Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.

Trusting God and extending love is hard.

I currently live in my parent’s house. There are nine of us here: my parents, myself, three adult siblings, and three younger siblings still in school. I have two other siblings, but they’re both married with kids and out of the area. So yeah, from ages 27 right down to 9, there are seven kids at home still. Four of us have jobs, but we still live at home. It’s a financial thing, really. In this economy and with college debts and the like, it’s hard to get your feet under you. So we live at home.

I’m going somewhere with this. And, um, it’s not somewhere very pleasant, but it’s got a fantastic application to real life, so I hope you bear with me. And yeah, it airs some dirty laundry from my family, but I don’t mean to do so in a way that tears them down. Instead, I want to use this to infuse gospel power into not just my family’s torn spots, but into the Church and her torn spots. Because you see, in this my family represents the Church. And our wounds and failures are the Church’s wounds and failures.  And hopefully this post can help both my family and the Church to heal and grow through the power of the Living God, to his glory and praise. Of course, I’m just a nobody from nowhere who writes words on the internet that very,very few people read. So it’ll have to be God that does the healing, both for my family and for Christ’s Bride. But God’s in the business of doing that, so that’s a good thing.

Oh yeah, also, I totally don’t want anyone to think that I’m trying to paint myself as some sort of wronged victim here. That’s totally not the case at all. Seriously. I am every bit as human and broken as everyone, and there’s absolutely no difference between any people in this analogy. We’re all interchangable here. We’re all of us broken.

Here we go.

The average day for me involves the very real and exhausting chore of finding out what kind of family I have today. My parents are pretty much constant, but I have many siblings whose attitude towards me shifts like the sands. Sometimes they’re giggly and loving and warm, and things are great. We laugh, share old inside jokes, and have a grand ol’ time. But that’s not the norm. The average sibling encounter involves me wishing that the house would have a structural problem and the section of ceiling just above my head would collapse. Usually I’m faced with stony silences and cold shoulders, refusing to acknowledge my presence in the room unless absolutely necessary. When I must be acknowledged, the words are short and mean-spirited. I’m relieved when they go up to bed, so I can have an hour of peace without feeling like I should be on trial for some kind of war crime.

And you know what? I can’t say that I blame them. From their perspective, I’m a horrible person. I’m the sibling that systematically ruined my life, ruined theirs, ran away, hurt my parents and them incalculably, and then showed up again a year later in worse shape than ever. Now they have to deal with me every day. I can’t blame them. They have every reason in the world not to like me and to treat me poorly. And since I’m the black sheep anyway, and believe and act so very differently from them, then nearly everything I do is a living reminder to them of my failures. Since how I think, talk, and act is so different from how they do, every action or word I say grates against them, reminding them that I’m not the same, that I’m different, and brings to mind the entire history of how that’s been, historically, a very bad thing.

I’m sidelined. I’m dehumanized. I’m put in a box that it’s impossible to grow out of. And they have every reason in the world to do this.

Every reason in the world. But not in the Kingdom. In the Kingdom, they’re called to surrender their hearts in this matter, to live and love well in community with me. To trust that God is handling me and my issues. To extend love not because I deserve it, but because Jesus asks for it. To forgive not just for me, but for Jesus and for them.

I think it’s just the same in Christian community. In this broader sense, I can put myself in the position of my siblings and them in my position. And that’s good, because again, I don’t want to make it seem like I’m beating up on my family here. Because I’m just the same in other areas, you see. I’m a very liberal Christian, and they’re very conservative. I have trouble sometimes reconciling how my family’s faith is lived out with the God that I interact with. I see righteousness chosen over love, justice chosen over mercy, and arrogance chosen over humility. That’s hard for me to deal with. Some days it’s so hard to deal with that I want to pull my hair out and scream, “Do you even know the God you claim to love and serve? What is WRONG with you?! You cannot possibly be who and what you say you are!”

But you see, now I’m in the wrong. Now I’m sidelining them. Now I’m failing to adhere to Kingdom standards. I’m not trusting that God has got them and is doing something there. I’m not extending love. And the way I’m doing it is every bit as damaging and evil as the way they do it to me. We’re none of us exempt.

No, none of us, because I think it’s a widespread occurence among nearly every school of Christian thought that is at odds with one another. That’s why I have friends who curse Mark Driscoll’s very name. That’s why I have friends who curse Brian McLaren’s name. And then all of us in between who do the same thing in different ways. We take it upon ourselves to determine not only who belongs in the Father’s House, but also who is worthy of receiving the love that we’re called to give freely.  

Well, of course, that’s wrong too. We don’t get to decide who gets in, and we don’t get to decide who deserves the transformative love of Christ. We are called and required to extend that love to all, whether we want to or not.

But it’s so very hard. Trusting that God is doing something in me is hard for my siblings. Trusting in that and then extending love because of that is hard. That’s why most days I navigate a family filled with cold, isolating silences and less than cordial words to me. That’s why they have to endure my maddenly-arrogant abuses towards them for not being loving like me, dammit!

Yeah. That last bit was sarcasm, just so there’s no mistakes. I was sarcastically pointing out that for all my talk about love, I fail to love them well.

So today my prayer is that Papa will give me the patience, faith, and trust I need in order to live and love well with everyone, not just those with whom I find it easy to do so. I ask Papa for the love I need for today in order to have the next ten minutes with my family be a time of harmony, love, and growth rather than one of bitterness and resentment. For the next ten minutes, and the next, and the next. And so on. 

For the grace I need for today in order to surrender my will to his. To see his Kingdom come.

Thank God, literally, that he’s in the business of doing just that.


2 responses to “Trusting God and extending love is hard.

  1. Kerry Miller-Whalen November 11, 2011 at 6:36 am

    Hi Ethan,
    I know you are aware of my own crazy situation. It has been very interesting being on the OTHER end of the christian judging stick! Something that has stuck with me, through this experience, is that I also need to extend grace to those who do not understand. I’ve been there. It’s a learning curve!! So while it stings when friends and family members make assumptions about me and where I’m at – I know I need to leave it with God. One day, I think they will realise. But if not… well (as you said so beautifully in your comment on my blog) only Jesus will judge me, in the end. Hang in there!!! If He can be there for sinful reprobates like me – he can be there for fearful, conservative “older-brother-to-the-prodigal-son” types, too!! Thank God he sees us as the precious, fallible, human creatures that we are and loves us all still!!

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