So, weird thing.
While I was in New York City, I’d been having these strange moments of reminiscence about my family; there were visions of some of the best moments we’ve had together. When Stephen came home for Thanksgiving and everything actually went smoothly; when Gracie, Jimmy, Dad, and I ran a 5K with the Brocks to raise money for the Life Choices Center; the one spiritual conversation I’ve ever had with my father; whenever we went big grocery shopping, bought half of Wal Mart, and came home to put all of the groceries away, just to experience that feeling of having food in the house.
The problem is, I had imagined my family, while I was gone, as this perfect, unblemished, totally polished support group that had no problems, no cuts, no bruises, no battle wounds; just smiles, banana bread, and country thoughts.
But I was wrong.
My family is not perfect. In fact, we’re probably one of the most imperfect families you’ve ever experienced. We fight a lot; we don’t always cooperate; we’re sarcastic to and short with each other. We’re all a little rough around the edges, our hearts a little hardened, our pride a little bloated, and our love a little tired.
But it’s okay.
Today, I was supposed to have a dentist’s appointment. I hate going to the dentist. My wisdom teeth are coming in, so I especially didn’t want to go to the dentist, because they’d see my wisdom teeth and make an appointment to yank those suckers out of the back of my mouth. My mom, Jimmy, and I all drove thirty minutes to Hamilton, only to find out my appointment had been canceled. Thank you, Jesus 😀
So the three of us went to McDonald’s for breakfast. As I sat there with my mother and brother, thinking and eating, I began to compare my life in the Sticks to my life in the City. In the City, I wouldn’t be at McDonald’s, eating a McGriddle and sipping hot chocolate; I would be at Connecticut Muffin, studying and eating red velvet cake. As I made the comparisons and contrasts, I was hit with an upper cut to the nose in the form of one wonderful feeling:
I love that my family is imperfect.
We brought in our tree today for Christmas in the next couple of days; the top of it bends against the ceiling of our living room. My father was frustrated; my brother and sister were awkward; my mother was trying too hard; I was observing. When we’d gotten it to be straight and sitting snugly in its designated spot, we all hung out in the living room. I eventually fell asleep while everyone watched a movie.
Truth be told, the reason why I love the imperfections of my family is that it reminds me that not all Christians have perfect lives, perfect backgrounds, perfect personalities, perfect understanding. It also reminds me that soldiers going into a battle are much different from those coming out. I haven’t come from a place that’s all sunshine and rainbows. My family has come out of battle after battle after battle, only to come out on the other side to be greeted by yet another battle. Though I talk about spiritual things, read lots of deep, philosophical, theological things, take a stand for God and a stand for morality and a stand for honor, I am not perfect.
Is my father a deacon? No. Is he a marriage counselor? No. My father is a man who strives to do his best in many different areas, and though he never really gets all mushy or emotional around any of his family, and though we (Gracie, Jimmy, Mom, and I) don’t always know how to act around him, he does love us. He knows the truth of God and I’d like to believe he’s pursuing it. If not, that’s totally between him and God.
Is my mother a pastor’s wife? No. Is she completely stable in every area of her life? No. My mother is a woman of God, a precious jewel in His sight. She’s one of the most caring, supportive, tolerant, and patient women I have ever met. She disciplined us and dragged our butts to church when my father and his family didn’t support her, when she was alone in the endeavor. I keep trying to imagine who I would be today if my mother hadn’t given up trying to impress people in order to let me know about God’s love for me. If not, this upcoming holiday, the celebration of the coming of Christ, would be just another day to me, and I would know nothing of its importance.
Is my sister incredibly polite with polished manners? No. Is she at the top of her class? No. My sister is a passionate person, and though she cares deeply about only a few things, those few things will never receive more admiration and love and devotion from another living soul. She is creative and much smarter than she thinks she is. She is a beautiful girl growing up to become a woman. Her relationship with God is growing, though, like all Christians, she has some things she needs to work on.
Is my brother, Jimmy, a gentleman? Not entirely. Is he always kind and inspiring? No. My brother is sensitive and warm and loving, even though, like everyone, he has his days of nastiness and hardheartedness. He’s incredibly intelligent and soaks up everything like a sponge. He looks up to his father and wants to become an officer in the army. He makes up his own songs and can create new lyrics for tunes on the spot.
Is my brother, Stephen, socially suave? No. Is he strong in Christ and eloquent in his speech? No. My brother desires to please people, to give them things he can’t give himself. He loves and feels so deeply. He can memorize entire movies after watching them only once. He has Asperger’s syndrome and has made very little progress in becoming healed over the past couple of years, but he knows what he has to do. He knows that he’s loved.
Do I have everything together, a perfectly wrapped future tied up with a bow presented to me? No. Am I always kind, polite, and understanding? No. I am a change in the making. I am proud of my country, despite it’s downfalls. I take pride in my writing, in my accomplishments, but I do not let them be the foundation of my life. I often forget how important and special and loved I am in the eyes of God, in the eyes of others. I lose hope; I trip over things; I forget to brush my teeth; I put salt in sugar cookies in place of sugar. I sometimes read when I should be paying attention. I love to read my Bible.
So what’s the point of my telling you about the imperfections of my family, outlining their characters for you one at a time? Well, this is part of what America has forgotten. We’ve forgotten the family system, the importance of marriage, of sticking together, of working together, despite how many problems we’ve had. The more I think about my family, the more I see just how perfect they actually are. My parents are still married; I am in the minority of people my age, where the majority of my peers have only one parent or have a biological and a step-parent. My family prays before meals and openly talks about God and what we’ve learned and how we’ve seen Him in our lives. While most families become divided because of estrangement, money, stale love, boredom, addictions, and hopelessness, my family is somehow still together, because we know that’s what families do; a family is a team, a unit; it’s not meant to be divided.
To further the point, family problems, no matter how dark, how devious, how evil, how disturbing, should never divide what God has created to stay together. Is this about divorce? Partially. This is more about divorce, estrangement, hatred, and hopelessness. My family has been in danger of all of these things, yet we’ve still stayed together. Why? Because God is at the center of us. As I said before, we’re not perfect; we are not the polished Christian family that shows up in Kirk Cameron movies. But we are of God, and we know it. We couldn’t have remained together without Him.
“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” —Mark 10:9, NIV