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Day two of my 30 Day Challenge and I am up bright and early and sat looking at the screen, wondering what way to go with this one and asking the Lord for guidance.

Today’s question/subject (and remember I did not set the questions or subjects) is…

“Something you feel strongly about.”

My difficulty is that actually I do feel strongly about several things and choosing one of them is difficult….

As a Christian I feel very strongly about God and all matters relating to God.

As someone who suffers with mental illness I feel very strongly about mental illness and mental health awareness.

As a parent I feel very strongly about the Children’s Referendum happening here in Ireland today and how desperately wrong it would be if it was voted through. I truly believe that in seeking to give more power to the state it will remove some of the rights of the children to be parented and the rights of parents to parent.

But which one, if any, do I choose for the purpose of this exercise?

How about we talk about Family?  Yep ‘Family’ – it is such an important issue isn’t it?

Family

I am a Christian.  I make no apologies for it nor for the fact that it does in so many ways shape the way that I see things.  When I write, I do so as someone fully aware that my thoughts, my attitudes, my understandings are shaped by my beliefs and that not everyone holds those same beliefs.  And I absolutely respect the right of each person to hold their own beliefs just as I hold mine.

All I ask is that regardless of your personal beliefs you bear with me as you read through this. 🙂

‘Family’ has been so very central to the way in which we as a race has developed hasn’t it?  It is or should be, as children and infants, the very foundation of the security from which we grow and develop.

In all manner of species we see the same thing don’t we?  The young instinctively reaching out to, depending upon and finding identity and belonging in their parents.  Finding comfort, protection, belonging, guidance in their parents and their kin?

Isn’t this the way that it is meant to be?

Let me share a couple of scriptures with you…

Palm 68:5-6 in the NIV read…

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

and  Romans 8:14-16 in the NIV reads…

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

A “father to the fatherless“, setting “the lonely in families“, “for those who are led by the Spirit of God are the Children of God“.

Yes, I am convinced that ‘family’ is not only extremely important but it is also God’s design for mankind.

I am convinced, and have been for such a very long time now, that the very structure of ‘family’ is God-designed and God-intended.  And I would go even further as I am equally convinced that until we have fully understood the concept of family as God intended it we cannot fully understand God.

But of course we often speak according to our own experiences, and our own passions.  And often our passions are based on that which we have personally struggled with the most.

So, in the interest of that honesty, openness and candor (which I determined to make a constant feature of my responses in this challenge), I have to admit that ‘family’ is something I have always struggled with personally.

My biological family, most of them, are still living and I would not wish to inflict any discomfort or harm upon them.  Likewise in many ways they were no better nor any worse than most families, although certainly there were aspects of my family life which were extremely unusual and different to most when I was growing up.

What was different to most families however, was the fact that even as a child my mental health was not great. A direct result of which was that I knew that I was different and felt that I did not and could not belong.

Reflect for a moment or two, if you will, on those last words.  “I was different and felt that I did not and could not belong.”

I wonder what comes to your mind, comes to your heart when you read those words?

Are you thinking what it must be like for a child to grow up with those feelings, with that understanding, with that perspective on his or herself and on life? Are you remembering what your childhood was like?  The things that made you feel so accepted,  made you confident that you belonged, or are you remembering how you too felt as if you didn’t fit in, didn’t belong?

Or perhaps your thoughts are more recent, more current than that?  Perhaps you, like me, also suffer from poor mental health – after all there is a strong possibility of that since this is essentially a mental health based blog.  Perhaps you also know only too well those feelings and thoughts, that internal dialogue, of being ‘different’, of not ‘fitting in’ of not ‘belonging’?

As a human and a humanitarian I am convinced that no child, no person, should have to suffer these feelings, these experiences unless their own willful and deliberate actions have placed them in that situation.  And even then we need to be very careful don’t we?

As someone who suffers from poor mental health I know only too well how often these thoughts, these feelings, this internal dialogue, can come not from the evidence of actual reality but from the reality perceived as a result of that poor mental health.  But I have to ask, “What then do we do?  Accept that person’s perceived reality or try to understand why they have they perception and in turn increase the evidence of the actually reality?”

As a Christian, and one who ha suffered mental illness most if not all of my life, and one who has struggled with these; thoughts, these feelings, this internal dialogue, this perceived if not actual reality, I am convinced that this is NOT what God desires or intended.

It saddens me, truly saddens me, that so many of those whose blogs I read and who take time to comment and share on this blog have similar struggles that I do with acceptance, and belonging and with fitting in and with family.

But what saddens me even more, something which saddens me to my very heart, is how many seem to have lost out on experiencing true love and acceptance and belonging in God’s family.

I consider myself blessed, truly blessed.  I have had a lifetime of experiencing such feelings, such thoughts, such internal dialogues, of experiencing a perceived and sadly in some case an actual reality of ‘being different’ of where I ‘did not belong’, of where I ‘did not fit’.  But I have also had a lifetime of knowing God’s truth, His will and His desire in this respect and that in all of those I can ‘be different’, do ‘belong’, do ‘fit in’.

I consider myself blessed, truly blessed that I am now in a Christian fellowship where I feel and believe and where my perceived and actual reality is that I can be different and do belong and do fit in and am accepted. And I thank God for that and for them.

But what about you?  What about the others?  Those who still struggle with this and who have not yet found a family of believers where they too can belong, fit in, where there differences are not seen as an excuse to reject but a more reason to love?

I started this post trying to decide what I should write about when it came to something that I feel strongly about.  My faith in God, mental health, or in the way in which if we are not careful in our actions in the current referendum in Ireland we will, in my opinion damage and even remove a child’s freedom to be parented and a parent’s freedom to parent.

Reading back over this post I see that I have actually written about all three. But there is a deeper message in all of this isn’t there?  One that does include aspects of all three?

In writing about “Family” I have written about God as our loving heavenly Father and His family – the body of believers.  I have written about how my poor mental health and my mental illness – how mental illness and poor mental health in general – can seriously affect our experience and understanding of family and of God and His desire and will for us.

And even more, I have written about how our perceptions, our actions and the perceptions and actions of others can seriously damage and even remove a child’s right to be parented and a parent’s right to parent.  Our freedom to be loved of the Father, by and in His family, and His freedom to love us within His family.

Are we all not God’s Children?  If we are God’s children, if we have recognized Him as our father do we not have the right to be loved, to be parented of that Father?

If Christ, if God’s Holy Spirit is within us and we reject each other, are we not rejecting the Christ, the Holy Spirit within each other are we not removing our freedom to be loved and parented and His freedom to love and parent us within the family He desires for us?

I end this post on that thought and with one final piece of scripture and a video to watch and listen to as you reflect on that scripture. And I end this post giving thanks not only for the personal struggles I have experienced in this respect but for the truth that has remained with me concerning His will and desire for us and thanks for the family that He has now placed me in.

And I end it on the fervent prayer that no matter what your experiences may have been you too will find and know the perfect love of the Father and a family, His family, to truly experience and know this in…

“31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”  (Matthew 25:31-40 NIV)

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