“You have my eyes and mannerisms. “
“We share the same bathroom.”
“I named you.”
“We have the same mom and dad.”
“Our last name is the same.”
But I don’t know you.
Our houses are surrounded by invisible fences right now. Trapped “for the foreseeable future”, we are experiencing an array of legitimate emotions, some of which must be similar to what a trapped animal feels. The timing of our release from captivity is out of our control and we. don’t. like. it. If that’s not enough, our new norm has revealed that many of us are surrounded by strangers–parents, siblings, and children that our busy or independent lives never allowed us to get to know. Or we welcomed busyness because we feared “being known”. Unmasked. Vulnerable. So we’ve subconsciously built and maintained a family structure whose foundation, I”ll call Disconnection, which seemed safe. But it’s not sustainable. The phrase from the old Christian hymn “Solid Rock” came to my mind yesterday. “All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Since we have to be around each other 24/7, many of us have a sinking feeling that we are going to have to make a change. Replace our old foundation with something solid. Those that have ears to hear will open their doors to the Divine knock. “Let Me help you build a family that can’t be shaken.”
I believe that disconnection has occurred primarily in two ways: with God and each other through emotional distance.
For many reasons, our connection with God has some kinks or static. Some of us don’t feel safe with God. Maybe we have a childhood trauma that He didn’t rescue us from or His Old Testament sternness turns us off. Maybe, we don’t really put value on Him like the other things that took up our time. He hasn’t been relevant enough in our world. Or, if we are regular church attenders, who pray and read Scripture every day, perhaps He is being a good Vinedresser who knows what we need to produce more fruit. We don’t see the kink in our faith, but He does. A vinedresser protects the vines from insects, lifts the weaker branches as they grow stronger, and fertilizes the soil. For this latter group, this is a level of refining, that hurts so good. The truth is, right now all of us are experiencing some discomfort that is making us see the status of our connections with the one true God.
Why is this vital right now?
‘Cause it is going to take a supernatural entity bigger than any one of us, to get us through this! For me, no other “god” (elohim) is bigger than the Most High God (El Elyon) who created me, you, and the whole creation. Has He done things that none of us understand? Does using the pronoun “He” even rub some of you the wrong way? Most definitely! It would be unwise for me to attempt to delve into these details in this article, but I will say, that I believe that our innermost beings are awakening and crying out to our Creator. This cage and fear, panic and wise distancing is the catalyst to hunger connection with the one true God. As we’ve been forced to disconnect with false gods: sports, idols, entertainment, vocational and educational pursuits, we are left with a silence from which God’s still, small voice can finally be heard.
Relational disconnection – This has been a problem in family life for a long time. Since Cain and Abel, in fact. Obviously Cain didn’t feel connected to Adam enough to confide in him what he thought was unfair about the needed sacrifice. For many of us, parents, teens, and kids, social distancing and mandated lockdowns have magnified that the structure of emotional distance doesn’t actually protect us-it kills us. From the inside out. Frenetic lifestyles made the home a revolving door where one family member enters when another is leaving. Long standing personality conflicts between dad and mom, parent and child, produced in-house avoidance culture. Then of course is technology, which has been an acceptable alternative to face-to-face interaction. Many of us have seen a family at a restaurant, each member looking at their phones, instead of in each other’s eyes. For the average American family, it’s been easy to grow apart. God wants to fix this.
I thought about naming this article “Alone in a World of People”. I come from a big family. But as a teen, I lived in my bedroom, feeding on fiction and daydreams. The swirl of feeling both misunderstood and responsible for my parents’ issues made me a recluse. I was emotionally detached, mentally deceived, and spiritually dead. I know this is why in the last several years, I’ve worked hard to cultivate the spiritual and emotional lives of my own kids. As a family of eight, we’ve experienced a lot of trial and error–their trials due to my errors! However, as God has matured each of us, we’ve learned how to honor autonomy, while building emotional connection. We have not perfected this skill, but we are working on it.
As Christian families, we have an opportunity to reflect and re-prioritize what we consider valuable. Like relationships. Time. Some haven’t spent this much time with each other since last summer’s vacation. I know of many teens and college students that are more familiar with their friends than they are with their parents. Not to say that friends are not valuable! But God has a desire that both friends and family members would be cherished gifts from above. The Lord desires vibrant, flourishing and nurturing family systems. Ironically, this pandemic has given us the choice to either 1) maintain relational brokenness or 2) seek for God to heal what has been broken.
Malachi 4:6 says, “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse”. I’m praying that while we are cooped up within our property lines, our hearts towards our parents, our siblings, and our children would be forgiving, gracious, and knitted more than ever before.
How does a family knit themselves when they’ve lived in a whirlwind of different directions for so long?
This is the tough part. An emotionally and spiritually mature family comes about when each person pauses to look in the mirror. If we are courageous and remove our self-imposed or socially-acceptable masks, we may see self-hatred or shame. We may see pride or fear. If we open our hearts to God as we look at our reflection, we will begin to see ourselves as God sees us. Broken yet desired by Him. Fallible yet faultless due to the blood of His only begotten Son. This takes time. It’s a process of letting God dig up rocks that have hindered the soil of our souls from being nourished by Him. Rocks can be sins, generational predispositions, or any heartache or hurt. Then, as we lift our eyes from the mirrors and fasten them to the Cross and Jesus Christ’s subsequent resurrection, we receive vision and faith. Vision for who we are becoming in Him. Faith that He who began a good work in us will complete it until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:6).
So having a 1-on-1 with God is the first step. Acknowledging our sins to God brings courage and humility to confess our sins and admit our weaknesses to one another. Understanding that life is a journey of becoming whole, lets us know that each of us in a family needs the grace to grow. We have to be a forgiving and gracious people and it takes leaning on God every moment to do that! For families where the disrepair is blatant, He provides security in the midst of instability for the parent who is seeking repair when no one else is.
As parents, we have to model “sonship”. Do our kids hear us talk about our relationship with God…the ebbs and flows of our faith journey, our favorite bible studies or Christian books, or the encouragement that we get from His still, small voice in our prayer closets? Getting our houses in order means putting our relationship with God first. Not compartmentalizing our faith life to Sunday mornings. But living every moment like He’s walking beside us, ready to guide, ready to listen, and ready to speak.
1 Timothy 3:5 (NASB) says, “but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” While this verse highlights church leadership, the principle is that any of us, man or woman, who have positions of authority outside of the home, needs to make sure that we proistemi (Greek for preside, care for, give attention to) our families the way God desires. If we understand the teachings of Jesus, the head of the Church, we know that godly authority figures focus on serving and encouraging those around them. Single-parents, married couples, foster parents, and guardians have an opportunity to think about whether their hearts, words, and behavior have reflected Jesus’ selfless, other-focused love.
So this opportunity to get our houses…our families in order is two-fold. Cultivating our “parent-child” relationship with God is most important. The second part is to embrace the time we have right now to change how we’ve been living with each other. We can read together, play together, talk to each other, listen to each other, and most of all pray together. By allowing God to lead us from surface-level conversations into deep, honest conversations about our inner worlds, we can know each other and be known by one another. We were created to long for this…with God and others. The home is the place where God wants healthy emotional connections to begin.
Tina was ordained and licensed for Ministry in the state of Virginia is 2004. Her book, Cultivating the Souls of Parents is available online at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. She is a certified Apprentice Facilitator in Classic Trauma Healing through the American Bible Society.