Framework for Family--An Introduction
How did you grow up? Who raised you? And how did they raise you?
Therapy is chock-full of great questions. And these are just a few of the questions I ask every day to the people God sends through my door. I want to know the answers to these questions because how you were raised has a huge impact on how you will live. And how you live will determine how you relate to this world. I call this the Principle of Relationship. Because life is relationships. How you relate with God, how you relate to your spouse, how you relate to your children. Even how you relate at work and in church. There is not a single moment of your life that is not covered in relationship. And all of it starts at home. Because your family of origin is the first training ground for how you do relationships. And like I said, your life is relationships. Every single bit of it.
Principle of Relationship: Your life is relationships. How you live determines how you relate.
The first time I ever learned this principle was while being discipled at an Arby’s in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in the early 2000's. I had been a Christian for 4 years and was completely exhausted. I was quickly losing hope for keeping any of the emotional freedom and peace I had first experienced when I accepted the Lord. In an answer to prayer, God led me to a man who would become like a father to me. His name is Rick Rush. And for two hours each week during my senior year of college he met with me at that Arby's. Answered all my questions, and when we weren't meeting answered all my phone calls. Rick taught me how to live the Christian life. And one of the first things he ever said to me was this, "Accepting Christ is the greatest moment in your life. But it's just a moment. What you do with the rest of your life as a Christian will stretch into eternity." In short, how you do life as a Christian matters more than how you came to know Christ. And in reality, few people focus their time and energy on learning how to do the Christian life. Instead, they focus on a brief moment and hope it lasts them a lifetime. But that is not the way God intended for you and I to live. In fact, if you are going to have peace and live an abundant life this side of heaven, it's going to take a lot more than a moment. Which introduces the next principle I want you to learn. The Principle of the Framework. Life is hard and it moves fast. In fact, the older you get, the faster it moves. And the more weight your decisions carry. Which is why you need a framework. If you can't prioritize your decisions, they will pile up. And your life will feel like a chaotic and out of control whirlwind. The very opposite of the peace that Christ promised in Matthew 11:28-29 when Christ said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”
The Principle of the Framework: A framework provides relief from exhaustion and anxiety. It gives you peace and security in the storms of life.
How's the yoke feel around your neck? Not too good? Stressed and worn out? Don't worry. Thankfully, all hope is not lost. For nearly twenty years I have followed the framework Rick taught me in that homely booth in a rundown Arby's. And for nearly 20 years I have taught this same framework to just about everyone I have come into contact with in one way or another. And as I’ve grown in knowledge and in experience as a professional counselor, I’ve added some things. But the basic framework he taught me is still at the foundation of how I operate in life. And just as Rick promised, just as Christ promised, the framework never failed. It has given me peace, order, and joy in the midst of this chaotic world. Which is why I want to share it with you. And it is super simple.
In order to get the framework you have to combine the first two principles for living that I gave you. The Principle of Relationship and the Principle of the Framework. When you combine them you get a framework of relationships. That framework looks like this,
Your relationship to God.
Your relationship to your spouse.
Your relationship to your children.
Your relationship to your work.
Your relationship to your ministry.
What's even cooler is that this framework is laid out in this order in Ephesians 5 and 6. Now before you get ahead of me. I am not saying this is the only way to live your life, and I am not saying this framework is perfect. What I am saying, is that this framework will bring you peace and joy. How you choose to live your life and walk out your Christian faith is your prerogative. IF you have a framework that works, go for it. This book is not for you. But if you've struggled to maintain peace and order in your life. If the promise of abundant life, and joy, and peace seems like a pie in the sky dream to you. This book is for you. This framework will change your life.
Because you have tried to make things work, but time and time again, they just keep falling apart. You call out to God for help and it feels as though He is keeping something from you. Some secret equation for how all this is supposed to go down. Trust me when I say it doesn’t have to be so complicated. And I am not trivializing your pain and suffering. So don’t get me wrong. Your pain and the loss of your dreams for life and for family do matter. And so I am not saying what you have been through does not matter. I am saying it is time to shift your focus to what matters most. Your future. This is the Principle of Priority. What you choose to focus on is what you choose to prioritize in your life. And what you prioritize is what you will do with the life that’s been given to you. You will become what you prioritize.
The Principle of Priority: You become what you prioritize.
This life and your family will always produce challenges. The framework I’m about to teach you does not promise perfection. It promises a God given joy. A supernatural peace in the midst of the storm we call life. And simple to understand does not equal easy to do. But what we do during the trials we face, and how we respond when the world closes in, is what is most important. And so now I want you to add this principle to the framework listed above. When you do that it will look something like this,
First Priority: Your relationship to God.
Second Priority: Your relationship to your spouse.
Third Priority: Your relationship to your children.
Fourth Priority: Your relationship to your work.
Fifth Priority: Your relationship to your ministry.
Got it? Good! God is happy about this for two reasons. First, He wants you to experience joy and peace. Like any good father, God loves giving good gifts to His children. I know this because he said it in Matthew 7:7-11,
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
It took me a long time to come to a proper understanding of this passage. Becoming a father helped immensely. But it took a long time for the negative core beliefs taught to me in early years to be eroded enough to accept in faith that God is good. And that as a good God, He is a good Father, wanting nothing from me, and desiring to give me everything my soul truly desires. It seemed ludicrous to believe there was nothing I could do or nothing I should do, to earn His love and His blessings. But it is true. Because God loves you, He wants what is best for you. He wants you to experience joy and peace through Him.
Which leads to the second reason. Why? Why does God want good things for you and for your family? Again, the answer is simple to understand but not easy to accept. God wants your family to be a signpost to those who do not know Christ. In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus preached,
You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.
So your Father in heaven wants good things for you. And ultimately that is because He wants the entire world to come to honor and love Him. Our healthy living will act as a signpost, pointing the way to how wonderful He is. Your life and your family is one of the best ways you can proclaim the gospel to those who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Because the family is a driving force behind all that is good and all that we enjoy. From the very beginning, God intended the family to be a reflection of the deep interpersonal relationship between Him and us. Between the Creator and the created. And so, since the beginning of time, family has been a key component in God’s communication with the world. Which is why it is so important we do it well. If we don’t do family well, we are not representing anything of value to a lost and broken world in desperate need of Christ. If the Church family system looks just as lifeless and dysfunctional as the world’s family systems, then what cause do they have to honor anything we do or believe in? But if the families of our church bodies were thriving and successful. Full of joy and peace. Then the world may be interested in something we have to say. And simply put, at that very moment, we’d point them to Jesus.
Recently I was eating breakfast with a new friend who I am discipling through our church, and we were discussing the topic of family. His family was in trouble. Some of that was from poor decisions he’d made as a father. Some of it was from growing up and never learning what it meant to be a father. And even still, some of it was growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Kansas City and not having been afforded the same opportunities as others. As we spoke, it became clear to me that my friend needed a set of guidelines for living. A framework for family that could help him prioritize and disseminate all of the overwhelming situations he was having to deal with. Thankfully, giving him the framework was easy. It had been given to me some twenty years ago by Rick. I had been using it to disciple and counsel hundreds of people since then. And more importantly, I had been using that framework to run my life that entire time. And there was no way I wasn’t going to share with Him how amazing it was that God saw fit to answer my prayer and teach me how to do life and how to be successful with family. But there was one thing left before God would move in his life. Do you know what it was? In some regard it’s the most important step Jesus mentions in Matthew 7:7-11. Go back and read it again if you don’t understand what I’m saying. I’ll wait here for you, I promise.
The difference maker for my friend that day at breakfast, is the same difference maker that led me to Rick back in 2003. We both asked God for help. We tried doing family on our own. We tried making it work over, and over, and over again. But it just wouldn’t. Until finally, we were broken and desperate. We prayed for God to help us. We asked our Father in heaven to intervene in our families. And you know what? He did. And He will do it for you too. All you have to do is ask. Ask Him to take over. Ask him to guide you and lead you and make things right. To run things His way. Not your way. The framework is nothing without this step. Because ultimately God gets the glory. These are His priorities and His principles, written out in the Bible for all to see. So do it now, before you read any further. Ask God to be the head of your family. He will redeem your past, and sow peace, righteousness, and joy into your future. I promise.
And that’s it. It is that simple. You are going to prioritize your life according to these five relationships. And I, along with several others who have helped mentor and encourage me over the last twenty years are going to help you do it. Because while the framework is easy to understand, there will be times when it is hard to do. Or times when you are faced with a difficult decision and you need some advice. But don’t worry, and don’t give up. The framework works because it honors God. And God will move heaven and earth to get you where you need to be, so that He is glorified and the world comes to know Him. So don't waste any more of your time. Start now with your first priority. Your relationship with the Father. And let's move onward and upward to life in Christ!
About the Author:
Dr. Corley is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S) in Missouri and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in Kansas. He specializes in marriage counseling and trauma recovery. This is an excerpt from his series called A Framework for Family. For more in depth conversations around the framework, listen to Dr. Corley's podcast, Framework for Family.
If you think you might need some help in this area. Click the image below and give us a call. We are professional Christian counselors, bringing healing to the family, giving hope for the future.