After I wrote my blog last week, I wondered if family relationships can count as some of the seasonal relationships that I wrote about. In that blog, I described how some relationships are for a season and not for your entire life. It is, therefore, appropriate for seasonal relationships to die a natural death as seasons change. So is it possible that it may be healthy to not keep all extended family relationships active for a lifetime?
I am not talking about the kind of “cutting off” that is practiced today in some family systems where the kids and/or parents suddenly go dark, cut off all forms of communication, or intentionally remove themselves from the other’s lives as if there was no family connection.
I’m wondering if cousins, aunts, and uncles can be seasonal relationships. I think they can. I think they can also be oaks or bushes. For instance, my Uncle Don was an oak in my life, and he was one I could go to for advice throughout my life until he died. But other uncles and aunts weren’t. I went to some of their funerals but not others.
I don’t think it is a given that every family relationship, especially extended family relationships, is meant to be a place of support and nurtured throughout our entire lifetimes. It is okay to allow some of them to fall away when seasons of time, geography, and culture change.
Relationships are hard work. They require constant maintenance. If you don’t think so, I would suggest your relationships may not be very deep. For me, the deeper the relationship, the more effort is required.
What about parents or siblings? I feel they are different; however, some may argue the same as I have with extended family. As our world has “become flat” and people are not geographically tied to their family or culture of origin, then relationships will suffer. I identified this as a season in last week’s TT.
I think there are times for toxic relationships to end. However, too often, toxicity is in the eyes of the beholder. I have seen too many parent/child relationships end abruptly and prematurely because the child or the parent labeled it toxic and walked away. The one truth about relationships that has taken me a long time to embrace is that we cannot control another’s behavior or attitudes in a relationship, only our own!
It seems to me that there is today a tendency in Christianity to elevate the family to an idol. We may fall prey to the Mormon doctrine of The Family. Family is a given unit of Spiritual Formation and needs to be appreciated for such. But I don’t believe it is appropriate to worship the family as an idol. Jesus addresses this in Luke 14.26. Our immediate family is to be appreciated and acknowledged for the gift of God. The family must also be used for God’s Kingdom. But the family unit is only one method of God’s means in shaping our character and Christlikeness. The Kingdom includes the Church and other influences of the community like friends, mentors, spiritual directors, etc.
We are called to mission as followers of Christ, and again our family is one such mission field. However, it isn’t the only mission field. I have been amazed at the number of individuals who are amazed that we would move farther away from some of our grandchildren. Our kids and grandkids are our mission field, and we have seen them as such since birth. But God has also called us to reach a lot of other individuals in this world, and we have a lot of spiritual kids and grandkids who are not related to us by our blood but by the blood of Christ.