by Joanie Butman
You’re probably disappointed I didn’t share any anecdotes from our family party last week. Here’s the issue: They won’t let me attend if they think I’m going to kiss and tell. What happens in New Jersey stays in New Jersey – though I’m usually the subject of many of the embarrassing stories. One niece wrote to me after the Christmas outing I hosted last year, “The times when Hannah and Doug are telling you to go to sleep are some of the most fun times I’ve had with you. Thanks for not listening to them. Stay up!” Not sure my children would agree, but I was thankful for the positive vote. A note of caution: If anyone asks you to play a late-night game of Cards for Humanity, the wise choice is to quietly decline and retire gracefully.
Truth be told, I was blessed to be born into, then marry into, families with large groups of individuals, each one quirky in their own way, who all love each other despite our differences or maybe even because of them. Perhaps the reason I feel so comfortable being myself around them is because I know they will always love me despite my not-so-perfect personality or performance.
And so it is with God. The reason we can feel totally at ease in His presence is that regardless of what we do, we will never lose His love. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Building and maintaining a loving family isn’t easy. Even God ended up with a brood of dysfunctional, rebellious children. Being part of a family involves love, patience, compromise, compassion, acceptance, tolerance and mercy on everyone’s part. A healthy dose of humor doesn’t hurt either. This is true enough when it involves your immediate family. Within your Christian family (both in and out of the church), it gets even more difficult and complicated because the bigger the family, the more quirkier it gets. However, when the focus is on our shared love for Christ and each other, everything else becomes less important.
Don’t get me wrong, as in any family, we’ve had our share of growing pains, issues of every sort, hurt feelings and plenty of tears over the years. But in the end, our relationships have always proved more important than any real or perceived grievance or tension. We are a living example of the apostle Peter’s directive, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
Not everyone is blessed to have a fun, loving, accepting earthly family, but we all have access to a Heavenly one. Why not choose to enjoy a place where there is no judgment or shame, just a warm, loving embrace waiting to welcome any arrival. As much as I love my family and enjoy our time together, it is in the arms of Christ where I feel most at home. Even more importantly, the time I spend there enables me to extend His love, kindness and mercy to others – even the most challenging EGR (Extra Grace Required) ones, beginning with myself!
In closing, there’s a reason some of my nieces and nephews refer to me as the “fun” aunt, and not all of them are embarrassing. I’ll leave you with a visual of the game I introduced last weekend called Pie Face. It’s more up my alley than the Cards for Humanity game I was introduced to last Christmas.
Dedicated to all my families for their endless love and support along with a lifetime of happy memories.