Having grown up in a “non-traditional” family I’ve often allowed myself to fall into despair about what the future holds for my own family. I experienced my childhood between every-other weekends and talk of child support and alimony. Thankfully, I also continued to be concerned with Barbies, days at the creek, and neighborhood kickball games . . . my childhood was not all lost.
A favorite reflection from the book In Conversation with God (by Francis Fernandez, it comes highly recommended) reminded me “We should never forget the first thing Jesus chose to sanctify was the home.” This reminder brought me to tears as I read it from my pew at the cathedral one evening. My tears were not out of sadness or self-pity (although that would not have been out of the ordinary) but instead from a place of deep gratitude – gratitude for the gift that is family. I thought about what gifts come with the family: the gift of siblings around the dinner table, the gift of helping dad in the garage, the gift of offering a sibling five more minutes in the home’s only bathroom, the gift of all pitching in to prepare for company. These are gifts that I was still given despite the brokenness that existed. Gifts that I will continue to find if I keep looking for them and inviting them in.
My tears of gratitude were also directed at the plans God has for me “plans for welfare and not for harm . . . a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). His plans can’t be snatched away, not even by a tarnished home life, at least not if He is allowed to be the one in charge.
It is true Jesus did and does sanctify the home – whether a home with both parents or just one. At home He gives us, like in no other place, a school for virtue. There we are constantly being invited to learn and practice charity, compassion, patience, and cheerfulness.
That same evening after reading Francis Fernandez’s reflection in Denver’s breathtaking cathedral, Archbishop Chaput pointed out that just after Jesus tells His disciples about the indissolubility of marriage He firmly reminds them of their need to be like little children. This is no coincidence. To be like little children is precisely what we all need to do. We all need to recognize ourselves as being without status, unimportant, and as not being owed a single thing. With that attitude we can truly accept that which God gives us from His loving hand. Even if it is a family or home that is broken . . . difficult . . . wounded . . .
The reality that Jesus chose to sanctify the family before anything else is joyful and hope-filled. For those of us who are striving to see how God will make straight the crooked paths of our families’ pasts, we can know that He wasn’t excluding us when he decided to pour graces and blessings upon the home. He did not choose to sanctify only perfect families, but the jacked up ones as well. He withholds His goodness from no one and makes available His love for us all. It is within the home that we are first invited to love as God loves- without limits- even if that home’s foundation is cracked or crumbling.
Instead of being homesick at the thought of what I’ve missed, I’m going to lift my eyes up to the hills and wait for the help that comes from the Lord, who chose to first sanctify the home – the place which prepares us for our eternal home.
The article was originally published at FOCUS.