“Home Alone: Messy Family”

Today we continued our series at Gateway Church in Austin called Home Alone.

Hurt people hurt people – especially those closest to them. When things are not messy, it usually means we’re not that close. When we get close, we see differences, rub each other wrong, and step on toes. When we push through these difficulties to true acceptance and love of the other that is when we feel really known and loved. As we learn restorative principles in our church family, we can bring healing to our biological families.

Message Discussion:

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.

Next Steps

Message Video:

Message Notes from Carlos Ortiz:

Today we’re going to look at how we can see a practical impact in our family life when we are personally connected to God, and have engaged with this “new” spiritual family.

We’re going right to scripture to better understand this notion of our life being a reflection on our personal family dynamic.  So, in Genesis there’s a story of a young man named Joseph, you might know it as Joseph and the coat of many colors, and for fans of the arts you might know it as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, starring none other than THE Donny Osmond.

For those not as familiar, let me share a 2-3 minute abridged version of Joseph’s story from Genesis.

  • The brothers were jealous of Joseph who was their father’s favorite son. Joseph had dreams from God and he was willing to share them not realizing the consequences. Jacob had two wives and Joseph was the oldest from his favorite wife.
  • Context: God working with people who did not know His ways. The Scripture actually teaches loyalty and faithfulness and devotion to one spouse not having multiple spouses.
  • Brothers betrayed Joseph into slavery. (Some wanted to kill him).
  • Joseph works his way up to be in charge of his master’s home, but then falsely accused by his master’s wife because he would not give into her advances.
  • In prison and able to interpret dreams, and eventually freed.
  • 2nd in command in Egypt.
  • Brothers come for food because of the famine.
  • Back and forth and then finally in Genesis 45 he reveals he is still alive and how God’s used the situation to save lives, even the lives of his family.

Genesis 45:4-5; 14-15 – 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.

14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.

What’s interesting about this story is that we rarely hear the true redemptive part of the story.  We read about his rise to power, the kingdom he oversaw and reuniting with his father, but many times the restoration to his brothers is overlooked. 

Healing in Our Families

Why is that? 

Why is it we shy away from the difficult conversation, and we choose to take the path of least resistance? 

So the challenge for today is centered on our nuclear family, no matter what its makeup is.  Because we have to recognize that families do look different in 2021 than they did even 50-100 years ago. 

There are mixed race/ethnicity families, blended families, single parent home families, families where grandparents are raising their grandchildren, adoptive/foster families, families made of single people who are roommates or friends in a city with no blood relatives, and I’m sure a dozen more I’ve yet to describe.

But no matter how your family is made up, it is yours.

  • Yes, there are times we need very clear boundaries. 
  • Yes, it is ok to acknowledge the hurt some may have or continue to cause you. 
  • Yes, family is messy and doesn’t look like the Christmas card we send out yearly.
  • Yes, you and I should be healing from trauma imposed on us, and yes, as we walk in healing we also grow stronger.

But NO…that does not give us license to ignore, run from entirely, and shift all of our issues to our family.

 NO, you do not get to build a new family of faith or friends who are like family and overlook the very people you God may be calling you to help.

Throughout humanity’s journey with God there have been various ways to connect with God, and to try to find God’s desire for his people, and let’s be honest, to try to garner God’s attention for something they were going through. 

In the book of Isaiah, the same people who are wanting to connect with God are going about it all wrong, and they receive a rebuke.

Isaiah 58:6 – 9

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

According to this passage to garner God’s attention we set people free from bondage, we share with the least of these AND we do not turn from our family.

So how can we be faithful to this challenge?  How can we have healthy boundaries and still make a difference in our family?  How can we be like Christ as we interact with those who have potentially hurt us?

Take personal inventory

For those in healthy relationships with your family, how can we better serve and build up our family?

For those who are in rebuilding mode with our family, assess the progress we are making in making amends and walking in forgiveness?

For those who being around family is toxic, and leads towards destructive patterns, can we acknowledge what parts are ours to own and what parts belong to others to own?

But no matter your current status let’s all take this passage to heart as we take inventory:

In some of my relationships I am strong and can serve that person in a way that is pleasing to Christ, and in other relationships I am weak.  I am negative and add to the toxicity of the relationship, and that makes me weak.  

Romans 15:1-7 – We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Take charge of decisions

Is it just me, or does something magically happen when you walk back into your parents’ house?  I somehow go from a grown man with my own family, to a son who wants to lay around and have my mom do things for me.  NO?!  Just me?!

Family relationships cause us to have familial patterns of behavior.

The truth is, our family behavior patterns often dictate how we navigate through our lives. We learn from our family—mostly our parents—how to parent and manage stress. Without our conscious awareness, what we learned in our families influences our thinking patterns, as well as how we respond to a variety of stimuli. 

– Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Some of us are keenly aware of these patterns and others of us are not.  But in light of Jesus, whether we are exploring faith or have made a decision to follow him, we are called to upend those family patterns and to create new ones.

Ephesians 4:29 -32 :29  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

I know this can be very difficult for many of us who have faced trauma.  But my encouragement to you is that as you are healing up, and getting stronger, the true sign of spiritual strength is to be able to love/serve/give proactively no matter the response on the other end.

Romans 5:6-8 – For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I know the proverbial “What Would Jesus Do” is met with “Well, I’m not Jesus!”  I get that, and no, we are not Jesus.  But we are called into freedom because of the work of Jesus, we are challenged to grow and be like Jesus, and then Jesus himself says that we can do greater things than he did.  You are not powerless…you are powerful!

Create the home/family we want

I questioned if I should title point 3 this way.  To say “create the home/family we want” lends itself to make it about us.  “Well, I prefer for my family to do X, Y and Z.”  No, if you follow the progression of what we are talking about, and not listen to this message in soundbites, you will see a full context take shape. 

If we #1 take inventory and walk in self awareness, then we #2 take ownership of our decision making, then #3 give us eyes to see and ears to hear how we should craft a home/family that is beneficial to others. We should want for others to enjoy being in our family, coming to our home, but if we only make it about ourselves, we begin to marginalize and push people out of the very family we created.

“Maybe part of why God lets us see so clearly the imperfections of the characters of the Bible is so that we can more clearly recognize our own.  In one Hasidic story a man of great wealth visits a rabbi and confesses that secretly, despite his riches, he is miserable.  The rabbi asks him what he sees when he looks out the window, and the man tells him, “People, People walking by.” 

Then the rabbi asks what he sees in the mirror, and the man says, “I see myself.” 

“Perhaps that is the problem,” the rabbi says.  “Notice that in the window there is glass, and in the mirror there is glass.  But as soon as a little silver is added, you cease to see others and see only yourself.”

– From John Ortberg’s book All the Places To Go

The more value a family begins to have to us, the more we will have a tendency to control the outcome.   

What do you want your family to feel like?

But I can tell you this, God’s desire is for you to have a home that looks like Jesus. 

  • One where we are pioneers of peace
  • Purveyors of His promise
  • Lobbyist for his love
  • An undying desire for unity. 

I know that seems far-fetched, but it isn’t…it just takes time and intentionality. 

Home reminds us of what we could/should be, and filtered out what we deserved to receive in return. 

Our homes were the only place we could breathe deep and replenish before going back into short breaths while trying to avoid the sharks.

Our parents somehow knew that we needed to know that it only took a quarter to have access to home.  The price of admission to return home was minimal…it just meant saying, “I need to come home.”

This is what God wants for all of us. 

For us to create a space, a family, that shelters us from the prevailing winds of life, one that loves people towards the love of Jesus, even if they don’t even know Jesus. 

It’s what we want to be as a church family. 

We want you to explore faith here and belong before you ever believe. 

I know family can trigger us, but it’s also a design God gave to heal us.  Whether you are currently hurting, recovering from hurt, are walking in wholeness and healing others, just know, we cannot do this alone.  We walk with the family of God, and work to build families that truly reflect God. 

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