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I have the best family in the world.  I am not trying to compete with other families in who is the best nor am I being facetious.  I am truly blessed to have three wonderful siblings with whom I am very close.  My parents are still living and we are close to them as well.  I have 19 first cousins on my father’s side of the family, and I know that I could call on the vast majority of them if I was in trouble.  We may not see each other that much, but we love each other, and we enjoy the times we are able to get together.

On my wife Becky’s side of the family, she comes from a large family on her mom’s side of the family.  We gather together for a few days at a state park every year and stay in cabins.  Many of our cousins are now grandparents, and we have been present at funerals and weddings for both our aunts/uncles and our second cousins.  I have performed weddings for two cousins, my sister-in-law, and a second cousin, and I have participated in several funerals and weddings on both sides.

Having said that, sometimes different family members get on my nerves, and I know I get on theirs!  We are all unique individuals, and we have widely divergent opinions on matters such as politics, religion, child-rearing techniques, and what constitutes fun to name a few.  And sometimes those differences result in petty disputes.  One member of the family misinterprets something said or done by another family member, and feelings get hurt.  Sometimes, in part because we are so comfortable with each other, somebody will make a sarcastic remark and folks will get upset.  Sometimes, somebody is just tired of hearing the same discussions over and over, so he/she says something that gets family members to start choosing sides.

Which brings me to a discussion about the Church.  In the midst of Annual Conference I had a few different discussions with different people in different settings in which the conversation went something like this:  “Why in the world did we spend so much time debating ______ when there are more important things to discuss?  We seem to do a good job of majoring in minor stuff and letting the truly important stuff just pass by without any discussion at all, or we spend so much time on the petty stuff that we never even get to what is important.”  In the interest of full disclosure, I initiated some of those conversations!  Most, but not all, of these conversations were with clergy, many who are just weary of the pettiness after so many years, but I heard the same things from laity as well.

I get tired of such pettiness just like others do.  I won’t go into all of that because I wrote in another blog about what wearies me as a Christian pastor.  However, when I was discussing such things with someone during Annual Conference, I said the following about how and why I put up with such things:  “Sure, I get frustrated sometimes, but it’s like being part of a family.  Sometimes we let petty stuff get in the way, but then there are those moments when the love really shows through, and you are reminded that it’s all worth it.”

I get irritated at the “majoring in the minors” kind of stuff that goes on in churches, but I also cannot imagine my life without the support, prayers, and genuine love I have and continue to experience through the church.  I have been chewed out for allowing artificial flowers in the sanctuary, and I have been chastised for advocating for a metal vs. shingled roof on a church building.  I have had someone threaten to withhold thousands of dollars over decorative grass in a parking island. But I have also been enveloped by prayer, hugs, encouragement, and Christian love when going through a difficult time.  And the thing of it is that most of the time it was the same people doing it all!

We hear all the time about being a “church family,” and that image can be used too much sometimes as a way of minimizing important discussions that need to take place for fear of making someone upset.  But, when we seek to truly love each other, I think it’s worth it.  My family can be a great source of irritation from time to time, but they are also a great source of joy and love, and I wouldn’t trade in any of them because they are worth the headache and heartache from time to time.  The same is true with the Church.  I really do have the greatest family in the world.  God has blessed me with my biological family, with my chosen family of friends, and with the love of the family of God called The Church.  And for all of them, all of you, I am thankful.