This weekend my husband and I had a wonderful privilege to be with a Hispanic church for a Family Retreat. The families had been saving their money since January so they could participate in this event, and around 200 members of the church were there. It was incredible to see whole families with children of all ages, singles, all types of families, to be playing, eating, and worshiping together. I was impressed with how the emphasis was on being together and playing together. Instead of long days of conferences and workshops to learn more "content" there was only one workshop session (2 hours) each day, and a short time of worship or devotion each day. The rest of the time was spent doing activities as family groups (three or four families on a team). Even though it rained non-stop Friday through Sunday night, they played together–even outside in the rain.
Family is one of the major metaphors God uses in the Bible to describe his relationship with us.
Not only do families serve as models of God’s relationship with us and His love for us, (although an imperfect picture because we are not perfect), but I believe family is one of the major tools God uses to mold His very nature and character into us. The family is a perfect opportunity to reflect God’s glory! Where else but in a family are we challenged to show on-going, everlasting unconditional love? Where else but in a family are we pressed to love even when it is undeserved?
Additionally, in a family, there are no masks. Family members see what we really are, who we really are. Our imperfections are highlighted by the reaction of our family members to us and our behavior and attitudes. If we have ears to hear and eyes to see, God can use our family to make us aware of our stubbornness, selfishness, impatience, and laziness (just to name a few areas we have not surrendered to God).
God frequently challenges us to grow in our faith and trust in Him in areas of family relationships. Sometimes it is in the form of financial stressors the family faces, or a crisis in health, or maybe trusting God to change our spouse, or believing that God will provide all your family members need in terms of support when away from home. Children will never have a greater opportunity to learn to believe in God than those years they are at home and get to watch their parents trust God in the difficult times.
One of the greatest challenges and privileges we have as Christian counselors is to work with families. Working with several people at one time is not for the faint-hearted. It is difficult to balance the voices that speak, and desires that flood the counseling room, to manage the quick emotions that surface at unexpected times. But it is rich to see God at work in a transformational way in a family.
I wonder if fewer families would need counseling if more churches had family retreats, encouraging families to play, worship and be together, forming bonds and memories that will never be forgotten. May we all make family unity our goal that God may be glorified!