I remember one of my uncles calmly asking me a few years ago if I was ever afraid that I would end up divorced because my parents were. It caught me off guard because I never correlated my parents’ relationship with the success or failure of my own. There are plenty of divorced couples where both the husband and wife come from a long line of lasting marriages. This is why I believe we as individuals have a lot to do with the health of the “village” we have around us. Much of it is built on how we love.
In my early twenties when I was still figuring out my walk with God, I felt a huge tug in my spirit to start a journey of mending within my family relationships. There are a few levels of refinement I went through as the Lord revealed things to me about what love looks like when we walk in His grace. If I hadn’t invested time into this, perhaps I would be thinking, “Will my marriage make it? What sets me apart from anyone else?” It took a few years to see a significant change in the dynamics of my extended family…and I’m still in the mending process to this day.
The effort I put in is completely worth it, but I’m glad I’m not the only one toiling away for my family’s sake, because each member has a part to play and a specific burden to carry. It’s not all on your shoulders. Even if you’re not close to walking down the aisle, it’s never too early to begin setting a new precedent for past, present and future generations. Four main scenarios that test our capacity to love stand out to me, and that’s what I want to share with you.
1. Loving when it isn’t fair. There are so many unfortunate things that can divide a household, including abuse, addictions, abandonment and neglect. When division is raging through your household and you have a moment to retaliate, it’s the instinct of your flesh to inflict pain on someone for the emotional wounds they inflicted on you. If God looked at us that way, we would have no hope because we all fall short of His glory on a daily basis. Offer up compassion and prayers for those who may have betrayed you. Perhaps it would be best to distance yourself for a time, but choose to see them as worthy of love even though the season they’re in is a painful one.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:23-24)
2. Loving when it’s hard to forgive. I remember promising a family member that I would never talk to him again until he apologized for all the wrong he had done to our family. He would reach out occasionally, but for four years I held on to my word. One day, I was just as surprised as he was when I finally answered his call and we began to talk again. The Lord had been working on my heart and showing me the true meaning of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not earned or circumstantial—it’s a command. I felt a huge burden of pain lifted off of my shoulders, and I chose to see him through God’s eyes as I allowed him back into my life on the premise of healthy boundaries and mutual respect.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
3. Loving when the future seems bleak. There were plenty of times when I was ready to write off a family member permanently. I didn’t care if they turned their life around and became the President of the United States—I was cutting off contact and treating them like a stranger. It’s often said “People don’t change,” but that’s not giving a lot of credit to our Creator who promised that we would become a new creation in Christ if we submit our lives to Him. It’s important to take healthy breaks from people or love them from afar if they are toxic and decide never to change. However, leaving no room for them to come back no matter what can prevent The Lord from doing the complete work within your family that He needs to do in order to change the course of future generations for the better.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
4. Loving when tragedy strikes. As I type this, I think of my grandmother who just went home to be with The Lord and how my family was able to rally together during her last weeks of life. Death is inevitable, unfortunately, but when it happens, you can offer up your time, prayers and resources as well as reach out to family members you may have become distant from. These times are a perfect opportunity for a clean slate in a new season after loss. It really puts things in perspective when you think of eternity and how much we could use a little more peace here on Earth.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18)
With all of the above said, there are exceptions. If you are in danger or a victim of violence, it’s important to seek help and alert the proper authorities. God does not call us to live a life in bondage to someone else simply because they are family. You deserve to be loved, treasured and safe.
Has God been mending relationships within your family? Do you have more questions on how to work through specific circumstances? Please leave a comment below. We’re here to talk.