Weeks of Thanks – Our Family

My life has seen many blessings. The blessing of God’s love and forgiveness is the greatest. Close at hand is the blessing of family. But as I write this, I know that there are many different experiences with family, and your story may be very different than mine.

My family isn’t large, but it is long with meaningful generational relationships. I was blessed to know one of my great-great-grandmothers and six of my eight great grandparents. All four of my grandparents were an active part of my life into my 50’s. But also blessedly in that mix are mom, dad, a brother, a sister, a daughter, a son, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, cousins, and many others.

I’m not holding up our family as some paragon of virtue that never fought, disagreed, or got on each other’s nerves. All those things happened, just as I’m sure they happen at times in your family. But in both good times and bad times, we found ways to love, to forgive, and to be thankful for the good in one another. Well, most of the time, anyway.

One thing about family is that it experiences both stability and monumental change. Both of those, and everything in between, provide a canvas for love and conflict. It may seem that children take forever to grow up, and yet it also seems like they grew up overnight. Even when things are stable, there is always some conflicts that we can’t wait to end. And when change is happening, it challenges to either accept or release responsibility.

Our challenge in family is to remain thankful to God for them. There are plenty of opportunities to hold grudges, to reject based on their choices, to attempt control, to feel rejected ourselves. All of those cast long shadows over the things we should be thankful for. That shadow often remains until we allow the light of Christ to shine through us with thankfulness.

Jesus told a story about a family and the conflict they experienced in Luke 15. You probably know it as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. When the wayward son returned, the father didn’t wait for a full confession or even for the son to finish his planned apology. He instead celebrated and restored him. The father explained, “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.” (Luke 15:32, NASB95) While the story doesn’t explicitly express thankfulness, it is visible in the celebration that followed the son’s return.

Here is your challenge for today. Take time to think about and perhaps write down all the things about each member of your family that you’re thankful for. For some in your family, that will be easy; for some of them, you may need to push aside old wounds or current choices to see the praiseworthy in them. I’ve found that thankfulness builds bridges and breaks down walls.

Finally, let me speak to those that have few or no family. There is a promise is Psalms that says, “God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” (Psalm 68:6a, NLT) Through Christ, we are family. Some in my spiritual family are, at times, closer to me than my physical family. The blessing of family is yours as well; it just comes in a different package.

I thank God for all of my family, warts and all.  

Dale Heinold
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