Peace VS. Pressure
One thing that most of us get to enjoy during the holiday season are family gatherings. For some of you, this is a delight. The holidays conjure up images of wonderful memories with family. For some of you, the topic of family during the holidays is something you dread or is a place of deep pain or loneliness.
Wherever you’re at, all of us are sure to have our patience tested by people we know and love before January rolls around.
So, for this holiday season, here is some encouragement about how to approach family gatherings without apprehension or absolutely losing it.
1. Jesus Loves Family!
God is relational! We are created in the image of a triune God who is in constant, perfect, fulfilling, satisfying relationship with one another. The Lord delights in having children. He delights in His children having children. He designed us to live in community, whether that’s with aunties and nephews or with the people who live near us, who we do life with.
John 15 is one of Kristianna’s favorite chapters in the Gospels. Every time she meditates on it she’s more and more in awe of what Jesus is saying to us. In beautiful language He communicates that we are partakers of the extraordinary, perfect love that the Father has for His son. Jesus dearly wants us to understand that the point of His sacrifice is so that we can be in relationship with God again. God WANTS us to be with Him where He is! He loves His family.
2. The People That God Loves
Ephesians 4: 1-4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We’ve had some great guests on the pod talking about relating to people. (Like Shirley Brownhill, and her encouragement on how to relate to others in humility and love, even in conflict.) One of the most challenging things about living in community is dealing with people that we don't like. The shocker is that Jesus likes those people. More than that, He loves them. Our heart response towards those that frustrate us tends to be far short of God’s love.
Let’s take this moment to remind ourselves that God has infinite tenderness for our weaknesses.
During this Holiday Season, if you know that you’re going to have to interact with people that REALLY try your patience, consider writing down their names and asking the Lord to (do the impossible and) share His love for them with you.
Structure your month so that you are taking care of yourself! You’re not going to have anything to give or have much capacity for relationship if you’re depleted.
Before going to family gatherings, Kristianna recommends scheduling a small amount of time in which to calm your heart, practice gratitude, and RECOGNIZE when you are overwhelmed.
More than anything, take care of your own heart before you go stepping into a possible minefield.
You may need to evaluate the relationships that you’re about to engage with. Are they doing ok? Can you do anything to make them better? If you can’t do anything to improve them, are you ok with being where they currently are? Are you ready to be gentle with other people’s weaknesses?
What is your expectation? Sometimes we’re all set to go to a Christmas Tea and our expectation is for a wonderful emotional connection and tinsel and yuletide joy, and then it ISN’T, and we are deflated and irritated, and it ruins the rest of the week…and the rest of the week for everyone else in our family! SO, before each event, can you appropriately align your expectations with the reality of the event?
4. Create Belonging
Belonging is the joy that we create around us! If you don’t have any family nearby, or if your family is too broken to gather with, ask for what you need in the context of safe community. Perhaps consider looking for other people who are in need of a family at this time of year. Are there disenfranchised, international, lonely folks, in need of a place to gather? Create belonging!
Here’s a gentle reminder from our own dear Moolily Foreigner: make sure your expectations are set appropriately. Pursue relationships, but have a realistic expectation that it may not be everything that you hoped it would be. If you’ve got all your bets on that one evening together satisfying all the longings of your heart for relationship, you’re probably going to be disappointed.