I’m hopping on here for just a minute today. It’s been a little bit since I’ve posted, and I do hope your Thanksgiving was blessed. Ours was one I won’t forget for a long time. It was different from our usual gathering, and has been something I’ve had to chew on. I love those we broke bread with. But this year, for a number of reasons, our table was smaller than usual. And, to just be blunt, I missed those who were not at the table. Family is something not to be taken lightly, y’all. Even though they drive us crazy sometimes. Grin.
So, with the absence of several faces from the table, I’ve been thinking about the dynamics of my family of origin. I’m not sure if anyone can relate, but our family is what one might call a bag of mixed nuts. Key word, nuts. Ha. We are so different, yet so similar…and frankly, there are times when we all want to simultaneously wring each other’s necks. Not mine of course…they all love me….ha! (Heaven don’t strike me now, I’m only kidding!) But in all seriousness, we come from some messed up lineage. And some really burdensome baggage. In an effort to be respectful, I won’t go into detail – but let’s just say, we’ve been putting the FUN in dyFUNction for years.
Then it all came together for me this morning. That darling, yellow-haired, 4-legged child of mine woke me up early. Dang I love that dog. Anyway, when I couldn’t go back to sleep, I turned on the coffee pot, and opened up the Word. Sometimes, it’s just good to sit a spell before the world starts spinning too fast.
I read the book of Jude this morning, and it really grabbed me. And not necessarily for the words. Jude tells us he is James’ brother….James….as in Jesus’ brother, James. Which would mean…he was Jesus’ brother also.
We know James was Jesus’ bro. He was, by far, one of the greatest Jewish leaders after the Resurrection. But it is generally believed (by scholars much smarter than myself) that James didn’t accept Jesus as Messiah until after the Cross. And now here we have Jude.
Nevermind that Mary must have had a mouthful trying to call those three in for dinner….”Jesus! James! Jude! Jenny! Jeremy! Jesse!” (Ok, I may have exaggerated a few extra names. You get my point.:) Don’t you know Mary had already been through enough? Angel visitations, virgin birth, running from a crazy king, hiding out in Egypt, and finally settling in at Nazareth to quietly (hopefully) raise a family and a few chickens. Then, 30 years later, after the dust has finally settled a little, and the ladies had quit talking about her (as much) at the local watering hole, Jesus’ ministry begins.
And here’s what got me thinking – I love that the Lord would allow a slice of Jesus’ earthly family to be included in the Holy Writ. And then I tried to imagine their family before the Cross.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it may have been strained.
Ya know, their oldest brother, the one who had been soooo perfect all his life, was suddenly garnering the attention of thousands. And performing miracles! What?! Put yourself in those younger kid’s sandals. They probably knew all about mom and dad’s strange beginning, but I just sense they didn’t have a grasp of what had reallllllly happened (I mean, would you?!). They weren’t there. And by the time they got to be adults, they just might have been tired of all the hoop-lah about JESUS. So it doesn’t surprise me that they couldn’t accept him during his time on Earth. They were fleshly, they were human. And they KNEW him. They knew his breath stunk when they woke up next to him on their mats. They saw him grow up. They knew he liked broccoli better than carrots. They. Knew. Him. Or they thought they did. And in their finite minds, there was no way that their stinky big brother was the Messiah.
Blessedly, Jude and James come around. They recognize, they bow. And to me, that’s one of the greatest proof’s of Christ’s deity. For the ones who knew him best, his family, to recognize him as Messiah. To come full circle to the Lord’s work here on earth.
Oh how I have prayed for that exact thing. To see a full circle come about in our family, that only Jesus could orchestrate.
I sat for a few minutes and wrapped all of this around this wee brain of mine. Our family has been through a difficult time lately. Not nearly as difficult as seeing my eldest brother being beaten and hung on a cross – but still, it’s been terribly strained.
I think the Lord allowed a glimpse of his family life to give us a little encouragement. Family can be hard, y’all. Some of you will not understand – you’ve got a tight knit, emotionally healthy, spiritually strong family. And for you, I implore you, fall face first before the Lord in thanksgiving. THAT, my dears, is a blessing from the throne.
And for those of you, like me, who have some baggage, some trials, some wounds, in the arena we call “family”, I give you this. I don’t know your story, I don’t know your exact hurt, but I am so sorry. There are wounds within my own life too profound, too intimate, to share in a public forum. Maybe yours are too. You too know the feeling of having the wind knocked out of your sails. And family hurts sting a little deeper than others, I think, because they are the ones who should love you the most.
I sat across the table from a family member for 2 1/2 hours this week, after a long period of separation. In His tender mercy, the Lord sat at the table with us. I believe it was because we both begged him to show up beforehand. And truthfully, it was hard to own up to my part of the problem. I am certain it was for her also. The flesh is a mean beast, for sure. But as the Lord would have it, we were able to talk. Honestly, and yet, fruitfully. We both admitted later, we wanted to puke on the way to meet each other. Grin. It was a time of reconciliation and forgiveness that has been needed for longer than I can remember. I’m still in awe of what the Lord did there. Forgiving those who have hurt you is not easy. In fact, wallowing in the bitterness can be easier at the time. And trust me (or just ask that darling husband of mine), I’ve wallowed. I’ve sulked, pouted, cried. But mark my words, choosing not to forgive someone will ultimately destroy you from the inside out.
Bitterness and joy can’t exist in the same place.
Wounds take time to heal properly. But the words, “I’m sorry” do more for the hurt than anything. If you owe someone those words, give them. They’re life-giving. If someone owes you those words, for lack of a better way to say it – be forgivable. In other words, don’t make it harder on them than it already is. Give them the grace they need to be able to put themselves out there. No one wants to apologize to the guy who will cram an “I told ya so” down their throats.
I took the liberty of imagining what the conversation with Jesus and his family looked like after the Resurrection. When the full circle moment came. The tenderness of what my mind’s eye holds is spectacular. I can almost feel the emotion James and Jude must have felt when their eyes were opened. There had to be hugs. Full frontal hugs, (not those pseudo-manly bro slap/hugs) and whole-hearted, genuine slaps on the back. I just bet there were tears of joy, possibly mixed with a little regret of time lost. And I bet Jesus didn’t utter one sarcastic “I told ya so”.
Well, as it turns out, I’m just not short-winded. I don’t mean to be so chatty…it just happens. I must close. Lucy the Wonderdog has been giving me pleading looks of “TAKE ME FOR A WALK!” for 30 minutes now. So, you, get out there today. Ask the Lord for courage, extend a little more grace and mercy today. Especially to your family. Press in to the Lord, boldly ask for the full circle. Even if you can’t imagine it yet. It’s gonna be worth it.