I was a third year OB/GYN resident at Bethesda Naval Hospital when I was required to live and work at the Marine Corps base, Camp LeJeune located in North Carolina for three months as part of my obstetrical training. In the big scheme of things three months isn’t much, but it seemed like an eternity as I left Pam and our three children in the Washington, D.C. suburbs for the solitude of the BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters) in North Carolina. I was sent there to gain more experience in obstetrics (delivering babies). What I learned was the importance of my family.
We talk about the need to connect with others, care about others, and reach out to others, which is important. However, at Camp LeJeune I discovered the most basic and formative connections we make are those with our own family. I’m astonished at how easy it is to take for granted our relationships with our spouses, children, brothers, and sisters. And yet the family unit, the home, is the God-appointed place for us to learn how to relate to one another. The home is a “testing ground” of sorts. It is the place God designed for us to learn relational skills.
During those three months at Camp LeJeune, I thought carefully about how much I treasured my family. I thought about my attitude toward them and how often I interacted with them out of selfish motives. It was the beginning of a long journey for me to understand how precious my family truly is to me. Though I missed them dearly when I was absent from them, I knew that I often treated my car with more love and respect than I treated them when I was present with them. It was then that I determined to make a shift in my life. I realized that my priorities were amiss. I had seen things as more precious than people. Too often, my car, my job, my reputation, my status was more important than my family.
It’s been a challenging and yet rewarding journey toward treating my family as the precious gifts they are. Once I learned to value my family as precious, I slowly realized that I was beginning to see others as precious as well. I am thankful God is patient with me and has never given up on me. No matter what our family relationships have been like in the past, God can transform us into people who can connect with others beginning with our family today. It’s up to us. It is in this context that Paul writes in Colossians 3:
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.