So What is Family “Closeness”?

As the sibling relationship series continues, I want to offer some heartfelt thoughts…and cautions. Any time family relationships comes up it stirs emotion.

One of my readers asked the excellent question, “What do you mean by close”?

What if your closest relationships are with those outside your family and everyone is fine with that? Is family closeness something for which we reach and seek to build, or something we trust God to do if He chooses? Does the Bible require biological families to be best friends? Is He more pleased with siblings who would rather vacation with each other than with anyone else?

Family “closeness” varies. There is no biblical definition of what family relationships should look like — except that the Bible is clear about how Christians should treat one another. We are called to love. Serve. Encourage. Rebuke. Be patient. Forgive. Be humble. Confess faults and sins. Be affectionate. Believe the best. Not be critical. God’s righteous demands are required of all of us in every relationship, including with our family members.

Whew. Hard stuff. Living this way is only possible because of the help provided by the indwelling Spirit of God! But because He died and sent the Holy Spirit to live in us, we have the power to obey Him. And to be forgiven when we don’t.

This series is for parents. It’s not designed to address the many aspects of adult sibling relationships. Nor is it meant to define what sibling closeness should look like in every family. We can only be certain on what something should “look like” when the Bible is clear.

As parents, we usually want everything about our kid’s lives to be better than ours. We want to help the avoid youthful sin; have more money; get a better education; struggle less; make fewer mistakes; suffer less; and be close to their siblings when they grow up so we can all have Norman Rockwell Christmases together. Whatever we do now doesn’t guarantee results later. Adult children make their own decisions and sometimes choose to forsake parental instruction to go their own way. And sometimes God uses the very trials we want them to avoid to be the conduit through which grace and change come. The simple fact is your five and seven-year-olds might agree now to be besties when they grow up, then end up living on opposite sides of the country and rarely communicate on a deeper than superficial level.

The question I am attempting to provide a response to is, “How can I do my part to see my kids love each other, now and in the future?”

Dear friends, Bob and Julie, and their expanding family. Such precious memories of our years together in northern Virginia. Our oldest daughters remain dear friends to this day.

Please don’t read my words — or the words of my kids who are contributing to this series– and think we are trying to paint a picture to hang on the walls of your home. Honestly, just doing this series has reminded us all of the “dangers, toils and snares” through which our family has walked: things that could have divided us rather than held us together. And as Jake said on Friday, we know many families who have strong and close relationships (like a family we dearly love pictured here) and don’t see our family as unique or special.

So, no, every family doesn’t have to share our definition or practice of closeness. But every parent who professes Christ as Lord has a responsibility to not only uphold biblical principles in how we treat and love others (help, Lord!) but to also teach our kids to do the same. What better place to begin and practice than in our own home?

Believe me, our family doesn’t take our relationships for granted. In fact, we’ve been tested enough that we sometimes marvel at God’s faithfulness.

I was raised by a mother who showed me what a family legacy can look like when people decide to love each other through sin; disappointment; grief; gossip; critical judgement; distance; and all manner of offenses. Then He gave Benny and me seven kids who we dared believe could emerge from a childhood fraught with common sibling meanness, bickering, jealousy and selfishness with friendships purified by forgiveness and loyal love.

My hope in doing this series is to cast “a” vision — not “the” vision — for doing the hard work day in and day out to train children to obey Biblical commands for how to treat their brothers and sisters. Our parental role can’t be results driven, but obedience-to-God driven. I know godly parents who worked hard to build a culture of love between their kids, only to see them walk away from the family altogether. The comfort these parents have is they did their best to teach the Bible’s one anothers to their children. Through disappointment they are learning to understand the story is not over for them or their children.

Our oldest daughter, Jaime, has four children. She learned a lot about how to manage a home and family by being Mom’s helper when she was growing up. She also learned that having daughters who bite and pull each other’s hair is nothing to worry about as long as they are “forced” to love each other.

You’ll read her story tomorrow.