Growing up, Christmas was one my most beloved times of the year. The unity, community, and comradery that I experienced as my family gathered with my extended family (which consisted of 27 grandkids (I was the 3rd oldest) and 7 sets of aunts and uncles) at my grandma and grandpa’s farm house on Christmas Eve was unmatched for me. We would all show up at 4:00 with our contribution to the meal, open gifts one by one and appreciate what each person received at 7:00, everyone went to midnight mass together (yes I grew up Catholic), and return back to the farmhouse for breakfast afterwards. In between it all there was board games, cards, kids playing, laughter, catching up with one another and lots of eating of course. And my grandparents enjoyed every moment of it. The importance in life for them was being surrounded by everyone they loved and they produced an environment that was so inviting and comforting for everyone to participate in.
Reflecting on these treasured moments in my childhood got me thinking about my own family life now- my immediate family and my church family as well. The questions I began to ask myself were “Am I creating an environment that is inviting and comforting for everyone to participate in for my own family as well as my church family and those I love dearly?” “I know this was done for me but was it passed on to me?” The Lord has been tugging on my heart about traditions, the family unit, and living a wholehearted life and how these things fit together.
The Lord holds the family in high regard and designed us to live in families. Even the church is called the family of God. His word says in Proverbs 11:29 “Whoever brings ruin on their family will only inherit wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.” And in 1Timothy 5:8 says “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” I think it is fair to say that God holds a level of importance on family unit.
As I look around today this culture that is developing seems to be one of “this is mine and these children are mine and I will do as I please and that does not include you.” But what grieves my heart in this mindset is the lost connection and community that brings beauty, wisdom, support, love, and a deep sense of belonging that an individualistic and “Google searching” lifestyle cannot bring into one’s life. There are so many today who deal with fear, anxiety, and depression more than I ever recall when I was younger. Could I pose the question that maybe it is due to living too independent and not having a God-ordained support system in your life?
I realize that there a lot of variables and “buts” here you could refute. But when you look at what God has established in His Word and in His creation in the area of family units it is undeniably one of great importance. Even in the Old Testament the families stayed together and lived together and some became as big as a small city. So we must ask ourselves why? And how is this support system operating in my life? So many of us are living below our potential and continually fall into the same life debilitating patterns. And we can all say “Boy is that frustrating!” and easily get down on ourselves for not being better, faster, stronger, wiser, and more motivated. What if it is all due to the breakdown of our family support system and our closed doors to living a connected life with others? Whatever happened to the older teaching the younger as the word instructs us to do? Who’s there telling you “good job” and cheering you on? Who’s there to pick you up as you fall off the tightrope of life and helping you to get back on? Predators always want to pick one off from the group to devour easily. Are you being picked off by the enemy and experiencing a slow death and become ineffective for the kingdom?
Brene Brown, author, researcher of vulnerability for 10 years, and PH.D. in social work, says in her book Daring Greatly that to live a whole-hearted life you have to first face your shame and name it, and then choose to be vulnerable with others which leads to living a connected life with others and through living a connected life you can live whole-heartedly. This isn’t her opinion and this was not the way she was living her life before writing the book. She discovered this through hundreds and hundreds of interviews on different aspects of vulnerability and studying her research. It is what the facts pointed her too and she found God in the process.
Her findings on living a connected life which leads to whole-hearted living points me back to the Word and the importance of having a family unit that we hold valuable and choose to do life with and live connected. But how many of us cringe at the thought of making plans to entertain and get to know someone and allow them to be in the inner workings of our lives? Yes it gets messy and everything doesn’t go as planned but it is part of the journey that we must embrace and learn from. But if you aren’t willing to clean up a few messes are you really going to ever live up to your full potential? Tired of couch surfing yet?
God puts us in places and surrounds us with people for our betterment. It is part of His plan. God uses people to enhance our lives and create a space for us to abound to greater things. And yes you will even find God in the messes as we choose connection over being right or wrong. God uses people to help complete His plan for us in our lives by creating a family unit to support and inspire us to be all He has created us to be. We all want a Norman Rockwell Holiday in our lives but it takes sacrifice, work, stepping out, and deep love for others to get there.
NCWC Transformation Director