The word family conjures up many different images for each of us. We may think of family as the biological or adopted family with whom we spent our formative years or maybe what comes to mind is the family we have built as an adult. And then there are many whose relationship with their family is, well, “complicated” to say the least. A mere mention of family may bring up wounds that have long since stopped bleeding and yet remain tender. For others, whose family of origin could not provide the loving support necessary, family may be a group of unrelated friends – a hodgepodge of surrogate sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents who together form a unique bond all its own. For many, a new kind of family is found here — at Amazing Grace. The idea of family – whether inherited or chosen in love – remains a foundation of our lives.
In her latest book, Hidden Inheritance: Family Secrets, Memory, and Faith, Rev. Heidi Neumark writes about the surprises she uncovers in her own family tree. I was fortunate to hear Pastor Neumark speak this spring at the St. Paul Area Synod (ELCA) Assembly, where she shared a little bit about the discovery of her family tree. Neumark commented that she had always wondered if there were other pastors in her family tree. Little did she know that her research would uncover her Jewish roots, putting her own Christian Lutheran faith in tension with Martin Luther’s often disparaging, anti-Semitic remarks about Jews. Like Pastor Neumark, we too may have parts of our family history which remain hidden – perhaps scars that are not quite healed, wounds that cannot be seen, and yet ache from time to time.
In October and November, we continue with our Faith Fitness theme by focusing on social and interpersonal wellness. It is an intentional time to examine our relationships with those around us. Beginning with those closest to home, let’s look at our own families. How can we heal relationships within our families? How can we deepen these already healthy relationships? In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he addresses quarrelling that occurs among early Christians when debates turn heated over purity laws. Paul writes, “The one who serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19) Our families may be messy, imperfect, loving, annoying and life-giving – often all at the same time. So where do we start? How can we build one another up instead of tearing each other down? We begin by inviting Jesus into these relationships with some honesty and vulnerability. It may be a little scary, but when Christ walks with us it’s a good place to start. – Pastor Julie Wright