Thanksgiving is upon us once again. I wrote this blog several years ago during the summer, but I thought it was appropriate right before the holiday.
I love getting together with extended family. I have four brothers, each of us with children and grandchildren. To the degree feasible, we all (we lost Mom and Dad not long ago) get together somewhere once a year. Not just for a meal, but for two or three days of conversation, games, laughter and general acknowledgement of the fact we belong together.
I think one reason I treasure it is I see so many families who have such significant problems they have no real interest in being in the same place. Don’t get me wrong, our family is not even close to being ideal, whatever that is. There are some of my extended family with whom I do not see eye to eye. Most of them have opinions that differ from mine, although I demand that my own grown children give tacit support for their Dad’s pronouncements.
Another reason is it gives me a sense of history…a context for my life and who I have become. I know this is something that some people don’t even want to consider because of horrible things that happened in the name of family. But those things are never healed by ignoring them. I’m not a psychologist, but my impression is we have to acknowledge and face the issues of our past for our future to be truly free.
If, on occasion, you sense some sort of loss due to damaged or inactive relationships and wish there could be more, don’t ignore it any longer. It can change. You can change it. Here are some things you can do.
1. Value your family members, whether immediate or extended. You may have been hurt, ignored, put down, spat on, cursed at, thrown out…need I go on? They are still your family. There will never be any replacements. There may be other people who are close to you, who serve as surrogates, but you’ll never replace the real thing. Besides, there was Someone else who suffered all those things, and more. He kept on reaching out…in love. And He changed the world.
2. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. There’s always lots of reasons why things are the way they are. But, you have the choice to use those reasons as an excuse to maintain or you can view them as challenges to be overcome. Value your family members as human beings that share common history with you, even if it’s not all golden.
3. Find ways of getting together. Have a strategy…a regular plan. If you try with integrity and fail…at least you will have been changed in positive ways. If there have been wrongs, forgiveness will have to find its way into your heart, even if you must maintain appropriate limits. When you do get together try these things.
4. Play together. Find reasons to laugh. If you are people of faith, worship together. Don’t be satisfied with surface talk of weather and ball games…talk deeply about things that matter. Ask questions that begin with “who”, “what”, “why”, “where”, and “how”. Allow grace to infuse major differences.
Try it…you’ll like it…or, at least, you’ll be satisfied with the process. And be the richer for it.