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A book about families

THE Bible has been described many ways. It's a book about the search for God. It's a book about the spiritual power that moved men and women and a nation. But on another level, it's very intimate; it's a book about families. The relationships of husbands and wives, children and parents, brothers and sisters, are interwoven throughout the pages of the Old and New Testaments. Even in the life of Christ Jesus we find the Way-shower over and over again referring to God as ``Father,'' a family designation. ``God setteth the solitary in families,''1 the Psalmist wrote.

If our families aren't all that we wish they would be, or if they seem to have dissolved before our very eyes, is there reason for a spiritual hope that the love and joy they represent can be restored?

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The answer, from the perspective of the Bible, must always be ``yes.'' Jacob's reunion with his brother Esau, the widow Naomi's finding faithful Ruth remaining at her side, Jesus' story of the prodigal son's reconciliation with his father, and his own return to his disciples after the horrible ordeal of his arrest and crucifixion--all these illustrate the deep spiritual promise that God's redeeming love and law bring healing in family life.

An affection that reflects God's love underlies the healing of family discord and is rooted in that divine Love which is God Himself. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Mary Baker Eddy2 describes this enduring affection in terms of a mother's love. She writes: ``A mother's affection cannot be weaned from her child, because the mother-love includes purity and constancy, both of which are immortal. Therefore maternal affection lives on under whatever difficulties.''3

There was a time when I had to learn more of this constant affection, even though I wasn't a mother. In fact, I was a son in the family. As a teen-ager I saw that many of my friends were breaking loose from family life in hard ways. They often turned away from church attendance. Their newfound independence led frequently to moral lapses that took a hard toll on individuals and families. The social contagion of the times, if it can be described that way, made strong thrusts at our family as well.

There were many times when identification with the prodigal son's leaving home seemed uncomfortably close. But there was, as I was eventually to discover, a deep spiritual sense that restrained in me the hurt and reaction that could have fueled such a precipitous response. Periods of hurt and confusion eventually gave way to other periods of prayer and yearning to draw near to God. At last the day came when I found that drawing nearer to God as Father and Mother brought precious reconciliation in the family.

Looking back now, I realize that there is hardly anything on earth that compares to such familial reconciliation of heart and soul. It was not easy; it did not come rapidly. It called for day upon day, year upon year, of patient, persistent yielding to divine Love's will and to its care for the human need.

What is that underlying moral and spiritual sense that makes patience and persistence and endurance possible in the midst of conflict? It is something available to each one of us. Christian Science explains it as an awakening spiritual understanding that man is the child of God. Such an understanding, as it dawns in our thought, begins at once to regenerate, to give new life, new love, new purpose. Many times this newness of life begins to break through destitution as one seeks happiness and satisfaction in spiritual affections rather than in material pursuits and possessions. It is God's purpose for us that we find satisfaction in Him through feeling His presence and grace in our lives. Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health, referring to God: ``Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind, and happiness would be more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul. Higher enjoyments alone can satisfy the cravings of immortal man.''4

To the man or woman or child who comes to cherish and cultivate such Godward inclinations, there comes a deep and sweet assurance that human discord can yield to genuine, enduring spiritual affection. This is the promise of a cherished book about families.

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1Psalms 68:6. 2The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3Science and Health, p. 60. 4Ibid., pp. 60-61. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. I John 3:1

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