To say I’ve been a little lost since I last spoke to you wouldn’t be an understatement. Perhaps it’s been less depression this time around, and more of an uninspired lost-ness as it relates to the practice of writing something that someone who aspires to be a writer is actually compelled to write, and of course something that has the potential to lift up those who read it. This of course is the plague that all would be writers’ experience, and there are probably more books on attempting to get rid of “writer’s block” than perhaps the craft of writing itself. In addition, every writer knows that no matter how you overcome it, the real daily task is to sit down and just simply write—something I am still struggling to break through in a much more consistent fashion. But now on to the task at hand.
I’ve had it in my heart to write a little something about family for some time now, yet for some reason I have avoided it much like a man purposely evades doctor appointments. I guess it’s because I know, and so do you, that though the word family can evoke some of the greatest emotions and happy thoughts, it is also the cause of some of the most gut wrenching pain that this life can dish out—and sometimes mercilessly so.
Now I understand that for some of the lucky few, mostly the happy thoughts I spoke of, as wells as concepts of things like “home” and “warmth” and “peace” and “tranquility” are the feelings that come to mind; and for good reason. For instance, if you have been privileged as my wife and I have to actually put a lot of thought and focus into building a family like that as a result of our own childhoods’ lack of familial bliss, even if you’ve been successful at nothing more, these are sensations that should be hopefully normative. Having said that however, I also realize that we’ve had our share of failures in that purposeful endeavor, and that if we live long enough; both history, our own sanctification process, and perhaps our own children are bound to let us know where we too have erred.
Others however know nothing of this experience of which I speak from their own background as a child, and as a result, the sins of the fathers and mothers procreates on through them in such a predictable fashion that Hollywood makes billions of dollars each year showcasing its sadness for our viewing pleasure. Abysmal dysfunctionality is the norm, and one would have to channel surf until the cows came home to find it’s corrective opposite. And so ultimately people find themselves on one of two sides of the equation; or perhaps like me, they find themselves somewhere a shot or two shy of the middle. The miracle of it all is that in spite of my own dysfunctional familial background, through God’s grace, I have been privileged to have a very wise and patient God give me some insight on how to “undo” some of the curse of families like my own from Cain onward, and alongside a loving wife with the same vision for saying “no” to the worlds terrible example of how to do so. It’s also the same emphatic “no” to many “family worshipers” who put family above all else with the accompanying guilt-mongering and “my kid is an honor student and yours isn’t” that goes with it; and to the exclusion of the loving compulsion Christ bids us to embark on for others outside of our families, which sadly also includes most Christians. And it is also a final “no” the incessant deification of the self that causes both rich and poor mothers and fathers alike to take a back seat on child rearing all together, and who gladly surrender them to educational institutions, social media and Tinseltown, who have been more than happy to take up the task for them. The results in my humble opinion rival sins equivalent to the holocaust, in that resultantly, we are slowly killing them in ways some of them don’t even uncover until much later in life. The body bags for now are slightly hidden or perhaps tucked away in prison cells, failed marriages and Xanax bottles, but they could fill up a Normandy-like battlefield in no time flat.
Jesus and the apostles of course had some things to say about family, mostly none of which we actually remember I’m guessing by what’s blowing in the wind these days. They mentioned things like the particulars of the sexes and roles within that make up an actual family, and the fact that “putting it asunder” was not in the original design despite our whimsical wishes, and how we are to train our little rug-rats in the way they should go–all the while not exasperating them in the process. And of course they said a whole lot about that thing called graceful love being permeated throughout and thus characteristic of those families that the world I’m afraid is still waiting in an endless line to see.
Yet we are also taught another side to family from the scriptures that we also forget that should be good news for those somewhere in the middle or on the lower spectrum of experiencing what this kind of family can be like. In fact, on one particular day Peter himself said these words to the Master. He said:
“See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30)
As I read that passage, and as I have studied others and read countless books about the concept of family as it relates to the Christian’s task in it, I realized that there is often a time on the narrow path where one is called upon to sometimes “leave” family and friends to answer this call to a higher love. Though many Christian parents understand this conceptually, most recoil at the prospect once they are faced with letting one go to in fact embark upon it. Jesus’s promise however is that by following Him we also take up another family (the universal-organic church) that will give us more brothers and sisters and Moms and Dads than we can shake a stick at (a blog for another time). This is of course is really good news to those who accept the call, but equally good news to those of us who never knew what family was like until we step into God’s much bigger, much more loving and inclusive family. In fact I can remember time and time again reminding my sons that no matter what the world would dish out during the day, that once they stepped into the threshold of our home, it was to be a place of sanctuary and peace, and where absolutely everyone belongs. There were of course times when the devil would attempt to have his day, but we all became trained exorcists with stock piles of holy water, who each knew exactly when it was time to cast the demon out of our loving, yet imperfect home–and we did so expeditiously.
The scriptures as a whole also teach us that when our biological families and friends become more of a curse than a blessing, or who become cancer-like in their toxicity to our own families that we are now trying to raise, despite the admonition to still honor them rightly defined, there are times when those ties must be somewhat loosened, and thus given less prominence in comparison to our own call on the narrow path, and to which many times are in stark competition with one another. Something about “leaving” and “cleaving” also come to mind. Nonetheless, this however is a “tough row to hoe” when it happens; as the demons of guilt, manipulation, sibling rivalry, family money and power, and self-projected allegiances are asserted as nothing shy of how God himself would have it. The painful betwixt and between many times are enough to become a “no win” scenario that requires a partial divorce of sorts that pours time-release salt into an almost endless wound. And as I’ve been known to say time and time again, “there’s nothing like frickin family”, and often times they are the ones who run the damn salt factory!
This reminds me of the admonition from the apostle Paul on how to live Christianly in our relationships in the tail end of Romans chapter 12 where he writes,
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”. (Romans 12:18)
In my own experience with family relationships, I have found that most specifically here, many times the possibility of peace becomes an impossibility for those who simply will not allow the peace of Christ to pour on the healing oil and let go of the gripping hold they have on various family members, and their hold of choice is not sticks and stones regrettably, but the venomous words that indeed always hurt us. This scripture tells me that we must let go and forgive, but this does not always mean our bestowal of peace will be reciprocated, especially if it comes with a heavy dose of speaking the truth in love towards those who’ve been used to their job as a Geppetto-like puppet master over our lives. But our Lord has not mixed words here. He will have no other Gods before Him, and unbeknownst to some, this includes the ties that were initially designed to bind. And the truth is, sometimes God is all we’ve got while we wait for our families to take up the task of peacemaking with us, confession is made, and the relinquishing once and for all of their power-wielding sword is finally put in it’s sheath–but we mustn’t hold our breath. However, we must realize that even as we wait, the one who holds your hand will always most definitely be enough, and He is a good, good Father.