"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone: a new life has begun." 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
It was a typical holiday scene. My mother hummed an off-key tune in the kitchen. My father lounged in his faded blue recliner, while my husband and brothers talked about the football game on TV. The younger children played cards, while the older kids talked about my daughter's recent acceptance into college.
As I viewed the scene, I stood still in my tracks. Wait! When did we become a "typical family?"
My past will never resemble a Hallmark card. My mother had her first baby at 15. She lost her footing as she tried to be a young mother and wife. She was physically and verbally abused by her young husband and fled at age 20 to start over. Alone and pregnant—with me—mom met a good man and later they married.
But the emotional baggage took its toll on that relationship, and later on our entire family. She often threatened suicide. She raged. She lashed out physically. She begged for forgiveness. If I let my guard down to love, the next day or the next week a new scene would unfold. My heart hardened at a tender age.
Flash forward 25 years. I am no longer a child. I'm a woman with young adult children of my own. God has healed my heart.
As I stood in the living room I realized that I still viewed my family through the past. I had let go of the resentment, the anger. I loved my mother and father, but I still saw my extended family as broken. In far too many ways our relationship was founded on that perception.
I stepped back and took a good long look. Who was my mom now? How had she grown? Did I recognize what God had performed in her life?
The answer was no, and I was not alone in this thinking. My siblings also wrestled with this. No matter what my mother did, no matter how much she had overcome, she still had a scarlet letter branded on her. She was marked "B" for broken.
My family had been "normal" longer than dysfunctional. I realized it was time to step into the present and leave the past behind.
That day I fully transitioned from child to adult. I reflected on what God can do in spite of a broken past. I rejoiced in what had taken place in the heart of my mother and our family. It didn't just change me, but it changed my mother and our relationship. Somehow she knew we had crossed a new threshold. The burden of guilt was eased as she looked into my eyes and realized I saw her fully as the woman she had become.
Several holidays have passed since that day. My mother still hums off-key. I still bring desert. But when I look at my family, I don't just see a family gathering, I see a portrait of God's grace.
Dear Jesus, do I recognize the miracles You have done in my loved ones? Do I hold on to resentment even if that person has changed? Give me new eyes to see. Paint the picture fresh for me as I extend the mercy You so freely gave to me to one person in my life today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Refocus: I'll take the spotlight off my childhood and put it on to the present.
Be Realistic: Even normal families have conflict. There is no such thing as a perfect family.
Relent: Do I rehash bad family memories or bring up the past to punish a loved one? Am I willing to begin a new conversation?
Receive: Amends may be awkward and not what I think they should be. True grace is receiving a gesture with the same spirit with which it is offered.
"If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming." — Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Matthew 9:13a, "Then he added, 'Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.'" (NLT)