Bringing family together into the same space for a celebration is always broadcast as fun and exciting. Facebook pictures of family perfection. Status updates of what a grand time it was all getting together. Public perfection is everything in this digital age.
“Jesus said to his disciples: “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” “ Matthew 18:12-14
Bring 100 family members together and there will be at least one “high maintenance” attendee. Who has a history of being difficult … sensitive … (let’s be honest here) who is “bloody precious” … who “sucks the air out of the room” .. who is always “worked around” … who is “put up with” … who is bitched about (when they are not present).
The FB pictures and updates never reveal that gritty reality. That isn’t how we want the world to see us. That’s not how we want to see us.
So when Jesus tells these parables about “the lost”, I find myself struggling not to overlay the “high maintenance” people I know. The ones who – had they listened – would not have got lost at all. The ones who – had they had any sense of family loyalty – would not wandered off on their own. The ones who – if they ever learned anything at all – would be here having fun with the rest of us. Instead … ?
“We” have to suspend “our” fun. And when they do wander back again … ? (yep you got it) … They will be totally unrepentant. They will be immune to the unspoken “For the love of God … WHYYYYYYYYYY!!!!” And they will pick-up again without missing a beat. And we will have lost the time they have stolen from us. And they won’t even notice. And that is not loving . And that is not fair. And that is not family (except it is).
I feel sorry for Jesus sometimes.
All of us look at God Soft Hands Jesus (whether in or out of our lives) and we have such high expectations. He/She will forgive us no matter what. Will fix stuff no matter what. Will listen to our whingeing and whining and hug us all better. He/She will smile lovingly as we have tantrum after tantrum … chuck our toys out of the playpen … bite and scratch each other … name call and clique form … divide and sub divide again … And yet we expect – we “know” – that God Soft Hands Jesus will kiss us better every time. That’s what God does. That is love without condition. Even for that certain self-centred s.o.b. we know will spoil everything every time they show-up
(this isn’t going on FB is it?)
Christmas and family gatherings will soon be upon us.
Many of us will sit around a table loaded with stuff to eat. Many of us may pray to God and thank Him/Her for this annual bounty (which so often requires indigestion tablets). And many of us may play silly games. We will all catch-up with what we have all been doing. And we will sense the jaded look, the tired eyes, the gritted teeth, the “but we have to” as the day(s) drags on.
But will I know if I am the high maintenance one? Does the “high maintenance one” ever know they are the high maintenance one? And (in truth) no one is high maintenance all the time. In truth we are all high maintenance from time to time (I have a family – they tell me when I am – often more “I am” than even I like to admit).
I think that “Family” (like “God”) we prefer as a concept so we can fantasise out all the hellish bits. A perfect fantasy world: all clean and tidy with no gritty reality getting in the way. In truth nothing of reality – of living – is ever that clean and tidy.
And the word “toddler” comes to mind. How when family gather … I “revert”. I become a toddler again. Just with a lifetime of bitching to go with it. And there it is: family isn’t fair and never will be – just like God. My reverted convert bible.
Happy Christmas and all that.
I feel sorry for Jesus (sometimes)