Family is very precious to me. Those of you who have read our book Joy through the Night will know that my family was profoundly affected by the death of my sister in a drowning accident at a public pool on a playground field trip. Two years later, my father was critically injured in a work accident. Self-employed, he was plunged into financial difficulties. This was in the 1950s, when fewer cultural nets were in place in the United States to catch such victims of catastrophe. Through this all, my parents tried valiantly to hold our dwindling family together.
Years later, after my father had died, my mother, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, was overcome by hypothermia. At the hospital, a doctor attempted to ascertain whether she was well enough to be released. Stepping out in the hall to keep her from being distracted, we heard him ask: “How many children do you have?”
“Three,” said my mother confidently.
This was a Chestertonian moment. My wife, Aída, and I stared at each other in what would have been described in former times as “wild surmise.” “Three?” I mouthed silently at her and shrugged quizzically, as she raised her eyebrows.
“What are their names?” asked the doctor.
“Carol, Billy, and Bob,” said my mom. Carol was my sister’s name. I was “Billy.” But, who on earth was Bob?
When we finally went into the room, I asked casually, “Who is Bob, Mom?”
“I don’t know,” said my mom.
“You told the doctor you had three children. Carol, Billy, and Bob. Who is Bob?”
“He’s my other son,” she said simply, and that was all she could explain. Later on, she managed to reveal who Bob was. My mother had had a few miscarriages, but I remember a pregnancy several years after Carol died, when I was still somewhat young, when my parents prepared me to receive a little brother. I was all excited by the prospect, but the child never came home. Later on, I figured out he was stillborn. Though my mother and I were very close and she shared many secrets with me, her sole surviving child, this was the first mention of him since his death at birth. I never knew my mother had named him. She had locked this information away in her heart and only incipient Alzheimer’s finally loosened the guard of her self-protecting will and allowed his name to emerge in full family memory. Though he did not survive his journey into our world, this child was precious to my mother. He had had a name and, thirty years after his death, she still remembered him and counted him among her children.
In an even more profound way, we are precious to God. Humanity has been created by the God Who Is In Relationship for relationship. One of the most profound expressions of that fact is the family, built, by God’s direction, on the holy institution of marriage, wherein we learn to love another, so that we can learn to love the Wholly Other: our blessed Creator.
This issue of Priscilla Papers explores a variety of aspects of marriage, with a respectful salute to the vocation of singleness as well.
The delightful picture on the cover is of John Lommel, academic vice president of Alaska Christian College and author of our book review on Laceye Warner’s Saving Women. John is holding his daughter, Lydia, and the delight he expresses reflects the delight that our heavenly Parent holds for each of us beloved children. Mom Kristen Lommel took the picture. Since the watchword among theologians is that all good theology begins with God and the creation, I supply a reflection on the “teaching tool” of the image of God in which our Creator fashioned us to start our issue out. Talbot School of Theology’s Ronald Pierce, who helped us listen to the “feminine voice of God” in our Winter 2007 issue, returns to analyze Paul’s insights, both inspired and personal, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s S. Steve Kang shows us how mutual submission should even be the goal of our childrearing. Author and teacher Beulah Wood, basing her insights on her many years of experience ministering in South Asian cultures, widens our perspective to examine the interplay of traditional and Christian conceptions of marriage that Christians encounter across the globe. Finally, CBE founding member Roger Nicole contemplates the “splendor of marriage,” drawing on his many years of Bible study and the blessing of his own long-term marriage. Poet Julie Amos provides a brief but provocative poem, and Gordon-Conwell Academic Dean Alice Mathews joins John, as noted earlier, bringing the issue to a close with two perceptive book reviews.
As John and Kristen love and delight in little Lydia, so does God love us and want to delight in us. No greater expression of that love has God given to us than our capacity to have holy and caring relationships with one another in the body of Jesus Christ that we call the church. Let us strive to reflect God’s holy love in our homes, in our churches, and in our witness to the world as we hold singleness and marriage in sanctity and fidelity to God and to one another.