January has been a month of celebration in our family. A few wedding anniversaries and a baby shower. Marriages produce babies. Babies produce families.
Families produce deep love and joy but also pain and turmoil.
My husband and I celebrated 35 years of marriage this month. I have lived with this man as my primary family member longer than I lived with my parents, my sisters and even my children. He, more than any other person, knows me. There is nothing I have shared with anybody else that I have not first shared with this man. He knows what puts me at peace, he knows what drives me to dark corners, he knows those tender places that others can easily hurt and he knows exactly when I am about to toughen up and fight back.
This kind of knowing does not come easily. It has taken almost four decades of tenderness and spitefulness and standing proud and breaking humbly. Building a strong marriage takes a terrifying toll and in return gives a vulnerability so valuable you protect it above all else. A vulnerability of pure honesty and transparent truth. No pretenses, no lying, just this other glorious, broken, weak, strong, person. And we choose to love and to stay and to keep getting better at this becoming one. Marriage has been kind to us because of this choice.
Yet, life does not offer a comfortable chair from which to settle in and watch. Just when we become familiar with the contours and the patterns of our favorite place, the wind changes. As I watch my own children marrying and having babies and figuring out this process of becoming one, I realize the rules have changed. The world they navigate is different to the one my husband and I journeyed. The battles they fight seem harder to me yet at the same time, the wins that took us years seem to come easier for them. Their journey is their journey.
One thing I know that remains true; relationships, no matter the decade, are not easy. Family is a place of raw, tender feelings.
On three different occasions this week I listened as friends told me about conflict in their family. Hard relationships that wreak havoc on the new year and that make plans and goals seem unattainable. The bewilderment in one mother’s eyes as she spoke of the pain of having adult children just broke me. I assured her that she was not alone. That particular hurt cuts deep and is all too common.
Be comforted, my friend, that yours is not the only difficult family. Family is spelt m-e-s-s-y. It is part of being human. Our broken spots rubbing up against the jagged parts of those we love, causing friction and hurt – cutting deep.
If you are in the midst of a bloody battle, I humbly, gently and carefully offer this one piece of advice:
Peace only comes when you do what’s right. Do the right thing.
Deep inside, most of us know what that “right thing” is. Do the right thing.
An apology from deep within.
A change in our actions.
Using different words.
Committing to one thing or walking away from another.
We know what the right thing is. Most of the time, it’s not the knowing – it’s the doing.
Don’t give in to the voices that harden your heart or that suggests an easier way. Just go and do the right thing.
If you truly don’t know what the right thing is – go find someone to help you figure it out. For you, that would be the right thing.
You cannot know and you cannot control how others will behave or what choices they will make. It is not your business to make them do anything. It is only your business to do what’s right. Do the right thing. That is yours to own.
When you do, peace will come. It may seem like a difficult, rocky path, but it is the right path.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise … Then the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8+9