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Groans From Within! (06.09.05--Family--Prov. 11:29)


I turned the engine over but oh the groans from within! My old leaf vacuum hadn’t been run in about a year and it was time to put it back into service redeeming the lawn and pathways of the carpet of the beech leaves blown down in a recent storm. Stored in the old shed, it had always been there, ready to serve. Each season my son and I had changed the oil and emptied the engine of old fuel. We cleaned it up, washing away the film of grit and leaves. It always had been faithful before when so treated. But, not this time. Although the engine roared to life in but a few pulls, the racket of clacking valves soon gave me pause to push the throttle closed. The groans from within signaled something was terribly amiss on the inside despite the fact that the outside everything looked quite normal.


Families are like that as well. Sometimes, from the outside everything appears to be quite normal, even peaceful, but on the inside there may be trouble brewing.


The family of our 2nd president, John Adams, was such a family. John and Abigail’s eldest child, Abigail, married a wastrel and at her death left her children to their care. Son Charles married the sister of his spendthrift brother-in-law, dissipated family funds, died of alcoholism and left his widow to the care of his parents. Son Thomas Boylston also became an alcoholic, again bequeathing his children to the care of the family.


Though John Quincy turned out well, he and his unhappy wife Louisa hardly went unscathed. Their first son was an alcoholic and committed suicide at the age of 31. Their next son was expelled from college, failed in business and died of an alcohol-related illness. Only their youngest son, Charles Francis, reacted against the family pattern by his exemplary sobriety, his prudence in business and fervent dedication to his wife and children. Later he concluded, “The history of my family is not a pleasant one to remember. It is one of great triumphs in the world but of deep groans within, one of extraordinary brilliancy and deep corroding mortification.” (Charles Francis Adams in U.S. News and World Report, Dec 12, 1988)


God wants us to do more than simply strive to make our families look good to others on the outside. If there is a bad temper, a stubborn stroke of independence or a careless spirit within a home, eventually these will become clattering warning signs that the whole thing should be shut down for repairs. As Christians we need to constantly be on alert for those internal warning signs that things aren’t quite right and not wait until a clattering valve becomes a “blown engine.” As consistent engine maintenance serves that purpose with leaf blowers, consistence family maintenance through family worship and prayer can do marvels for a family that might be running a little “rough” on the inside.

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