This post cuts deep. It was a message shared on one of the days of the week long retreat at Divine Mercy Parish in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos. At first, I wondered what else new could be said about the family. After all, we all knew that the family is special to God. As ears were tuned in, we began to appreciate why there are so many attacks against the family, as the message hit home and prompted its listeners to action, me inclusive.
ROLE OF MAN AND WOMAN
The speaker started by citing Genesis 2:21-25 which describes what became of man in the creation of woman by God who “took one of his ribs and filled its place with flesh.” He explained that Adam’s rib was taken and not his head or his hand or his feet, because Man was to walk side by side with Woman. He further explained that the first instinct of Man is to protect his rib cage and so Man is to always seek to protect Woman. The image of a boxer fighting in a ring sprung to mind with his opponent jabbing him at his side and him seeking to protect his rib cage.
The speaker stated that a wife is to always make her husband look good and that husband and wife are made to complement each other. I recalled the common passage read at weddings and what was said at my wedding to this end and it made me ponder whether I had failed in this duty of mine to make my husband to always looks good – as in, always.
As I was conducting a self analysis, he pointed out a key role of the bridegroom toward his bride that is often ignored – a bridegroom is meant to groom, nurture and tend for the bride. I had come across that word so many times, that I had ignored the import of the word “groom.” A husband is to nurture his wife into the person who he wants her to be since a woman is not a finished product. Now, when he said this, the woman in me cringed. How could I not be a finished product? But upon deeper reflection, it began to make sense. I have seen the amazing transformation of women who have been nurtured and tended to by their husbands. It’s like they radiate completeness. This attention towards the wife brings about amazing rewards for the husband who reaps more than he could have conceived. Unfortunately, in some homes we see the wife being the one who is grooming the man which is essentially putting the cart before the horse. I thought about my sons and how I needed to up my game to ensure that they never lost sight of their duty to groom their future wives and not expect that their wives would be the ones to groom them.
FAMILY AS FOUNDATION OF SOCIETY
The speaker continued to explain how the home is the domestic church and the elementary school which forms the basis of society. He stressed how the Catholic Church places a premium on the family since the foundations of society are laid in the home. I often find myself defending the position of annulments and the difficulty in obtaining a divorce in the Catholic church but as the speaker continued, I began to fully appreciate how the Church esteemed the family. It considers it the basic building block of all human relationships, capable of changing society. This can be seen in the family of Abraham and Sarah and Joseph and Mary which undoubtedly changed the society of their time.
He stated that there were 4 basic principles for every family which are:
Severance: This principle covered the fact that some relationships need to empty into another. I once read a post about the unique nature of a girl child who is unable to detach from her parents and I wonder if this is true in my life. Surely, if truly some relationships are to be severed, this original attachment to one’s immediate family should not be, regardless of whether you are a girl child or not. It also covers those friendships which have to cease to exist due to the discomfort or dislike of your spouse towards them.
Permanence: This refers to the popular term to “cleave to your spouse” which I must admit, is one action that is difficult to sustain. The actual word “cleave” is also a strange word since it has two very different meanings. It can mean to split apart with a sharp instrument or to stick together with glue. It is upon this adhering to and remaining faithful that the principle of permanence is hinged. To constantly adhere to someone regardless of what they do to you or what it entails is one thing, but I have found out that doing so without any end in sight, brings a whole new dimension. It is similar to walking along a path not knowing the final destination. The path seems endless where there are no road signs. It is the grace of God which provides the road signs for both people who are to journey together and to cleave together for life. Yup – permanence means for life!
Unity: This principle is simple and yet difficult to follow as husband and wife are meant to become one flesh. It makes me wonder about those who redefine marriage as a union between two beings and not necessarily between a man and a woman. How exactly are they to become one flesh? It also makes me wonder about the unity of mind and purpose between a husband and wife. My husband had mentioned Amos 3:3 which underscore this in the question “Do two walk together unless they are agreed?”
Intimacy: This principle is one which is often ignored but is very key. The speaker explained that Adam and Eve were naked in Eden but they felt no shame which reflected their intimacy with one another and it was only when they sinned, that they sought to cover their nakedness in shame.
FAMILY CALLING/ VOCATION
I recall having a conversation once over the need to determine our family vision just like we have a corporate strategy or mission and vision statement. The speaker pointed out that since each family is a unit of persons, there is not only and individual but also a family calling by God. He asked us what was the PURPOSE of our family? He explained that some non-believers argue that the family is just an evolutionary process to bring up children and to continue the evolutionary process. However, as a Christian, the family is meant to create a Christian environment or space where God is to be honored. I was taken aback with this realization, as I had not seen my family as a place where God is to be primarily honored and was forced to ask myself what indeed is God’s purpose for my family.
He stressed that creating family relationships mirrors the Godhead relationship since God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit co-exist as a family. The Father honors the Son, the Son worships the Father, the Father and Son glorify the Spirit and the Spirit worships the Father and Son. This symbiotic relationship is how our family relationships are meant to be since God is glorified in the family just as He is glorified in the God-head and Trinity.
He further explained that God the Father sees His glory and radiance in the Son and the Son sees all that He is when He looks at the Father and the Holy Spirit sees the brilliance of itself. All three persons of the Godhead are constantly reflecting each other’s glory as they look and point to each other and are in complete awe by complementing each other. This reminds me of a dear passage to me which underscores my ecumenical ministry. John 17 is the longest prayer of Jesus where he not only stresses unity for us but also talks of being glorified by the Father. John 17:22 particularly hits home when He prays to God the Father that:
“I have given them the glory you have given me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity…”
The speaker drew the parallel that husband and wife are supposed to reflect this glory, as they look at each other and at their fruits who are their children. I remember when my son and daughter were born and my husband and I looked at each other in sheer delight. We marveled and were at awe at how such a perfect little creature could have been born of us. This is the awe and reverence of one another which is reflected in the Godhead and it is one which husband and wife should have for each other and sustain. Wow! What a task! What a family calling! Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit indeed!
LOVE AND SUBMISSION
When the speaker mentioned the word “submission,” my ears tuned in further. He started out by saying that Isaiah 54:5-6 shows that God is our husband – “For your Maker is to marry you: Yahweh Sabaoth is his name…Who could abandon his first beloved? says your God.” He explained that the Church is the bride of Christ and that Christ lavishes His love and protection on the Church. He also explained that Paul was one of the greatest advocates of women’s rights contrary to what is said about him. Ephesians 5:25 sees him break away from the patriarchal society of the time by mandating husbands to love their wives which was not common since sexual promiscuity was the norm and wives were only meant for procreation at that time.
The speaker pointed out that we are constantly submitting to one thing or another in our lives and that Ephesians 5:24 requiring wives to submit should be read in context. Submission can be seen in every aspect of life and is needed to guarantee unity and order. He gave the example of a plumber having to submit to the electrician who has wired a house and a driver having to submit to a person who overtakes him on the road. Indeed, it took me a while to internalize Ephesians 5:24 and put it into practice and with the perfect example of Mother Mary to help me and her spouse the Holy Spirit to guide me, I have made some progress. Suffice to say that without submission, things will crash including the union between husband and wife.
RESPECT TO PARENTS
Scripture also underscores the importance of recognizing the authority of parents in a family since God has authority over his children. Isaiah 63:16 and Matthew 6:9 allow us to call God our father and we are to relate to parents as we relate to God. Sirach / Ecclesiasticus 3 stresses the importance of obeying parents and it is a shame that non-Catholics expunged this book from their bibles, as it goes to the root of why some families are disfunctional and why some children have ended up the way they have. Sirach 3:3 states that “whoever honors his father atones for his sins; he who gives glory to his mother prepares a treasure for himself.”
The blessings that are received when parents are obeyed is as rewarding as the effect of disobeying and not respecting one’s parents is grave. Sirach 3:16 reveals that “the man who abandons his father is like a blasphemer; he who annoys his mother is cursed by the Lord.” The speaker also cautioned mothers to be wary of the power of the tongue when angry with their children, as their words have the power of destroying their children’s destinies as seen in Sirach 3:9 which states that “a father’s blessings secures the future of his children, but a mother’s curse destroys them at their roots”
ATTACK ON FAMILY
The priest stressed that the attack on the human family is the best way to attack the Godhead of the Trinity since satan knows the importance of family and its nature to reflect the Godhead. Satan is also aware of the blessings that are abound in the family and that it is the moral strength of society.
He advised us that we need to devise a strategy to fight this onslaught on the family and to fight smart since good intentions without a strategy will go to nought. He emphasized that the most effective weapon of warfare is the Word of God since it is Spirit and Life. He stated that we hear a barrage of unpleasant words daily and the only way to overcome the negativity of such words is to hold fast to the Word of God and be healed as stated in Psalm 107:20 – “He sent forth his word and healed them and rescued them from destruction.”
He stated that we must spend time with the Word of God and ensure that our children hear us talking and listening to the Word of God, be it in the car or at home as an effective strategy to protect our families from the spirit of negativity which flows from the daily unpleasantries heard.
He concluded by asking us why it is very rare to see a Jew as a menial worker and explained that it went beyond the notion that they were blessed. He revealed the reason that they were blessed is due to the ritual done every week and the fact that they abide by the Word of God and use it to build up their family. Every Sabbath at lunch, the father blesses each of his children speaking the Word of God over their lives, then the children chant Proverbs 31 to their mother and then the husband blesses his wife. Indeed, how difficult it will be for satan to attack such a family!
The attack on the family is real and I often wonder why so many couples fail to devise strategies to combat this attack. If satan succeeds in destroying families, he has succeeded in destroying society and the image of the Godhead on earth. Indeed the amount of energy being put in the career or business of spouses will come to nought if the very reason for their toil crumbles. We need to reorientate ourselves to fight with the Word of God and seek God’s purpose for our family.
Does our family glorify God and reflect the Godhead’s symbiotic love and reverence for each other? We need to speak God’s word upon our marriages to heal it and align it to God’s will. We need to recognize the authority given to parents and tap into the blessings therefrom. We need to bless our children and loved ones with the Word of God.
It is my prayer that as we read this, we resolve never to give a foothold to the entreaties and devises of satan any longer and arm ourselves daily in our strategy against him. We ask this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.