Welcome to the Family
If you were to take a moment and think about your life, wouldn’t you agree that most of your drama comes from family? As we approach the holiday season we are about to be really excited, really stressed, and perhaps really let down. I think I remember being in college, really excited to go home for Thanksgiving to see the family, which was...well...mom and dad. Being an only child had perks, but got kinda lonely. At any rate, I remember calling my dad and him telling me that he wasn’t going to make it to Thanksgiving. He had a business trip in France. I remember staring straight ahead at the payphone of my barracks (dorm for you civilian type) and thinking, “Who has a business trip on Thanksgiving?”
There is a lot more to that story than I care to share in this blog, but my expectations were blown, and Thanksgiving came and went and we moved on with only a touch of sadness. I could feel myself sort of giving up on expecting my dad to come through. So many disappointments. I think it's moments like this that build up over years. We overlook family issues every now and then, and eventually you have a summer vacation that erupts into screaming, pointing, and accusations of selfishness. Ah yes, family.
Best Place to Work?
No healthy person would ever say I intentionally want to hurt my family. For the most part, society in general values taking care of their own people. Every company strives to be the best place to work for. HubSpot, the 2020 “Best Place to Work”, had an employee say this,
“HubSpot works hard to create a truly diverse and inclusive work environment where everyone can feel comfortable bringing their true selves to work.”
On first read that is exactly what we would hope to hear. Here is a place that accepts people right where they are at. This workplace reflects what heaven would look like in Revelation 7:9. Every church would love to experience that. Now what happens if at HubSpot someone’s personal life starts to take a nosedive. What the people at HubSpot would say is as long as they get their work done, what they do on their own time is their own business. When they hear about the debt that one of their employees are in, the relationship fiascos and binds they find in themselves, no one asks questions, no one prods. That goes into the category of “Nunya” as in “Nunya business.” As long as you produce, you are accepted.
To which you would say, of course they would do that. There are HR Laws and that is a violation of privacy. No competent workplace would ever place themselves in that position of liability. Then you might say...wait a second...the church isn’t a business. That’s different. Okay fair enough. Let’s take a look at our beloved political parties. Is it there that we can be involved in people’s personal lives? As long as they agree with our core values of the party platform, we are generally okay with their personal life choices. We all know that to be true, because when scandal breaks out, not only do people publicly defend their political colleagues' choices, they back it up with something that justifies what they did. As long as that person can further their political aspirations, they back them. If they become a liability. You cut them. In other words, as long as you produce, you are accepted.
Okay, fine you might say, that’s politics. Churches are more like a non-profit or an NGO. There are great organizations that do great work among the urban poor. As long as you are volunteering, they would say, “Thank you.” You might even be honored for your selfless sacrifice at a fundraising banquet. But what nonprofit leader would ask about your family and tell you that you need to focus on being present with your spouse and your children and reconcile relationships that are broken instead of volunteering? Again, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that as long as you are producing, then you are treasured. But what about if you are not? Again, for the most part nonprofits are used to people who can give what they can give and they aren’t offended by people not serving. But are they going to go beyond what they can see and get involved in your life in a way that says I don’t care about your production. I care about you and that you are living how God called you to live.
Now, we are getting personal. This is where we put up the hand and say, “I don’t know if I want that kind of relationship with anyone.” Finally, we have reached honesty.
Back to real family. Have you ever wanted your children to perform for your parents? Sure, we all want that. And depending on what kind of family you have, that performance is met with criticism, applause or apathy. Which we either handle well or we don’t. However, if that grandparent then gets involved with that child’s life and takes ownership of the non-eating, discipline issues, and the general child raising struggle as a team mate and not as an obstacle, we feel family.
Now what if we had that kind of relationship at church? This is where we move from acquaintances to friends to family. And in theory we all want that, up until the point where you see my anger get out of control. Up until the point where you see my marriage is struggling a bit. Up until the point where you see that I would rather watch football than parent.
We don’t want to be known. We don’t want people to know we are struggling. Because although we know we aren’t perfect, we don’t want anyone to point out what it is that we are doing wrong. Primarily, because to point out what is wrong in someone, is that there must be relationship capital there. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. It’s a fine line to warn someone that the person they are dating will cause them to struggle for the rest of their life. We have all had that go wrong. It’s something to mention to another parent that their kid is showing signs of autism. That goes over like a lead balloon. But isn’t that the warnings and wounds we actually want, better yet, need?
So why do we resist that?
It might have to do with growing up and not being known. Learning to tell small lies to get yourself out of some form of discipline where you feel like you lost love. And everyone wants to be loved. So we learn early and often to protect those we care about from our real self so that we might never lose that which is so precious.
Or perhaps we have convinced ourselves there really is nothing in it for us to be so intimately involved with others. We have enough drama with the family we already have. We have loaned money, we have loaned cars, we have covered bills and to think of opening ourselves like that to someone else feels, well, excessive.
Of course, I’m a pastor and so I’m going to bring the Bible into this.
The apostle John wrote a letter to the Church where he described that Jesus was fully God and fully man. He reminded Christians to know, feel, and do Christianity through sound doctrine, great love for one another and obedience to God’s Word. In explaining the way we are to love God, he wrote, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
This is huge. And within these words are something that may free many of us from our relationship insecurities. There is no fear in love. When you love people, you don’t fear them. Why is that important? What might make more sense is perfect love casts out hate. But hate isn’t the opposite of love. When you hate, you still have emotion going toward them that might be resolved by one of three ways, you absorbing the debt, them paying their debt, someone else paying their debt. Then all of a sudden, we are cool. But what happens with fear is that we cease emoting their direction. Instead we go on defense and put up a wall to protect ourselves from them. It’s a standard coping mechanism from those who have been hurt, wounded, or just worried. We put up fences not based on what we want to protect. Fences hide our vulnerabilities.
But perfect love takes away those fences, because we are fully known by God. He will never reject us. He will always work alongside us. He is always for us. And if He is for us who can be against us?
Eternal punishment results in terminal separation from God’s love. However, God’s discipline results in restoration. In speaking of this type of relationship the author Hebrews reminds us, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.
How Love Changes Us
This goes back to middle school when you came home from a day of people making fun of just about everything possible. You come home to a place of love and affection and you are able to go back out and not be angry, face up to those who mocked you and perhaps through kindness bridge the hostility and form a relationship. But you know the kids that didn’t have that, it was a battle. They kept their emotions close to the vest or they acted out in such a way as to protect themselves from hurt and harm. We all experienced that. The question is what was your homelife like. Now I would love to go down that road and help us discover our wounds from our past that explain our vast amount of coping mechanisms, but this isn’t the blog for that. However, I do want you to see that if you were perfectly loved at home, you could face hell at school. It didn’t matter what you experienced at school, because at the end of the day you were safe.
Now this gets to our relationship with Christ. If He loves us in spite of us, we can love others in spite of them, because our fear of rejection has been handled. Our lives are determined by likes and subscribers, but by the fact that Jesus chose to redeem us from darkness and hell and to be heirs of eternal life and have access now to resurrection power. So lean into community. Enjoy the family of God.
Is This For Me?
I can hear the scoff in your throat. Why? What is in it for me? Sure, I love Jesus. But I’m not really looking for friends. I have friends. I have people that I can call if I ever need anything. Hmmm, do you? I know that is presumptuous of me. But do you really? You have someone you can call that would loan you a couple grand if you were in a pinch? You have someone in your life that has been invited into your inner circle so that if you get a little testy with your spouse, that friend can call you out? You have people in your life that know your kids well enough to stay over at your house while you and your spouse take a vacation--and they don’t need to be paid?
That’s what I thought. That’s why being involved in church community is not only important, it is essential to live a life fully. To be known by God and accepted and challenged to do more is awesome. To be known by others who are open to being challenged and have the invitation to challenge you is complete.
So as you assess your spiritual life, do you have family in it. Do you have a church community that would lay down their life for you, love you in spite of you, and help you to experience all that you were made to be. Email me and I’ll help you take the next step, whether you are local or global, I’d love to help.