The Family We Don’t Choose

Family Friday

Cousin MAM is getting married tomorrow.

I am dreadfully happy for her, but unfortunately my Paul and I are not able to be there for the blessed event. This has to do with logistical situations in our own lives which are preventing us, though, and not because there are Family Dynamics putting a damper on things, which there are. The fact of these Family Dynamics makes me really sad for Cousin MAM and her husband-to-be, but, internet and Family Dynamics being what they are, that’s probably all I should say about them. What they are doing, however, is reminding me how Family Dynamics are sort of inevitable.

To an extent and at certain points, you can choose at least some of your family members. But at the end of the day, none of us really has much say in the kind of family we come from, and the more I think about this in regard to my own biological family (all of whom I love dearly, Family Dynamics notwithstanding), the more I think about it in regard to my spiritual family, too.

Last year when I was a little more active on Authonomy than I am now, I happened to message back and forth with a woman who was trying to interest people in her editing services. I don’t know if you’re supposed to advertise things like that on Authonomy, although I don’t know why you couldn’t, given the type of website it is. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that, I think it’s entirely above-board and reasonable, if you are going to offer editing services, to charge money for them. Many people don’t understand how painstaking (and sometimes painful) editing someone else’s work can be. As I was messaging this woman, I saw another message to her from someone else.

Someone Else was effectively blasting Editor Woman for having the gall to charge a fee for her editing services. Someone Else further went on to announce that she was a Christian, and that, essentially, therefore she didn’t need editing services, because if God wanted her book to be published, it would be published, so there.

I hope I don’t need to spell out for you why (oh so many reasons) this message made me literally irate, but, oh, okay, I will:

  1. It was arrogant.
  2. It was ignorant.
  3. It was rude and personally insulting.
  4. And and and it feeds right into my stereotype of what people-who-aren’t-Christians’ stereotype of Christians is. (What I mean is: You expect us to behave like that, don’t you? Well, don’t you?)

“Ugh!” I said to my Paul. It was a Saturday morning. I don’t think he was even fully awake yet. I was checking Authonomy on my phone. “Why are these the Christians everybody sees?”

My Paul paused and then said, wisely, irenically and infuriatingly, “I guess we don’t get to pick our family.”

I’ve been thinking about that all year. I was thinking about it even more last Friday–Good Friday. I was thinking about how tough it can be to get along with family, and about how sometimes they embarrass you and you embarrass them, and sometimes you hope your parent will play favourites and that the favourite will be you. And then I was thinking about Jesus hanging on that cross, basically for the simple reason that we have severely messed up Family Dynamics–so bad that that slaughter was the consequence of them, and also the only way to provide reconciliation.

I thought about my own righteous indignation at Someone Else’s (my sister’s) note to Editor Woman. It’s tempting, in those moments, for some of us to disown people like that–to say, “Well, they may call themselves Christians, but they’re not real Christians.” I’ve definitely done that before. But in thinking about it, I’m not so sure that’s any more justifiable than rudely, arrogantly and ignorantly blasting a person who innocently offered their editing services.

I believe a “real Christian” is someone who has in some way turned over their life to the influence of the suffering and resurrected Jesus Christ, and that therefore that life will start to look more like the Jesus it is dedicated to. However, I don’t believe any of us “make it” in this lifetime and I know it isn’t my job to decide who is or isn’t or should or shouldn’t be in this Family God is rebuilding.

I’m not interested in making excuses for mine or my brothers’ and sisters’ bad behaviour, especially bad behaviour in the name of Christ. I don’t think it’s “okay” to make Jesus look bad. (Not everyone’s going to love Him, but it would be better if the reasons were because of His own person, and not because we were misrepresenting Him.) On the other hand, I am interested in grace. I’m interested because I desperately need it myself. It wasn’t just my sister of the ill-advised letter-to-the-editor who put Jesus on the cross. It was me, in my own arrogance and ignorance and idolatry and prejudice. And in spite of that, Jesus invited me into His family. So why should I be surprised at whomever else He invites?

Accountability within a family is a good thing. Standards are a good thing. But it’s not my job to decide who Jesus invites, nor is it my job to decide whether or not they were worthy. They weren’t. But neither was I. It’s just my job to learn to love them and live out the reconciliation Jesus brings in the first place. Like if it was my ordinary family.

Y'all come back now, y'here?

Y’all come back now, y’here?


19 thoughts on “The Family We Don’t Choose

  1. Hey You!… get out of my brain :-). This kinda reverse prejudice is happening so much and not just in this Christianity vein. I at times feel like pulling my hair out with some of the backwards thinking … I even stop and ask myself is this an honest assessment or are my own prejudices causing me to look a little too sanctimoniously at someone else?

    • Heh. Toldja I was thinking about this stuff.

      Yeah, it’s easy to get stuck in a thoughty-go-round. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance discernment and appropriate accountability with grace, but I finally decided I needed to JUST POST SOMETHING or I’d never get off the wheel.

  2. So, in regards to grammatical critiques… my above comment includes “kinda” and then words like “sanctimoniously” , Please don’t hurt me Teacher šŸ˜€

  3. Love this! I actually first started thinking about this concept when I took a Survey of Muslim Teachings and Beliefs class. While were discussing how there are so many varieties of expressions within the Muslim faith, yet we still call all followers of Islam “Muslims,” it made me realize that as Christians, we are in the same boat. It’s hard to see a person or group of persons call themselves Christian who act in a way contrary to what I as an individual feel is a Christian way of acting. But like you said, we don’t choose our family!

  4. Fantastic post! This is such a great reminder. I hate it when that “judgmental not-nice” person who lives in my head shows up unexpectedly. It even happened to me at church the other day. I saw someone letting their child eat dry cereal in the pew during the service, and I immediately thought: “I would never do that. That’s terrible!” Ugh. It makes me ill just thinking about my unkind thoughts. But immediately after being so judgmental, there was a realization that I had no right to judge. And that I should be happy that those people wanted to worship … and how wonderful it was that they want their little children to know Jesus’s love, too. I know that was the Holy Spirit, reminding me to look with love and not with my faulty human gaze.

    Shamefully, in that instance, I was the bad relative. I wish I could say it would be the last time I would play that role … but I know it won’t be. I’m definitely a work in progress. And very blessed that He continues to have patience with me.

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

    • Wise words, my friend. Thank YOU for sharing, too. Also a good reminder that I may resolve to be less judgmental but it shouldn’t take me by surprise when I fall into that again . . . !

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