I always become reflective this time of year as we get ready to start the holiday season. For some reason, I look back on my life and all the various roles I have played in the family throughout the decades. My earliest recollections of my “training” began when I was a very young boy – during our Sunday evening dinners at Grandpa and Grandma’s house about a mile from our own home.
We had a family tradition to eat together each Sunday evening – eight of us – Mom, Dad, my two brothers and myself, as well as our grandparents and Auntie Lou. She was my grandmother’s cousin and helped raise Mom in my grandparent’s home.
Grandpa always sat me next to him at the end of the table and I was told to listen to what was said during dinner. Every so often, Grandpa would lean over and say something like, “Scott, when you lead the family…” So I was expected, as the oldest child, to lead the family some day.
It just turned out that it was much sooner than I expected. Dad died when I was twenty five and Mom passed away 20 years later. Since Dad’s death, my leadership had to step up and I also ran the family business. Eventually, Janet, our three kids and I moved to Indiana and our new adventure began.
As our own children grew, those expectations from years ago surfaced and we (Janet and I) did the best job we could do trying to raise Kristin, Jill and Andrew. Of course, with Dad dying, I lost the opportunity to be mentored more in family leadership. Grandpa had pretty much been the one who set the tone and he died only six years before Dad.
So I was thrust into the role of patriarch well before my expected time. On top of everything else, we were in a new state and I was also the economic engine for our little family. Let’s face it – I made many mistakes. I worked too hard, drank too much and mistakenly thought that you could throw money at a problem to help it go away.
By the grace of God, I was able to turn things around and really focus on raising our children in a God centered home. Janet and I even went so far as to pray about whether or not I should attend seminary – that turned out to be one of best things we ever decided. Greek, Hebrew, Theology and a multitude of other classes helped me drastically change from my earlier ways. I like to think that all three of our children benefited from the changes that I made, with Janet’s incredible counsel, during their youth.
Now, another generation is here, well into their teens and early twenties. It’s been 45 years since Dad died; and 51 since Grandpa passed away. Leading the family is no longer something new. I have decades of experience under my belt and am still learning along the way. In fact, this is a lifelong learning role.
The most important thing that I have learned along is the fact that my evolving role and my methods of leadership must periodically change to meet the needs of our family. These days, I help discuss life choices with our grandchildren. Of course, I continue to teach and mentor our three children but those lessons are pretty much ingrained in all of them by now. My role as Dad has become much more personal as they are all very different and I am called into various relationships with each of them.
There is a much greater level of finesse in my life today. There is an element of leadership that is far more complicated than I ever thought. The needs of the family change year to year and I must anticipate and address these changes before they occur. My responsibility is to constantly watch and assess how to nurture and help each individual member of the family flourish by using their unique God given gifts.
It’s no longer how to teach someone to use a spoon or ride a bicycle or which fork to use at dinner. It’s about serving society and the Lord – how can each of us do that using our talents. After all, the family, just like the church, is strongest when we all leverage our unique gifts together. As the years pass, I now think more about how the family will function after Janet and I enter heaven. I still feel the burden of trying to provide a workable framework for how the family can leverage its gifts until we are all reunited in heaven sometime in the future.
Many years ago, a dear friend and I became accountability partners and declared a “year of the family” during which we would both strive to sharpen our skills – as husbands, fathers, leaders and, most importantly, stronger men of God. That was almost twenty years ago and you know what? Every year, we agree that we still have ways to improve – so we have never changed our thematic goal – it’s still the “year of the family…” I don’t ever anticipate that my dear friend, Paul, and I will ever attain the lofty goals that we have set for ourselves. But it is critically important than we strive to be the best that we can be in our God ordained missions.
Our verse for tonight deals with the biblical concerns about church leadership. The apostle Peter had much to say on this subject. He tells us, in 1 Peter 5:1-4, “… Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”
These words originally had to do with church leadership but apply as well to the family. Peter gives us things to aspire to – becoming the kind of leaders that God wants us to be. My encouragement this evening is that we all will make mistakes in this life. We are works in progress… And God understands that – but we are to always try and be more Christlike as we mature in our faith.
My prayer is that counsel we have sought, the willingness we have demonstrated in following Christ and the interdependence we have shared with our spouses and significant others will bear fruit in the future generations. After all, God has a plan for each of us and that goal can not be accomplished without subordinating our personal will for the will of God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…