In the Garden of Eden, God created one man and one woman and told them to have offspring. In other words, the very first form of human relationship was the family. Out of the union of the one man and one woman, everything else would come, so that Eve would become the “mother of all life.”
Since the fall, a number of different “family” structures have come into being. Some of the major alternatives are:
- Polygamy — One man and several women. This also includes the Harem — a king and many women
- The Tribe — One man and one woman procreating, but raising their children in a deeply enmeshed extended kinship group
- The Single Mother — A woman raising offspring apart from their biological father. This is also connected with polyamory, or serial monogamy. A child living with many different step parents.
All of these present very significant deficits compared what we know as the “nuclear” family. The Biblical idea of a family involves a single man and single woman separate from their parents, united for life and raising Children together. This idea is vastly superior from all others for a wide variety of reasons, but what I want to highlight today is how the nuclear family impacts emotional development.
God made the man and woman different. And contrary to popular belief, these changes are more than physical or sociological. Men and women view the world differently. We view relationships differently. We have different cravings and needs. We are born this way. What this means is that in order for a man and woman to come together a great divide must be crossed. Each must dialog with this strange foreign creature. Each must take into themselves part of the other.
In order to find, attract, and keep a woman, a man must learn to relate to a human being with real needs. He must settle down. He come out of his object-oriented world. And when a woman becomes connected to a man, her world becomes uncomfortably direction oriented — it takes on energy and goals that may not be natural to her. He must learn to meet her relational needs. She must learn to embrace his sexual needs. Two different people cross out of themselves.
And in order to do this over the long term it requires self-sacrifice and personal transformation. You simply cannot stay married to a single person for more than a few years and be self-centered. In order to make this happen, God gives us desire. He places deep with in the man a desire for the comfort and beauty of a woman. He places deep within the woman a desire for the strength and security of a man. And when they are young, these desires are supercharged with emotional and sexual energy which draws them together. These desires give them the will to come out of themselves and be something different than the naturally are.
As they stay in this relationship, the produce children, and the children grow up in an environment where love is being passed back and forth between two people. In other words — they grow up in relationship. They do not simply grow up with a mother and father. They grow out of the relationship between them, and they grow up in it. They see and experience wholeness as sons receive love from their mothers and guidance from their fathers, as daughters receive modeling from their mothers and affirmation from their fathers. And as they see the mother and father relate with love to one another. Each of these components becomes a central key to the child growing up with emotional health. When one is missing, God has backup systems to make up for it, but fundamentally something will be broken without it.
One of the problems in contemporary society is that children have alternative families called the Public School. In this alternative family, there are distant parents called teachers, but much of the real “parenting” happens among the “herd” of children. Children receive all kinds of negative fathering and mothering from these false parents, and develop a host of problems that would have been avoided inside their own families alone.
Another more obvious problem is that many children are growing up without to committed parents, and instead a host of step-parents, step-siblings, and step-everything else. Instead of feeling warmth and security, they feel anxiety and emotional shutdown.
My point here is that a family doesn’t just have relationships. A family is a relationship. And God’s fundamental design of bringing a man and woman together is what enables all of us to conduct human life. When the family is broken, we become fundamentally broken and society itself becomes broken. It begins to reflect relationship dysfunction instead of true loving relationships.