My family is a train wreck.
Not my wife and kids family, but the family I grew up in. To me, it feels pretty ugly and if all was known about what we have done and said and thought about each other, we might be the poster family for how not to treat each other.
I grew up in a family of seven, counting my parents. I feel like we were a fairly typical group of siblings as kids considering there were five of us. As you would expect in a family of that size, there was a lot of yelling and fighting, but there was also a lot of laughter and fun.
I was next to last in the order and pretty young, so much of the drama and stress of our parents breaking up went over my head. It fell hard on us afterwards, though, especially the three of us who were still in the house, still kids.
Our lives had changed completely as we moved from the only home we had ever known and lost all the friends we ever had. We moved five times in the next four years. It was awful on our mom, a woman with no marketable skills, trying to feed three hungry and rambunctious boys. I remember years of eating ramen or mac and cheese, sleeping on a cot, and having only one pair of pants or shoes. My mom worked minimum wage jobs and waited anxiously for child support checks that were almost always late, as my father traveled the world with his new wife and went back and forth between his two homes.
Coming out of that time, as young adults, I feel like my brothers and sister and I were pretty close. You would think that would last the rest of our lives. It is supposed to. But, as we have all moved into middle age we have become less tolerant of each other, not more.
We, at least the four boys in the family, have had very high expectations of what the others in our family are supposed to do for us, how they should treat us, and if those ideas are not met, if we feel left out or disrespected in any way–holy crap, we can lash out like a two-year-old who senses another wants his ice cream. And, let me tell you–we can hold a grudge.
One of us disowned both our parents, another was angry at first one of us then another without saying why–for a decade. One thing gets better and it feels like the family is healing and right away one of us professes a new hatred for another. I have limited contact, but three of us don’t talk to our oldest sibling–at all. Now, another one says he is done with me, then, the very next time I see him acts like it never happened, like we are buddies, which I thought we were.
There is little forgiveness in my family, and the worst of it is… four of the five of us are Christians. Don’t ask me how we can act this way, I don’t know. We are supposed to grow in wisdom and grace. We are supposed to forgive as we have been forgiven. We are supposed to be loving examples of mercy and grace for our own kids, most of which are grownups now themselves.
I would love to say that I am not like my brothers, that I am a kind and forgiving man who doles out grace like my cup was overflowing with it. But, I am pretty much just like them. I too, find it hard to forgive when I am treated badly. I absolutely know it speaks to the condition of my heart, but things don’t roll off me. Right now, as I sit here writing this, I feel a grudge that I could hang onto for years. It has already been months.
God is talking to me. I know I need to forgive, whether or not I ever hear an apology. It isn’t always easy, though, but I suspect most of you know that.
When Peter wanted to know where to draw the line and asked how many times he is supposed to forgive his brother, Jesus obliterated the line, giving an answer that meant we are not supposed to keep a record of wrongs done against us.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1st Corinthians 13:4-5
It’s not the ability to forgive and extend grace that my family needs. It is love. Not mankind’s idea of love, but God’s, a selfless love that is free of pride. From that love, forgiveness and grace will flow. Someone needs to go first.