Friday, October 17, 2014

17 in 30 for 30

I'm just trying to get something in your ear! I'm being helpful!
Some of you might've seen this picture. It fits us very well.

If you can't tell, I'm the youngest.

I know, right? Who knew?

This picture was taken by a family friend of ours during Christmas 2010 in Montana. Our immediate family tries to be together about twice a year.

We're all over the place.

My oldest sibling, in the green, is a loving mother of three children and a GIANT shitzu and wife to an eye doctor from Montana. On top of those, she's an excellent BSF leader.

My brother, the tall one, is studying chemical engineering at the University of Oklahoma. We've all agreed he took all the scientific know-how from my other sister and me, because he has two other Masters in sciences. While in Oklahoma, he's moving up the ranks in the football reffing world. At this rate and his connections both in the college and pro ranks, our family will be cheering a ref in the Super Bowl in no time. (We can dream, can't we?)

My other sister, the one get the business end of my endless wet-willies, is happily married and a brand-new mother in Chicago! When she's not learning the ropes of motherhood, she's an excellent elementary school teacher. Between the two of us, we can cover the range of elementary to high school kids in ministry. Let's just say I handle teenagers better than elementary kids, and vice versa for her.

At the time of this picture, I was in Oregon, doing youth ministry. Back then I never imagined I'd be on the East Coast for school. I think the school part at the time was more unbelievable.

This picture sums up our relationship. I pick on the younger older sister (because I'm bigger, duh), the brother is the peace keeper (he will NEVER hurt a fly), and my oldest sister just laughs at us (probably because she's got her own kids to worry about). We've all got major faults and crazy quirks between us, like most siblings everywhere.

And I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Proverbs 17, in the midst of wisdom giving and the observation of how things are for both the righteous and the wicked, throws in a small wrinkle.
"Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." v. 1
"Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children." v. 6
"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." v. 17
I'm extremely grateful for the family that I have. Sure, we've had rough patches, and we all certainly have had our differences, but they're still family. This particular chapter addresses how the family deals with conflict and harmony. At the same time, it points out that there are families that have done more harm than good to each other.

Having been in youth ministry, it was very common for me to disciple students whose families don't share the same beliefs. That can be really hard. Family is meant to be close in most cases. They might drive us insane, but somehow we still love them deeply.

I don't have a background in drug use, violence, getting arrested, or anything to "spice up" my testimony as a Christian. I came from a Christian family, and I through a Christian education my whole life. I used to be ashamed of that; not having a cool story. Sounds pretty boring.

But, the older I get, the deeper my gratitude becomes. I can't begin to describe how lucky/grateful/blessed I am to have the family I have, when I personally know of students hanging on for dear life to their faith in Jesus, because it's the only thing they've got when they're family turns on them. This might seem extreme, but this is nothing compared to the believers in the Middle East. It won't take long to find locals who've been banished from home, or worse, because of their commitment to Jesus.

In this chapter of Proverbs, God is firmly in the middle of family. He's actively keeping an eye on all of us. He feels the sting when family has abandoned one another. He rejoices when prodigal sons or daughters return home. In verses 3-5, He feels the insults: "Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished."

He is with us. Jesus is God With Us: Immanuel. We are barreling toward eternal union with our Creator in His Kingdom.
And yet, here's a challenge. In Luke 14, Jesus says "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." v. 26.

Wow. Okay. Keep in mind, Jesus is a master at using hyperbole and all sorts of other literary devices to drive his point home. No, he's not telling you that if you're a Christian, you have to hate everyone you love. That defeats the purpose. What he meant is this: If you have to choose between your family or me, who would you choose?

Like I said, I'm grateful for the family I have. But if I hold them to a higher regard than Jesus, I've lost the plot. No matter how great my family may be, they are nothing compared to Jesus.

I'm grateful to have such awesome siblings.
I'm grateful to have parents who love me.
I'm grateful that they all support me, pray for me, and help me whenever they can.

And yet...

I'm more grateful for the Cross. I have to be. Not out of fear or blindness. Because Jesus' love for me is so much deeper. More deeply than my family can ever fathom.

If you have a great family, this is hard to think about. Can someone love you more than your family? The answer is simply "Yes."

If you came out of a terrible family, this is great news. Jesus welcomes you to his family and his church, with open arms and a giant smile of delight.

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