Have you ever had someone share their story with you and you are just blown away?! I’ve had people tell me a piece of their history and I can’t even believe that s/he is still standing. I’ve been overwhelmed lately by the stories of broken relationships others have shared with me. I am always struck by the different reactions and choices people make when dealing with this. I know that every situation is unique and comes with it’s own (usually very complicated) baggage/history, so I don’t mean that I’m surprised when every person I meet hasn’t made the same choices. I’m moved by the people who are “in” no matter what and by the people who have chosen to draw their line firmly in the sand.
How do we find that healthy, “in His will” path? I know plenty of folks who believe that in family relationships you should always extend grace – which can mean being an emotional and/or physical punching bag to another family member with no consequences to “slugger” at all. Sometimes s/he isn’t even aware of the pain s/he is causing because the family dance is such that no one ever confronts “slugger.” I know this can be considered unconditional love and very Christ-like. I’ve known people who have ended some of their closest family relationships because they lost all hope for any change and felt a part of their lives or others in their lives were being destroyed by continuing. I’ve known families where everyone is in everyone else’s business ALL of the time. I’ve known families where there is almost no relationship between anyone or where the family has been split into two camps.
Unfortunately, I know of very few families that get along beautifully – enjoy each other’s company, talk about things openly, and always want the best for each other. Lots of families look that way from the outside, but not so many are once they are truly known. I have a friend whom I have known for years and she has that kind of family. They have family vacations every few years and everyone does all they can to make it. They have dealt with some big issues, such as drug abuse, infidelity, cancer, like most of us. They work through it with honesty, accountability and grace. My friend has shared with me how difficult this has been at times and I am always drawn to her stories. She has shared with me when she has overstepped, when she’s had to step back and take some time, and when she has determined to be all in even when she didn’t want to be. She has shared with me how frustrating it is when others simply won’t believe her about her wonderful childhood. How sad is that?…
I want this for my family. Well, really, who doesn’t? I used to think there was a magic recipe for happy families – a “One Size Fits All” – and if I could just find it, then life would be a breeze! I tried to be as Christ-like as I could and I was confident that everyone else would see my sincerity and my life story would be wrapped in a pretty bow. I forgot how much I mess up and overlooked the part about freewill of others. Honestly, I was a bit peeved when everyone didn’t just fall into line and help me keep the fairytale alive…
I still get my feelings hurt when I believe I’ve gotten a bad wrap. I go back over all of the reasons that the other person shouldn’t see me that way and make a list of the loving things I’ve done in my relationship with that person. Sometimes I’m wrongly accused, sometimes I don’t even begin to know what the heck I’ve done and sometimes I have offended, plain and simple – NO excuses. One of my favorite and least favorite things in my life is making things right when I’ve screwed up. Gosh, that moment when you realize what you’ve done to someone else and that you have to make amends just sucks! Especially if it’s someone you don’t have a close or completely trusting relationship with… I always try to go to Him and ask Him to humble me (after I throw a little self-righteous tantrum or two and try to justify why I shouldn’t have to humiliate myself in front of HIM/HER!). That is one of the moments I am absolutely sure He is real and loves me. The work He does in me is a complete 180! He changes my heart and compels me to go to the person I’ve offended. I wish it always went well when I did. It doesn’t… But I always know when I’m completely where I need to be based on my reaction. If I hear the other person’s heart without thinking first of my own pride, then I’ve done what I was supposed to do and I can be at peace with the idea of this taking longer than I had hoped to heal or accepting that it may never be worked out and wrapped in that pretty little bow. Of course, this takes time. In the midst of emotion, I usually need time to sort it all out.
I’ve had terribly unhealthy relationships that I stayed in for years for a variety of reasons. I’ve had wonderful relationships that I’ve messed up because I didn’t believe I deserved that kind of love and loyalty. I have relationships that are all over the spectrum at this point in my life. I’ve walked away from some toxic relationships after doing everything I could do to make things better. I’ve worried that I’m not showing my children unconditional love when I’ve made this choice because sometimes, in the midst of emotion, I forget that unconditional love doesn’t mean being a doormat. Walking away doesn’t mean I don’t want the best for them and it does not mean that I don’t love that person deeply.
I think what has stayed with me most as people share their stories with me is how much some people pour of themselves into others. I am often mourning what others have lost and how heavy their burdens are. I am moved greatly by the ability of people to endure. So many of us carry such heartbreak around with us and sometimes life just doesn’t have a path for resolution anytime soon. For me, the acceptance of this has brought me BIG peace. It doesn’t mean I’ve given up on anything except the idea of things always working out like they used to on my favorite weekly shows when I was a child in 30 – 60 minutes. I’m learning to follow His lead in my relationships – not a “one size fits all” recipe, but a “size for everyone” recipe. It’s not always easy to swallow, but it sure is better for me.