Family During the Holidays…Relationships are Complicated

As we approach the holidays, many families are planning to get together.  Details are discussed regarding the location, texts and calls about who can and cannot attend, and lastly and most importantly, we finalize who will bring or fix different dishes or recipes for the meal.

Here’s an honest question. Do you secretly wish some family members won’t be able to make it?  Let’s be honest, there are family members that you may not look forward to seeing.  There are relationships that are broken and may seem to have no chance of repair.  You dread the rehash conversation of what caused the strain or worse yet, you are already getting worked up anticipating uncomfortable conversations that will cause more arguments.  Oh boy!  It will be SO GREAT to see each other.  Not.

I’ll start by saying that there may be a history and hurt with family that makes the relationship seem unrecoverable.  There are instances where time and effort to reconcile are futile, as it takes both parties to be willing call a truce.  The hurt can be very deep and may seem too impossible to have any chance of reconciliation.

On the other hand, to challenge us, especially Christians, Christ was very clear about our role to forgive others.  In Luke 6:27-29, “27 But I say to you who hear; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.” In verse 35 Jesus said, “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.”

In a recent sermon, Pastor Andy Stanley spoke about troubled relationships.  He said, “reassembling a relationship is a learned skill. The goal is not always reconciliation. The goal is no regrets.”

Turning to the Bible for more guidance, today’s reading is from Colossians 3, where the Apostle Paul wrote, 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

At this point, you may be thinking “no way my relationship with _______ can be fixed.  I cannot forgive them for what they said (or did).  I will look weak, and I am not giving in.  I am not going to let _______ push me around.  I am NOT apologizing, especially when _______ started this!”

I would humbly encourage you to view the possible benefits of a truce with your strained relationship, to you and the other person.  I would encourage you not to focus on thinking your feelings for the other person can be repaired with a truce.  They likely cannot. You will still not trust them and will still feel hurt from the conflict.  Healing, like any cut or wound, takes time.  It is normal to feel guarded and cautious regarding the other party, until you see if you each can earn the other’s trust.

What is on my heart today, is Philippians 2:5 (NIV) where the Apostle Paul tells us “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

Here is what I know.  I am a sinner.  There are days I am embarrassed about what I think, say, or do.  Unfortunately, I will continue to make these mistakes. If Christ Jesus held a grudge against me, in my relationship with Him, because of what I said or did in the past, I am in big trouble.  If Christ would not be willing to forgive me for the times I have sinned against Him and His commands, where would I be?

What I am learning throughout my spiritual journey, as I study more of the Gospel and Christ’s commands, it is not about “winning arguments” or allowing my ego to be put before my humility.  Life for me is striving to live each day, being thankful for my blessings, embracing the challenges and strife, and knowing that all these emotions and experiences are for the good of my relationship with Christ. I will never understand every challenge or tragedy, but I trust Christ has a plan for me. Our Savior Jesus Christ experienced anger, sadness, betrayal, angst, and unimaginable pain, and He still forgave me for all my sins by rising from the dead on Easter morning.

I am not as good as I could be, and I will never be as good as I should.  But I am learning that Jesus Christ serves as the ultimate example of forgiveness and humility for any relationship, and who am I to live my life without attempting to come as close as I can to His commands.  I don’t want to take His forgiveness for granted, to build on my relationship with Him.  I want Him to trust me, that I will keep His commands.  Our relationships on earth are complicated and sometimes they seem impossible.

My prayer is that heading into this holiday season, we seek peace in the difficult relationships, with what may seem like an impossible person.  I pray that we are the “bigger person” and open the door for a truce.  True forgiveness comes with time and trust, but I pray we can be more like Jesus and model the forgiveness He provides us.

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Chad Bandy

I am a husband, father, and Jesus follower. I am a work in progress who tries to be better each and every day, with the help of Christ.