Family Members Are Kind of Like Messy Salad Bar Customers
The other day, I was at this salad bar where they had one of my favorite salad ingredients: chopped, boiled eggs. They had a small teaspoon that made it really difficult to get out as much egg as I wanted, so I decided to pick up the whole container and turn it slightly sideways to make it go faster.
Let me tell you something: it worked. About three quarters of the eggs dumped onto the floor, right in the middle of the busiest hour for the little restaurant, which only had two employees working. And when I got the attention of the cashier and told her what I had done, it felt like I had messed my pants and was asking her to help me clean up.
She could have scowled or stung me with passive aggressive silence; but instead, she came right over with a broom and started helping me clean it up. And in the face of my repeated apologies, she kept telling me it was alright.
I’m willing to bet that if I were to come in and dump the eggs on the floor every other day, that lady wouldn’t be so quick to smile and assure me it was okay. She might ask me to stop coming to the restaurant, and she would most certainly resent me for it. And who could blame her?
That’s what it’s like being part of a family.
Families Ruin Salad Bars
From an early age, family members enter your life and make different versions of the same messes in your life over and over again. In those perpetual messes, the unconditional forgiveness stuff from Scripture really meets its match. That’s where you really figure out if you mean it when you pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive the debts of others” (Matthew 6:12).
Now I’m not talking about family members who steal from you, beat you up, and try to run you down in the driveway with their pickup truck. You gotta get away from those folks. I’m talking about your run-of-the-mill jerk uncle, your insufferable sibling, your perpetually disobedient child. It’s those kind of salad bar destroyers who really put our spirituality to the test.
If we’re going to stick with our family members – those oddball human beings we would’ve never chosen to be friends with if we weren’t related to them – we’re going to have to do something miraculous: We’re going to have to “bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiv[e] each other; as the Lord has forgiven you” (Colossians 3:13). If we don’t, we’re going to go nuts keeping up with the list of their infractions and trying to protect ourselves and everybody else from their offensiveness.
When it comes to our family members, it takes some serious strength to keep being like that lady at the salad bar; and in some cases, it probably feels impossible. The only consolation for a lot of us is that if God asked us to extend forgiveness to the offenders in our family (who may have more in common with us than we ever want to admit), His Spirit will equip us to sweep up the mess again, boil a new batch of eggs, and set healthy boundaries with a heart of unconditional love.
I hate to say it, but if our spirituality doesn’t mean anything when it comes to our family members, then there probably isn’t very much to it.