Family Ain’t Free
13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks[O] of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner; these were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.—Genesis 14:13-16, NRSV
I write on the other side of the Fourth of July. This year on the Fourth, I was not with my family. They were off having fun, while I was stuck writing a paper for my doctoral program, which seems as if it will never end. (I’m confident that either I will end it in 2018 or it will end me–lol. One way or the other, that chapter will be closed in 2018! ) Others I know were with their families at the park, beach, or a cook-out at someone’s home, eating more than should and lying more than they care to admit.
However, I think about the fact that for us to enjoy the Fourth, others paid the ultimate sacrifice, so that we might enjoy some semblance, some slice, of freedom. Christopher Attucks, who died as an iconic symbol of the American yearning for freedom from tyranny, and Sojourner Truth, who died after having contributed substantially and heroically to the cause of liberation of enslaved black—are two persons of color to whom our community and our country owe more than lip service.
At the same time, I have to admit, everyone–on a much smaller scale–makes recurrent personal sacrifices to participate in family. It may sound crazy and counter-intuitive, but family ain’t free.
If you are part of a family, which all of us are– or at the very least, all of us came from one–you will pay and pay dearly to be a part of family. If my experiences of family is indicative of yours, then:
- You give up your autonomy.
- You give up physical space.
- You give up your TV preferences, so that someone else can watch what they want or so that you can watch something together, which is more family friendly.
- You give up your right to purchase some accessory, for which you have worked, so that another family member, perhaps not nuclear but extended, might have some basic essentials.
At the same time, you are expected, both by your family and God’s family, to:
- Give up grudges–or at least, you’re supposed to– and forgive one another.
- Give up the right to say, “I told you so”, when your family member made a bone-decision you advised them against, which they have begun to see will cost them additional physical and psychic energy–and perhaps even money which they could have spent on something else and can’t afford–to fix mess they’ve made.
- Give up the right to offer unsolicited advice, when you see your kid or sibling about do something else dumb; however, you know that they’ll only listen to your advice about how to straighten out the situation after the fact. Besides, such painful episode can be just thing Christ permitted to help her/him grow up and go on–wiser, stronger, and better.
- Give up your pride and screw up the nerve to borrow money–again–or to give money–again, but this time as a gift, not a loan, or vice-versa.
In short, family will cost you. However, I have found it’s worth it. The lessons you learn about yourself, your relatives, and the world–that’s truly priceless. The love you share, experience, and showcase–that’s priceless. The life you live of faith, hope, and forgiveness–that’s priceless. The grief you share because of the loss of a loved one or the joy over the addition to the family–either through birth, adoption, or marriage–that’s truly priceless.
The truth be told, despite the fact that I can get on their nerves and they can get on mine, I would not trade my family for anything in the world. And, even if they would trade me, the other family, to whom I would be traded, would gave me back, thereby announcing to mine that they are forever stuck with me.
When some strangers entered into Abraham’s home and kidnapped his nephew lot, he did not throw up his hands and walk away saying, “Lord, why did you let him be taken from me or why didn’t you protect him?” He gathered his wits and warriors, determined to get his relative back (and other people) even at the cost of his own life and liberty. He made the investment of time, energy, and man-power, and got his family back. More importantly, I’m glad God, through Christ, made the ultimate sacrifice and paid the price at Calvary to give us the power to maintain and mature through our connection with family (see 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, NRSV).
What are you willing to do, to go through, to maintain your connection and commitment to family? Are you, like Abraham, the one in your family to whom God has made promises to bless everyone else through? Who’s the Lot in your family the Lord may be calling you to reach out to and reconnect with for your growth, her/his good, and God’s glory?