One (hard) reason God gives us families

I’ve not yet read Rod Dreher’s new book The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, and I feel stupid for it. Frederica Mathewes-Green reviewed Little Way for the July/August Books and Culture, and it sounds like a piercing story.

Here’s my summary of Mathewes-Green’s summary. Dreher grew up in a down-home family where people were practical and rooted. Intellectual and interested in faraway things, Dreher felt alienated and apart, feelings that became real as he left home to pursue a career in journalism. His family never understood his decision and the divide grew.

When Dreher’s sister was diagnosed with cancer, Ruthie was given three months to live. Dreher flew home and the two experienced something of a reconciliation. Apologies were offered and accepted. Ruthie lived longer than expected but eventually succumbed.

Following her funeral Dreher and his wife decided to move back home to help with their nieces and his aging parents. It didn’t go as well as they imagined. Mathewes-Green:

They had trouble connecting with the younger nieces, Claire and Beckah. Some invisible barrier stood between them. One night Hannah — Ruthie’s eldest — told Rod that he should just give up that project, because it was never going to happen. All their lives mom had made sharp and mocking comments about Rod. The girls had heard too much of that to like or trust him now. Ruthie had continued saying such things even after the day when Rod had asked for her forgiveness and they’d made, he thought, a new start. . . . How could Ruthie be so kind to everybody she met, yet so unjust to her brother?

I didn’t have to underline or bracket that passage of the review. It just stared back at me from the naked page. Still does.

God gives us family to love us. That’s true, and praise him for it. But perhaps God also gives us family to teach us to love people who hurt us. It’s harder to praise him for that one. But just as necessary.

About Joel J. Miller

I'm the author of Lifted by Angels, a look at angels through the eyes of the early church. Click here for more about me or subscribe to my RSS here.

  • Susan_G1

    It sounds like a moving book. I don’t know the reasons God does what He does; I do think He gives us children to understand His love for us. But some families are so broken, I don’t understand why He puts His children in those situations. It’s not a one-answer fits all situstion.

    • Joel J. Miller

      No doubt. Some things — even very hard things — are clearly the providence of God. Other things only murkily so. God works all for good, but that doesn’t mean that all things are good.


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