Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Un-Perfect Family And Christmas Events

Many people look forward to the holidays and family time WITHOUT much enthusiasm.

Why?  The answer is an age old answer, because of family problems.

Sometimes it is brothers and sisters who do not get along as in the first family of the earth.  Cain’s indifference after killing his brother was obvious…

"Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Where is Abel your brother?' He said, 'I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?'" Genesis 4:9 

Sometimes it is problems between mothers and fathers, divorce or fighting.  Sometimes it is children pitted against parents as we see clearly prophesied about in Micah 7:6

For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

Other times it is a single rebellious child or rebellious adult who seems to love to make life miserable for everyone around them.  Isn’t there one of “those” people in every family?  A negative aunt or uncle who only speaks about problems, problems and more problems? A drug or alcohol addict who loves to use a family event as a reason to get smashed? Or a family member with a “wild child” who walks on the dining room table, pinches the babies and kicks the dog? Or an incessant talker?  Sometimes one insecure, divorced parent has pitted the children against the other parent in a power struggle and the family cannot enjoy holiday time due to that power struggle.

If you and I are honest, sometimes family gatherings seem more like a curse than a blessing.  In fact, if we are honest, we all know people who cannot have family events because of one or several of the above stated problems.  I know of a family where the father does not participate in family gatherings due to sins long ago committed and never forgiven by the ex-wife and the now adult children who still refuse to see him.  I know of several families where one of the adult siblings does not participate with the family.  All of us know families with these types of problems.

The bottom line is that God in His infinite wisdom formed us in our mother’s womb.  
Isaiah 44:2 Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee…
Isaiah 44:24 Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things…
Isaiah 49:5 And now, saith the LORD that  formed  me from the womb to be his servant…my God shall be my strength.
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; …
He knew who our crazy brothers and sisters would be, he knew our godly or ungodly parents, he knew our grandparents, our aunts, our uncles, etc. and He chose your family for you… But why did He choose “that” particular relative for me? I challenge you to forget about “me” for a minute and think about that “strange” relative or relatives…
Have we ever thought how hard holidays are for the rejected person? Or persons?  Haven’t we all thought, “They deserve it!” But have we ever thought of doing the Christian thing and including those people in events, even though we may think they do not deserve to be included?

Sometimes I hear people say, “I hate the holidays.”  To me the holidays are one of the happiest times of the year.  I love being able to share about Jesus to complete strangers, invite exchange students or the poor to dinner, with an open door of opportunity because it is His birthday celebration.  I love the smells of cinnamon and cloves, the big Christmas Eve dinner with family, the firecrackers (a Honduran custom), parties with friends, good memories, cookie exchanges, baking, Christmas Day at family and friend’s homes and all the festivity. 

The holidays can bring out the best in us and others or if we're not careful they can also bring out the worst in us. As a Christian, I have learned that I must look at everything in the light of the scripture.  

1 John 2:10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

Is it possible that we can cause people to stumble because of our attitude about family members at Christmas?  My mother-in-law was very Catholic and resented the fact that I had led her son to the Lord “through the back door”.  To her, it seemed to be better that he was doing bad things then for him to go to a “Christian” church.  When my first child was born, she was sure that my children were going to hell because they had not been baptized in the Catholic Church.  Not only did she tell my husband and I this, but she told the children when they were only 4 and 6 years old…  I was mad, yet I loved her…  My husband was always “too fat” or my meals had “too many calories” or I “spent too much on decorations” or “the girls didn’t have warm enough clothes on” or a “nice bottle of wine or some beer would make the dinner better”.  It was always something… WRONG… but…

She was a good woman, she had a good heart, she had her ideas which were sometimes misguided and if something didn’t jive with her ideas of how things should be, you heard about it and so did everyone else.  This made it hard for me at times, in fact, I used to get terrible headaches the week before Thanksgiving and Christmas just thinking of having the family over, but I did it anyway.  The cursing, using God’s name in vain, the backbiting, the noise of it all made me “tense”, but family is family…

You see, love is a choice and I made my choice.  I chose my husband and in choosing him, I chose my in-laws. When she had cancer surgery, it was me who went to Colorado to be with her, not any of her four children.  I sat with her during those days in the hospital.  Her own children, including my husband, had major problems with her at times, but my choice was made.  I had chosen to love my husband and I by default had chosen to love her. She and all of my husband’s brothers and his sister and their families were also invited to Christmas and Thanksgiving, no matter what. 

Then came the theft, one of my husband’s family members reneged on a contract and left my husband high and dry, in effect stole tens of thousands of dollars… his mother threatened to leave him out of her will, like her mother had left her out of her will and my husband angrily vowed to, “never see his family again”…  everyone sided with the family member who broke their promise and sided against my husband who was left “holding the bag”…  It was a hard time for my husband…  He told me, “I have made up my mind, do not bug me about it.” So I didn’t.  As a result, of his decision and my silence, my girls went for many years without seeing their paternal grandmother or their aunts, uncles and cousins.  I made a mistake, instead of pushing him to reconcile with them and to continue to see his family and fellowship with his family, I kept silent…  

I said all of that to say this, what I am speaking, I am speaking from experience.  Some of our (yours and mine) family members are very loveable, but others are not.  With this in mind, we must sometimes make conscious decisions to love our family members.  We should all chose to love our families this holiday season and all year long. In fact we are called by God to do exactly that…

1 Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.

As we abide in God's love, we are given the supernatural power to love our alcoholic brother-in-laws, our prideful sisters, our weird aunts, our hateful uncles, our lazy, “couch potato” father-in-laws, even our obnoxious mother-in-laws and our punk rock nieces. When we love fervently, our reward comes from the Lord.  If we are not “fervently loving”, then we are not doing our part.  They may be wrong but we are too!

I remember part of an old recipe which I found many years ago in a Anne Landers newspaper column.  I do not have the news column but it went something like this,

A Recipe for Love

1 cup of faith
2 cups of forgiveness
1 clove of loyalty
1 sprig of trust
1 pinch of honesty
1 dash of herbs and spices for strength
2 teaspoon of kindness
1 teaspoon of joy
2 cups of friendship
1 cup of respect

Love helps us overlook conflict. Love helps us to cover a multitude of sins. When something is covered up, we don't see it clearly. So may one of our New Year’s resolutions be that this year’s Valentines, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Vacation, birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers be our best ever as we choose to love our families with the same love that God has for us!

My mother-in-law has since gone to be with the Lord, my husband has since reconciled with his family.  My children now enjoy having a relationship with the paternal side of their family like they always had with the maternal side as they grew up.

This Christmas, in Honduras, I was unable to be with my family, my mom and dad, my brother, my girls and their collective six children but I thought of them, thanked God for them and know that I am blessed to have them as all as my family.

Happy New Year to mom and dad, my brother Jim, Jessica Searcy Maldonado and Sarah Searcy Gonzalez, my two precious daughters and all of my grandchildren, David, Michael, Daniel, Christina, Selah and Caleb!  I miss you all!  I promise, I will see you this year!

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