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Be Kind to the Black Sheep

Posted on November 19, 2018 by Jenn Zatopek

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof. (Richard Bach)

The holiday season is upon us and everywhere I go I hear Christmas music shouting from music speakers, observe twinkling lights on houses and storefronts, and eavesdrop on holiday conversation.  My heart does a familiar and bittersweet dance of nostalgia, dread, and longing.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the holidays.  Looking back, I now know it is because I am a deeply relational woman.  I believe this is a gift of mine, of gathering friends and loved ones to my house and heart.  For me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are deeply spiritual holidays, and I love to share them with others.

But I have a confession to make to you:  I have a love/hate relationship with the holiday season.

I love gatherings but hate the games that people play in families.  I love Jesus, and what makes the holidays bearable is that he challenged traditional notions of so-called family, disrupting the status quo.

In Matthew 12:46-50, folks remind Jesus that his family want to speak with him, and he turns everything upside, as usual, telling them that his family are the disciples, the ones who follow him.

Like many people (more than we know), I am the black sheep of my family, and this year, I’m inviting friends over and reaching out to the lonely, making a space for the ones who perhaps don’t come from traditionally ideal families.

But, please, let’s be honest with ourselves.  We deserve that much.  Is the idea of a perfect family even a reality for most of us?  It is certainly important to strive to make peace with members of our families but peace and reconciliation are two very different realities, and reconciliation is not always advised.

Not everyone who is related to us by blood is our family.

I have so many friends who are family that it is excessive, embarrassing, and holy.  You can find that too, but I will admit it has taken much work, intention, and care.

But you are worth the work.

During this holiday season, let’s practice being kind, loving, and uplifting to ourselves and to others, providing warm and nurturing spaces, knowing this is the way of the Spirit, if only we had eyes to see and ears to hear.

To my fellow black sheep: I see you and am in awe of your courage, grit, and resilience.  Find the people who love you as you are, who are responsive to you, and who accept you as you today, in this moment.  Remember the people you need to connect with may not always be your blood family, and that is perfectly acceptable.  Please see Matthew 12:46-50 for evidence.

You are always seen and known and loved the God of the Universe, whether or not you believe it.  Trust that deep truth and be extra kind to yourself this year.  You absolutely deserve it, and when old lies rear their ugly heads, tell them, “Thanks but I’m not buying your press today. I don’t need your help anymore.”

It is interesting to note that before Jesus told the people that his real family was his disciples, he healed a man on the Sabbath, showing us, yet again, that God was into societal disruption in order to heal humanity of its idolatry to harmful rules and regulations, of systems that oppress rather than uplift us. (Matthew 12:1-14)

So go do something ostensibly harder after you surrender those lies to the Divine: go make yourself a cup of tea, sit in your favorite chair, and rest.

(Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash)
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