parent.

The same is true with marriage. Genesis 2:24 tells us, "Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." So, one day you are a carefree, single girl, and the next you are someone's wife ... forever.

You become a spouse before you have any experience being married. 

Not only during these life changes do you take on new roles (mother / wife, father / husband), but in this process, you are forming a family!

You become a family right from the start!

Our little family has come together rather quickly. In December Mark and I celebrated five years since our family's birth, and already, we have two little chicks.

As a result, our family "culture" or the way we do things as a family has been all over the place. Clearly, we have always had a desire to direct our family in a way that is honoring to the Lord. But, what does that practically look like?

Our church follows a set of guidelines called the Westminster Confession of Faith. Here the basic tenets of our faith are laid out in an understandable fashion. Though we do not believe that this confession is authoritative in the same way the Bible is, we acknowledge how helpful this summary is for the practical working out of our faith.

In a similar way, I have come to believe that it is helpful for a family to have a loose set of guiding principles or ideals that set the stage for how life is lived. Recently, through blog investigation, reading, and enlightening conversation, I have had a philosophy or way of living impressed upon my heart and fleshed out in Scripture.

Specifically, a verse comes from 1 Thessalonians 4. In this letter, Paul is admonishing the church of Thessalonica to stop worrying so much about the return of the Lord. It seems that in their speculation and expectation of Christ's return, they had grown lazy and stopped working. Paul essentially says, listen, no one knows when it will happen, so get on with your lives. Live as if it could be at any time.

He encourages them to love one another deeply.

Finally, he writes in verse 11, "aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you."

More and more, I have realized how this verse provides an excellent framework for the ordering of one's daily life.

First, love one another. Love your brothers in Christ. Love the church. This is to be a high priority. Caring for and giving to Christ's church has got to be at the forefront of our daily life.

Next, verse 11 suggests quietness, simplicity, and work.

In Genesis 2:15, after God created man, it says, "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." Before the fall, while man was still residing in Paradise, he was directed towards work.

This verse also implies a sense of consistency. These are types of attitudes and actions that are to be "typical" of your lives. It is not addressing the rare or exceptional situation. Rather, this is how your "normal" is to look. 

Thus, through making connections concerning all these things, we have sort of centered on our family philosophy.  

We desire to live simple, yet full, quality, consistent lives. 

This philosophy works itself out in a number of ways. Allow me to give you a few examples.

FOOD: We desire to eat healthy, wholesome food. It is good for us to eat, and it is good for us to eat well. It is okay if the food simple, as long as we are receiving the required nutrients. The goal of eating is to live, to have energy, and to enjoy each other's company. We also like for it to taste good.

I could very easily live off of Cheerios and toast. Though Cheerios and toast fit the "simple" criteria, they fail miserably in terms of "fullness" and "quality." It must be both.

Often, if we cook dinner, it will end up being some sort of meat (usually done on the grill), yummy grilled vegetables, and brown rice. When we cook, we usually create a quality, healthy meal.

Yet, finally, there is the matter of consistency. As I discussed here, this is something we have struggled with ... consistently eating full meals. We have given ourselves grace here, due to the craziness of our schedules. However, we are trying. We want to be consistent, and we want to teach our children good eating habits.

CLOTHES: I would love to dress to the trends. Seriously, if I had time, money, and the motivation, I think I could really indulge in fashion. However, with our philosophy of life, I don't think it's really that necessary.

As the life philosophy trickles down into my clothing choices, I am finding that I want to wear simple, comfortable, well-fitting clothes. Note what I did not say! I did not say cheap, inexpensive, or good deals. Part of the idea with this philosophy is that if you purchase quality, simple items, they should be able to last longer and continue to look nice. I think it is totally worth it to pay good money for a classic pair of jeans that will last for years.

HOME DECORATING: I cannot claim to have lived by the simple and less, but quality philosophy for our entire marriage as far as our home is concerned. I love to decorate redecorate! Thus, I am very prone to buy a $10 pillow just to change things once in a while. Honestly, one pillow is probably fine. However, it becomes a problem when the pillow leads to a new rug to new curtains to a new light to a new wall color ... which stimulates the desire for a new throw pillow! If you give a mouse a cookie ... 

After four years, Mark and I have a nice base for our home. Each room is functional and pretty. I think (and hope) that we are now in the upgrading phase. This phase does not happen quickly. It is calculated and intentional.

When we first moved to Charlotte, we bought a couch and oversize chair off craigslist for $200. Even though both were in a great condition, they were originally from IKEA. Thus, we know that we will have to replace them at some point. 

The philosophy works itself out in saying, when we replace them, we do not want to do so with more furniture from IKEA. Rather, we search and research, and hopefully, purchase furniture for the long haul.

 I, as much as anyone, love a good deal! One time I came into seminary raving about how much money I had saved at the Baby Gap, and a professor wisely noted, "yes, but you had to spend to save."

It's true. It is impossible get through life without ever spending any money. The hope is that in recognizing resources as the Lord's provision, we will make our spending choices wisely. We will purchase simple, yet quality items.

If it seems as if all my examples have pertained to ways in which we spend money, you are right. Unfortunately, this blog post has become rather long, and so you'll have to come back to find out how this philosophy works itself out in the management of our time.

For now, I wonder, have you ever considered your family culture? What sort of principles or ideas guide the way in which you live?

Lesson Learned: A family life philosophy can act as an anchor in the sea of life. Especially if the philosophy itself is anchored in the Word of God. 

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