No matter how big a mess surrounds us, a strong family will always overcome.
As I type this, my six children are in the midst of a post-Christmas frenzy. The toddler is jumping on a mini-trampoline while rocking a unicorn-themed dress. The baby has had it with various family gatherings and is vocally making her position known. The boys are using a remote-controlled tyrannosaurus rex to attack an unsuspecting Lego beach village. Packages of batteries are everywhere. Shrieks of delight and holiday songs are intermingling with jealous fights over new treasures. I’m tuning it out and getting to down to work at my laptop. I have an ability to ignore the children that I consider a virtue, but I wouldn’t blame my wife if she considered it a vice, because I often miss very obvious moments when parental intervention would be inordinately helpful.
This is all to say that being a member of a family is a true blessing, but also has its challenges. Siblings fall into disagreements, spouses have rough patches, people don’t feel heard so they yell, kids test their limits and think their parents treat them unfairly. As we grow and mature together, we (hopefully) don’t fight over toys as much, but life still finds a way to test the familial bond. We love each other, but that doesn’t mean we don’t push every last button and get on every last nerve.
All families face difficulties. How do we stay together? Even more importantly, how do we not only stay together but thrive and enjoy each other? How can we grow together and make each other better?
Today is the celebration of the Holy Family, which is a helpful reminder that the family Christ was born into on Christmas morning had its own, intense set of challenges. Not only did they end up with the craziest home-birth story of all time, but they quickly ended up fleeing to Egypt as refugees. Anyone who has traveled with a small child knows it isn’t easy. Imagine the stress and danger of traveling by donkey with a screaming baby. Remember, too, that because of the way the pregnancy came about, Joseph and Mary had a misunderstanding that almost led to their engagement being called off. And Joseph learned soon enough that his future was going to be unique.
The Holy Family not only survived, however — they thrived. Here are some examples from their experience that will help us do the same …
Give and deserve trust
The fact that we know our family better than anyone actually makes it hard to trust them sometimes because we tend to show the worst side of our personality to those closest to us. It’s akin to the phenomena where your child stays at a friend’s house and then helps wash dishes after dinner, when you know for a fact that they have never ever dreamed of washing a dish at home. It’s a strange fact of life that we are more likely to behave negatively with those we should love the most.
However, the Holy Family shows that it doesn’t have to be that way. They always gave each other the benefit of the doubt. Take, for instance, Joseph trusting Mary’s explanation for her pregnancy, or their calm reaction after finding Jesus lost in the Temple. In our families, extending a little trust goes a long way. On the other side, behaving towards our families in such a way to deserve that trust is a sign of respect that they deserve.
I grew up with three brothers. Our life was a constant athletic competition, and I don’t remember us encouraging each other so much as trying to achieve a dominating victory. Luckily, our parents helped us mature as we grew up. Our family board games still get feisty, but it isn’t all-out warfare anymore, and when it comes to really important matters it’s clear we want the best for each other.
In Mary, we find the perfect example of a mother who encourages her son. For instance, at the Wedding of Cana, she places her full confidence in him and even convinces the servants at the party to listen to him. In all the stories about the Holy Family, they’re never jealous of each other or fighting for attention.
In a family, the heroes are the ones who stay. No matter the argument, the frustration, the disappointment. A strong family never gives up on each other. We see this in how Mary is present at every moment in her son’s life. She’s there for the triumphs but also the tragedies. Family never abandons each other no matter how far one of the members falls. From this safe home environment, each of us is given the courage to go out into the world with confidence.
In the end, we stay together because we belong to each other, and no matter how big a mess surrounds us, a strong family will always overcome.
Where did the Holy Family live in Egypt?