When Your Christian Family is Not Perfect

The Perfect Christian Family

You know the one, Dad is a well respected elder in the church who is an authoritative leader but a loving husband to his Stepford wife—a Proverbs 31 woman who is good at housework, an excellent mother, and likely homeschools. The children are well behaved, they grow into leaders at youth group, the daughter sings and the son plays drums on Sunday worship. They are athletes who pray before their games and drama leads who refuses parts that dishonor the Lord. They exhibit exemplary behavior and they can smile for the family picture at command.

The Perfect Christian Family always has the Perfect Christian Photo.
family

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

The perfect lighting, the way the sun rays fall perfectly over the daughter’s perfect curls framing her face, almost completely hides the little flicker in her eyes, straining to tell the real story.

Every family has secrets, but the perfect Christian family has even higher stakes to keep them hidden. What’s at risk is not just public perception of the family, but of their witness for God. The Christian family is told that the function of their formation and existence is to be a conduit to spread love and blessing to the world. The image of the Christian family is critical to the mission of glorifying God.

So they hide their secrets—their mistakes and mishaps, addictions and mental illnesses, strained relationships and broken trust—and an unspoken code is established that no one can know.

Not only is this repression of human struggle unhealthy for the individual, it reinforces a  gravitational core that pulls members of the community into a field of social cohesion. If a kid strays from the perfect Christian family script, the daughter who struggles with bulimia, or the son who is gay, they not only hear their own internalized voices silencing them but also the warnings from their own siblings and parents.

No one can know.

We have to stop this madness. Our children have not come into this world to carry the agenda of anyone else’s but their own. They are not here to make our family look more #blessed—they aren’t a piece of a puzzle to make us whole, they are complete in and of themselves.

There are and will always be societal expectations on how a family should look and behave. Cultural mores aren’t necessarily bad for children if they are values that are worthy for children to live into.

So let’s work together to change those prevailing cultural standards. Let’s make those rules about how to be more honest, more kind, more diverse.

I want the children of our world to be loved and to be free.

They can’t be free when they are carrying the burden of maintaining a family reputation for a mission they didn’t choose for themselves.

They can’t be free when they are having to wear masks to hide themselves and smile for the perfect family photo.

They can’t be free when they have to keep secrets for the family at the expense of their own well being.

They are taking lots of social cues to figure out what it means to be in this world, but instead of telling them, let’s show them. That means we do our best to live our liberated selves every day and we push this world to give all of us space to exist fully. We demand for the walls of societal expectation to flex for us, so we can dance on the edges, push against it, and finally craft doors to go through it. These walls are socially constructed, which means the society can tear them down and reconstruct them. Our job and responsibility is to shape and mold those expectations instead of forcing our children to fit within the rigidly built ones.

Fix the world, not our children.

Liberate our children from unjust expectations of belonging to the Perfect Family. The family photos should be a snapshot of their blossoming lives, not a cage to capture faux smiles and repressed pain.

Look at your most recent family photo and look into the eyes of your children in the picture and ask yourselves,

Are they free?


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