When I think of extended family roots, I imagine homesteads I’ve never actually been to: farms my dad worked on as a lad and fields of dairy cattle. Likewise rural areas for my mother. Sometimes I think of cemeteries we’ve visited in an attempt to honor those before us, even as we’re starting to forget all the plots we ought to visit. My grandparents, sometimes great grandparents first moved away from the homesteads. Then my parents moved for work. I went off for college. But while I’ve gone through my share of seemingly rootless stages, I’ve rediscovered a family birthplace and it’s one worth pointing out to our children.
I was driving down the interstate on a roadtrip when the thought struck me. I saw the exit for the town where my husband and I married and felt that familiar rush of love and sentiment. Then it struck me: that place is the starting for my entire family. The children who blossomed in our marriage are absolutely connected to that place as a sort of family birthplace.
After all, marriage is described as a one-flesh union. Isn’t that attributing aspects of life to marriage? Marriage lives. It may be through two fallen people, but male and female come together under a special, blessed guidance of God’s Worded-Creation. Many do so with love and selflessness that can only come from Him.
So feed your marriage. Tend to it, as part of yourself and part of your family. Even on top of loving and serving your spouse as God directly calls you to do.
But apart from exploring that analogy and getting back to the point: recognizing and sharing one’s family birthplace with children can underscore, in a repeatable way, the family origin in marriage. It can begin conversations in which couples and children dwell on the the unity of the family, the God-given one-flesh unions inherent to marriage and then to parenthood.
It’s also one of the topics that helps explain something otherwise kind of complicated: some of God’s gifts have definite, within-our-lives beginnings. When one is married, there is a wedding and then one continues in marriage. There is an act and a continuing reality. (It’s obvious in many other languages, but less so in English.) And that’s just like baptism! In baptism, there is an act and a continuing reality!
Is it the end of the world if I child says, “I was baptized” instead of “I am baptized”? No, although “I was baptized” focuses on the act rather than the ongoing reality. My husband and I are married, and our children are baptized children of God! We continue to dwell in those gifts from God!
So do I think it’s a big deal if there isn’t a family birthplace you can name? No. But if you happen to have one and pass it along the way, maybe its an opportunity to teach, or remind, ourselves and our children about God’s gifts in and through marriage and family.
We will all need to broach topics of marriage, family, love, sex, and so much more. And, as society redefines and places its own emphases and understandings, it will be helpful for us as Christian parents to be intentional, bringing up God’s roles and gifts through marriage to our children of all ages. After all, marriage is foundational. And no parental marriage waits until a child’s puberty to exert an influence on him or her.
All it took to invite a big ol’ family discussion was hollering back, “Look! It’s our family birthplace!” Every age joined in.
I can’t always do justice to marriage abstractly. I can’t always be a shining role model in practice either! Even so, my husband and I—and our kids!—are in this together. And, whether they remember the name of the town or our anniversary or not, they now understand just a little better just how “together” we are.
It’s not in Family Vocations, but I almost want to reread it to see how the idea would fit in. 🙂