With each passing year, the concept of the “nuclear family” that my generation grew up in is becoming more and more frowned upon. In fact, earlier this year, I read an article in The Atlantic magazine calling the nuclear family “a catastrophic mistake.” As I read, I wondered if its author had ever experienced what that meant:
- Had the author grown up outside of the nuclear family?
- If so, how did that impact his worldview, value system, and morality?
- Had he not gained life lessons from watching his parents interact and work together to support a growing family?
- Had he not witnessed how love and faith can overcome challenges?
We can all agree that our world has undergone significant changes in the past sixty years and that the family structure has adapted to these changes.
From my volunteer work with women’s shelters and in our community, I have seen many of these changes firsthand. And from my own experience of being adopted at fourteen, I have personally found how coming from a broken, dysfunctional “nuclear family” has impacted me and given me a very different baseline than most.
Even though my biological “nuclear family” included a father and mother and siblings (well, half-siblings, anyway), a key ingredient was missing: There was very little love. The pain, loneliness, and separation that came from being in that environment left me a distrusting, independent, hard-nosed, worldly young person focused on himself.
But with God’s help—and lots of patience and understanding on my adoptive family’s side—my world changed. Becoming a part of a genuine family taught me what a loving, nurturing, faith-driven family looks like.
God moved my new dad and mom (Stewart and Theresa Adams), along with two of their sons, from Massachusetts to Florida—giving me a family. While becoming a valued family member resulted in “culture shock,” it was the answer to a young boy’s prayers to feel loved. As I matured, I understood how the love I so longed for wasn’t from my parents, siblings, or myself. The heart and soul of a loving family is God.
With His presence in the lives of my new family, the love He filled them with spilled over to me. I have long said, “Whatever good someone sees in me results from what my parents poured into me.” And while I mean this with utmost respect and admiration, I realize the fallacy in this statement.
The statement is accurate, but it ignores the source of all the lessons they poured into me: Had God’s love not made room for them to love one more wayward child, His plan for me may have gone unfulfilled. Had both my adopted parents not loved me, they would not have invested their time in molding me into the man God meant for me to become.
For example, my dad taught me many things. He instilled in me a work ethic, taught me the meaning of integrity, and helped develop many trade skills that have served me well for many years. Dad also showed me what it meant to be kind, generous, and loving toward others. I watched him give to others—with a smile—even when it meant he sometimes did without himself. He would always share, saying, “I’m just giving back a small portion of all the blessings God has given me.”
While dad was the leader of our family, Mom was without question our family’s spiritual influence. Both she and dad were devout Christians, whom I often found reading the Bible together when my brother and I came in from closing up the station. But it was Mrs. Theresa Marcella Adams, nee Legere, a feisty, raspy-voiced little woman of French descent, who had the biggest impact on our family.
Mom, who worked beside us each day in the family’s service station, gave me very different gifts. She taught me to read and study God’s word. She also showed me the results of a fervent and effective prayer life. I’ll always cherish those early mornings when I would come out of the bedroom to find Mom. She’d be sitting in her chair with a cup of coffee, her Bible, and a long list of prayer needs. It was she who taught me to cherish my “God time” each day.
I could write volumes about my parents and the blessings I received from the lessons they taught, but they can be summed up with one word: love. The love they had for each other; the love they shared with their family and the community they served, all came from the same source. First Corinthians 13:13 says it better than I ever could:
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Whatever type of family you are a part of, please remember that its heart and soul is our loving God. Nothing shows this truth any better than the words of John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
I pray you invite God to be at the center of your lives and home, so He becomes the heart and soul of your family. The results will be nothing short of miraculous.
J.D. Wininger is an award-winning writer and speaker who teaches compelling lessons in faith and writes heartfelt devotionals and books to glorify God. He has written for national magazines, CBN.com, Lighthouse Bible Studies, and contributed to several books. When not working his Texas ranch, he and his wife Diane share God’s love in surrounding communities.