Swallowed…to be enveloped, to be encased, to be consumed, to be taken in
Like a snake that dines on a live mouse, there is a struggle and a delayed death for the mouse. Likely the mouse experiences suffocation before finally falling into death.
And on some days, this is how I feel about the people I love the most-the people in my inner circle, the people in my immediate FAMILY.
Let’s be honest…our families bring us love, joy, memories and a place of ownership.
Yet they also bring us pain, heartache, difficulty and challenges.
There are healthy and unhealthy dynamics between all family members, there are patterns of relating and engaging that prove to be both useful and unhelpful. There are historical events that shape and influence our relationships and our “family dance”. There are different perspectives, different opinions and feelings that run the gamut. There are family relationships that are closely bonded and others that are merely loosely connected.
There are times of strength and there are times of weakness. There are times of bonding and there are times of disengaging. There are times of linear growth and there are times that follow a jagged edge.
My family fits this pattern and right now things feel hard, they feel soul crushing, they feel exhausting and they feel insurmountable. There is a period of Up followed by a period of Down. There is roller coaster of emotions and changing circumstances that make it onerous to act in Love.
Yet as we think about being a follower of Jesus, we know that we are called to love our neighbor. And sometimes our neighbors live right under our roof, sometimes we don’t have to look far to find the people that God joined us together with, when they are right in front of us.
The Apostle Paul explains what a FAMILY is to be as followers of Jesus and within a Christian home. He calls us to, set our mind on all things above and to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. We are to be thankful and forgiving; bound in unity through the love of Christ Jesus.
Wives submit yourselves to your husband, as is fitting in the Lord
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
Colossians 3: 18-21NIV
As Paul tells us how to live and love, he shows us that through Jesus we have been loved. And with that, we too are difficult to love and apart from God’s grace, we are broken and sinful
This happens for a number of reasons because family relationships call for intimacy and lend the opportunity for vulnerability with each other.
And when we are vulnerable, we are exposed and at risk for hurt and pain.
**Oftentimes we look to others for fullfilment of our own personal purposes. We think they complete us, we complete them and they are there for our benefit~to make us happy, fill a need and more than anything we love that we aren’t alone more than we love the other person in the relationship. This can be destructive in family relapthioships.
**We reserve our anger for those who are closest to us. Anger is an attitude of contempt we feel toward someone. This is demonstrated when we act superior to someone close to us, we put them down, we speak in tones of sarcasm and mockery, and we tell them they are the one with the problem. For the “nonfeelers”, they than pull away to avoid vulnerability and in order to disengage from the negative feelings. The “overfeelers” are then left reeling and hurt as they grapple with feelings of abdandonment and fear. This chronic and dangerous cycle breeds bitterness and resentment in families as the relationships slowly erode.
**The words we choose to use with family members has a great influence on the persons overall wellbeing and fulfillment in life. Why is that we often use the worst words with the people we love the most. The words you use carry enormous power with your spouse and children and should be used only with love, even when having to correct or discipline.
So how do we love our family well, even when it is hard?
We define our marriage, our family and our parenting with the attributes of Jesus Christ. We allow the Holy Spirit to invade us so we are defined in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, gentleness and patience. We allow these attributes to influence our every interaction with the members of our family and we use these defining terms to outline and distinguish our family as a unique and loving union of individuals that have Christ at the Center.
**Compassion-Don’t do it for them, don’t correct them in contempt, don’t excuse or justify their actions, instead patiently recognize that they can do better and expect that of them.
**Kindness-Rid your heart of all smugness, superiority, anger, malice and contempt and act in LOVE. There is no place for anything other than love in the heart of a follower of Jesus and kindness is demonstrated by caring about the desires, interests and feelings of others.
**Humility-Allows us to serve others without being recognized. It also means admitting when your wrong, apologizing when you’ve wronged someone, not always being right and not always getting your way. Humility truly takes spiritual discipline and falls away from our selfish nature.
**Meekness/Gentleness-Makes allowances for others, this is grace giving in relationships knowing that; you will be let down and you will let someone down. This means confronting problems, giving consequences when necessary, use gentle speech and NEVER ever give an eye roll, a sigh, a mocking comment or any other action that bleeds contempt.
**Patience-Says, “I’ll wait, I have time for you”, it lets the other know that you will listen and they are valid and important to you.
Let’s never underestimate the power of our presence in people’s lives and especially within our own family.
When our family relationships are defined by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience our hearts soften to the people around us and the people around us heart’s soften toward us. This becomes a catalyst for things to change and eventually people to change and becomes a refuge of healing for FAMILIES that are struggling and broken.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us, God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16