Friday, July 17, 2015

Weekend Warriors

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Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there. When Elkanah sacrificed, he passed helpings from the sacrificial meal around to his wife Peninnah and all her children, but he always gave an especially generous helping to Hannah because he loved her so much, and because God had not given her children. But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.
Her husband Elkanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?”
~ 1 Samuel 1:3-8, MSG ~
Here we are on the precipice of another weekend.  During the summer months this means family reunions, picnics, weddings, and vacations are often awaiting us.  The weekend offers another opportunity to be with extended family members that we may not see very often.
And it offers another opportunity for judgment and confrontation.
Like Peninnah in today's passage, our relatives often come across to us as taunting critics, pointing out what they may perceive as our parenting deficits or making what they think are helpful suggestions.  Like Hannah in today's passage, we are often internally dissolved to tears and upset.
At times like this, we can find ourselves in a defensive position, fighting back from our hurt under the thin veil of wanting to educate others.  What our wounded souls really want to do is pound the other person into the ground, hurting them as badly as they have hurt us.
I know this scenario too well.  We have endured near mortal wounds from both sides of our family.  Certain members from my husband's side have been hypercritical about the fact that I genetically passed on hemophilia to our son. 
"Don't expect anyone to feel sorry for you," one family member verbally assaulted years ago.  "You knew this was a risk, and you just had to have kids anyway."  The irony was not lost on me years later when this same family member had their own child diagnosed with a serious chronic illness.
On my side of the family, things were mostly copecetic until someone married into the family, deeming themselves the expert on children (although she had not yet had one).  We never had a family gathering where she wasn't making snide remarks about my kids, especially my youngest.  I can remember the day that I tried to explain that our youngest daughter had been diagnosed with severe ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and social deficits.
"You really think that's true?" she had the audacity to accuse in her ignorance.  It stung to the core, and things have never been the same since.
I know that I am not the only parent who goes through these situations.  Everyone has a story.  You all share so many of yours with me.  And I am so grateful that we have the shelter of one another in the special needs parenting community to encourage and vent about these difficult family encounters.
At the same time, I want us all to keep the following in mind when we find ourselves as weekend warriors, defending our young at various family occasions:
  1. Extended family is trying to make sense out of the senseless. -- So often our family members act out of a convoluted or misguided love for us.  They want to fix our perceived "problem" and make it better for us.  This causes them to say and do some super crazy things in the process.  We must find a way to love them for loving us, even if they are unwittingly hurting us in the process.  Try to find the good parts of these family members in spite of their clumsy shortcomings.
  2. Extended family doesn't know what they don't know. -- They may taunt or accuse like a Peninnah, but if they knew what fools they sounded like, they would be really embarrassed.  Just like Peninnah had no inkling of God's big picture, those who say cruel things to us have no true vision of the eternal either.  Their comments are made of complete ignorance, and just as Hannah was eventually vindicated, so will we.
  3. Just as God was enough for Hannah, He is enough for us as well. -- Elkanah tried to comfort the weeping Hannah asking if his love wasn't worth more than 10 sons to her.  The fact is that no human being is enough to fill the wounded places of our hearts.  The good news is that God IS.  He gives us the strength and perseverance to get through the wounds caused by others.  With that in mind, it is IMPERATIVE to PRAY before we go to a family event, so we are adequately equipped for "battle."  Prayers like, "Lord, put the right words in my mouth when I am confronted by others," or "God, help me love my family as much as You love them," can really keep us connected to our Source of help when we walk into parties or celebrations.  It is also critical to put on your "battle gear" by praying the full armor of God from Ephesians 6:10-18.  This intentional reminder can also be a mental exercise to envision equipping yourself for every situation you may face.
Although these reunions, weddings, graduations, and picnics can be challenging, heading into them with the right perspective and spiritual equipment can help you gain more enjoyment and emerge a winner.

PRAY:  God, occasions intended for good so often leave us feeling hurt.  Protects our hearts and minds as we spend time with extended family this summer.  Put the right words in our mouths to redeem the situation.  Help us to love like You do, even when others are less than loving to us.  Reign victorious through our most challenging situations.

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