Proverbial Wisdom

Proverbs 17:1 “Better a bite of dry bread eaten in peace than a family feast filled with strife.”

A Guide to Forced Family Fun!

This week is a time for many folks to travel to their family for a 4th of July mini-reunion. According to Group Travel.org, Independence Day is a top weekend for these gatherings, as the summer weather is nice, children are out of school, and travel is easier and cheaper. Only Thanksgiving out-ranks the 4th for family reunions, or as my daughter called it one time she didn’t want to go, “Forced Family Fun”. The upside is getting to eat wonderful family dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation, seeing the kids growing up right before your eyes, and spending time with your loved ones. The down side is eating too much of the wonderful family dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation, watching the kids not get along right before your eyes, and spending time with your loved ones.

Let’s face it: family gatherings can bring a certain kind of stress along with the joy of being together. And because the writer of Proverbs seems to be speaking right into this situation this morning, let’s set some ground rules for our time together with our families. I can’t prove it, but I bet any money he wrote it one Passover weekend sitting on the clay tile roof of his family homestead in Jerusalem with the heel of a day old loaf of bread in one hand and his quill in the other, thanking the Lord for the momentary quiet of having escaped the bickering going on in the house below him. Just sayin’.

So here are some ground rules:

1. Stop toxic complaining. Complaining about one family member to neutral parties only spreads the toxin. Pretty soon that neutral party is angry, too, and without direct cause. Toxic complaining gets you nowhere and pulls others in the family down. In Matthew, Jesus tells us to get up and go deal with it:

Matthew 5:23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Notice he doesn’t say to pull everyone else into it. Just get up, ask for a quiet conversation, and reconcile your issue.

2. Choose your battles.

2.A. Not everything is a battle.

2.B. In fact for 48-72 hours, NOTHING has to be a battle. Gatherings are not the time to even the score, get one-up on someone who put you down at last year’s picnic, or settle old grievances. Families are by very nature dysfunctional. When something irritates you, position yourself in a safe neutral zone, which is probably in the kitchen doing cleanup or taking out the trash. Just walk away.

3. Respect the no-fly zone. Every family has subjects that should be off limits. The crazy cousin’s drinking, the polar opposite politics (Lord, have mercy!), tattoos, religion, the argument at Thanksgiving ten years ago, everybody’s Ex, etc. Just don’t fly there, or someone is sure to get shot down. Sometimes it’s helpful to even name these subjects at the beginning and declare them off limits for the weekend. That can serve as a line in the sand that everyone recognizes and agrees not to cross. There are so many positive things to talk about! Focus there.

4. Nobody will have changed much since last time. The sister who doesn’t lift a finger to help, the brother who never picks up the check, the aunt who tells the same story over and over and over in exacting detail, the cringe worthy bickering of the husband and wife that spills out into the open, etc. It will all be there. You can’t change those family dynamics, but what you can control is your reaction to it. So be kind. Be generous. Be humble. Be thankful. Be willing to share the unconditional love of God with everyone. Be attentive to the fact that people’s negative traits might be hiding a great deal of pain. Be humorous! Be Jesus. Be blessed.

Stars and Stripes over Colington.

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