Many years ago I wrote an article that one of my newspaper editors entitled, "The Beautiful, Blended Family of God." It was a delightful little piece that I scribbled down while watching my two young sons play together.
My boys are adopted and are as different as can be — in personality and physicality — but in their younger years they hardly noticed their differences; that one of them is blonde-haired and blue-eyed, and one's skin is the color of a well-stirred mocha latte with ebony hair and eyes. Nor did they recognize that neither of them looked anything like me or their mother.
My article was upbeat, optimistic, and buoyed by idealism. My "blended family" sounded like a sweet swirled coffee that you might enjoy at a corner cafe; or like some fruity, umbrella drink you guzzle down at the beach. I'm still filled with hopeful joy for my children, but now our blendedness sometimes sounds and feels more like what pours out of a concrete mixer than what flows from an espresso machine.
See, the boys are older, in acne-laden puberty, growing like grass around the septic tank, and peppering me with hundreds of questions about their origins, their futures, the opposite sex, and the delicacies of life in middle school. They recognize their differences, and in the throes of adolescence, desperately celebrate those differences.
A natural born son has been born into this mix since those early days as well, a brother who is deeply loved by his older siblings but whose status as a DNA match to the adults in the household is never very far below the surface of any brotherhood rivalry. Further, I'm older and possess much less patience than I used to, and their mother is sometimes in a premenopausal, hormonal fog that robs her of her clarity of mind.
So if you eavesdrop on our household, nearly a decade after "The Beautiful, Blended Family of God" hit the presses, you'll hear the rocks and mortar clanging around in a sloppy soup, but we are still family, and like concrete, we are sticking together the best we can.
The truth is, "family" is a messy business, and it doesn't really matter much whose family it is. They are all dysfunctional — all of them — and the dysfunction is measured only by degrees. Some are a little healthier, some not so much, but all of them have their quota of tears, struggles, gut-punches, and general banging about in the mixer of life.
It encourages me, in a twisted sadistic kind of way, to read the Bible and note the fouled-up families that I find there. For example, the Old Testament patriarch Jacob, namesake of the Jewish nation, somehow thought it was a good idea to have 12 sons with four different women all living under the same tent. Things didn't always go very well.
Moses and his wife nearly divorced over the issue of circumcising their son, and the end result for the poor boy was nothing short of catastrophic trauma. King David, poet and Psalmist, had a royal house filled with incest, adultery, double-crossing, murder and mayhem. Heck, even Jesus' own siblings tried to put him away in the loony-bin on one occasion.
None of these families provide very much ammunition in the "defense of the biblical family" that we hear so much about these days — whatever that actually means. Rather, these train wrecks that are the real "biblical" families are exactly that: Real. And they make my little slice of life a harmonious walk in the park by comparison. Yet God somehow accomplished marvelous things in spite of all the colossal dysfunction.
This divine mercy gives me great solace, especially when I get torqued over how my family should be, ought to be, or is supposed to be. These families help me to see how family actually is, and to find God's grace in the midst of it. This should help us all, because when it comes to family, we are all in the mix.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.