Dysfunctional Family Functions

Well, December is always busy, but it’s about to get downright crazy.

One of the great stressors around Christmas is extended family. Strained and broken relationships, unresolved conflicts, unforgiveness, and well, just that yuck feeling in the pit of your stomach around certain people. You walk in holding your breath waiting on Uncle Ralph or Cousin Cindy to bring up “that” topic and you just know its all about to go south.

Well, if you aren’t relating to this subject so far, then stop right now, drop to your knees, and thank Jesus that you are a part of the Cleaver family…or Andy Griffith’s clan…or the Brady Bunch, because few get to escape this pervading dynamic.

But if you read the first two paragraphs and get it, and maybe even thinking Hatfield and McCoy better describes your crew, here’s a few simple, practical survival tips for the next couple of weeks.

1—When the fire starts, make sure you bring water, not gasoline.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” —Romans 12:18

Before gathering with family, write this verse with a Sharpie down your inside left arm and glance at it all you need to. (They’ll just think it’s your new, poorly done tattoo.) Note Paul’s two qualifiers before the command—“if” and “as.” 1-Some people will refuse to allow peace and 2-all you can do is all you can do. You are only responsible for one person’s behavior—your own.

2—Build a boundary before burning a bridge.

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” —Romans 14:19 NIV

While Paul is speaking about brothers and sisters in Christ, this truth applies well to families, whether everyone is a Christian or not. Setting personal boundaries prior to a family gathering of what you will and won’t do or say and not say can keep you sane and prevent conflict. Change the subject, keep quiet, or excuse yourself from the room.

3—Rep Jesus, not you.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” —2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV

We must remember being His ambassador with our families is where it actually counts the most. And we need to avoid this potential scenario: A family member walks up 15 minutes into Heaven and says, “Whoa! Cousin Robert! I didn’t expect to see you here.” Taking on the mindset of repping Jesus and not our agenda at the family table can actually set us free, not burden us down.

And in closing, when you walk in the door, take the sage advice of the Penguins of Madagascar: “Just smile and wave, boys, just smile and wave.” May your days really be merry and bright!

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