'My' Family ; Bringing a Spiritual Perspective to Daily Life

Article excerpt

I know I'm not the only one rethinking the family dynamics of the holiday season. After several decades of some not-so-merry family gatherings at Christmastime, we now have a better, more relaxed atmosphere, and I'm grateful for the progress we've made over the years.

But I wouldn't have said that our family was yet a place where the stranger is welcomed. The selfishness of the young adults is still obvious, the willfulness of the seniors is still an issue. And although I can hide my irritation, I still feel an intensity I don't like in myself when my guests don't help out. Regardless, this year I had a new friend who didn't have a place to go, and I knew it was right to invite him. As I prepared the family, it was clear they were willing, but suffering the same caution I was.

Mustering my courage, I called my friend late on Christmas Eve. I apologized for not thinking of it sooner and found myself bumbling through warnings about being with my family. He said something I will never forget: "But they are your family, so they must be wonderful." Wonderful is not the first word that comes to mind to describe this group.

What I heard in his words was something more than a compliment and an effort to put me at ease as he accepted the invitation. I was being required to accept a fact: This was my family. And it was time to be at peace about that.

To compensate for the unhappiness of my family life, I have naturally gravitated to embracing humanity as my family. While this helps cultivate a greater unselfishness and a global outlook, sometimes pursuing that grander view is a cop-out to justify not looking for the beauty of those right in front of my face or at the other end of the phone line.

Why I am related to these folks

I have come to think of these folks who share my history as appointed to me - that somehow I am related to them because they are the ones who will best help me learn the essentials of forgiveness, good humor, and unconditional love. Often those lessons come through reverse example, but what I can feel working in me is a preparation for a bigger perspective: that we are being prepared to know and love as many people as God knows and loves.

God, the source of all life, is the infinite Love that cherishes and maintains what it creates. God's love for His creation has never lapsed or been postponed. God is the assured Love that supports each of us.

I've told my boys over the years that every effort to improve family relations will make them better employees, roommates, spouses, and parents. …