Families and Holidays

Monday, Oct 31, 2022
Jim Sutton

My wife and I make a great team! One of the ways we make a great team is the diverse way we approach Holiday seasons. For my wife, there is a love/hate relationship that is rooted in her introvert predisposition, and her aversion to conflicts of opinion. Family times can place a strain on an introvert with multiple conversations buzzing around the home and situations that can be unpleasant to bear, let alone the near complete lack of alone time to recharge. For an extrovert like me, the times with others in conversation, whether discussing the latest weather or a rigorous dive in to current politics or a theological/philosophical debate is invigorating. Family times with me assume time can be spent profitably, learning from each others unique perspective and deepening relationships. But for many, that perspective is to be avoided, and is practically not conceivable to the mindset that cherishes peace at all costs with little conflict between obvious differences. Those differences in the mind of an extrovert are like lush orchards of delectable in season fruit!

"Blessed are the peacemakers" we read from the words of Jesus, who told the religious leaders of the time that they were "whitewashed tombs". He also told the most powerful government leader in the area, Pilate, that "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above".  It doesn't take much research to show that the nuances in being a "peacemaker" in the biblical sense are far removed from the current pacifist mindset that uses this verse to justify their inaction to resist evil in their time. We have discovered that our marriage is made better for both of us as we learn to circumnavigate these differences, learning to balance the two different giftings of our character and personality into a solid team that with God's guidance create the "cord of 3 strands that is not quickly broken" as the proverb in Ecclesiastes states.

But that has not saved us from the loss of relationship with other family members, both near and far due in part to the attacks on the family model that was created by God from the beginning of mankind. Each family through its failures will have its difficulties, misunderstandings and at times abuse that causes  division and in some cases disownment from the family unit. Some family units enhance the potential for division from the very beginning, others abort the possibility of an intact family unit through a misunderstanding of the family, but at least the cycle of hurt and division is ended. But most family units start out with the general understanding that family is important and deserves special care to keep it intact. But not everyone will value the continuance of familial ties, even when the experience has been nominally good. Why is this?

I believe that our memories, experiences and moral values play a large part in answering this question. First, our memories can be selective, which reinforce our proclivities toward love or hatred of the family. We each choose to either allow other family members to refine or refresh our memories, or to discard them as irrelevant to our journey in life. But who loses in this facade? If we truly were raised with egregious parent(s), then maintaining the relationships with appropriate boundaries can still help us address blindspots we may have in growing into the same vices, but only if we care about the people we are becoming. Secondly, our experiences are often imperfect, which is a good reason to have relationship with family to have a more accurate picture than the imperfect lens of our childhood. I remember dialogues between my Mother and I regarding aspects of my upbringing where each had perspectives that were incomplete, but when shared gave us a better "3D" picture of the actual event that had won a place in our memories. The bonds that are formed with those interactions are timeless. Lastly, our moral values dictate to a great extent how we perceive our memories and experiences. It is a small leap for most people that we fixate on memories or experiences that support a belief. If those beliefs are antithetical to those with which we are raised, it follows that our minds would generate the means to support that belief through the memories or experiences we had, regardless if they were inconsequential or not compared to other memories that would defy us that understanding. Time often helps in these matters, but only if our morals value the interactions that leads us to a greater understanding of the meaning of truth and the blessings of healthy relationships.

This family Holiday season will be another opportunity to grow in love, understanding and a better understanding of the God who loves us and ordained that the family unit can be an expression of God's love to us. I'm praying that for our family gatherings, and hoping to better balance the giftings of a wonderful, incredible and loving introvert wife with what I bring to the table to honor God and enhance each family members journey in life.