Last week on the radio I heard a DJ talking about his dad.
“In fact, when I get to Heaven, I more so hope that Daddy is proud of me then Jesus is proud of me.”
I know that he was going for a little bit of the shock value with his statement. We live in the Atlanta area where the majority people have grown up with the pressure of measuring up to a God that will always be disappointed in them.
But sometimes the truth is a bit shocking when we say it out loud. I would suspect that a lot of people feel exactly the same way as that man does, but they don’t have a mic in front of their face and an audience listening to them Mon-Fri.
One of the phrases I have come to understand isn’t true is one of the most common things that you hear in American culture. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, black or white or somewhere in between. Seemingly every feel good movie emphasizes this as well, making it more prone to be believed by every person in Western society.
Family is everything.
And when this is said, it is literally meant that family is the best of and the beginning and end of everything. It is used to often try and insinuate that any type of conflict within a family is not only bad, it is wrong.
And the truth is that I probably bought into this for half my life. I loved my mom. And she loved me. But until I was about 16 years old I was held hostage and in bondage to being emotionally responsible for my mom. She had a pretty rough life. And as a small child whenever she was sad she would seek me out and pick me up and hold me close and somehow that would make everything better. Because family is everything.
But as I grew older I carried an enormous responsibility to make sure that my mom was happy. Because if she wasn’t, she looked at me to fix that. She had an abusive father who devalued pretty much everything that she did. Her first child died about 2 months after he was born. Her first marriage ended before I was even born.
But I was born. And as long as I was alive she had something to turn to when the pain of those things became too much to bear on her own. She knew that I made her happy. And overtime as her second marriage began to unravel she still had me there with her. Unintentionally I was placed on a pedestal in her eyes and I was the medication for all of the things that had gone horribly wrong in her life. She took the heap of brokenness and held it out in front of my 15 year old life and with tears in her eyes pleaded with me, “can you please fix all of this?”
And when the natural tension occurred in my teenage years between son and mom, it almost became too much for her to handle. If I wasn’t there for her to comfort and console her, what else did she have?
That was an incredible weight upon my back that I was never intended to carry. And it was incredibly painful for both of us when I decided to lay that burden down and not allow it to crush me any longer.
I’d get talks from other close family members about how “you need to be there for your mom.”
Because family is everything. And I was every. last. thing. to my mom.
The fallacy of this statement is that sometimes children die. Married couples surrender to divorce. Fathers and Mothers abuse/manipulate their children in ways other than physically. Teenagers move away. Rebellion tears families apart.
And if family is everything, then in these instances the people left in these families either feel inclined to embrace the toxic relationships they are in, or when they can no longer do that, they feel like they have nothing in their life whatsoever.
Because their family was everything. And in one way or another, their family is either completely gone or is drastically different than what they used to know.
And loneliness sets in.
I do believe that how you love (verb tense) your family is very important. And if you do a poor job of that, eventually your family will suffer the natural consequences and you will no longer be able to even fool yourself into believing that you still have a deep emotional feeling for one another.
But I do not believe that family is everything.
As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is greater than whatever dysfunctional family I grew up in. I also believe that he is greater than the incredible relationship that my wife and I have worked at maintaining.
In the earliest story of a relationship in the Bible, it was God who placed major conflict in the lives of Adam and Eve as a result of sin.
As a result of sin,
created major conflict…
in the lives of Adam and Eve.
After sin, the outlook of Adam and Eve changed. They no longer were looking to God for their value and acceptance.
They were looking to each other.
Because family became everything.
When that didn’t work Adam looked to find his worth from his job.
Eve looked to find her worth from being a mom.
In Genesis 3 you can read that God created some major conflict. He knew Eve would be looking to Adam for more than Adam could give her so God told her that she would “desire her husband, but that he would rule over her.” Then he tells her that she would experience great pain as it relates to having children. If you do a deeper study of the words you learn that it isn’t necessarily talking about childbirth. But hints at a deep pain that a mother will experience as a result of having kids.
Then God, knowing Adam would eventually turn to his job to fulfill himself, when he realized that family wasn’t everything…he told Adam he was going to create conflict in his job. It was no longer going to be easy. Your job will cause you pain. And God created the pain.
I believe this story tells a great deal about the heart of God. That He is willing to go great lengths to show us that He still is the source for all of the love, acceptance, value, worth, security that we are hoping for. And he will, and does, create conflict in every other arena of our lives so that it is incredibly clear that they cannot satisfy the deepest longings in our lives.
I’ve heard people say “God wouldn’t want us to be at odds with each other.”
Or way worse, “It breaks God’s heart that we are having trouble in our relationship.” The shaming factor in that sentence is rather outlandish.
Maybe it does break God’s heart. But the conflict was ultimately created by God for you.
Not because of your wayward children or abusive family.
So when your closest relationships break down, rethink where you are placing your anger. I would suggest directing every single ounce of it towards God and begin to be honest with Him.
Because only He can handle the incredible amount of anger and frustration you have as a result of all of the painful conflict that has accumulated in your life.
No man can handle that. And I would say that we cannot handle it ourselves either.
When you clearly see that family can be awesome/amazing/joyful/loving/close/generous/hateful/shaming/deceitful/selfish throughout the course of your life, you will more easily see that the old cliche “family is everything“, just isn’t true.
And God is willing to create conflict in those relationships to show us.
And that makes me angry.
And it also points me back to the Person who truly is capable of being everything.