TODAY’S VERSE TO PONDER: Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. – Ecclesiastes 4:9 (NIV)
For so many, Thanksgiving weekend is a time for taking time off from work and school, laying out a big spread of food and spending time with family and friends. In a lot of families, mine included, the holidays are the only times each year when getting together with loved ones takes priority over the myriad responsibilities of daily life.
On this Saturday following Thanksgiving Day, my immediate family – my 81-year-old mother, my brother and sisters, their children and grandchildren – gathered at a nearby state park for a huge meal and fellowship. The idyllic setting was a picnic shelter where for years, when my father and grandmother were still living, our extended family hosted a yearly reunion with dozens of uncles, aunts and cousins in attendance. Sadly, that family tradition long ago faded.
Today, while the turkey, ham and all the fixings were spread out across several picnic tables, the memories flowed liked wine. We reminisced about my father and his infectious personality. We laughed at really bad jokes. We solved the problems of the world with speculation and commentary served up over pecan pie.
At the end of the day, we all made plans to gather again next month a few days before Christmas to try to recapture the magic. Then, we all drifted away to our respective homes to watch college football.
Unfortunately, such beautiful scenes of love and fellowship among family sound like outlandish, overly sentimental fiction to folks who live their lives estranged from family. Countless families have been torn apart by conflict and even by petty disagreements that never should be as toxic as we humans, in our pride and arrogance, allow them to become.
In far too many families, forgiveness and compassion are long lost virtues. Too often, differences in opinions and offenses – major and minor – lay silently unaddressed and are allowed to fester into long-standing estrangement.
The Bible tells us that we human beings are better together. We are not designed by God to live our lives in isolation from others; we are created to love and serve others in the same way that Jesus Christ loved and served those He encountered while on earth.
In times of crisis and conflict, especially within families, true forgiveness is rooted in humility. True conflict resolution rests in being able to set aside our pride and arrogance, embrace humility, and open up our hearts to seeing conflict through the eyes of others. There is no offense so heinous that it cannot be forgiven, if we are willing to pray for God to take away our pain and choose to offer others the same grace that God offers us – with the overriding desire to love and live in peace.
This is not to say that people should endure inherently abusive relationships. There is a big difference between resolution and reconciliation. In some cases, making peace with estranged family cannot translate into reunion; the best that can be hoped for in some relationships is God-honoring lack of conflict, forgiveness and a mutual agreement to part ways.
However, true reconciliation in families – the kind of conflict resolution that evolves into joyful holidays shared, long stretches of love and laughter, lasting memories – is available to most of us if we are willing to be humble and take the high road. The question: Is there someone in your life to whom you need to reach out and make peace today?
Peace just might be as close as the phone. Pray earnestly, then dial.