|Photo image courtesy of Brian Chase via 123rf.com|
The dread already seems to be building. The holidays are on the horizon. Whether hosting a gathering or attending one, there are heavy emotions building around this time of year. And those emotions all hinge around 1 word...
It is a powerful word, one that comes laden with expectations. For many the expectations might be that these are the people who will always be there when you need them. For others, there can be fear of displeasing this particular group of people. Still others see family as a fiercely loyal group, defending one another against any outside criticism or negative forces.
Regardless of what we anticipate from others we consider "family", people will always disappoint. If we don't find ourselves neglected by a loved one, then we're being smothered by them. Our hearts can ache bone deep from missing our parents and siblings. Other times, we want to avoid them at all costs. Harsh words and lack of acceptance rarely seem to hurt as much from others as they do from family.
Still, as we nervously begin to wonder if our kids will be able to hold it together at Grandma and Grandpa's for Thanksgiving, or whether we will even be welcome at the in-laws for Christmas, we can take heart from Someone who knows our plight.
In today's passage from Matthew 12:46-49, we see God-in-the-flesh rolling with the challenges of dysfunctional family. In the same version of this story from Mark, Chapter 3, we're told that Jesus' mother and brothers actually came to take hold of him because they thought he was out of his mind. How is that for a family vote of confidence? Tradition tells us that Jesus' brother, James, never believed in him until after his death and resurrection.
Yet, Jesus understood and modeled for us how we should respond when left with huge voids left by family: Expect that God can and will fill in the gaps that are left when our relatives fail us. Our "family" is anyone who is a brother or sister in Christ.
Without embarrassing anyone individually, I will vaguely tell you that there have been some dire times in raising our children with special needs where we didn't have help from those we expected. Also, extremely hurtful words have been wielded at us by those whom we had assumed would always offer unconditional love and acceptance.
Still, through the hurt, it was the Body of Christ who was our family. These were the ones who showed up with a meal or a helping hand. God sent kindred spirits to comfort us and give us the break we needed when times were most desperate. When life was turned upside down, the Lifter of hour heads focused our eyes away from what we lacked, and directed them towards His provision. We felt His presence in a fresh and hopeful way.
My friend, the holiday season is difficult, even at its best. We miss those who have moved on to heaven before us, and we anguish over the pressure applied by those who are still with us. Autism and sensory meltdowns will occur. Overstimulation, strange clothes, a carbohydrate-laden diet, and erratic sleep hours will all make for a challenging pediatric mix. Even so, you have a Savior who gets it. And He will never leave you or forsake you.
PRAY: Compassionate Jesus, thank You for understanding our heartaches and challenges. Open our eyes to the help You put right in our midst. Send us brothers and sisters in Christ to help us mend up our broken places. Keep us ever aware that our expectations of others should be low. And pour Your grace through us to everyone.
~ Barb Dittrich