by Sylvia Gaston
As you read this, my family is in the midst of a family reunion that takes place about every two years. Cousins, aunts, uncles and parents converge on a local park and go about the business of reuniting, playing and eating. There will be laughter and tears and a bunch of little ones running underfoot. We will exclaim how our children have grown (especially mine) and ask for the latest details of each other’s lives.
For some, reunions are events to be dreaded, akin to the even-more-dreadful class reunions. Stereotypes of relatives are sometimes not so stereotypical – the drunk uncle, the gossipy cousin, the grumpy old man or woman, and so on. They are sometimes the actual reality of the crazy quilt that is your family.
It seems that those of us who are involved in the planning of that year’s reunion often find ourselves in the business of inviting, cajoling and sometimes begging family members to attend. Yes, it can be an inconvenience of time, travel and finances. Not to mention the concerns of what awaits. Will everyone get along? Will I be uncomfortable around some of the people in attendance? Do I want people to see how I’ve aged or how much weight I’ve gained? So why do we put ourselves through this?
Family is important. No matter the crazy make up of your tribe, they are the fabric of who you are – for all of it’s good and even, all of it’s bad. The people you were raised with and grew up around all contributed to who you are. Hopefully, you adopted their best traits and traditions and rejected the things that were not so lovely. Either way, this process made you who you are. That is worth celebrating.
God places great importance on the family. He devoted much space in the Bible to talk about how to live in relationship with others. He specifically talks about husbands and wives (Ephesians 5, Proverbs 31), how parents and children’s roles should look in order to be successful (Deuteronomy 4, Ephesians 6), and how to love others in general (Proverbs 10, John 13, and basically, the rest of the Bible).
Make no mistake, reunions (big or small) with the assortment of personalities we’re related to are not always easy. It’s important to pray up and ramp up all levels of patience, grace, and tact. It’s important to minimize interaction with the relative that knows just what to say to rile you and to maximize your time with the people that feed your soul.
Taken to a greater level of selflessness, reunions and get-togethers can be an opportunity for you to pour generously into those who need it most. Words of encouragement, compliments and kindness can be your contribution. In addition to a great side dish, of course! Everybody wants to feel better about themselves and to feel they are valued.
Relationships are difficult, to state the obvious. However, we were created to live in relationship with our Father in heaven and with one another. Are you doing that the best you can? I know I can always do better.
I recently heard Pope Francis say, “Families quarrel. In the family there are difficulties but those difficulties are overcome with love.”
Coincidentally, our church is in a teaching series about family relationships but any church is a great place to learn what God has to say about living in healthy and loving relationship with others.