If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be over fond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry.He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? —1 Timothy 3:1-5 (The Message)
“I must grasp life at its depth.”
Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, notes that this world needs less busy people and less intelligent people, but more deep people. Living life deeply requires an awareness of being, and that awareness of being involves the relationships and the communities of which we are part. The foundational community, of which all of us are part, whether biological or adoptive, is the family. The family is where we learn who we are, where we are shaped through life experiences. It’s a cornerstone block of society and culture. However, the basic family structure in our society, is slowly dissolving. The very grass roots of our societal structure are breaking down. And Yes, this break down has even hit the church.
So how do we begin to re-build this all important system of our culture? What do we as members of a community of Christ-followers do in order to reconstruct one of the cornerstone blocks of society? I believe it hinges on becoming deep people within our own families, becoming aware of life in its present form, and taking responsibility for our life experiences. What our culture and churches need are not more people who are brilliant and busy, but more people who are bona fide.
For some time now I have been reflecting on Rembrandt’s painting, The Return of the Prodigal. If you observe the painting, you will understand the compulsion to want to see yourself as the prodigal. You know what I mean; the rebellious son who has wasted away everything good his father had given him, now hesitantly returning home to find himself loved again with the unconditional love of the forgiving father. Unfortunately, I tend to find myself like the older brother more times than not. In The Return of the Prodigal, Henri Nouwen considered this point when he wrote,
“It is hard for me to concede that this bitter, resentful, angry man might be closer to me in a spiritual way than the younger lustful brother. Yet the more I think about the elder son, the more I recognize myself in him.”
How I would rather see myself as the son that came to his senses, than the proud son who fails to recognize his own sin. There is much to learn from this painting, just as there is much to learn from one’s own relationships within the family. Throughout my newly discovered journey of wondering and perceiving Rembrandt’s rendition of The Return of the Prodigal, I have come to one important conclusion—this work of art is a family portrait. It is a portrait of every family that has ever existed, or ever will exist. In this family there is dysfunction and stability; pain, and healing. There are broken relationships and forgiveness; unconditional love and pride.
Finally what I see in this picture are God-created people, embracing their sin-bent defaults. What I have discovered along the way, and what I am continuing to discover is simply this: my family relationships are worth my digging into my belief systems in order to uncover the positive and negative meanings I have created around my relationships to other people. This family portrait describes your family as well as it describes mine.
Next: Slow Down- Running Together