Another “limp” for Jacob was his favoritism toward his son Joseph. It’s a big long story and worth the read (Genesis 39 really shows us the limitations and consequences of a family system characterized by dysfunction). This family was a mess, but the neat thing is that this mess didn’t negate the presence of God either.
It seems like all our collective family dysfunctions come out to play during the holiday season.
I want to encourage us to remember that not only do each of us walk with a limp, every family has its own, shall we say….special challenges?? Despite the lovely artistic renderings of families portrayed by Norman Rockwell, there really is no such thing as an ideal, “normal” family. At least if there is, I haven’t met one.
Am I suggesting that we double down and try to improve our functionality so as to make the season a bit more enjoyable? Well, that would be nice but….let’s face it, some things in families never get fixed.
It is the relentless pursuit of getting everyone “fixed” that I believe causes the most distress in families. This year, let’s take the pressure off and abandon the expectation of perfection. Instead, let’s try to appreciate the fact that in spite of our dysfunctions and handicaps, most of us are doing the best we can much of the time. We can figure out ways to mitigate harm. We can make new and better choices.
There are some exceptions to this everyone-is-doing-their-best mentality; these require special circumstances. We do not ignore abusers or predators in a vain attempt to have one day when the entire clan can gather. We do not put our family members at risk by hanging out with folks who have taught us that they are unsafe. Can’t stand the thought of not seeing Uncle Billy even though you have twenty years of holidays when he has gotten all liquored up and started an ugly fight with Aunt Ruth? Ok, well, accommodate the dysfunction but don’t allow it to control the day OR expose your children to toxic fumes. What about meeting them out somewhere in public, grab a lovely breakfast out that is both safe and less likely to be boozey? And, if the mimosas flow too freely, hey, you’ve come and can just as easily leave in your own car. Maybe even let Uncle Billy pick up that check! That would be a sobering experience!! Here’s the thing – the holidays are a lousy time to use denial as a strategy for coping, but with creativity and discernment, we can accommodate the inevitable limitations in each family and find a way to love well.