The Merciful and The Mighty

Lisa May Executive Director, Live the Life South Florida

Dr. Murray Bowen introduced the family system theory, suggesting that individuals can’t be understood in isolation from one another but rather as a part of their family. According to Bowen, a family is an emotional system in which each member has a role to play and rules to respect. Members of the system are expected to respond to each other in a certain way according to their position.

Parental Roles, Merciful and Mighty

Every family has a cast of characters with colorful personalities and stories. They matter; we see glimpses of ourselves in them, our talents, tendencies and some of our troubles. Puzzle pieces, when put together, make our family portrait. So as Mothers and Fathers, how do we impact our family tree and our children? Both have life-determining significance with eternal consequences.


The role of a mother

Let’s consider the role of a mother. Mothers are extraordinary; all have sacrificed so many things on behalf of husbands, children, and extended families. All have stood behind the curtain of applause and recognition, ushering husbands and children to the center of the stage to lead and be prepared for leadership, yet knowing the applause of men is fleeting. They’ve spoken truth into their lives with a voice they can hear, in a way they can receive. They’ve prayed without ceasing for each of them. They’ve prepared countless meals and set them before the table of God. They’ve gone without sleep to care for them physically, to pray for them. They’ve wept when they wept. They’ve felt their pain and driven a million miles. The magnitude of a mother is often unrecognized because she happily stands behind the curtain. I’m reminded that God placed His only son in the hands of a woman to be loved and cared for, experience unconditional love, learn obedience, servanthood and sacrifice, and experience forgiveness. (although, without sin, he still ran off to the temple) Preparing Him, while being human, to say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus in His humanness, was prepared by His family but primarily by His Mother and God to save all of humanity. Mothers pave the way to salvation. The magnitude of a mother will only be known in eternity.


The influence of fathers

mercifulWhat about the father? I’ve often thought of the movie Australia and the idea of a young man’s walkabout. The film suggests that the mother cares for the child in the early years and then releases the child to the father figure when he becomes an adolescent to prepare him for manhood. Although there’s merit in both roles and stages of a child’s life, we never want to discount a father’s significance in early childhood. Research reveals that when a dad has positive contact with his children during the first two years of life, the children have fewer signs of unwanted and uncontrolled behavior. And the more connection an infant has before six months of age, the greater the infant’s ability to trust.

The family “system” is the incubator for emotionally healthy children. The marriage of the mother and father roles allows us to see and understand God.

While the mother is nurturing, the father challenges.

While the mother is gentle, the father is rough and tough.

While the mother is compassionate, the father confronts.

While the mother serves the family, the father is the provider.

While the mother sees the best in her children, the father demands the best.

The Mother often sets the rules, and the father enforces them.

Where the mother is tender, the father is a warrior.

Where the mother forgives the father is consequential.

Where the mother is Merciful, the father is Mighty.


The personality of God

Similarly, the Old Testament and the New Testament reveal the personality of God. In the Old Testament, we meet God as Mighty King. In the New Testament, we meet Jesus as Merciful King. Together, the full personality of God is revealed. When fathers are mighty and mothers are merciful, together the family’s character is formed. The children can see and understand God, allowing them to flourish and grow into the people they were created to be.

My dad made it easy for me to understand a relationship with Jesus. Like Christ, He loved me unconditionally, but like Christ, I knew if I didn’t obey him, there would be consequences. I knew that he would come looking for me if I didn’t come home on time, like Christ with the sheep. I knew that he’d support me and come to my aide if it served me best, but like Christ, he’d guide and allow me to make age-appropriate choices. Even as a young adult, when I made poor choices, he’d welcome me home like the prodigal son. Like Christ, He was faithful and kept his promises. Like Christ, He sacrificed for our family and me. We were second only to God on his priority list.


Our imperfect families

Not all of our family stories are sweet, and our roles are blended and often blurry.

Jesus was born to an unwed mother, in a stable, with an earthly stepfather. He grew up in a blended family, with half brothers and sisters who thought he was crazy and a stepfather who probably died when he was young. With 68 percent of our homes no longer headed by both biological parents, many don’t have the blessings of an earthly father. He began a revolution and was left to die a horrific death on the cross. What didn’t appear significant to most at that time has changed the world and our place in eternity. None of our families are perfect. It’s where we come from, they shape us, but even in our dysfunction, we must choose who we become. We can decide to heal our marriages, restore our relationships with our children, love sacrificially, and be intentional about keeping our families together. Jesus’s birth and death on the cross provided us a way for our families to be redeemed and become a part of a shared legacy in His family tree.

The magnitude of marriage with a mother and father as husband and wife can’t be understated. When a mother comes to Christ, her family will join her at church only 17 percent of the time; but when a father comes to Christ, his family joins him 93 percent of the time.


Live the Life South Florida exists to strengthen marriages and families through healthy relationship education, beginning in middle school through senior adults. We are educators, coaches, and pastoral counselors. If you’re looking for a clinical counselor or therapist, we are blessed to have many in the South Florida community.  We’d be honored to provide you a list of highly qualified and reputable individuals. Visit

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