We went to the little Catholic church here in town on the Sunday after Christmas. I wasn’t sure what to expect but was actually quite pleased. It was pretty packed for a small town with all different kinds of folks. The priest was a younger man who had really good energy. There was a baptism that was done all in Spanish. It was fantastic.
The priest said a couple of things that got my attention, but the one that got me the most was when he said, “Family is supposed to be hard.” He was referring to the text in Matthew 2:13-23 where Joseph heard from God in a dream that he and his family had to flee to Egypt. Joseph and the fam couldn’t just Uber there. They had to risk kidnapping, slavery, mugging, sickness, snakes - death itself - to make this trip. The conversation with Mary was likely a rocky one, to say the least, as Mary was no down-home subservient dixie gal. And the trip along the way likely wasn’t an emotional walk in the park.
I couldn’t help but shake my head at his statement and give him an ‘amen’ (silently, of course, because, well, Catholic church). This is so true. It’s easy to think that if our families were only more [insert quality here], we’d all just get along. It’s easy to think that it’s only OUR family that’s this flawed while everyone else’s is perfectly ‘normal’ (whatever that means). It’s easy to think that life should just be cut and dry and we should all be forever safe, healthy, and happy from cradle to grave (I seriously want it to be that way).
But, no... Family is supposed to be hard.
Community is supposed to be hard.
I can’t count how many times during this short holiday vacation that things didn’t play out exactly as I saw them perfectly playing out in my mind. And I’m sure the experience is the same with everyone else in this family. None of us totally get our way. Life is a lot more complex than we want it to be. People are difficult.
But thanks to the priest’s words, I was reminded that this was how it’s supposed to be. When we come together and move together through life, we shape each other.
‘Shape’ is a very nice word, mind you. ‘Forge’ might be a better one.
Family/community/life-with-others FORGE us into being. This is inescapable. We can resist this all we want and it will still be so. And if we run from it and try to isolate ourselves from it, we’ll wither. The human soul atrophies and dies in isolation. If we don’t hang through the ‘hard’ stuff with family and rely on a bigger Presence than our own individual wants and desires, we’ll never know what God’s grace can bring. I’ve seen it on a couple of occasions on this short trip alone. Things didn’t necessarily go my way, but they turned out... Good. And good is what God declared God’s creation to be.
Not perfect... But good.
So, I’m learning to submit to it. I don’t always do it. I often complain and bitch and feel hurt when someone does something that goes against my perfect vision of what they should do or say. I shake my fist at the sky when loved ones endure pain and despair that I deem unnecessary. But I also have to know that my ‘perfect vision’ is likely as flawed as anyone’s. And that a bigger vision holds us in a loving embrace even while we kick and scream to get our way.
Grace & Godspeed,
P.S. There’s a level of discernment here… There can come a point where family/community becomes not just hard but dangerous. That’s a different story. In these cases, there’s no shame in removing yourself and keeping yourself safe. 👍