We’ve just returned from four wonderful days of family time. It was wonderful to be together, but it was also in turn wonderfully messy, wonderfully confusing, wonderfully funny, wonderfully tense, and wonderfully diverse. When you put sixteen people with different thoughts, opinions, desires, and expectations together under one roof for 96 hours, it’s bound to be messy. The beautiful part of being in a family is that we get to be messy with each other and live to tell about it. Maybe even learn to laugh about it.
In our family, we know what messy is. We know what it is to go through an earthquake. We felt the ground shake beneath us when Bo died. For all of us, the past eighteen years have been in some part about getting over that earthquake, about dealing with the devastation of loss, about recovery, rebuilding, and renewal. No mother wants to raise a family on her own. No child wants to grow up without a dad. Earthquakes can rock your foundation, but that foundation can be rebuilt.
We’re not that different from you and yours. Each family goes through some form of tragedy or triumph that changes the complexion and complexity of their relationships. The thing I love about God’s grace is that it’s sufficient for all of us; it’s sufficient for the siblings who don’t always get along, who don’t always agree, who don’t always see eye to eye. It’s sufficient for the extended family members who have stepped into our web of friendships and relationships, all organisms with a life of their own. I know His grace is sufficient because at the end of the day, we survived the wrecking ball. We survived the shift of those tectonic plates that set our world off kilter. We learned how to stand and live upright when sorrow made us crumble. Not only that, we learned that God's grace is so sufficient He will give and give and give no matter what.
We gathered this past weekend to celebrate…Christi finished her college degree, begun as a young teenager and put on hold for years of marriage and family building. We celebrated Carlisle and Michelle’s tenth wedding anniversary, with its own seasons of marriage and family building. We celebrated my sixtieth birthday, decades of marriage and family building and a whopping red letter day on my personal timeline. But we also celebrated the fact that love built us and love sustains us. Messy, imperfect love. Grace-giving and grace-receiving love.
No family is perfect. There.is.no.such.thing. We all struggle and strive to figure out how to get along, how to grow in love and forgiveness, how to accept and defend our personal and private and public decisions. That’s the good stuff. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in sixty years, it’s that bit of mathematics. Start with a and b. Multiply. Divide and subtract. Then add. And keep adding and taking away until you get closer and closer to our Lord’s vision and version of who we are supposed to be, of who He’s created us to be. This family is our temporary home. He’s got a perfect mansion prepared for us. But in the meantime, our job is to learn how to live and how to love each other like He loves us. It’s a messy process.
Messy and imperfect. But we are loved. Oh so loved.