I struggled with the idea of family for 16 years
For a good 16 years of my life, family was a concept that I didn’t understand.
When asked about my family background, I always struggled to respond. Did I come from a dysfunctional or complete family? I didn’t have an answer to that lingering question. My parents weren’t divorced. Neither were they blissfully wedded.
Home wasn’t warm or welcoming, so I would always come back late. Then I’d hide in my room the moment I got home to avoid speaking with them.
That was something my mum would chide me for, treating home as a hotel.
When my mentor heard about my family situation, she challenged me to gather them to pray for my A-Levels.
Even though we’re a Christian family, we had never done that before. I was unsure about how my family would respond, so I hesitated. There were a lot of what-ifs and scenarios which played out in my head.
But even though I was fearful, God spoke to me as I read Matthew 8:2-5. I was reminded that I had to be like a child – to respond obediently to what God had called me to do.
Taking that leap of faith to obey Him, my family began praying for my A-Levels. Even though our time of praying together was a short one, it felt fresh!
There and then, God spoke in my heart: “I have begun my restorative work over this family, and this is just the beginning.”
I have begun My restorative work over this family, and this is just the beginning.
As part of God’s restoration work in my family, I began to see the need for reconciliation with my dad.
In my eyes, he fell short of what it meant to be a good father. He was supposed to have traits like humility, selflessness, generosity and intentionality.
I felt he didn’t have those things. And to make matters worse, his job required him to travel abroad frequently. His frequent absences heightened the tension in our relationship.
So, I grew to resent him over the years.
But I believe God couldn’t bear to see us torn apart any longer. One night, as I was spending time with Him, He led me to 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.
As I read these verses, it dawned on me that the foundation of my faith rests wholly on the ministry of reconciliation. While I was still a sinner, God sent Christ to reconcile the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).
As I meditated, I realised just how deep my self-righteousness was. I had judged my father in pride, forgetting that I too will ultimately be judged by God (Matthew 7:1-6).
Eventually I saw that I am a sinner in need of the same saving grace as my dad. I was humbled to realise I have the same standing before God as he does. In the eyes of God, we are all humans who have fallen short of His holy standards.
But this realisation was also liberating because it enabled me to surrender all the rights to my emotions and release forgiveness. I could begin responding to my dad in a manner that honours God.
So, right there and then, I was set free of my bitterness that I had harboured toward my father.
Five years from when God first began His restorative work in my family, we had our first family trip.
That trip was proof of God’s goodness, as I never once imagined I would someday go on a holiday with my family.
As we spent time together overseas, I witnessed firsthand the transformative work of Christ in my dad. It heartened me to see that him grow in his generosity with his time and finances.
We enjoyed the time we had with one another, and though there were some hiccups along the trip, God empowered us to bear with one another in love.
I’d be lying if I said this journey has been a walk in the park, though I’ve learnt along the way that forgetfulness and impatience are some of my greatest weaknesses.
These negative traits are actually something we see in the lives of the Israelites in the Bible.
The Israelites demonstrated how forgetful they could be when they said, after having been brought out of oppression, that they would still rather be back in Egypt because the food was “better” than what God had been providing them with.
They had forgotten how bad their days of slavery were in Egypt. It was such a terrible period that cry for help “went up to God” (Exodus 2:23-24)!
Likewise, when I face setbacks during my family’s journey of restoration, I find myself forgetting what God has already done in my family. My tendency is to fix my eyes on the things that God has yet to do.
Journalling reminds me of God’s goodness. On tough days, I flip through my journal and recall His faithfulness.
We aren’t just forgetful, we’re also impatient.
While the world preaches instant gratification, God works in His perfect time. Think about it: Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead immediately, He was raised on the third day according to the Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:4).
Few are as impatient as the Israelites were. When they saw that Moses was taking a long time to come down from the mountain, they made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf (Exodus 32:1-8).
They would do anything to gain control! Likewise, there are many times in my impatience, where I take things into my own hands. Like responding in a heated manner in my family group chat, demanding that things be done my way.
Recognising that I have these blindspots, I’ve taken to journalling. It reminds me of God’s goodness. And on days that get tough, I flip through my journal and recall His faithfulness.
It helps me trust and know that God will come through for me again.
My biggest takeaway from that chapter of my life is this: God has a purpose for families.
He could’ve easily designed us to exist as individuals. But He designed us to exist in a family unit.
If you struggle to forgive or love your family members, take heart in this: God wants to restore and heal our families.
As we love our family in obedience, they will see the love of God in us. In truth, our family helps us to understand God’s love and love God better.
So may God’s restorative work in our hearts overflow into love for our families. Then all around us will see that God is indeed love.
THINK + TALK
- Describe your family in three words.
- What are some areas in your family that God wants to restore?
- What is one practical way you can love your family this week?