Affirmation Begins in the Family

A newborn baby whimpers and squirms right after exiting the birth canal. His mother picks him up and hugs him to her breast. “Now, ” she coos. “It’ will be all right.” He settles down and roots for her nipple.

A three-month-old awakens from her nap and glances about the room. Her eyes focus on the smiling face of her mother. Her own face lights in a broad smile.

A four-year-old runs to his father as he walks in the door. He jumps into his father’s arms and cuddles into warm bear hug. “Dad, I’m glad you ‘re home. ” he yelps. “I love your bunches,” dad replies.

A sixteen-year-old boy scores a second touchdown in a critical game. “Good job.” His mom shouts.  

A husband puts his arm about his wife’s waist. They squeeze each other tightly, gently kissing.

A family sits around a warm campfire, laughing at each other’s jokes.   

A common thread runs through all of these encounters. Contact is being made between human beings. The spark of human touch in all its forms is being felt. Life goes on, fueled by the energy erupting from this contact. In the touch of the body, mind and spirit life sustaining forces are at work. Each person affirms the humanity of the other. This affirmation infuses life, growth and ultimate meaning into each individual’s existence. Indeed, life-affirming contact begins in the family. We are who we are thanks to all the people who have touched our lives. Affirmation experienced in the family radiates outward to affect all the common places of life.

God ordained the family to fulfill a variety of specific purposes. From the beginning, the family is designated as the primordial source of affirmation when God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18) The Bible adds, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) In marriage a man and a woman experience the most intimate touch of body and soul. Within the commitment of this relationship parents spin the cocoon in which children are to be conceived and nurtured (touched) into maturity.

Traditional marriage is a potentially powerful affirming force. Here is a level of commitment, intimacy, and acceptance not found in any other relationship. The physical intimacy of the sexual act mirrors the spiritual intimacy and acceptance that is part of a healthy marriage. Such a marriage displays the attitude, “I accept you as you are in your nakedness, for better or worse.” When two people are true to this spirit, marvelous things happen in their lives. Their relationship is one of mutual growth and increasing support that strengthens each partner.

I have seen a shy, inhibited, distrustful young woman blossom into a vivacious spirit through her relationship with an accepting, loving husband who helped her see her self-worth, not through any direct effort on his part, but just by loving and accepting her. It is not the bliss of “falling in love” that works such minor miracles, but accepting each other, honestly loving each other, and partaking of each other’s lives.

Romantic love in marriage points to deeper truths about ourselves. We see in the mutual intimacy of romantic love; we see that alone we are incomplete. When we are in love, we intuitively know that our life was incomplete until the moment we fell in love. We come to realize how much one’s wholeness depends on someone outside of oneself. This is a peek through the keyhole of the spiritual world into the real nature of things, for this need for intimate relationships with others symbolizes our need for God. Lovers see through their beloved’s flaws and recognize the image of God. Lovers are not blind to the blemishes of their beloved; rather, they are able to see through the blemishes to the real person. True love accepts the one loved, not in spite of what they are, but because of who they are— blemishes and all. Bathed in such love, the beloved can blossom into a fullness of character never before realized. Such romantic love strengthens and enhances the beloved’s identity. When allowed to blossom, romantic love does not simply remain Eros, or sexual attractiveness (although that is a part of it), but has an element of agape, the love that accepts unconditionally, the love that seeks the best in the beloved, the love that loves with the will, even when the feeling is not there.

Yes, we are who we are thanks to all who have touched us—beginning in the family.