I have tired of anemic and hackneyed sayings. At least four or five times in the last week I have seen various iterations of this image circulating on social media.
I am trying to discern what the name of Joe Batts Arm it means! Every few weeks it resurrects itself, and it has become and increasing annoyance to me. At the very best, it is a banal platitude attempting to say something ‘special’ about ones acquaintances or friends. At its worst it’s a repudiation of one’s kindred and an attempt to make some poisonous proclamation about one’s family. Either way – it seems either very trite and weak, or very insensitive and harsh.
Family are indeed the people in your life who ‘have you in theirs’ – like it or not. Family are those who may very well accept you for who you are but who care enough to not simply be concerned with seeing you smile. Family should love one another through thick and thin – no doubt. There are no replacements for my family. They are mine. No friend and no acquaintance can take on the role of family. Why you ask? Because we choose our friends – we do not choose our family. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said – “You don’t choose your family – They are God’s gift to you as you are to them.”
Family is not about what we want, or what we might like. It’s about what God gave us. It behoves us then to honour that gift by working through our crap. We are called to celebrate that which is good in family and reconciling that which is not. Rather than wishing for family that would simply ‘make us smile’ I pray that we all might learn to love the families we are given – a true gift, knowing full well that loving may be very difficult work. Loves risking vulnerability. It calls us to step in, to move toward another and that may mean taking on another’s hurt, pain, another’s suffering. Love also is difficult because we are all broken, or as author Anne Lamott reminds us –
“Family business can be so stressful – difficult damaged people, showing up to spend time with other difficult damaged people.”
Stressful yes – and also a part of loving. Lamott’s also offers this –
“One secret of life is that the reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day. Another secret is that laughter is carbonated holiness.”
I know that in my own tribe – the laughter part has served us well. Families find themselves in deepest trouble when they forget to laugh and forget how we can all be a little nutty. Laughter is indeed good medicine when it comes to loving family.
So having said of that – I offer my amended version of this social media meme…
Family is always blood. Family are the people we have in our tribe because God gave us to them and them to us. They are the ones who accept you for who you are, or perhaps not – but stick with you anyway. They are the ones who are happy to see you smile but also care enough to tell you the truth in love, even when it hurts. They are the ones who also don’t run when you are no longer smiling. They are those who step toward your collapsing life while others are running in the other direction because it is to hard for them. They love you no matter how difficult and nutty you may be.
It’s a little longer I admit, but these words, are authentic and honest reflect well how I see family. Here is my own meme of that catchy quote of mine…….. 😉