Fathers: 3 Keys to Connect with Your Family Over the Holidays
Last year on Independence Day, I was at the market getting some last minute supplies for our family barbecue. My cart was filled with chicken and all the ingredients for my secret barbecue sauce.
As I was heading towards the checkout line, an older lady and gentleman accidentally bumped into me. As I turned around, I noticed their cart was filled with vodka, bitters, and soda water. I smiled and said, “Thirsty?” They laughed along with me as they said, “This is the only way we can survive our family coming over!”
That’s true of so many families today, isn’t it? We are still suffering from the wounds we received from our own father, and watching our children suffer as well. We don’t know how to connect with our family, with our parents, with our children, so we numb our pain with alcohol, by turning the game on the television or by hitting each other with “friendly-fire”—you know, the teasing and roasting that we tell each other is all in good fun, but is usually more painful than we care to admit.
For us as fathers, these times can be especially hard. Some of us have not always been present for our children, or . We want to make things right with our kids, and catch up on all the lost time we’ve missed by spending lots of time together now.
However, spending more time together isn’t always the answer to staying connected with your family, is it? Sometimes spending more time together simply means more arguments, more drunken rants from Uncle Bob, or more of your kids promising to come and then not showing up. In these types of situations, we may need to go back and do some of the hard work to make our family get-togethers functional again.
As a sort of “first step” towards functional family get-togethers, I’ve developed three keys to connect with your family over the holidays. You’ll notice a similarity with all three of these keys: Come Ready.
Beloved, learning how to connect with your family for those with a history of family trauma, or fatherless wounds is a process that begins with you. Before you address issues you see happening at your family gatherings, you need to allow the Father to do a healing work in your heart first. Beloved, you need to come ready.
Come ready to bless
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9, ESV)
Beloved, this first key is huge. When you come ready to bless each person in your family with your words, your heart is automatically in a different place than when you come expecting yet another fight. Something changes in us when we come ready to bless, committed to bless every person with our words. Our hearts are prepared, our mind is on a mission. !
The truth is, Beloved, you cannot control what your family says and does. The only thing you can control is yourself. Come ready to bless, and see what God does!
Come ready to serve
So often our go-to excuse with our family is, “Well, they don’t deserve it.” But the truth is, none of us deserve the gracious blessing the Father has poured out on us. Listen to the words of Jesus on the subject:
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matthew 5:44-46 ESV)
Beloved, loving is easy when you’re only loving those who deserve it, or the people who treat you kindly. But that’s not the kind of love that Jesus came to give and to show the world. When we love the unlovable, the difficult, the estranged, and the broken, we serve them the same way Jesus did.
I know so many of you are longing to heal and restore your relationship with your family and your kids. It’s hard to love like you’ve never been hurt. That is what Jesus did for us, and that is the power to serve others that He offers to us.
Wasn’t it His kindness that brought you to repentance?
Come ready to forgive
Years ago, I learned an invaluable truth from the Lord’s Prayer:
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 ESV)
Did you catch it? As we also have forgiven our debtors. I can guarantee you that there will be people who are going to sin against you in the future. And yet Jesus says “as we also have forgiven” as if it’s something we’ve already done.
I like to call this ‘pre-forgiveness’; it’s the idea that I know someone is going to hurt me or sin against me, so rather than being angry, bitter, or caught off guard, I come ready to forgive by pre-forgiving them.
It might look something like this:
“God, I know that [insert name] is probably going to say something at the barbecue today that will really hurt me, or make me really angry. Father, I don’t want to get angry. I want to be a reflection of Your love, grace and forgiveness to my family. So Lord, I forgive [insert name] right now, ahead of time for whatever they’re going to do or say. Fill me with Your grace to love them the same way that You have loved me.”
Beloved, forgiveness is not easy. Some of you have been dealing with different types of hurtful behavior at family functions for years. Your kids come, but they ignore you the entire time, or they are rude to each other. Learning how to forgive and connect to your family—especially after years of dysfunction—will take time.
I encourage you to check out other videos I’ve posted on , and . They will help you as you connect with your family this summer holiday season.
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Published on July 3, 2018.