“You should be angry about this.”
“This situation justifies your holding a grudge.”
“This is unforgivable.”
“You need to secure your independence.”
I sometimes forget that, although the holidays are meant to be a time of relaxation, of joy and celebration, a time for people to just take a break from everything, Satan never takes a break from messing around. He never breaks from messing with me.
Yesterday, after the Christmas festivities, the gift-giving, the hug-exchanging, after everything wonderful and beautiful about Christmas Day, my family and I sat around the house, cleaning up and chilling out. My father was upset about something. He wasn’t treating us very well, though, despite his claims, we were trying to help and please him as best we could. I’ll admit we (my brother, sisters, mother, and I) often don’t hear him the first time he says something, or always do things exactly as he wants, but we do try. He continued on.
I’ve been working on, ever since the summer, submitting to, obeying, and respecting my parents, which is especially hard for me since I’m naturally rebellious and independent: when I feel I’ve been deeply wronged, it’s very difficult for me to just sit back and let God take care of it instead of railing and ranting about it. Well, this situation with my father tripped me up. He continued on and on, without looking at any of the kind and wonderful things we’d done that day. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I completely ignored the Holy Spirit and gave in to my desire to be right, to be heard. I wasn’t patient or respectful or kind, but rather I spoke back, harshly and rudely.
After I was finished, I was ashamed of myself. This was my father, the man God had ordained to raise me and love me and guide me and discipline me…and I wasn’t obeying or respecting him like I should be. Some of you reading this may think I had some sort of right to speak up. Maybe you’re correct to some degree, but I could’ve done it with much more tact. The thing is, talking back to your parents, disrespecting them, even when you’re older, is part of what causes families to divide. By you not fulfilling the role of son or daughter, letting your parents guide you and lead you, your parents can’t fulfill their roles. This is similar to the wife trying to fill the role of the leader of the house, which is mean for the husband. I know in some situations where the parents are incapable of leading (involved with addictions, affairs, mental illnesses, etc.) this doesn’t always work; it’s not always possible. But when your parents are capable of filling their role and you’re not letting them do it because of your disrespect and disobedience, the family dynamic changes from a harmonious symphony with occasional crescendos of deep percussion and dark brass, to a power struggle within a garbage band with tone deaf musicians: it just doesn’t work.
My family dynamic is somewhere in between, and, since I can’t change my family members, it would make more sense for me to change myself. There are things I need to work on first before I start focusing on what other people need to work on.
“But Hunter, it sounds like you’re turning yourself into a door mat so people can walk all over you.”
Actually I’m doing just the opposite. Often in the world, it’s easy to give in and just want to defend ourselves. Yes, there’s a point where you need to stick up for what you believe in, for what’s right. But it’s the discernment between what’s right and wrong along with the awareness of the context that will determine your response and it’s necessity. But when it comes to parents, God tells me to obey them, regardless, unless it conflicts with what He wants for my life. For example: if God’s word tells me to love Him with all my heart, soul, and might, and my parents want me to do otherwise, then I will ignore the wishes of my parents and pursue God’s. But if my parents want me to do the dishes and I just don’t want to (which rarely happens, since I like doing the dishes :)), then that’s just a matter of my being stubborn.
Ephesians 6:1,2 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ But I’m going to take this a step further and bring out the next verse. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
So yeah, there’s a command for fathers, but look at the order of these commands: the children are ordered first and THEN the fathers. While children can’t learn how to obey properly without the instruction of their fathers (though, ultimately, they can’t obey properly without the instruction of their heavenly Father). Again; sons and daughters, obey first; don’t wait for your obedience to be justified.
The world is constantly pushing independence, being concerned with your individual rights, finding the self. Get over the self, get over independence, and get over individualism. It’s not about us, it’s not about our desires, our wants. While God loves us and enjoys giving us blessings and what we want, that’s not the point of life: life isn’t about us getting what we want; it’s not about our happiness. It’s about seeing that life is worth living because He died. It’s about looking outside of ourselves and our little bubbles of comfort to see something so much bigger and more meaningful. When you go against the grain of the world, when you forgive, when you obey, when you respect without being respected, you have nullified the fear of becoming a door mat. I’m not letting myself be walked over, but rather I’m setting myself up to win, I’m setting myself up in accordance with God’s plan for my life, and, since He’s the One who knows that plan, who’s in control of what happens and how it all happens, that’s what I want to be doing.
So that was lesson number one.
Lesson number two was even tougher.
This morning, Gracie knocked at my door while I was still sleeping, waking me up as she came in. She told me Stephen, who had been doing so well on his visit so far, had done something, something he’s done every time he’s come home. It’s disgusting and disturbing and wrong, but he did it anyway. He betrayed our family…again. I told her to tell Mom, and then I began getting dressed and ready to take him back to the facility, since that would surely be the result.
Okay Hunter, he’s done this one time too many. You just can’t forgive him anymore. You deserve to be angry about this.
As we all piled into the car, I observed Stephen; I contemplated being angry, holding a grudge.
But I couldn’t.
When Stephen first began hurting our family (both unintentionally because of his condition and intentionally because he’s Stephen), when we first discovered his manipulative side, I was angry. For the longest time I wouldn’t talk to him, I wouldn’t call him my brother. When he left for the first time to go live at a facility, I wouldn’t speak to him when he called on the phone. I would stay up in my room whenever he visited. In my mind, he had ruined the life of my family one too many times to deserve my association, much less my sisterly love.
But the thing is, that was before God…that was before Jesus came into my life and plugged everything into the right outlet, before He flipped my world upside down with His love. How many times have I had to ask Him for forgiveness? How many times have I failed Him and spat in His face? How long did I stay wayward and live in darkness, but He took me back anyway? I have no right to withhold forgiveness from anybody, especially my own brother.
1 John 4:19, 20 says, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (ESV). Ouch! This is one of those moments in the Bible where it’s like, “this is what it says; this is what I mean; do it.” How can I love God without loving Stephen? Well, I do love Stephen, and I do forgive him, every time he messes up. I have to say, I wouldn’t be able to as easily without watching Mama forgive him. That’s another thing; if I practice forgiveness, then maybe, if God wills it, if I have my own children, they’ll be able to forgive as well. It would be much harder for me to forgive without seeing others who claim to be Christians. I didn’t let Satan win my first semester of college, seen as the biggest challenge in my life thus far; I will not let him win my family, not through me.
So yeah…today was a little rough, but I needed it. God knows when I need to be reminded of the “basics,” or the things I know but don’t always remember. Tomorrow is the Windsor Christmas Tournament. My father is a wrestling coach, even during Christmas. The Windsor Tourney is a two-day wrestling tournament, one of the biggest of the season. I won’t lie: I’m really super insanely excited to go to this tournament 😀 Dad is taking the strongest wrestlers (about five from his team) to compete in this tourney.
Christmas, despite everything, was wonderful. We were all together and God blessed us regardless of ourselves. I have to wonder what life would be like if Jesus had never come to earth, had never been willing to save us. But He was willing…He did come…
Thank God 🙂