Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Broken Family Relationships: When to talk and When to walk away

Broken Family Relationships: When to Walk Away, and When to Run

I have always had trouble getting along with my mother. Ever since I was old enough to have an opinion and arguably before then, my mother and I have been at odds. On top of that, I never even had a great relationship with my dad but that's a topic for another post entirely. A vast majority of my friends, peers, and coworkers have a relationship with at least one parent. It has really caused me to question a lot about my faith, myself, and the fairness of not being able to choose one's parents.

The idea of a parent is a tough one. What does it take to make a parent? What is a good parent and what is a bad parent? Absentee parents fall somewhere in between because even if they live at the same address as their children, they're emotionally unavailable. According to dictionary.com, the definition for parent is: a mother or a father. I'm no expert on the etymology of words, but I think we should redefine parents a bit. A parent is someone who loves, nurtures, and cares for their young. There are plenty of "parents" in the world who may not have bore children of their body but have certainly bore children of their heart.

As a young Christian, I have been tormented by my relationship with my mother and my other family members. Over the years, my relationship with her and my siblings has deteriorated tremendously. On the one hand, Christians are told to be loving. We are to endure with one another and bare with one another. This is noble philosophy and life doctrine but implementation of it is excruciating. How do we know when to "endure with one and bare with one another" and when to draw the line to protect ourselves from mistreatment?

I have grappled with this concept for years. When I have asked my friends their opinion, most of them shrug their shoulders and insist that I have to accept my family how they are. Obviously, these are individuals with relatively functional families. They have no idea what I'm subjecting myself by toughing it out and "dealing" with some of my relatives.

Only until recently has God really started drawing my attention or I've been more attentive, to what His word says about parents and baring with them. A few days ago, I read 1 Kings 19: 20-21. It says: "Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. "Let me kiss my father and mother good-by," he said, "and then I will come with you." "Go back," Elijah replied. "What have I done to you?"....Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant." In this verse, Elisha does not go back to his parents. Instead, he leaves his farming equipment and speeds to follow Elijah.

In Hebrews 11:24, the Bible says "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter." In reality, Moses was the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter but here's where the debate on parents comes in. Pharaoh's daughter had parented Moses as if he were her own son. But Moses refused this tie to the Pharaoh's daughter. Similarly, Christians are free to cast down false relationship or ties to people by faith. Being cared for as a child is important but it should not be the sole reason why we keep contact with or relate to people that did so. Parenting is so much more that providing for a child. It is having a relationship with a child.

I am sure that there are many people who have family problems. Not everyone needs to disown their parents and siblings to deal with it but sometimes it is necessary and even ordained by God. In Genesis 12:1, the Bible says: "The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your fathers' household and go to the land I will show you." The very first book in the Bible contains a story where God ordains a mighty man to leave his father's household. We are not meant to stay with our parents forever. There are plenty of stories throughout the Bible of people being at odds with family members. The story of Joseph is a prime example of sibling rivalry and dissension that leads to Joseph being betrayed and sold into slavery. His brothers were his blood kin but they did not have his best interest at heart. Maybe one way to analyze the story of Joseph is to say that God recognized the jealousy in the brothers of Joseph. Hence, he decided that it was even better for him to be sold into slavery than to live around a den of jealousy amongst "family ties".

Mothers, you can't live with 'em and you can't live without 'em. But God says that He will not leave us even when our mothers do. In my post: "In my Darkest Hours...", I discuss the tension that can exist between family in greater depth. That post also talks about God's response as a loving Father and how He intervenes in these circumstances.

How do you define a parent? Have you ever had a really tumultuous relationship with a parent that you couldn't over come? If you did overcome it, how so? Do you think that God may be calling you to something greater that will draw you away from conventional family ties? When do you bare with a parent, and when is it time to walk away from emotionally abusive relationships?

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