My cousin said something interesting the other day. She said that she wants to “do family a little bit better”. There was no need for an explanation or clarification. I understood exactly what she meant. She wants to experience, to live within and contribute to a healthier context of family. Something more loving. More forgiving. More gracious. More tolerant. More truthful. More trusting. More supportive. More stable. More fruitful. More tempered. And in my words- I imagine less secrets. Less fear. Less possessiveness. Less grudgeful. Less manipulative. Less guarded. Less judgment. Less onerous. Less toxic.
I love my family- with all its idiosyncrasies and mild dysfunctions. How planned dinners always start an hour late. How everyone shares everyone’s business except when it’s most important- like breaking a generational curse. I contemplate what doing family better would look like. Yes, I’d like to see a family portrait in which the forceful and fragile among us can co-exist, where the elephant in the room gets ushered out. A family in which everyone feels validated. Where we’re all healthy, happy and whole!
Flipping through the scriptures in my mind, I’m tempted to be discouraged. I cannot recall one family in the Bible that wasn’t crazy, or had a least one crazy relative.
Cain killed his brother. Abraham said his wife was actually his sister- twice- to avoid possibly being killed. He also had to send his son away because of the rift between Sarah and Hagar. Lot offered up his daughters to a gang of would-be rapists. Rebecca encouraged her son to trick his dad into giving him his brother’s inheritance. Judah got his daughter-in law pregnant, albeit unknowingly. Joseph’s brothers thought about killing him but sold him into slavery instead. Eli’s sons were described as scoundrels. Athalia killed nine of her grandchildren. David’s son raped his sister. David’s other son tried to kill, uh, David. And Mary and Joseph accidently left Jesus behind at a festival. After the celebration, they headed home and did not realize until much later that the Son of God was not with them! Really?!?
What hope for a healthy family do we have? What are we to model? Who are we to model?
Here’s what I’ve got-
- God. We are to model God, Himself; to make Him the head of your household. We are to let Him teach us how to love, share, and parent. Joshua 24:15 says it best:
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” NIV
- Patience. We extend much grace and exercise greater tolerance for the people in our work place than we do for those we call family. We ignore unsavory behavior. We forgive outbursts in meeting. We make concessions for those not pulling their weight. But with family, we kill with silence, we avoid interaction, we offer medicine without honey. We can’t treat others better than the ones we claim to love in the name of family. I like the New Living Translation of Proverbs 19:11:
Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.
- Think Positive. Sounds like cotton-candy ministry, almost trite, right? But how else do you overlook an offense except that you focus on the positive? How do we experience family better unless we choose to look at things as better?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV
My family is one rooted in God. And like many of you, we daily seek to live in our identity as King Kids. And like many of you, we come up short. We hurt each other, whether intentional or not. You’ve heard the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” Well, we try to live like Jesus’ blood is thicker than [our] blood. But it doesn’t always feel that way. And so we find ourselves in the ongoing exercise of forgiving everything -real or perceived- done to us, intentional and unintentional. Choosing to be positive. Choosing to do family better.
Our family scripture is Ephesians 3:20, Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.
The operative phrase there is “the power that worketh in us.” Our adoption of this scripture acknowledges that we have the power. That we control the capacity of that power. And that Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think is waiting for us to work that power.
I encourage you to exercise your power to choose- choose Him; to extend grace and do family better. Work the power within you!