When extended family gathers you begin to combine different family dynamics all under one roof. When the six of us join my siblings and their families and our parents, there can be upwards of 23 people in one living space. I’m always so filled with joy when the night is over and we all head to our hotels or homes and my stomach hurts from laughing so hard. I may have a headache as well due to the pure sound volume of so many people but my heart is happy.
The volume alone can be overwhelming to some families, not to mention when everyone has their own set of values, opinions, and priorities. In an ideal world, we would easily be accepting and respectful as we meld those differences for a day; but we all know it doesn’t always happen. Especially when we gather with those who may not share our faith.
I’ve been going through the book of James in order to give us a guide for how to manage the holidays and bring God glory all at the same time. You can see yesterday’s post here.
Today, let’s discuss what others see in YOU. Like I said yesterday, most all conflicts can be subdued by ONE person choosing not to react. We can only be in charge of ourselves. So it’d be wise to turn inward these last few weeks before christmas and ask God to reveal to you areas you need work on.
Before you finish chapter 1 of James, the book is reminding you that living a pure lifestyle is key to managing the things that come your way. Spending time drawing close to God will help you as you face holiday gatherings. James reminds us not to just listen to God’s word, but to be doers of the Word. (1:22) When you walk into the chaos, if you claim to be a Christian, shouldn’t people recognize that in you? Shouldn’t a person who professes that they love Jesus and follow Him respond different than Addy Addict or Tommy Trouble Maker? “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?” (2:14) When chaos ensues, will you use the wisdom God has given you, or join in and add your own drama? “Can that kind of faith save anyone?” (the rest of verse 14).
As Christians, our goal is to point others to Christ, so it is our responsibility to handle the stresses in a God-honoring way. “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.” (3:13)
So, the second thing after seeking God’s wisdom (see yesterday’s post) is to begin to draw close to God so we can behave in such a way as to draw others to Christ. You must “humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, and purify your hearts…” (4:7,8)
We’ll never be the light to our loved ones if we behave like the darkness.
If you tend to respond to Negative Nancy by rolling your eyes, or giving your best snarky come back, pray that God will give you a way to turn things positive while sharing love to the hurt that causes the negativity. If you struggle holding your tongue when Judgemental Judy gives more than her two cents, leave the room and pray for peace in your heart so you can return later with the shield of Christ.
And if you find yourself in a situation where you must ask an abusive guest to leave, and it doesn’t make you ungodly to have to do so, pray now that you RESPOND in love and not react adding to the drama. There just may be times where you have to leave or ask someone to leave in order to keep the peace. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it in a godly way.
Make the goal of your family gathering to glorify God. Have fun in the process, play games, chat about memories, laugh it up, sit close, hug lots, and enjoy the moments together. But before you ever set foot in the door, ask God to purify your heart so you can minister to others.
Check back tomorrow for a more indepth way to do just that.
Lord, it is my number one goal to point others to you. So I pray that you will please reveal to me areas that I need to clean up so that your light can shine bright when I attend family gatherings (and always). Please give me strength to respond in love when conflicts arise. Help me to say only loving and peace giving things or show me when to stay quiet. Protect me against insults or judgements that are hurled my way, let them roll off my back so I can respond with truth and life. Help me to set boundaries and carry them through in a godly way. Basically, Jesus, YOU shine through me during stressful times at a family gathering.