There's something about the cartoon strip, "Peanuts" that often evoked a chuckle while simultaneously piercing our conscience. That's what happened to me when I discovered a profound message in one of Charles Schultz's comic strips.
Charlie Brown was sitting in a deck chair near the front of a large boat when Lucy walked up. "Some people go through life with the deck chairs facing forward, gazing out where they are going," Lucy said philosophically. "Others go through life with their deck chair facing backwards, looking at where they've been." She then paused and pondered her profound words. Looking directly into Charlie Brown's sunglasses she asked him, "Charlie Brown, which way is your deck chair facing?"
Charlie Brown responded simply, "I really don't know—I've never been able to get my deck chair unfolded!"
I think of this cartoon when I observe debates about "family values." You may recall, for example, the debate Dan Quayle ignited in 1992 by talking about how the breakdown of the family is hurting our nation. Unfortunately, the media trivialized his serious, seven-page speech by focusing on one sentence in which Quayle criticized the television character Murphy Brown. The real substance of Quayle's speech went mostly unreported. For example:
"We are in large measure reaping the whirlwind of decades of changes in social mores. I was born in 1947. When we were young, it was fashionable to declare war against traditional values. Indulgence and self-gratification seemed to have no consequences. Many of our generation glamorized casual sex and drug use, evaded responsibility, and trashed authority." "The inter-generation poverty that troubles us so much today is predominantly a poverty of values. [It is a] testament to how quickly civilization falls apart when the family foundation cracks."
After that speech, an avalanche of articles, columns, and commentaries swept through the media. I can't say I was surprised by the onslaught. But I was surprised as I began to realize that many Christians have not taken a strong look at what they believe in and, even more important, have little knowledge about the basis for those beliefs. This is not a time to struggle with our deck chairs. As our culture fights to recapture basic family values, we need to face forward and speak up in our communities about what really matters. Sensing a lot of confusion about what "family values" are, our local newspaper editor made a challenge: "Send me a 45-word statement about your thoughts on family values." So one night Barbara and I asked our kids what they thought our family values were—what we as a family felt was important. The words starting popping like premium popcorn. I quickly designated our son Samuel as a scribe to catch it all. Here is their list:
God, limited television, responsibilities, chores, friendship, kindness, respectful speaking, education, church, encouragement, servanthood, obedience, discipline, sharing, giving, boundaries, commitment, keeping your word, home life, prayer, perseverance, doing what you're supposed to do, love, dignity of kids, food and shelter, spending time with each other, resolving conflicts, forgiveness, physical affection, our siblings, laughter, having fun together, memorizing verses, wholesome speaking, reading, wise counsel.
We were pleasantly surprised by what our kids had to say. (Yes, we sent their list to the newspaper. No, it wasn't printed. And that surprised neither of us!)
Someone once said, "The direction you are facing has a lot to do with your destination." The Roman philosopher Seneca said, "You must know for which harbor you are headed if you are to catch the right wind to take you there." Let me ask you a few questions:
- What are your family values?
- What really matters to you?
- What values help govern how you live your life?
- What do you want to pass on to your children?
Why not do the same exercise with your family that our family did? Begin to hammer out what your family stands for. What's really important? How are you going to make your choices and live your life? And then start imprinting those values on your mate, your children, and everyone that God brings your way.
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