In my time working for a bank, one thing I saw my fair share of was the ugliness that can surface between family members at the death of a loved one. I witnessed it repeatedly. People fighting over money and position. Who would decide what to do with the money still left in a savings account or who was in charge of making the plans? It was unbearable to witness but hurting people hurt people. It is just a fact of life.
Not long ago my family encountered its own source of drama when there was a death within our family. I will not bore you with the details, as I am sure you have experienced your own and my ordeal will seem no different. However, I want to share with you a little about my mom and what I saw rise up out of the tragedy of it all.
It is not unusual to have drama within a family. I know very well with five children of my own, each with different personalities, that when you put them all in the same room there will be arguing or differences of opinion. The same can be said for my mother and her siblings. I have witnessed it time and again, but this time I witnessed my mother rise above the ugliness and while doing so making a huge statement/impact to my children, my siblings and myself.
Events occurred, plans were made, and things were said without taking into consideration the plans or feelings of others involved. Anger arose within me as once again, self-centeredness triumphed and my mom was left hurt again. My blood boiled and as I spoke with my siblings, I was ready to lead the charge to make it all stop. I am tired of watching my mom hurt. Then I watched my mom.
Admittedly, I sometimes see her silence as weakness. I do not understand why she allows so many people to trample her or at least that is how I see it. Then today I was reading the book In the Grip of Grace yet again and came across this,
“Of all the lessons we can draw from this verse (John 17:20-21), don’t miss the most important: Unity matters to God. The Father does not want his kids to squabble. Disunity disturbs him. Why? Because “all people will know that you are my followers if you love each other” (John 13:35). Unity creates belief. How will the world believe that Jesus was sent by God? Not if we agree with each other. Not if we solve every controversy. Not if we are unanimous on each vote. Not if we never make a doctrinal error. But if we love one another.
Unity creates belief. Disunity fosters disbelief. Who wants to board a ship of bickering sailors? Life on the ocean may be rough, but at least the waves don’t call us names.
“All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” Stop and think about this verse for a minute. Could it be that unity is the key to reaching the world for Christ?
If unity is the key to evangelism, shouldn’t it have precedence in my prayers? Shouldn’t we, as Paul said, “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3)? If unity matters to God, then shouldn’t unity matter to us? If unity is a priority in heaven, then shouldn’t’ it be a priority on earth?
Nowhere, by the way, are we told to build unity. We are told simply to keep unity. From God’s perspective there is but “one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16) Unity does not need to be created; it simply needs to be protected.”
In the Grip of Grace- Max Lucado
This left me thinking, how often do we find ourselves divided within our own family? Differences of opinion or convictions can create quite the argument if allowed. It is the power plays and one-upmanship where the division commonly occurs.
Where jealousy and selfishness are, there will be confusion and every kind of evil.
Do you know where your fights and arguments come from? They come from the selfish desires that wage war within you.
This kind of behavior even happened with the disciples as they argued for position in the presence of Jesus (Mark 9:33-37). Peter thought he was better than the other disciples were because he walked on water. John claimed top spot, as he was the “favorite” of Jesus. Craziness.
Jesus had a response for his quarreling followers and for us as well.
Whoever accepts a child like this in my name accepts me. And whoever accepts me accepts the One who sent me.
Wow. Jesus used the word accept four times in that single verse leading me to believe this is something He felt quite strongly about and we should listen. What should that say to each of us? The answer to an argument. Acceptance. The first step in unity. Acceptance. It was not agreement or negotiation but instead the first and only answer was and is acceptance.
There it was. My mom’s “weakness” is not weakness but instead her strength. She believes in unity. She believes in doing what needs to be done to keep the peace, which usually means conceding. She also believes that we cannot change others and so we must accept them, flaws and all. Ugh. That stinks. You know what that means? Many hurt feelings. Being made to feel as if you do not matter. What I am learning though is that her example makes me a better follower of Christ. Jesus always put the needs of others before Himself. He accepted people flaws and all. He offered them grace. It is not always an easy thing to do but it is the right thing to do and because of it, He blesses us.
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.
Over the years, I have witnessed my mom offer great amounts of grace to those who have caused her great amounts of tears. She is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but she does strive to live a life of integrity. Out of a family full of Pastors, Deacons and Sunday school teachers, she has taught me more than any other has. She lives a life of acceptance and strives to create unity within our family. She chooses to love and with that people know that she follows Jesus (John 13:35). She “makes every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3) as she puts aside her own wants and desires. She loves the unlovable, offers grace to the undeserving and strives for unity at the cost of her own feelings. That is the legacy that my mom will leave for her children and grandchildren some day.
With that, I leave you with the words of my ever so wise younger sister,
“I’d rather be ministered to by people who’ve seen the pits of despair of this little thing we like to call life. If one can come out swinging after tragedy/suffering of any kind, then all the more impact they’ll have on others. Also I find, those who have dealt with the “dark side” of life tend to be more forgiving, more compassionate and more open. And all those make for the best types of Christians in my humble opinion.”
I think we would both agree, that is our mom :-)