John likes to say he grew up in the Simpson family and I grew up in the Cleaver family. For those of you born before this century that’s the Leave-it-to-Beaver-all-american-solve-the-oh-so-dramatic-problem-of-someone-telling-a-white-lie-in-30-minutes-and-live-happily-ever-after-TV-family-of-the-1960’s.
I share that only because we’re coming up on Thanksgiving and Christmas and every holiday that involves families gathering together.
Some of us have dreams that look like this:
But reality can often look like this:
And as wonderful as my family is, and as much as I’d like to think they’re perfect, I’m resigned to face the truth that there is no such thing as a fully functional family. We live in a broken world and we’re a broken people – dysfunctional in some way, every one of us.
It’s a little comforting to know we have some not-so-stellar company in Bible families.
- Lot got drunk and slept with his daughter.
- Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.
- David refused to deal with his son, Absolom’s sin.
- Abraham slept with his wife’s servant.
Not exactly “Minnesota nice.”
“How is this encouraging?” you say!
Well, in spite of their sin, God forgave, redeemed and used them. There is hope for all of us.
For those looking forward to Norman Rockwell gatherings this week, praise God. But for those who are going into the crazy zone that is your family, what are some things you can do to prepare?
Think of the person or people you will see who brings out the worst in you. The person who tries your patience, or shames you, or prompts you to act like your two-year-old self.
Consider these insights from Henry Cloud:
“You can’t control outcomes. You can only control your behavior. Focus on that and you will get better outcomes.”
- What is it in you that needs to change? What can you control?
“No one can manipulate you unless you need something from them….figure out what you need and you will discover the source of their power.”
- What are you looking for from someone else that only God can perfectly give you? Approval? Forgiveness? Love?
- What can you authentically affirm in each of your family members? A kind word can diffuse a lot of tension.
Most importantly, though, maybe prepare by praying. Hands open.
Lord, I bow before You, marred, and messed up, just like the rest of my family. Help me to see myself and Yourself more clearly. Give me grace to cover the offenses of others. Give me humility to ask forgiveness where I have offended. Give me courage to speak the truth and pursue healthy boundaries.
So as you anticipate being with family sometime during the holidays, is it with excitement or a knot in your stomach? Are you going in prepared and prayed up?