When I was growing up, I had the ability to charm most of my parents’ friends. “Moms love me,” I used to say. But after a while, that politeness kind of wore off. The truth is, if we are actually going to forge a real relationship, we might have to withstand some conflict—and I think it’s worth it, usually, to try and get intimate enough to have a messy conflict and then see what happens. I think most of the times, instead of having a good conflict, we end up just fleeing altogether, afraid of what might happen if we actually are vulnerable enough to make our needs and ideas known. I don’t think that’s very good relating, but I think it might be the “learned default” for some of us.
This is particularly the “learned default” might be how we typically relate to our families of origin; it can be very daunting to approach people that who raised us and actually have a tangible conflict that doesn’t end in a tear-filled tantrum. In other words, it’s hard to act like an adult.
Dad and I have had our share of blow outs and screaming matches (most of the screaming comes from me) wherein it seems like it becomes a child versus adult conflict all over again, and not the kind of dialogue that really ends in a more intimate and even productive relationship. empathize with individuals who are struggling with a similar dynamic.
It’s hard to have adult relationships with the individuals who formed us into adults, to be sure. Moreover, it’s hard to have an adult faith that is distinct from the one we grew up with or without. It’s hard to have a faith that is strong and mature over the course of the 60-or-so years of adulthood (I’m less than ten years into adulthood!), to be sure; especially if we’ve had a difficult experience with faith or family growing up. Our intimate environment, one where we sharing our burdens, caring for each other, loving each other is hard to believe. I commend those dozen people who entered a covenant this weekend with that family despite the numerous objections that they or anyone else could rightfully have. It’s good to have partners that aren’t transferring all of their difficulties growing up onto their faith community. But no one said that would be easy.
Jesus was serious about his mission and he found twelve followers that were available and willing to follow him. They weren’t the most educated or the most radical people around, but I think what held them together was their longing to follow Jesus. They may not have known right away that he was the Messiah, but they figured it out along the way. They developed eyes to see Jesus along the way.
But it took some serious and radical commitment to do that. They literally had to leave everything behind. And when Jesus sent them to go and be missionaries in their region, he didn’t mince his words. It wasn’t an easy journey, and it would require sacrifice, detachment, and complete loyalty to Jesus first and foremost.
He sends them off to find the lost sheep of Israel and tells them to raise the dead and heal the sick (literally and figuratively)—to give generously of what they have, because it’s all God’s anyway.
But they shouldn’t mistake giving money for actually doing God’s work—actually labor for Him, Jesus tells them. The worker is worth his keep. Go with confidence, he says, and invite yourself to someone’s house to teach to them or to give to them and if they refuse it, well, your reward is in heaven.
The journey isn’t easy—Jesus tells them they are sheep among wolves and they will threaten the powers that be and be arrested and tried and the Spirit will guide them and will comfort them. And on this had journey, you’ll be betrayed—often by people that are close to you. But keep going, keep working. He tells them to acknowledge the Father among everyone, even if that puts us at odds with our families, our parents, our children or whomever.
There’s a new family that we are called to join and give us another shot at doing the family thing—which is totally needed in our nuclear-family obsessed culture—but let’s try to process our upbringing in order to be the most productive member of that family. We need to see where we came from.
It’s a great process, to uncover where we came from and try and be real about it. It’s not an easy thing to process the emotions, the joys, the pains of our upbringings, are residual feelings of our childhood and so on.
But it’s not a surprise that many of us choose to do so, in a spiritual or therapeutic context, when we enter into our community. God bless the counselors at Circle Counseling and other places for preparing us to be the best lovers we can be.
Not working out our family issues does limit how we connect to our community, how we love one another, and even how start a family of our own. Telling your story is a great way to get the process going.
My cell is doing a great job at this over the last few weeks. Each member of the cell spends about an hour discussing “their story,” which often connected to their family, how they relate to others, and really helps us see where we came from. Telling our story is an important part of our process. I hope you find a safe place to do that.
I’m not sure that’s the whole story though. I actually think we need to do more to follow Jesus into the new family that he’s offered for us. We actually can sort through our emotions and our past in order to be fully invested and committed to this new family in Chris—of course, we don’t need to be perfect to do that; just available.
Our community, particularly, is an incredibly safe place for people to work out their emotions, make authentic friendships, work out what they couldn’t in their childhood. It’s ripe ground for personal growth; that is for sure. But often time, we take our balanced selves and end up pursuing other things before we do Jesus and his mission—our children, our families, our careers, our education, our commitment to having fun, even.
But Jesus warns us against that. Part of the reason the disciples were prime candidates for the mission is because they were willing to follow Jesus ferociously enough to sacrifice for Him. I think it’s hard to be that available for life in our New Family.
In ancient Palestine, there were as many distractions as we have now, to be honest. All of them good, but not of them as worthy as God. Jesus tells a story of an individual who was preparing a great banquet and got rejected, for “noble excuses,” much like our own.
How many times do we offer God excuses? Too busy? Too tired? Too poor? Too sad? Too alone? Just bought a house? Just got into graduate school? Just got married? The list is endless. We are free in Christ do whatever we want, and frankly, that makes us good slaves—let’s be slaves to Jesus then. That’s is our highest calling.
We might be tempted to join a community like this one and offer it as little as we can, so long as our other commitments are taken care of. Or we may pour ourselves into it completely and ignore our families, altogether. But I challenge you to note use your community as a mechanism for avoidance or fuels your resentment.
Without getting into an argument that might just be the result of our childhood angst, why not engage in a healthy dialogue with our loved ones that demonstrates our love and care for them—but doesn’t abandon your community? What does that look like? Don’t abandon your family for Jesus; I don’t think Jesus would want that, but be the person that convinces them to follow Him!
When Jesus is asked who his family is, he explicitly states that it is those who follow Him.
I would say our most intimate people are also those individuals, frankly. So go ahead and help your family to be a part of the new family that we are engaging it. Try your best to do it, and be OK when it doesn’t work out. Be a missional person, who seizes every opportunity to invite the next person to the great banquet—even if that person is someone who has caused you a lot of grief in your upbringing!