In my collection of days, there never is a day that passes that doesn't either remind me of family, that I don't speak to a family member, or I fail to experience what it means to be a part of a family. As Christmas approaches, I am keenly aware of all kinds of families, which aren’t all as mine is, and I stop to ponder just what is going on in this world.
I always believed that families were a special entity, designed to love, support, build up, and take care of each other. Even in my darkest days, when I was reminded by a family member that I had disgraced our family name, I was never abandoned by my family, or made to feel like I was not a part of my family. They circled the wagons around me, protected me as best they could, prayed for me, and more than anything, loved me. Even though many members of my family are not close to me geographically, with cell phones, texting, Facebook, and yes, even snail mail, we stay in touch with each other on a regular basis. We are bound together by our heritage and our DNA, and the family ties are ones that can be pulled and stretched, but never shredded or broken. Families are treasures that should be cherished and protected with all our might.
This brings me to something that breaks my heart. I have some very close friends whose families are not like mine, or display the concept of family that I so strongly believe in. I don’t understand it. There are mothers whose grown children have not spoken to them in over a year, fathers who have been cut off from their children for reasons that they don’t understand, and children who have not been in contact with their parents or siblings in many years. As I talk to these friends, I listen to their stories, wondering what has happened to the family. Where is the love? Where is the compassion? Where is the forgiveness? Where is the heart that is supposed to be at the heart of family? What has happened to the family?
It is Christmastime. It is time to celebrate family, set aside differences, forgive transgressions and failures, rejoice in victories, and bask in the love of God. While we stop to think about the birth of Jesus, we also need to think about what he taught during his ministry. He didn’t teach us to abandon or judge members of our family because we don’t agree with them. He didn’t teach us to turn our backs on our children or our parents because they hurt our feelings or made us angry. He didn’t teach us to hold a grudge against members of our family who have slipped along their path. He taught us to forgive, to love, and to reflect God and God’s love through our lives.
As I think about all these things, I am reminded of a young woman I have recently met. Her story is one of troubles, drug abuse,the loss of a child, and a myriad of problems that would make many people cut and run. Her mother is an alcoholic who was never an ideal candidate for Mother of the Year at any time in this young woman’s life. However, as this beautiful young woman has gotten her life back on solid ground, she has never stopped loving her mother or trying to help her. While she is not rewarded by her mother with support and love, she continues to be a part of her mother’s life, always hoping that she will change. She makes these other families look pitiful in contrast, because she knows the importance of family, even a far from perfect one. It is not a pretty story, but she gives me hope for other families.
I am thankful for my family, and my wish at Christmas is that everyone will rediscover something about family that may have been forgotten, buried, hidden, or brushed aside for one reason or another. My wish is that forgiveness and love will triumph where hurt and disappointment has tarnished the beauty of family.
Christmas is a family time of year.