(In my last post, Multigenerational Family Communities, we discussed the major theme of multigenerational families in Scripture and its great importance to the Kingdom of God. I’ll build on that post here.)
Six years ago my wife and I packed up our bags and moved from England to Southern California, where we have never lived, to join both our children in their families and their four children to learn how to build the Kingdom through multi-generational family. The early part of the journey has proved to be difficult, with one of the blessings being that my daughter and her husband have moved in with us with their first child (our fourth grandchild).
Building multi-generational family groups is not easy, as you can’t escape your mistakes in your own parenting with your adult children and you can’t control how your kids interact with each other, or raise their children! Being a grandparent is not at all like being a parent. But there are things you can do, like loving your grandchildren without needing to discipline them! The parents remain the parents. But the grandparents can give both the grandchildren and your adult kids a perspective that can only come with age—an ability to look back on previous generations and glean the good from them as well as look to the future and try to give perspective from a God with whom “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).
The kingdom of God was never about individual salvation. The only time God said “it is not good” is when he created Adam without Eve. His evaluation? “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). And so, God created Eve and they became a family. And even after they had fallen, God continued to pursue them: “Where are you?” He cries as He visits the garden after they had eaten of the fruit. God is not an individual, but a communal being, and he created man to be a communal being. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—a God of multi-generational families.
And the Old Testament is a story of God’s pursuit of man down through the generations of family. Even after the first siblings, Cain and Abel, have a breakdown of relationship so severe that Cain kills his brother, God never gives up on pursuing man through the unit He created them in—the family. We call Him “Father” and Jesus “Son” because family was not dreamed up by mankind, but was the pattern of God Himself, and we were created in His image—the familial God.
In the West we need to acknowledge the brokenness that our selfishness and self-centeredness has brought, repent and turn to God, asking Him to restore the years the locusts have eaten and restore our families to ones that reflect our familial God! God will use many ways of doing this, so I am not suggesting that my family’s pattern is to be copied by anyone else. But we cannot allow our culture to consume itself. We need to proclaim a Kingdom that is Good News and brings healing—one that reflects the invisible God.
So I have begun this new leg of the journey by shifting my life to the west coast of the USA, where I need to build into my children’s lives and their world. God has provided new young men here that I can “grandfather” just as I was doing in England. I trust that these will be perhaps the most fruitful years of my life as God allows me to pour my life into younger men. And I am not the only one. I have been in dialogue with others who are embarking on a similar journey. One of my close grandfather-type friends, with whom I have talked at length on this topic over the last four years, has relocated to Asia and his extended family has joined him. Like me, he has found it difficult and with many challenges. But the kingdom of God will always be countered by forces of darkness. God has called some of us to follow this path to see where it will lead.
(This post is adapted from my original article “Multigenerational Family Communities” published in the March-April 2012 edition of Mission Frontiers magazine: http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/multigenerational-family-communities)