Family is the strangest thing. There are, of course, the good parts of family, like how your parents have loved you through the tough times, how your siblings really get you (and your humor), how you make each other laugh until you cry, or (if you’re a parent) the overwhelming power of your love for your kids. But, there are also less good parts.
Family reunions have always been a big part of my extended families. Both sides have made it a point to have a big get-together every year, a tradition that goes back for as long as I can remember. A few years ago there were debates about whether or not the family reunion should in fact be called a “family reunion.” One relative complained that the term itself was like a guilt-trip to which she reluctantly responded by agreeing to come. My mom and I discussed what else it could be called. Family gathering? Crazy convention? We even wondered whether or not we should call it a “family intervention.” Maybe some folks would show up just to see who needed an intervention.
Interesting family dynamics is one of the reasons why I love reading through parts of the Old Testament. I find siblings betraying each other over inheritance and fighting over parental affection and parents planning out the lives and futures of their children, and then there are all the feuds, rejections, and rebellions. When you look at families in the Old Testament and compare them to yours, you realize that not much has changed in two to three thousand years. And you might find that your family isn’t so bad! Strange as it seems, I find this unchanging nature of family a comfort. Perhaps because of communications technology, longer life expectancy, or our understanding of psychology and family dynamics has grown deeper, we wonder if we should be better at this family thing than we are? But we’re not, are we?
Our families have known us at our worst, have seen our pain and our potential.They know just what to say or do to hurt us the most. It is our families with whom we have spent the most time, interacted with the most, and therefore, our families have conditioned our behavior the most. The influence of our families can be a strength, but at times we hate seeing our actions mirror the worst of our parents or siblings. Our family sometimes hold our best hopes and expectations, but other times our families let us down and leave us brokenhearted.
Our families are strange and dysfunctional at times, and staying in relationship with them is risky. But whether it is our family in Christ or the ones we were born into, the hardest, yet most vital parts of the Christian call is to keep loving them, keep showing up, and keep calling them family.
Abbie Huff lives in Nyack, New York and is building faith community outside the walls of the church. She loves a good novel, craft beer, and she’s never met a stranger. For more reflections, follow her blog.