On Father’s Day, some of us celebrate, and for some of us, talking about family triggers us. Dysfunction and toxicity are far too common, but they don’t have to be inevitable as we learn to navigate conflict, forgive, and chart a new path.
Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Gateway South Austin Video:
On Father’s Day, some of us celebrate, and for some of us, talking about family triggers us. We understand that family of origin elicits pride in some, and shame in others. However, I think we can all agree that every family has its ups and downs, and obstacles to try to overcome.
As growing adults/young adults, it is now on us to know the difference between relational dysfunction and relationship toxicity in our family. Dysfunction happens to every family, and we could all be actively participating in the dysfunction. Toxicity is a different matter, and it shouldn’t necessarily be embraced and propagated to the next generation.
For example, it’s probably not a good idea to give a child a soda to drink…we can call that unhealthy or dysfunctional…it’s another thing to give a child cigarettes and a beer. I think we can all agree on this.
Or, we can all have family fails on vacations or time spent together…and we’ve all been embarrassed by our parent’s actions.
In a culture of blaming, cancelling, and pointing the finger, we are challenged to take ownership and to see our relationships for what they really are. The goal for today is for most of us to take ownership of our part of the dysfunction, and to grow from the experience.
“Adults who were hurt as children inevitably exhibit a peculiar strength, a profound inner wisdom, and a remarkable creativity and insight. Deep within them – just beneath the wound – lies a profound spiritual vitality, a quiet knowing, a way of perceiving what is beautiful, right, and true. Since their early experiences were so dark and painful, they have spent much of their lives in search of the gentleness, love, and peace they have only imagined in the privacy of their own hearts.”― Wayne Muller, Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantage of a Painful Childhood
Family hurt doesn’t just happen in our childhood. When we are in a relationship with people, we have the ability to bring healing and pain to the people we love, at ANY age.
Said the little boy, sometimes I drop my spoon.Shel Silverstein in The Little Boy and the Old Man
Said the little old man, I do that too.
The little boy whispered, I wet my pants.
I do too, laughed the old man.
Said the little boy, I often cry.
The old man nodded. So do I.
But worst of all, said the boy,
it seems grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
I know what you mean, said the little old man.
We can have warm memories of our childhood, our parents/grandparents and siblings, and we can have painful memories and scars of a life that was. Yet, no matter what our relationships have looked like, there is still a challenge we receive as those who have and are receiving grace. I read this chapter in scripture a few years ago with a new lens, and it has stuck with me ever since.
What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?
No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. – Isaiah 58
What is God saying here?
He’s saying…you sound like a bunch of white noise and you’re making no progress, when you cannot love, care for and work with those right around you…your family.
The Importance of Relationships to God
Why does this matter to God?
Why do marriages, parental relationships, legacy, all matter to God so much?
There are 368 references to marriage in scripture, not to mention all the family dynamics that place in each book.
God cares so much about our relationships, because they are a microcosm of God’s love for us.
1. God’s design
Genesis 1:26 – “Let us make man in our image…”
- Build in love and friendship
- Bonds are formed
- Learn to honor
- Learn intimacy and transparency
2. God’s shaping
- As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17
- Lump of clay being shaped – The prophet Jeremiah saw this firsthand. He was brought down and saw a potter working on a piece of clay and working to shape it when God speaks to him:
Then the LORD’s word came to me: House of Israel, can’t I deal with you like this potter, declares the LORD? Like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in mine, house of Israel! – Jeremiah 18:5-6
- Formation of reflecting the heart of God to others
3. God’s desire is passed on
- DNA is physically passed
- Spiritual DNA is passed on
4. God’s generosity
- Care for the needs of others
- Learn that we are not at the center of our life
- Take responsibility for one another
I know that all of this talk of the importance of our relationships is making some of us just exhausted. We all have that difficult uncle or those odd cousins.
Too often we build a wall around our heart to protect us,
but in doing so that same wall around our heart keeps us from experiencing the love we need from God and others.
The more we grow to trust God, the more we will be able to trust in life because we know even if we deal with people who are not trustworthy – God can bring good out of all of our challenging circumstances.
So what do we do when we just cannot seem to TRUST in a relationship?
We just celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary yesterday!
It was supposed to be March 2020. My in-laws had their 50th anniversary in Jan. 2020, so my wife Deborah and I are really fortunate to have parents who have lived into their 70s and stayed together all these years.
They met at age 19. My Mom is 4’11” and she was set up with my Dad by her Mom and my Dad’s Dad who worked together. She was supposed to meet my Dad at the steps of the library at the local junior college. She walked to the meeting spot, and their were 6 guys there. My Dad was one of them. Now my Mom is small but mighty. She has confidence and a level of extraversion that is off the charts. She started chatting with all of them. My Dad who is an extreme introvert barely said anything, and in fact another guy walked my Mom to her car after they all met! Even still, my Dad asked her out and they started to date. A few years later, they married.
I was trying to think of their couple name – like Brad and Angelina were “Brangelina” or Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were “Bennifer.” Neither of those relationship lasted (although Ben and JLo are apparently back together). My parents are Pat and JoAnne. We could go with “JoPat” or “PJo,” but honestly the best couple name for them was almost too obvious. Pat Bryant and JoAnne. They go together like “PB & J.”
They are so different which also makes them so complimentary for each other. One is strong in areas the other is weak.
For example, my extroverted Mom loves to go to parties as she’s such a social butterfly and my introverted Dad goes with his one story to tell in each group. After telling the one story, everyone would laugh and look at him for another one. His response: ‘that’s all I got!’
My Mom instilled in me and my brother a zest for life, confidence, and an exuberant love and passion. She is one of the world’s best cheerleaders.
My Dad, have instilled in us a work ethic, a drive to fix things, and a faithfulness that inspires us.
I think of the time when he was nominated to serve in leadership at our church because for years he had been taking sermon cassette tapes to older men and women who were unable to leave their house due to age and illness. I had no idea he had been doing this! Although I was frustrated at the time because when he became a deacon we had to start going to church not just every Sunday morning but on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights too. I was a frustrated middle schooler at the time, but it also created the environment where I discovered faith for myself.
I couldn’t be more grateful for my parents who worked through the tough times and enjoyed the good times. They have been a blessing to us and to so many!
The Scriptures say marriage is a picture of who God is.
The Scriptures say: “God is love.”
Now God reveals Himself as One God in 3 persons – as Father, Son, and Spirit.
Marriage at its best is One unit – God, husband, and wife working together in unity.
Ecclesiastes refers to this idea as “a cord of 3 strands that cannot be broken”
My parents have shown us glimpses of that kind of unity. They also showed us how to work through the tension and friction that comes in relationships, and they worked through it. They taught us how to to say: “I’m sorry.” And “I forgive you.”
Remember last week we pointed out the power of forgiveness and overcoming bitterness.
For Those Who Are Married
Let me talk to our married couples (and those who intend to get married one day). Maybe you have trust issues with your spouse. What should you do? Matthew 18 is our guide. Shared your heart, and if that does bring resolution then bring in someone else to help.
Be intentional and get help. Marriage is too hard and too important to try to figure out on your own.
Too many couples wait too long before asking for help.
Asking for help is actually a sign of maturity!
When should we ask for help?
- When you don’t like your spouse, ask for help.
- When you’ve gone for an extended time without being physically intimate, ask for help.
- When you are struggling to forgive your spouse, ask for help. Bitterness in our hearts, creates doubt in our mind.
- When you are feeling drawn to another person that is not your spouse, ask for help.
- When the only thing that binds you together is your kids, ask for help.
- When your marriage feels more like roommates or business partners, ask for help.
Where do you go for help?
- Having a conversation with someone who is a believer and has a healthy marriage can go a long way.
- Joining either a life group, community group, or recovery group.
- Join one of our support groups this fall. gatewaychurch.com/connect
- Make joining us on Sundays a priority. Share you need healing with someone on the prayer team or one of the Gateway pastors you know.
- See a counselor. Some Christian counselors take insurance. Some of the companies where you work actually financially help with counseling.
NOW, what about for all of us, how can we grow our relationship muscles in the days/weeks to come?
We as a church are giving everyone an opportunity to challenge yourself to love people two weeks from now.
We are to find healing and bring that healing to those around us.
We have a unique opportunity to do this on July 4th weekend. We have decided to call that Sunday: “The Church Has Left The Building.”
As we find healing for our trust issues, we can help others find healing as well. We have a very practical way you can reach out and serve those you love.
If you already have plans for that weekend with friends or family, be intentional about having spiritual conversations.
- Look for opportunities to have spiritual conversations. Find out how they have been this last year. What has helped them through all of this? If they ask you, share about your relationship with God and your connection to your church family.
- Look for opportunities to pray for your friends or family. If someone shares about a difficult season in their life, ask them if you could pray for them even in that moment.
- The conversation may naturally lead to you being able to invite them to join us at Gateway. (In fact we have a special guest speaker on July 11 streaming to all locations named Nona Jones. She is a dynamic speaker and tech executive in one of the most influential companies on the planet). Or the conversation may lead you to invite them to read the Gospel of John together with you with a plan to get together again to discuss it. Just encourage them read a chapter a day for 3 weeks and before they read encourage them to pray: “God, if you are real, show me.”
If you don’t already have plans, create a July 4th meet up!
We will send you instructions and ideas, just email us at … Some of the ideas include inviting your neighbors and friends to a BBQ in the backyard (or some are pulling their grill to the front yard), yard games, going to see fireworks, among many other ideas! This is a great way to get to know your neighbors and for them to get to know you. If you don’t already know them, this may be far more relational than spiritual quite yet. Even still, you might be surprised if they’re open us to a spiritual conversation. Plan to do a meet up? Sign Up here!
If you already have neighbors or friends or family that you have gotten to know and even invited to Gateway, invite them over to watch the service with you on July 4. We will be streaming a message from Carlos Ortiz that will inspire us all and sharing some music from our amazing band.
So what is your next step?
Choose to find healing through your relationship with God, the Father to the fatherless?
Bring healing to a broken relationship in your life?
Seek help for your marriage?
Look to serve a family member, neighbor, co-worker, or friend needing hope and help?