If I say that I am an ENFJ 9 with strong 3 tendencies, how many of you know what I’m saying? Sounds like I’m spouting military acronyms or something - maybe speaking a different language. However, these are results of Myers-Brigg and Enneagram personality tests, giving insight into how we operate. I know Lynnhaven did some work years back with the Enneagram.
The tests are great in providing some insight and ways of being more self-aware, though, they don’t of course tell the whole story. Another activity that goes along the same lines is a genogram - it’s a way of developing a family tree and sometimes noticing patterns over the generations.
For example, I did one years ago for my family tree and noticed there are many instances in my family line of parents having single children - those only children being girls - and those girls growing up to take control over their mother’s lives. I have given my sister (with her only daughter) fair warning of what is in her future.
Sometimes these genograms reveal behavior patterns, such as the types of people we marry or divorce, patterns of abuse, patterns of overcoming obstacles, and a host of other things. It’s another way of confirming that families are quirky. We all have the “crazy cousin” somewhere down the line. Each family is normal in the fact that none are perfect.
There is no one right make-up of family.
It can show the strengths of a family and it can show the weaknesses. Each family has within it a brokenness.
We read in this week’s Scripture reading about God’s intention of the partnership in a couple. In the beginning, God saw that humans needed an equal partner, and, at first, tried all sorts of creatures. However, the best partner for a human being is another human being. Man and woman were created to be side-by-side partners, living in peace.
(Note: I will be saying “man and woman” or “Adam and Eve” a good bit this morning, but do not hear that as me discounting LGBT marriages. We are solidly an Open & Affirming congregation, and “shalom with genders” will be discussed in next week’s sermon.)
Man and woman were created to be side-by-side partners, living in peace...
As we know, though, over the centuries the family unit has not maintained a shalom-filled status. In the biblical story of Creation, the author explains this brokenness through Adam and Eve being forced out of God’s paradise of Eden into laboring with the land and laboring in childbirth.
Their children, Abel and Cain, do not do much to help the family’s reputation, as Cain kills Abel out of jealousy. Kinda anti-shalom.
Even Jesus mentions that some families will experience division over him and his message. In Luk 12:52, he says “From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.”
So, how do work to reach a partnership and respect, restoring wholeness to our relationships? We are in the middle of our series on Lisa Sharon Harper’s book, The Very Good Gospel, and our question this week is “how do we work to reach the shalom with our families that God desires?”
1 - Honor the parentals in our lives. I say “parentals” because not all of our beloved “mamas” actually gave birth to us and not all of our male role models are listed on our birth certificates.
Today, of course, is Father’s Day. Similar to Mother’s Day, it is a day in our society that recognizes the importance of the parents who positively influence us and work hard to raise good people. Similar to Mother’s Day, it is possibly a day of great joy and great heartache.
For those with loving biological fathers who are still living, it is a great day to say “Hey, thanks for being a cool dude.” For those without a loving biological father present, for whatever reason, it’s especially important to honor those that have been a surrogate Dad, a role model on how to live a life that encourages wisdom, kindness, and generosity.
Giving honor to those loving parentals is one step in bringing connectedness and shalom.
2 - Gain wisdom from sayings such as Iroquois proverb included on bulletin. “We are looking ahead… to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come.” - Oren Lyons, Chief of the Onondaga Nation
The seventh generation. What a wise way of approaching decisions. If we can look at the actions we take in our families and our lives and how those actions will affect seven generations down the line, we will be less selfish in our living.
Interestingly, I realized that I have often bought a cleaning product from the brand Seventh Generation. This is not a paid commercial for it, but I appreciate their sentiment in branding and their mission in their products - products that are less toxic for people and the environment - products that will not harm the earth seven generations down the line.
What one generation does influences and forms the next and the next and the next...
The Bible seemingly contradicts itself regarding the sins of one generation following to the next. In Exodus 20, God says that the children will be punished to the third and fourth generations for the sins of their parents. Though, Jesus says in John 9 that a man born blind had nothing to do with the sins of his parents or his. I see this as a balance: Yes, our actions affect the generations after us. But, no, we are not bound to perpetuate unhealthy cycles of family dynamics.
Thinking not only of past generations, but also future generations will help build shalom.
3 - Recognize that families have deep roots.
Thinking back to the genogram that I mentioned earlier, sometimes in discovering familial patterns, we see patterns that are long-running and need to be stopped. For example, there are are, sadly, some outside forces that affect families. Economic disparity between races, incarceration rates of African-American males, lack of rights for LGBT parents, children being separated from their parents in unknown lands...all these things play huge roles in family dynamics. It is what Harper references as “ungodly governance.”
Trevor Noah's book, Born a Crime, tells his story of being born in South Africa during apartheid - to a black mom and white dad. As a child, he remembers his mom sometimes dropping his hand while walking in public. He thought, at the time, that she was just tired of holding his hand. Later, though, he learned she did it to protect him and essentially not claim him in public. He was born into a system he had not control over.
Many families are affected by outside forces. Recognizing this is a step towards shalom.
4 - Lastly - my favorite - celebrate your chosen family!! Give thanks for the relationships that mirror that original intention among partners - of respect and equality and encouragement - even if they aren’t blood family.
In Matthew 25, we read today that Jesus claims the hungry, poor, imprisoned people as members of his family. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” I guarantee that all the people Jesus referenced were not his actual blood relatives. Even Jesus recognized non-blood relatives as “family.”
And also, look at who Jesus called his family - the least of these. Harper writes, “It is impossible to love Jesus without loving the least of these within our families, within our churches and communities, within our cities, our states, our nation, and within our world.”
So many of us here have a larger “chosen family” than “blood family.” Both are wonderful things to have, and sometimes one provides what the other simply can’t. Later in Genesis, we read that Joseph’s biological brothers stripped him of his clothes and sold him - my goodness,if that happened to me, I would be ok finding a different group of people to call my family!
Celebrating your chosen family will bring joyous and overflowing amounts of shalom!
Friends, a perfect family is a group of people gathered together in love. It does not depend on the number of males and females. It does not depend on whether your kids are human or have fur. It does not depend on how much DNA you share. It depends on the love and commitment you have between each other.
Brothers and sisters, you are loved by this family. With all its quirks and imperfections. I pray we can all do the work to be at peace with the family that birthed us, celebrate the family we have presently, and work for the good of seven generations down the line. Amen.
Scripture: Genesis 2:18-23; Matthew 25: 35-36, 40