The Family Code
From early on in our family's life we made a habit of gathering around the table once every six months or so and making a list of those things we believed and lived by. They weren't lists of rules (eat your veggies, tithe, etc.) but lists of overriding principles; a description of who we were as a family and what "rules of the heart" we were willing to submit ourselves to.
When the kids were little they would lose patience with the process fairly quickly, but not before giving a couple guidelines of their own. "No hitting!" "Be nice to people!" "You should share your stuff!" And then, vrooom! They were gone. That was fine. Now the code was their code. When it was all done we would put it on the refrigerator (right by the L plates) and all were bound to it. Since it wasn't scripture it needed rewritten and edited every so often, but never by just one person. We all got involved. It was a great time for teaching, but also of learning as daddy's ears got to hear what the kids and wife thought needed to be family law.
My daughter is married now and my son is 16, but we still have the code. Here is the last version of it that we worked on together.
1. I will walk gently on this earth. By this I mean that I will try not to shed blood, pollute, or otherwise take from this earth more than I need to so that life may continue after I am gone.
2. I will forgive others of their sins and never hold those sins against them. I have been forgiven too often by the Lord to hold any sin, no matter of what consequence, against anyone, even if they do not repent.
3. Jesus is the center of our family, the judge in all matters of argument or policy. I have relinquished control to Him and will not take it back into my hands. If He said it, that settles it, but if He didn't say it, it is negotiable.
4. I will make every effort to live in peace with all men and women.
5. I will try to do what is right rather than try to win any personal battles.
6. As a servant, I will serve.
7. As I am committed to Christ, I must commit to my family and the church which He established. My order of priority must be Christ, His church, the family, myself, and then the job or school.
8. I will endeavor never to allow culture or tradition to blind me to the truth of God's Word or to its execution. I will also try to never let my fear of culture or tradition to disrupt the people of God unnecessarily.
9. Whatever Jesus says is right -- even if I do not understand it. Whatever Jesus does is right -- regardless of whether or not I would have done it that way. Whatever Jesus is is right -- and my goals should be aligned towards becoming more like Him.
10. My life, goals, and wishes are relatively unimportant when they are compared to the larger goal of pleasing God and blessing His people -- including members of this family.
Don't make one of these things if you don't want to be bound by it. One day the wind caught the screen door, jerked it out of my hand and slammed it shut. My daughter called down from upstairs, "We are a gentle people!" Because of number 7 I present my calendar to my wife and children. They have veto power over any travel, any speaking engagement, etc. There have been a few times when the elders scheduled a meeting when my wife needed me or my son needed a ride home. I made my apologies to the elders and took care of my family. They are good and godly men and didn't give me grief over it, but had they done so it wouldn't have changed a thing. I can get another job. I can't fail my family.
Notice that outside symbols of success are absent from this list. They are secondary. An example: my son was struggling with algebra (and I was NO help) and his grades just weren't great. After his sister breezed through school with a 4.0 his low Bs and Cs were troubling. I went to parent-teacher night at his school and one teacher after another said something like this: "We think Duncan can get better grades. He is intelligent and seems willing to learn. However, we must say this: he is a Christian gentleman. He is well behaved and a reliable friend to both the staff and the kids." I was thrilled -- over the moon! For in a hundred years the fact that son couldn't figure out what "y" meant in that equation will not matter much, but whether or not he belonged to Jesus, whether or not he lived according to the code -- that will mean everything.