I have a confession to make: I'm not perfect and neither is my family. (There, that felt good! If you're anything like me, it's a relief when another parent admits their weaknesses. It's consoling to know we're not alone.)

So you can imagine how relieved I was to read in one of my textbooks at the College for Officer Training that God works through all types of families. It was reassuring to hear that my family could still be a place to grow in love, acceptance, forgiveness and grace, despite our dysfunctions and shortcomings.

Spiritual Formation: A Wesleyan Paradigm, by Mark A. Maddix and Diane Leclerc, explains how this spiritual growth happens. Families are one of the main places we grow in our relationships with Christ and experience inner transformation. This transformation occurs as God speaks to us through our ordinary, daily routines. It takes place in our day-to-day interactions and in how we depend on God's power to relate to one another. This divine power is especially valuable smack-dab in the middle of an “I need a time out” moment.

Do you ever have those? I think it's safe to say that family relationships can be some of the most difficult and I, for one, could use some divine help on a regular basis. The bonus is that God not only helps me through challenging moments, but he transforms them into opportunities for my family to see him through me. He takes my weaknesses and turns them into occasions for them to experience his goodness. This exchange happens when I depend on his power and trust in his guidance.

Let me give you an example of this sanctifying journey. Before having children, I could hold my temper, even when someone was irritating me and I was short on patience. But over the past eight years, a few things have changed. On this journey of motherhood, I have seen my ugliest uglies bubble up. Where did all of my patience go?

Sometimes my kids even model my less-than-stellar behaviour, providing me with a front-row seat to a re-enactment of my mistakes. Knowing the value Jesus placed on humility, I've often asked my kids for forgiveness. I've noticed that when they see how I respond to mistakes, it affects their spiritual formation. Together we learn about repentance, forgiveness, grace and love.

The Apostle Paul writes, “But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Our families see us in our weakest moments and notice most of our character defects, but it is then that God's power is made perfect. It is in these moments of vulnerability and intimacy that we help each other grow.

Along with spontaneous opportunities for spiritual formation, it's important to intentionally practise spiritual disciplines as a family. Here are some that Maddix and Leclerc recommend:

    1. Worshipattending church together. Faith communities provide a place to share our struggles and our stories, and are where we recognize our connection to the broader family of God.

    1. Discipleship—praying and reading Scripture together, over a meal or during a car ride.

    1. Mission—serving together, whether at a local shelter or on an overseas mission trip.

    1. Stewardship—learning together how to manage time, money and talents.

Keep in mind that every family is different. We need to discover what works to nurture spiritual formation for our family. Over time, the disciplines we connect with will likely change as we change, and that's to be expected.

Whether it's through the organic, day-to-day moments, or through the intentional practice of spiritual disciplines, don't lose perspective: it's God who is growing your family spiritually, even through your imperfections.

Cadet Jennifer Henson is in her second year of study in the Joyful Intercessors Session at the College for Officer Training in Winnipeg.

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