This letter is very different from my regular letters in that it is a direct quotation of a blog that I receive each Friday. Under the title “Is Your Family Too Friendly?” it deals with a question that concerns me greatly in our current culture. There are families that are dysfunctional in that they appear to have no structure, but there are others who are so restrictive that adult children seem unable to move beyond parental concern (control) to establish their own identity.
“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:23-24
When some individuals begin to develop boundaries, they say, “But my mother (or father, or sister, or brother) is my best friend.” They often feel fortunate that, in these times of family stress, their best friends are the family in which they were raised. They don’t think they need an intimate circle of friends besides their own parents and siblings.
They misunderstand the biblical function of the family. God intended the family to be an incubator in which we grow the maturity, tools, and abilities we need. Once the incubator has done its job, it’s supposed to encourage the young adult to leave the nest, connect to the outside world (see Genesis 2:24), and establish a spiritual and emotional family system on one’s own. The adult is free to do whatever God has designed for him or her.
Over time, we are to accomplish God’s purposes of spreading his love to the world, to make disciples of all the nations (see Matthew 28:19–20). Staying emotionally locked in to the family of origin frustrates this purpose. It’s hard to see how we’ll change the world when we live on the same street.
No one can become a truly biblical adult without setting some limits, leaving home, and cleaving somewhere else. Otherwise, we never know if we have forged our own values, beliefs, and convictions—our very identity—or if we are mimicking the ideas of our family.
Can family be friends? Absolutely. But if you have never questioned, set boundaries, or experienced conflict with your family members, you may not have an adult-to-adult connection with your family. If you have no other “best friends” than your family, you need to take a close look at those relationships. You may be afraid of separating, individuating, and becoming an autonomous adult.
(This devotional is drawn from Boundaries in Marriage, by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.)
I realise that this is a thought-provoking article, but it addresses an issue that is extremely pertinent in many homes today. As parents we appreciate it when our children need our help and we feel that we can help them develop in life, but in reality we can feel as though we are losing a purpose in life when they begin establishing their own lifestyle. The flipside of this issue is that certain adults enjoy not having to take responsibilities. If someone else makes all the decisions life is a lot simpler.
In 1 Cor 13 Paul writes about becoming a man and putting away childish things. This transition is vital. Those who do not make the break will never become mature, reaching the potential that God has for them. Parenthood is a temporary responsibility, we must let it go. Childhood and adolescence are similarly temporary experiences and must be consciously and decisively discarded as we discard clothes that have become too small for us. May God help all of us become the people He has designed us to be.
Growing in Him,