Monday, August 17, 2015

The Love of Family

Early morning sunrise. Eyes still closed. Slowly waking but not really wanting to. The thoughts my mind entertains at this time of day are mostly prayerful. Yet often thoughts go places not traveled in the daylight hours. I give my mind free reign and the memories, hopes and dreams begin to take shape, hazy to be sure, yet real enough to feel and touch.

This weekend my family gathered in Michigan for our annual family reunion. "Family" is an amazing thing. Lives intertwined and memories shared. Some of those memories are sad but most are good and lasting.

We made a Saturday morning stop at the cemetery to visit some of our family members. Our daughter placed some flowers on the graves of her grandfather, my dad, and her great grandparents. A large part of family belongs to memories shared.

My family has all sorts of people in it, just like yours does. Some good, some bad. Some veterans who fought in wars, nurses, farmers, businessmen and women, but, most-notably, mothers and fathers, children and their children's children - all lying side by side.

We tend to condense a person's entire life into single sentences. "He was a good man." or "She was a good mother." Somehow that seems inadequate to me. Yet, how well do we know some of these people? Even the living ones, unless we take the time to get to know them better.

I was struck by one of the grave markers. It bore my name - Robert Hall. The birth date and the date of death were the same. A baby whose life span was measured in hours rather than years, if he even lived THAT long.

One of my cousins is named Mark. He's had a hard life. He brought his horse to my uncle's farm so all the kids could take rides. Although Mark is younger than me he looks older in many ways. He walks with a limp, sports a deep, dark tan - not purposeful, but from long hours spent working his farm.

We sat and talked for a few treasured moments. He had tears in his eyes - from some hidden burden I fear. Where had all the years gone? Later, after leading his horse around the yard, limping as he went, with happy young girls riding in the saddle, we talked again. My heart went out to this man, my cousin, my childhood playmate, scarred now, both physically and emotionally.

As I put my arm around his shoulder to say good bye, I told him that I loved him. He replied in kind saying, "I love you too." Words too often left unsaid in many families these days.

After our family reunion each of us returned to our own homes, our own lives. But we take with us the rekindled memories of years gone by and cherished, long overdue conversations with people we have known our entire lives, yet never really KNOWN at all.

I am reading through the Old Testament these days and I am continually reminded of the Biblical concept of family. All families are filled with good people and bad, happy moments and sad. But the one prevailing theme throughout all of the stories we read in the Bible - "doing what is right in the eyes of The Lord" - is a recurring message.

Families need to love one another, care for one another and must always be willing to forgive one another. Too many times YEARS can be lost to a family over simple misunderstandings, sinful lusts, and prideful stubbornness.

I am reminded of a verse that a friend of mine uses in her testimony. It's from the Book of James.

"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people!" - James 4:1-4

We ARE an adulterous people alright - too often lovers of self. The real joy in life, however,  comes from loving others and, more importantly, loving God. We all have scars,we all have some kind of pain in our lives, but we also have family. Unless my biology class failed me, every one of us has a father and a mother. So let us rejoice today in our families. May we bury the hatchet - not in someone's back but in someone's arms.

Life is too short to waste any of it in bitter disagreements, unfriending family members or with idle gossip. Let us love as Christ loved us. He gave Himself up for us. Have we in turn sacrificed ourselves in the name of Christ, for someone WE love? Please, do so today. You won't regret it.

Family - Toby Mac

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