It’s Going To Be a Bumpy Ride….Saga of the Dysfunctional Family

Functional-Family-Convention-Slide-400x400Yesterday was Thanksgiving.  My big beautiful family all met together at my son’s house.  Looking around the table I had to laugh to myself as I studied each one.  If you have ever seen the sitcom, Parenthood, that is what my family reminds me of.  All talking at the same time with drama abounding.

Everyone of us there has had our own personal struggles.  I looked at those who have been divorced and saw pain like they never imagined.  I looked at the children who suffered through that pain through no fault of their own.  I saw those of us who have made poor choices and learned great lessons from those choices, and some who were still learning and stumbling along.  There were new people added to our clan that day by invitation that were instantly put at ease when they saw what a loud, raucous family we were.  And somewhat horrified at some of the subjects that came up and openly discussed and laughed at.  There seems to be no subject that is taboo when we get together.

As the mom and nana, I found myself asking if I had done something different in my own messed up life could I have spared them all the pain.  Was I, in my youth, at fault for their lives and choices and hardships. 

Can you relate?

Yet, I knew that I did the best with what I had as a younger version of myself.  Isn’t that all the Lord asks of us?

As we passed the traditional candle around and talked about what we were thankful for this year you could see Jesus in their midst.  You could hear the growth in some and still see fear in some.  I could see those guests who were instantly nervous and could think of nothing they were thankful for, and listened to my grand kids who used to say they were thankful for Disneyland, but now they talked about how thankful they were for family and that we were all together.

I don’t mean to pop your bubble, but we are all a beautiful mess.  There is no perfect family.

joseph-in-the-pitThe Bible tells us of many dysfunctional families.  Today I want us to look at  Joseph’s family. 

You remember the story?

Joseph grew up in a dysfunctional family.
His father Jacob had four wives.  He had 11 brothers scattered among those four wives.
He had one full brother, the youngest child of all, Benjamin.

With all of that, there is bound to be trouble–and there was.

Genesis 37:3 says that Joseph was his father’s favorite son—the son of his old age.  It means he was the first son by Rachel, the woman Jacob always loved.

Joseph was always his favorite.  All the brothers knew it.

Jacob’s family was a disaster waiting to happen and indeed it did happen.

His family looked like this:

1 father, 4 mothers, 12 brothers plus one daughter (Dinah).  And one favorite son.

Trouble is brewing right under the surface in Jacob’s complicated family.

Out of it will come Joseph who many years down the road will rescue the brothers who betrayed him.  As the story opens, there is no reason—none at all—to see any of this in advance.  At the beginning, we mostly see dark clouds on the horizon.

Here is his story in one paragraph

josephHe was the favored son of his father Jacob.  When he enters the stage of biblical history, he is 17 years old. Because his brothers hated him, he was sold as a slave and taken to Egypt.  After being falsely accused of rape, he was imprisoned with no hope of getting out.  Because he correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he became the prime minister of Egypt.  Eventually he welcomed his family to Egypt, which preserved the line of promise that had started with his great-grandfather Abraham.

And that brief summary only hints at the drama that surrounded his life.

And so now we look at you.

Your background is no impediment to serving God.  There is no excuse imaginable for you to blame your childhood for your behavior today.  Nor can you truthfully say that God will never use you because you are too broken.

Joseph came from a family that was in many ways “out of bounds.” It certainly was not a neat, clean, one man-one woman nuclear family. He was born into a family where jealousy, comparison, and distrust were the rules of the game.  It was not a happy family.

Yet God chose Joseph and used him mightily.

Though Joseph was God’s man, he did not have an easy life.

 Here are some of the things his story teaches us:

553486_415888875110718_1880467937_nTrusting God when in the pit of despair.

How to deal with sexual temptation.

How to redeem a painful past.

What to do while you wait.

How to see God’s hand in all things.

How to make wise plans.

How God awakens a guilty conscience.

The marks of true repentance.

How to live for God in a pagan culture.

Overcoming lingering bitterness.

How to die well.

Not many of us come from perfect families.  Actually, none of us do because there is no such thing.

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14).

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12).

“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

The real problems we face are not “out there.”
They are always “in here”, on the inside.
That’s where we fight our greatest battles.

This world is a messed-up place, and the most messed-up part lies inside the human heart.

emotional-pain

That’s one reason we know the Bible is true.  It speaks the truth about the human condition.  It doesn’t lie to us about our “unlimited potential” or tell us that we are basically okay the way we are at the moment.  It tells us we are okay and accepted into the beloved lap of God because Jesus paved the way for us.

What prevents us from simply accepting this and being awesomely grateful that nothing that has ever happened to us can prevent us from walking right into His perfect plan for our lives?

This is where the truth that Jesus spoke becomes so incredibly relevant.  He didn’t make us feel good and then say, “Just try harder and you will be okay.”

“For there is no difference.” (Romans 3:22b)

No difference between rich and poor.
No difference between religious and pagan.
No difference between Jew and Gentile.
No difference between young and old.
No difference between housewife and harlot.
No difference between criminal and choirboy.
No difference between American and Kenyan.

We’re all in the same boat, and unless God does something, we’re all going to sink together.  And He did!!  

Because of Jesus!

We are all broken people.  Some of us know it, some of us don’t.

If you can relate, this story is for you.
If you come from a broken home, this story is for you.
If you don’t get along with your brothers and sisters, this story is for you.
If you were abused, this story is for you.
If your friends lied to you, this story is for you.
If you’ve done jail time, this story is for you.
If your family doesn’t understand you, this story is for you.

Life isn’t easy for any of us, and for most of us it can be quite difficult. To say it another way, anyone looking for an easy life has picked the wrong planet to be born on.

Since God Himself stands behind the universe He created, we should not be surprised to find His fingerprints everywhere, even in the tiniest details of life.

Christ is the power to make life worthwhile.  Note that I did not say that Christ “has” the power, which is true, but that Christ “is” the power, which is slightly different.

Because Jesus Himself lives in us, He Himself is the power that gives meaning and purpose to life.

The hero, Joseph, arises out of the turmoil of a dysfunctional family. His brothers don’t like him.  There is trouble on the horizon.

309148_275390375904036_1522969089_nJoseph proves you can come from a crazy, mixed-up family and do amazing things for the Lord!

“Church Lady”…or Devoted Lover?

allthatineedI love the church.   If you know Jesus then you are the church too;  One of the many members of the Church, the Body, of Jesus, who is our Head.  But I was brought up spiritually in a church building for many years, and I loved it. 

Somewhere along the way I lost the mentality that I was there to grow in Jesus. 

Oh yes, I was taught that I was the temple where Jesus lived, but I was also taught I had to be in a building to truly walk with him.   It took me too long to realize that being a ‘church lady’ didn’t mean I knew anything about the heart and passion of God.

Oh, I yearned for it, so put on the face that I already had that passion filled relationship with Jesus, and had the pious face down pat, as if I had it together. I had the Christian-ease language down pat, too.    For many years I was very involved in just about everything that was happening in the church building.  

I was involved in potlucks, gospel sing alongs,  committee meetings, bake sales, car washes, retreats, conferences and any other spiritual sounding activity that was advertised in the church building. Then I started a women’s ministry and it grew and grew.  I absolutely loved it.  I had a place and felt loved and accepted.  I loved the people, the busy-ness, and the routine.  I was really good at doing church and I looked the part, too. Busy-Woman-1147825

I had a good heart. 

I was so drawn to God and yearned to serve Him and thought that is what I was doing.  But over time, more serving, and more ministries later it all became a checklist or a substitute for a deeper passion.

It became a “doing” instead of a “becoming.”

I still love the church.  I just missed the whole point God was yearning for me to see for many years.  If you have read my book, Climbing Out of the Box, you will see where it led me.  However, I digress.

Somehow I loved becoming the church lady and mistook that title for becoming godly. 

It felt so good to be in the church clicks, though. And I saw others left out of those groups to which I turned a blind eye.  

So, I busied myself in  those good works of bringing food to the sick, planning baby showers and helping at funerals, and teaching Sunday school.  It can feel so good to be needed that it can become a substitute for a passionate pursuit of God.

Don’t get me wrong; Service, fellowship, and giving are wonderful and a part of the calling for every believer, but serving and doing do not equal a relationship with God.  They do not get us closer to the mark,  and sometimes can become a wall we hide behind. And so we pretend we know what we are talking about and every Sunday we sit in a pew, staring at the backs of heads, listen to a sermon, and go home.

And wonder why that gaping hole in our hearts is still there.

Every Sunday morning parents hand their babies over to the good people who work in the nurseries.  Then they go serve in hundreds of places within the building.  They may never even make it to the service, but it is okay because they have been to church.  Some have hidden there for years.

So many of us are “doing” like crazy.

Not many of us are “becoming.”   Women Bow And Pray

My coaching business over the last few years has been full of women and men, who were dying on the inside.  Service and hospitality was not cutting it for them.  Hearts are broken and lives are hurting.  They longed to know that Jesus really loved them—somehow they missed that part while they were busy doing.  They are worn out with good works without realizing how to have a one on one with Jesus. 

Yet we keep signing up for one more thing. 

Hoping we will find Jesus there.

When we get the church lady thing going it is easy to pretend we have it all together.  I did.  Everyone thought I was so together and many wanted to be me.  I dressed fashionable, and had a sweet smile on my face.  My kids were impeccibly dressed, and we were the ‘perfect’ family. 

But inside; well that was another story.  

My marriage was falling apart.  I had been molested as a child and had not told a soul yet.  I had not even begun my healing and was convinced I would go to the grave with my secret.  So, I had to get even more busy to outrun the ugly truth. 

I had no self esteem.   376692_405449249517629_858305305_n

Soon I learned I could fill that need to be validated by being in the church clicks and there was always a need for one more worker to keep it all going. 

I became addicted to ministry to fill my gapping hole of need.

Ministry took the place of a passion filled relationship with a very real Jesus.  It wasn’t until I lost it all did Jesus finally break into my religiosity and reveal Himself  personally in all His glory. 

And when that happened?   I was doing nothing in the church– I had lost it all.  It was in the wilderness of my life that I met Jesus face to face…when everything and everyone else was gone.

Only Jesus didn’t leave.

That is when I learned that I am the Church.  You are the church.  We are all the church body.  

Getting off the merry go round of hiding behind our good works is about laying down all pretense and facades.  It is about stepping outside the lines you have drawn around your spirituality and seeing what God has for you.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When we only ascribe the term ‘church’ to weekend gatherings or institutions that have organized themselves as ‘churches’ we miss out on what it means to live as Christ’s body. It will give us a false sense of security to think that by attending a meeting once a week and work ourselves to the bone;  then we are participating in God’s church.

But if the church is something we are, not someplace we go, how can we leave it unless we abandon Christ himself? We can’t.  We may join other believers anywhere, but it doesn’t define our personal love relationship with Jesus.

If we think only of a specific congregation as our part of the church, haven’t we separated ourselves from a host of other brothers and sisters that do not attend the same gathering that we do? Are we not called into the market place?

If you have hung your spirituality on inward files with neat little answers for every situation, hang on, because God is probably getting ready to blow the lid off of your box. 

You may need to allow Him to restructure your thinking a bit of why you do what you do; with all the strong essential elements of your faith still there, just rearranged to reflect to you more clearly the heart of God.

Scripture does encourage us to be devoted to one another not committed to an institution. Jesus indicated that whenever two or three people get together focused on him, they would experience the vitality of church life.  Out of that body life, of course comes service.  But if that is what defines your relationship with God, you will soon become a “church lady” too…..Or maybe a “church man.” 

I pray that we all are renewed in a passion for Jesus no matter where we find real fellowship with other believers; a genuine concern for each other and a willingness to serve the world with God’s love, which can only come from, not service, but relationship with Jesus Christ. Out of that relationship we will be His hand extended to a lost world.  praying-woman