Saturday, November 24, 2012

Family... Redefined

It's official.  Family has absolutely nothing to do with blood.  I know this for a few reasons.

First and foremost, because I have three kids even though I've never been able to give birth.  That's right -- they're mine.  I laugh with them, cry with them, worry about them, give to them, instruct them, watch over them, guide them and -- did I mention? -- love them unconditionally, now and forever.  They're not my blood, but they're my family. 

Secondly, I have some 'family' who have been hurtful, divisive, belittling, condescending, deceitful, and who have betrayed me and others I love many times over the years. Though they are my blood, and though I love them to this day, I no longer feel the familial ties which, according to the world, supposedly 'bind'.  It does not mean there's no forgiveness -- there is.  It does not mean there is no love -- there is.  But it means that the definition of 'family' evolves each day.

Most importantly, there is a firm biblical definition of 'family' and that's what I'm talking about today.    Since I have some other friends who are going through familial issues right now, and it's taking its toll on them, I thought I'd share what I read this morning.  One of my favorites, Max Lucado, writes:

"Does Jesus have anything to say about dealing with difficult relatives? Is there an example of Jesus bringing peace to a painful family?  Yes, there is.  His own.  It may surprise you to know that Jesus had a family at all -- you may not be aware that he had brothers and sisters.  He did. [...] AND it may surprise you to know that his family was less than perfect.  They were.  If your family doesn't appreciate you, take heart: neither did Jesus'.  YET he didn't try to control his family's behavior, nor did he let their behavior control his.  He didn't demand that they agree with him.  He didn't sulk when they insulted him.  He didn't make it his mission to try to please them." --He Still Moves Stones

During a particular time of betrayal by his family, when they were themselves saying he was possibly crazy, when they did not believe in him, when they were questioning him, Jesus did not let it get to him.  When he was told that his mother and siblings were outside and wanted to speak to him about all of this, he said to his companions (the people who were close to him, the ones who were listening to him, the ones who supported him): "My true brother and sister and mother are those who do what God wants." Mark 3:35.  He goes on to say that blood is not thicker than water: trust and love and acceptance are thicker than blood.  "Obedience is thicker than blood," is how Mark 3:35 is translated in "The Message" bible, my personal favorite for really learning and getting into the story of Jesus. 

The bible also tells us something very important about people who are of the divisive ilk.  "If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them." - Titus 3:10.  We're not supposed to bend over backwards trying to force someone to see things our way.  We're not supposed to keep shoving things in their face.  They've been warned and given the information.  They've been asked to see things as they truly are. Sometimes they come back around and everything is okay, but often their nature will rear its head again, and we're in the same situation.  We are to remain content and at peace, and not let their divisiveness sway us from DOING WHAT WE KNOW IS RIGHT.

For those of you who are struggling with family, it's especially difficult at the holidays.  You may have many wonderful memories of childhood or young adulthood with those that you love and care about who have now become divisive and spiteful.  My advise is to CHERISH those memories.  Do not let current circumstances stain your nostalgia.  There is good and bad in everyone, in each of us, now and always.  Nobody is perfect -- nobody is even close.  Circumstances often change, and perhaps, in time, those who have been hurtful will be apologetic.  It's not up to us to force the issue, it's up to us to continue doing the next right thing in our own lives, and to pray, and pray, and pray for those we love and care about.

Going into the Christmas season, be grateful for the family that you have in your lives regardless of whether or not there is blood between you.  There is a blood that binds us all as brothers and sisters, as children of God, and it is that blood that we should think of before any other.

Stephanie Jean

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