I might sound terrible for saying this, especially when it’s not whispered during a wee-hours-of-the-morning heart-to-heart or confided in my very best friend. I might be terrible for posting it where virtually every single one of my 630 Facebook friends could stumble across it and then know it. But I will say it anyway, because I’m hoping I’m not alone and that maybe-just maybe- you feel this way, too.
Honestly, more often than not, my family brings out the worst in me. I often have no (well..much less of one) problem being a happy, compassionate, kind, bubbly Christ follower when I’m hanging out with my friends. Our relationships- for the most part- are effortless and breezy and rewarding, and when they’re not, I access the situation: sometimes the relationship is worth working for and fighting through and sometimes it’s not, and then I let it go.
But my family is completely different. I feel like I have no choice but to work it out, even if that’s a never-ending process. I feel like, while there are a few exceptions, I can’t just give up on them. And what’s more, they know me so well that they can reach out with one comment or one action and destroy my good mood or happy disposition and I let myself snap back and all of my good intentions fall away and my ugliness is left bared.
This is a big problem, though. First of all, it is because of the fact that they’ll always be around that this has got to stop; for every decision that I’ve made to stick with them, they’ve decided to stick with me, too. And I’ve changed at college; well, I’ve been changed. I’ve been stretched and pulled and taught and towards the end, as I geared up to come home, God whispered their names in my ear. Some more loudly than others, but still, He said, you must show me to all of them, to those who believe and those who say they do and those who just don’t. I know I’ve brought it up in nearly every post, but these are the verses that have been laid upon my heart so heavily that I can’t stop myself from reading and repeating and reading again because, my word, I just can’t seem to get them:
“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”
Two short paragraphs. One great big command, one sky-high standard, one immense calling. What I’m saying is that it’s very easy for compassion to rule my life when I’m dealing with people who don’t really step on my toes and who make me happy pretty much all of the time. It’s totally different when I come home to the stress and tension and bickering and aggravation and annoyance and poking and picking and ordering and snapping and ignoring and yelling and underestimating and forgetting and hurting. Don’t get me wrong- we love each other and we have lots of fun, sure. But we tend to clique off, to hole up and forget about the others, and for what seems like good reason: they’ve hurt us and betrayed us and continue to do so. But I can’t read those verses above and in any way believe that is okay. I have no questions about what “none of this going off and doing your own thing” or “Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you” or “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other” means. And I can look at my life and see so many, many areas where I balk at this idea, where I stew and meditate and hold grudges and say angry, hurtful things at the people who really do love me the most. And you know, even if they don’t- because sometimes, for some of them, it’s questionable- I don’t care; I will love them anyway, and not because I want to, but because I’m called to.
It’s just that they push my buttons. They bring out the worst in me. And quite simply, as I’ve prayed and Christ has absolutely written their names on my hearts, I know it is as much for me as it is for them. Sure, they will benefit from seeing my compassion and kindness and they may or may not follow suit. But how much will I learn about myself as I rely on Christ to give me strength to just be nice? And in turn, how much closer will I grow to Christ because of that? How much will I learn about His character? How many people will I be able to bless through it?
I’ve known for a long time that this was my ministry field this summer: my own family. And I almost wish God had called me to some foreign country where the rejection encountered there is not quite so sharp and painful, where my own emotions aren’t quite so readily available to be played with. But He didn’t. I believe He has great things in store for both me and my family, and the only way for me to have any part in that is to invest myself completely in these people, and begin to more consciously think about about my actions and, most importantly, my words. It’s going to be keeping my attitude when they threaten to spin it. It may come down to audibly repeating “Clothe yourself with compassion.”
I’m not writing to subconsciously persuade you to believe I’m some wonderful person in any way; trust me I say I can be ugly, and if you don’t, just ask my family. But I need prayers, for me and for my family, and perhaps these verses- the idea of this mission field- might cause you to pray and consider your own mission field. If you think the one God is giving you just can’t be right, because, well, it’s the hardest one or it’s really not a “mission field” at all, look again. I bet that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be. Pray for me, and if you let me know how I can be praying for you, I’ll do just that.