Q: After all these years, my relationships with my siblings are still conditional and one-sided. How do I accept this truth yet continue to love them?
A: Jesus said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (Mark 3:33, NASB). He then went on to explain, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21). You see, as John chapter seven also illustrates, Jesus wasn’t exactly adored by his brothers when he was alive - which is why he encouraged the idea of surrogate family members inside the Kingdom of God. Two of Jesus’ brothers later repented; received the revelation of Christ as Savior and became Apostles of the early Christian Church, as well as authors in our Bible (James and Jude.) Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with many of us when it comes to dysfunctional family. Forgiveness is a great start toward healing from these kinds of hurts.
Family dynamics have been difficult since Adam and Eve left the garden. Cain slew Abel when their brotherly relationship broke down and the demon spirit of jealousy entered their yoke. These boys grew up in the same family and were born of the same two parents. But due to quirks in personality, potential parenting issues, lifestyle choices and competition, the first-family failed. I’m sure Adam yelled, “Why can’t you two get along?” right before he wept bitter tears over his sons’ actions which ended in death.
Families usually come in two flavors: either “enmeshed” or “distant-dysfunctional.” An enmeshed family likes to believe they are perfect; everyone loves everyone else, there are no arguments and the world should pattern itself after their family unit. In an enmeshed family, each person is required to agree with the familial, groupthink and operate on unwritten laws of fanatical obligation. There is usually a hard-bitten patriarch or matriarch pulling the strings behind the scenes of their enmeshed brood. Individualism is often forbidden and disagreement discouraged. When a person inside an enmeshed family receives Christ, delivered of an addiction or finds healing from emotional wounds (most likely caused by family dysfunction), they often experience a type of abandonment by the family unit. An enmeshed family only works when everyone agrees. Should a member of the unit embrace reality and admit that all is not well in the family, they are exiled, emotionally.
The distant-dysfunctional family circles are no less painful to grow up in and survive: emotions are discouraged, mocked, or ignored and dismissed. Each member of this family unit is encouraged to become an island or walled city; a quiet, keep-to-yourself kind of peace treaty is established where rocking of the other boats in the harbor is forbidden. Unlike the enmeshed group, where everyone must agree to operate inside a group-personality, the distant-dysfunctional family elevates individualism to a sacred pedestal as each member has its role and part to play. This family expects and prefers not to be connected. Unfortunately, the same treatment ensues should Christ arrive in the hearts of one of these members. The gifts of the Holy Spirit cry out to be expressed as the Christlike attributes of authenticity and warmth threaten to shatter the glass aquariums of each of the isolated, lonely members.
Jesus is like leaven in the loaf of life. We are never promised an easy road; not even acceptance inside our own family units. Grace? It’s a hard-won commodity for a lot of us, both giving and receiving. We must praise God for the siblings we have found inside our churches, small groups and kingdom communities. Few of us had the luxury of being nurtured inside a safe, Christian clan where the Bible was regularly read and studied; selflessness ruled the day and the Holy Spirit lived inside every family relationship. I thank God that Jesus provided a family for those times when our bloodline betrays us and kind loyalty cannot be found. Peace comes in knowing that Christ’s blood will never fail. We are always connected to his family.
Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Send your inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box 214, Harrison, OH 45030. For more information, please visit www.adriennewgreene.com or tune into the “Ask Pastor Adrienne” YouTube channel.
Ask Pastor Adrienne column: When family disappoints