Have you ever heard the expression “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”? Sometimes the hardest people to love in life are our own family members. It takes a great deal of patience, understanding and forgiveness to love someone who you may not agree with or just plain drives you crazy.
I have been blessed with a loving family. Loving parents who would trade the world for my happiness. I do feel close to my family. I feel like I can tell them anything and they know that I am there to listen to anything that they are going through. But I still struggle to love them the right way. What is the right way? I wish that I knew because so many times I know that I fail. I can go to work all day, listen to and love my co-workes, love my friends, love the strangers in the grocery store, but when it comes to my own family, I have a really hard time. Sound familiar to anyone?
Since going to college, being away from home for 5 years and now living at home again, there have been major changes. I have changed a lot and it seems that life at home has stayed the same in a lot of ways. My family wasn’t with me through all the changes I went through. Yes, they heard about a lot of them, but when you start to grow into who you are, apart from your parents, it’s hard to be understood sometimes (or most of the time). I find myself getting mad at my parents a lot when they don’t see things the way that I do. When they just “don’t get it”. I get frustrated and have started to just not even bring certain topics up. I feel like 90% of our conversations turn into some kind of disagreement.
Lately I’ve been stepping back and asking myself, “am I loving my family or am I trying to force on them what I think they should be?” (which is honestly what I get mad at them for). When I try to change their opinions about things, it is because I love them and want them to see life the way that I do, in a way that will change theirs for the better and help them to have the hope that I now have in God. BUT that’s not love. Love doesn’t try to change people. Love loves. Period.
Let me just stop for a second to give you the definition of love:
“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. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4″
So how can we love people better? How can we love our families better? I’ve talked to so many people in the past couple years who are seeking so hard after God and want to love everyone and just want to serve to the best of their ability. But…I ask them about their families and almost all of them are purposely trying to be as far away as possible and “don’t want to deal with that”, they say. ”My family is just too dysfunctional” “They just don’t understand me or my beliefs and I’m tired of trying to make them understand.” These are things I hear from so many Christians.
It makes me start thinking. God calls us into uncomfortable places and what better way to teach us how to love than with our own families? What better way to teach us patience? We can’t just jump ship when the going gets too tough. We will constantly be in search of the next thing to keep us afloat. I get so frustrated seeing this happen in so many lives. And of course in my own.
Our families need our love just as much or more than anyone else. I’m not saying we’re all called to dedicate our lives to ministering to our families but I do think that we should take just a little more time to think about what loving them really looks like. I pray every day about how I can better love my family. Not just as a whole, but as individuals. Sometimes that may mean just listening. And instead of jumping to our own defense every time something is said that we don’t agree with we can stop and just let God handle it (because he will). Our families are not our projects. And I know a lot of us have a lot more broken families. In the midst of darkness there is light. And we can help to bring that light out if we just learn to love people in the right ways; to see them for who they are and not what we want them to be. Not everything is going to be comfortable and we can’t run to the next comfy couch when this one gets too hard. That couch will eventually lose it’s softness and we will have to find another one. (Maybe a bad analogy but you get the point!)
One more thing to think about: We don’t have to worry about finishing the plan or even being there to see the best part. We are just called to love. And to trust that God has the rest.