FAMILY, Season 3, Episode 5, "Family Intimacy" audio podcast by award-winning western author Stephen Bly. Keys to building family intimacy as a weapon against the enemies of materialism, inattentive parenting, and lack of spiritual foundations. Recorded at Fillmore Bible Church, Fillmore, California, 1984. Sponsored by BlyBooks.com Legacy Series. "How To Build Family Intimacy" blog post article found here: https://www.blybooks.com/2023/03/family-intimacy/
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Recorded at Fillmore Bible Church, Fillmore, California
Job 1:1-5 (RSV)
“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each on his day; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and sanctify and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, ‘It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did continually.”
2 John (RSV)
“The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children following the truth, just as we have been commanded by the Father. And now I beg you, lady, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.
And this is love, that we follow, walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you follow love.
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.
Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for but may win a full reward.
Any one who you have worked for, but may win a full reward. Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son.
If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; for he who greets him shares his wicked work.
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
The children of your elect, chosen sister greet you.”
“Dear Father, I do pray as we examine your Word and we examine our own families, that we’ll truly, Lord, be receptive to new ideas, to any changes your Spirit might lead in us. We commit ourselves to that in Jesus Name, Amen.”
The survey question was straight forward, “Is family life in America in trouble?” 201,320 families responded to that survey. Eighty percent said, “Yes, American family life is in trouble.” Eighty percent admitted that American families could be and should be strengthened. And I wondered if the other twenty percent might be fooling themselves.
Who needs to work on family life? Anyone with a mother or father, anyone with a son or daughter, anyone with a grandparent or grandchild, anyone with a sister or brother, aunts or uncles. Also, anyone who has people in their house or reside in other people’s house need to work on family life because family life is what happens in the home.
Now, in that same survey, it noted the number one threat to family living. In fact, it gave a report of previous surveys. Ten or eleven years ago in 1972, the first went out and they asked the same question, “What is the number one threat to family life in America?” In 1972 the number one threat was materialism. Five years later, the same survey was taken. In 1977, the number one threat was inattentive parents.
This last year, they took the survey again. Now, the number one threat is a lack of religious and spiritual foundations within the home. But as they took the survey this year, the people said that not only was number one lack of spiritual foundations in the home, but number two was inattentive parents, and number three was divorce. I want to challenge you that each of those three threats to the family deal with intimacy in the home.
Two weeks ago, I mentioned the need for privacy. Now we look at intimacy, the very core of what needs to be strengthened in most American families.
Family Intimacy Test
Judge yourself and your family with ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
1. With the entire household gathered, we spend at least thirty minutes per day talking.
2. As a rule, every family member attends the functions of other family members. You go to the ballgames, the recitals, the open house, or any other activity the rest of you are there.
3. It is a major offence to put down another member of the family unit. When brother puts down sister, when husband puts down wife, or vice-versa, it’s a major offence in the family.
4. Within bounds, there is free access to other family member’s personal possessions. Within bounds usually means within the maturity level. Son Aaron has been restricted and cannot get into brother Michael’s computer discs anymore. But if you want to wear my boots, you can wear my boots. If you want to use my baseball glove, and I doubt that you would, you can use it.
5. Within the last month I can remember a time when we had family fun activities that involved every member. You all got together and did something you thoroughly enjoyed.
6. Within the last month, you worked alongside a family member to accomplish an important task. You worked at it together. You papered the room or replanted the garden or some other task.
7. A private survey of our family would show a close, mutual agreement on what is morally right and morally wrong.
8. We have some family traditions that are unlike any other we know of. Your family is unique. There are some things only you do, as far as you know. You have your own family stories, in words and jokes that you use often and remind you of certain family life unique happenings.
9. No one family member dominates every discussion.
10. It is not uncommon to hear a family member asking others for advice and help on a personal matter. Not just children asking parents for advice but also children asking brothers and sisters or parents being honest enough to ask the other parent or input from the children.
11. There is a sense of accomplishment in making another family member look good, of being on their support team. Making others look good is something the family enjoys doing.
12. Conversation about spiritual matters flows easily during family discussions. By looking at these kinds of questions, you can have an idea about what kind of intimacy level there is in your family life. A need for intimacy is at the core of all the major problems that face most families.
5 Key Enemies of Family Intimacy
The biggest enemy of intimacy in family in most homes is television.
One mother said, “I don’t know anything about life after death. I’m not even sure there’s life after supper.”
Another lady was shocked to find out that the two most common used phrases in her household were “What’s on?” and “Move over!” TV destroys intimacy. And it doesn’t make any difference what kind of program, whether good or bad. Sesame Street can destroy intimacy. Christian programs can destroy intimacy, if all you do is sit there frozen to the set.
2. Missed Meals
How often are all family members there and the TV turned off and supper’s around the table, not in your room or out on the porch or some other hidden location?
Eating is a very personal, intimate, private experience which you share with other people. It can’t help but draw you more closely together.
You know that with your friends. When you invite someone to your house and sit together at the table, you feel closer from then on. You’ve shared something personal with them.
3. Uncomfortable Living Rooms
This can mean not enough chairs, not comfortable chairs, or a formal room that no one would dare sit in and relax. Uncomfortable can also be the attitude or atmosphere.
When private rooms become the most comfortable place in the house, people gravitate to private rooms instead of where they can be together.
4. Skipped Vacations
Whether they’re short or long, the idea can be there but not the follow through. When they’re skipped, the potential for building intimacy is destroyed, as well as trust.
5. Uncontrollable Schedules
Family members acting like and even believing that something called a schedule can push them around at will. “I have to go.” “ I have to do it.” The human will can’t stand against it.
Let’s look at the biblical illustrations of what family life should really be like.
The first sign of family intimacy is found in Genesis 4:9. “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’”
SIGNS OF BIBLICAL FAMILY INTIMACY
One, you are the keeper of your brother.
There was conflict between Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve’s sons, concerning their vocation and dedication to God. Resentment built up within Cain and he murdered his brother. When confronted directly by God, he said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And God said, “You sure are. Where is he?”
We can understand that in some way in parenting. You have a responsibility for your children, as long as they live. And as adults, there comes a place when we realize we’re responsible for our parents. Later in life, we begin to take care of them, as they once took care of us. It’s built in and needs to be reinforced.
Notice that Cain is also responsible for his brother, Abel. You’re responsible for siblings and those in your family unit. And God will hold us accountable for being a keeper of everyone within the family.
Second, you have a long-term commitment.
Ruth 1:16,17, “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God; where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and worse if even death parts me from you.’”
This was the commitment of Ruth to Naomi. This caring relationship will last until one of them dies. That’s mother-in-law to daughter-in-law. How much stronger the commitment within the rest of the family unit to a long-term relationship
Some years after Joseph had been deserted and sold into slavery, after all his struggles in Egypt, suddenly was confronted by his brothers again. They worried about what he was going to do to them because of what they had done. In tears, he reassures them that his commitment to them will not end because of what they’ve done to him. It will not end when their father dies. The commitment will last until death separates those brothers.
And so biblical intimacy within the family means a long-term commitment.
We are used to thinking of death separating husband wife. We need to realize it applies to every member of the family. Only death will separate that relationship.
Third, open-eyed forgiveness.
Luke 15:20, from the story of the Prodigal Son, “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
Forgiveness is the environment in which confession comes. In the story of the prodigal the son didn’t even have time to confess to the father before he was already forgiven. But after his father embraced him and welcomed him, then he started to confess. “I’ve been doing things wrong, and I don’t deserve to be your son.”
Open-eyed forgiveness came first. There was no, “Well, you haven’t done anything. You’re perfect.” This forgiveness said, “I know exactly what you’ve done and who you are and I forgive anyway.”
Jacob left the Promised Land after he’d gotten into an argument with his brother. He had stolen the birthright and blessing of Esau. It was too difficult to stay, his life endangered. But some years later with all of his possessions he comes back to the promised land and he’s extremely worried about his relationship with Esau. What’s going to happen when he first sees his brother?
He sends his families and possessions on ahead and finally Jacob comes. And the Scriptures say that Esau runs up to Jacob and embraces him, weeps on his shoulder, and welcomes him back.
Open-eyed forgiveness, not merely between father and mother and child, but between siblings too.
Fourth, the transmission of spiritual truth.
Proverbs 6:20-22, “Observe the commandments of your father, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them continually on your heart. Tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you. When you sleep, they will watch over you. And when you’re awake, they will talk to you.”
We see transmission of spiritual truth everywhere in Scripture. They lived in an era where spiritual truth only came down from one generation to another.
Jacob would not only teach his twelve sons, but on his death bed when they’re all back together, he went over those important things of faith.
Spiritual truth that is remembered most is the audible truth that your family hears from your lips and sees in your life. Sunday School is a supplement to what you do at the intimate family level. You need to see yourself as a transmitter of spiritual truth.
Fifth, unwavering prayer for every family member.
“And it came about when the days of feasting had been completed that Job consecrated them (his children). Rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all. Job said, ‘Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did continually.”
Job, with children who were grown, who were responsible for themselves, still worried about what might be happening in their hearts, things he’d never heard about but perhaps they had done. He was so sensitive for their spiritual growth that he prayed for them and offered sacrifices for them. And it says that he did that continually, over and over again, unwavering in prayer for those in his family.
Parents praying for children not just when they’re little, but always praying, no matter how old they might be. And children praying for parents, no matter your age.
How to Start Building Family Intimacy
Here’s some suggestions.
You might try doing something with the TV. You could turn it off. You could refuse to watch it alone if there are other members in your household.
One lady was worried about her family life and the lack of intimacy. There were seven members—her husband and five children. She had nine TV sets in her house. Everyone had their own.
Don’t watch TV alone with other family members around. If you can’t get them watch TV with you, do something else.
Walk in the shoes of other members of your family. It would be great if you could go to work or school with them. You could see where they spend so much of their time when they’re away from you. If there’s any possible way to bring others with you to work, you ought to try that.
I’ve had that kind of job where I can have my sons, even the youngest, in my office. They can know right where I’m going and what it’s like. But not everyone has that kind of situation.
The next best thing is to once in awhile to really go through a blow-by-blow description of what your day is like. Perhaps someone in the family has said, “Well, how has it been today?” Take time to tell them what time you got up and why you chose what you wore. Tell them about getting in the car and backing up in the driveway and hitting the tricycle. Tell them about the traffic on the freeway or what the boss said to you in the morning or when about to leave. Tell them about what you had for lunch and who you visited with, so they get a feeling for who you are and what it’s like. Share your day.
Develop a Family Hobby
Search for beginning a family hobby. Find something that you all enjoy doing together, whether it’s pitching horseshoes or polishing rocks or whatever. Develop that family time.
Help Family Members Succeed
Pledge to volunteer as part of the support staff.
“What can I do, Mom, to help you with your needlepoint?” Maybe she says, “Do the dishes.” And you do it because you’re helping. Make it your mantra, “What can I do to help you?”
Initiate Spiritual Conversations
That’s not just mom’s responsibility or dad’s job. It’s for the whole family. What children and every adult have to learn is that each individual member of the family struggles with their own faith, trying to grow in the Lord and spiritual matters. And everyone in the family needs help which can come when you share spiritual things.
Sometimes you feel threatened. That can happen for a child or for the men in a family if they fear they don’t know very much. Perhaps you feel someone else knows way more than you do. But it needs to happen, so initiate spiritual conversation.
There are certainly other things you can do to initiate intimacy in your family’s life. Any family could be strengthened, whether it shows signs of being in trouble or seems healthy. And it could be strengthened by building family intimacy.