When I see the words “family” and “home” in the title of a Christian book, I usually prepare myself for a memoir laced with how-to’s and best practices for things like communicating with your spouse and getting your kid to eat vegetables.
But Russell Moore’s latest book, The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home isn’t like that. Any definitive answer or direction he gives to the complex problems or “storms” that a family may experience involves an arm earnestly pointing to the cross. Storms are calmed at the cross.
Throughout the book he shows consistent parallels between family and the cross, starting here:
“Family is…the source of life-giving blessing but also of excruciating terror, often all at the same time. Likewise, this is also true of the cross. In the cross, we see both the horrific curse of sin, the judgement of God, and the blessing of God in saving the world,” (pg. 3).
Perspective Reframed by the Cross
If you want to better understand family, marriage, sexuality, parenting, and family trauma situations from a biblical perspective and how the cross permeates all these areas, try reading The Storm-Tossed Family. It reframed my perspective of a lot of these things. In the chapters about men, women, marriage, and sexuality, Moore looked to the cross as the true image of words like: masculinity, weakness, servant, headship, and submission. The cross reframes and reshapes our perspective, often clarifying or completely redefining words from how we have come to understand them.
There’s an example of this in the book when Moore tells the story of a man seeking advice about what to do in his marriage. His wife was deep into her dementia and no longer recognized the man as her husband. So he wanted to know if he could rightfully leave her to pursue other women. While worldly wisdom might encourage the man to take this route because his wife is mentally gone and wouldn’t be hurt by his actions, Moore says the cross offers a different perspective.
“Jesus had a bride who did not recognize him anymore. She forgot who she was – and denied who he was…Jesus did not divorce her,” (pg. 107).
In a nutshell: “The way of the cross is different,” (196).
Paradoxes Consistent with the Cross
While the book covers some very serious topics, it’s not without humor – because that’s life in a family, isn’t it? Sometimes what makes us cry also makes us laugh, and vice versa.
The Storm-Tossed Family is an enjoyable and engaging book to read. I found myself smiling, blushing, and tearing up all throughout the book because Moore described, in simple terms, true things about life lived consistently with the message of the cross. Like how “monogamy and fidelity don’t restrict sexual freedom; they fuel it,” (pg.130). And “the future children bring is one of joy, but also of sacrifice, sacrifice, but also of joy. This is the paradox of modern parenthood…” (pg. 204).
Moore’s new book is not idealistic, prescriptive, or depressing. It’s real life with real hope all because of the cross.
“The cross makes it clear that evil is real, and calls for the judgment of God. The cross also makes it clear that none of us need be undone ultimately by what has been done to us, or, sometimes even worse, by what we have done to others,” (pg. 242).
A couple pieces of advice for those considering buying or borrowing The Storm-Tossed Family:
Keep a pencil nearby, not only to underline passages that will inevitably inspire “ah-ha” moments, but also to underline words to look up in a dictionary later. The book is very readable, but I came across a few words I didn’t recognize like “athwart,” which means: in opposition to, and “chivalric noblesse oblige,” which turned out to be a French phrase anyway, so I didn’t feel bad for not knowing it. But don’t let that scare you away because Moore also uses words like “hubbub.”
Be open and ready to be wrong. Moore backs-up his premises in the book with biblical principles, but that doesn’t mean it’s all easy to hear, especially if you don’t already agree. The warning is in the subtitle: “How the Cross Reshapes the Home.” This reshaping isn’t very comfortable to clay that is already set and dry – then it becomes more like carving and chiseling.
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