Over the years I have reflected on my experiences as the youngest of four children, growing up with two parents who love me. As I recall many scenes from my childhood, I am struck by the disparity between certain situations which are repeated in millions of homes throughout the USA, and others which seem much less common, perhaps even unique. It raises the question: What is normal family life?
Is it normal to have two parents who remain faithful to each other for fifty-two years until the passing of my father last summer? Ideally, yes. Realistically, probably not, given the high divorce rates in our culture. But it ought to be normal, so long as both partners are alive. What a heritage for their children and the generations to follow!
Is it normal to have a mom who mostly stayed at home for the kids while we were young, although she later worked in daycare when we were in high school? Certainly, it is ideal for children to experience the full-time nurture of their moms while they are young. Is it always possible? Well, of course not. But it is something to which families can aspire, having a parent who is able to be present during the day for the kids while they are young.
Is it normal to have a gang of ex-cons threaten your family at a picnic in the local park, resulting in Dad holding them at gunpoint with his off-duty snubnose 38 until help arrived? Probably not, although I didn’t realize that until I was much older. By the way, help never arrived. The bad guys left. Apparently they realized Dad wasn’t going to let them near us. Imagine that. A father protecting his family.
Is it normal for a father and mother to stay up late on Christmas eve, putting together bicycles (paid for with money which was scarce) for the kids? It was a Norman Rockwell scene. It grows more meaningful through the years as I realize the sacrifice they made for our benefit. Unfortunately it is one that isn’t always common in homes.
Is it normal for a family to make a mission trip deep into Arizona and then Mexico to the tribal areas, bring clothing and food? It ought to be. It is one of the seeds planted in my heart which energizes my passion for direct involvement in mission.
Is it normal for a father to forgive his repentant son, even though it took me two years to work up the courage to ask for it because of harsh words which I spoke long before? Again, it ought to be. My Dad extended his forgiveness. And he did much more than that. He acknowledged my passing from being an adolescent to being a man, and gave me courage and freedom to move ahead with God’s purposes in my life. He said, “It takes a big man to admit when he has done something wrong. I am proud of you.”
So many other stories. So many additional memories. Some of them might surprise you. Some might even surprise my family. Are they normal? I don’t know. Maybe that isn’t the best question. Maybe I should be asking how God has worked through them to bring about the fulfillment of his purposes. Yes. Now that is something to which we all can relate.