Family. I’m 110% certain that that world evokes memories of happiness, anger, grief, and frustration all rolled into one big bundle of confused emotions for most of us. If you are like us and have deaths, remarriages, drama, and betrayal equalling (and sometimes outweighing) fond family memories, or if your family tree looks a bit dark, twisted, and knarled, I just want to say: I get you.
This last week my girls and I were wrapping up our homeschool year (woot!) with a family tree. Even though it was delightful to teach my girls about their history, all the scattered lines connecting “who married who” and the talks about “you don’t know those people because” made it blazingly obvious that families are a cluster (insert cuss word here).
I think it would be so easy to dismiss the family cluster away with a wave of the “let your family drama go, your heavenly Father is your true family” wand. Which ok, that’s true, however, I think that statement is missing a big BUT and a few choice words in it.
In my opinion what we should be telling ourselves instead is:
“Don’t let your family drama overtake you BUT instead let it SHAPE you and TEACH you why you need a heavenly Father in the first place.”
I feel like when we wave a dismissive hand to the family hardships we face and endure, it only serves to shove complicated emotions down deep where they lurk and slowly convert themselves into anger and resentment. Instead, wouldn’t it be a better idea to use them as tools to shape us into people that need healing and that yearn for a God who can parent and guide us in ways our earthly family could never do?
Through my own musings, tears, and long talks with Jesus (and therapists), I can say without flinching that I would NOT be who I am or where I am without my family. Through the good and bad they have taught me who I am, who I am not, how to forgive, how to give grace, and how I will and will not allow myself to be treated. More than that though, I think that I would not have emerged as reliant on God had my family not been a bit of a cluster.
Sin sucks friends. It is a sneaky little black hand that steals joy and breaks families apart like a machete. God only ever allowed one man to walk this earth perfect and sinless–the rest of us don’t stand a chance. We can aim and use the Word as our arrow but we will miss the target again and again. (Praise the Lord for grace!) Now imagine a bunch of people living and loving in the same house aiming and missing every single day (or never aiming at all)! Phew. Sounds like a recipe for cluster pie. Yet, without it where would we all be?
In my humble opinion, we would be as dull and boring as coal. It is the experiences, choices, tragedies, and scandals that add the pressure to life and that SHAPE us into multifaceted people who, with the light of Christ thrown into the mix, have the ability to sparkle like diamonds.
Our families not only shape us, but they also TEACH us WHY we need a heavenly Father. If everything was always amazingly peachy and full of sunshine, would we ever have the need to fall on our knees in anguish and allow our Father God to show us love no human can fathom? (Spoiler alert, the answer is a big, fat NO.) We need struggle and pain to produce a longing for something greater than anything we can get our earthly hands on.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba,[a] Father!” The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children.Romans 8:15-16 CSB
Again in The Message translation:
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!Romans 8:15-17 MSG
You are not called to be a slave emotion the word “family” evokes for you. You ARE a child of a God that loves you enough to call you His child. He loved you enough to craft a family past for you that, even if seemingly awful, hid resilience in your heart and shaped you into the multifaceted diamond you are today.
Friends, no matter where you are at on the family cluster scale you deserve grace, healing, and the love of a Father who would forsake 99 to bring you back to Him. (Also, pro tip, don’t start a family tree unless you are prepared to see the whole cluster big and bold complete with pictures).