Relationships with family are often incredibly difficult to navigate in a healthy way. Maybe it’s because there is so much water under the bridge or that our expectations for tomorrow defy a lifetime of interpersonal history. Perhaps, we are hoping for more than one person is capable of giving, or even hoping for someone to be able to share something they don’t even possess to begin with.
I’ve been struggling with a relationship in my own life. There is a person whom I love so dearly and with whom I share a lot of history. Everything about this relationship hurts…being without them grieves me more deeply than words can express. I feel alone and unmoored as though my life began and unfolded with no context. Being around them clarifies the neglect and lack of care that I experience. When I’m there, the lack of time we spend together brings into focus just how little I seem to matter. There don’t seem to be any good options left at my disposal and I have tried everything I know to achieve a solution.
The other day, I was mulling how to put into words exactly how I feel about this person and this relationship that means so much. I’ve decided that perhaps the best way to describe my emotion is to describe how I think I will feel when they die. It seems a very stark thing to put into writing, and indeed it is. What I will miss the most about them is what they WEREN’T instead of what they WERE when they lived on this earth with me. I will grieve the times we didn’t spend together, those moments missed which even now make me weep. I’ve said everything there is to say, I’ve done everything I’ve known to do, I’ve prayed more prayers than I can count, and shed innumerable tears. Still, this person chooses everyone and everything but me-and I’m supposed to be someone who would be significant. Their absence is as real and as tangible as their presence ever has been.
After years of one sidedly trying to fix this, I find myself utterly exhausted and completely without any more emotional reserve to pour into the vacuum. Finally, I’m willing to let this go. My husband wisely pointed out that we wanted different things and we had a difference of perception in identifying problems. I sought a deep, abiding relationship in which truth could be spoken because it was safe. My problem is that they didn’t want to spend and/or waste time. They seemed to want a glossy brochure advertisement to show others as evidence of a life of substance when depth was lacking. In their arena, one has to stand in line for acknowledgement and the field is flooded with sycophants. Maybe their only problem was that I’d been unwilling to ‘go along to get along’ this entire time, which rendered me inconvenient.
I’m finally having to confront myself on this too. Why have I allowed this to go on so long? Am I contributing in a positive way or a negative way to this dynamic? Sometimes in families we are so close to a situation that we can’t affect change, because we are part of the overall organism itself. I’ve also had to look myself in the eye and realize that I own some of this ugly. I feel angry and bitter. I want more but there isn’t enough to go around. I must be willing to let this go and let God have it. Evidently I have been unwilling to come to this decision until now.
I’ve been praying and confessing my sin. Yes anger is normal, but bitterness and the cultivation of it is sin. God is also convicting me that my cup truly is half full. There are some lovely gems in that history and I have much to be thankful for. What I’m really realizing is that if I continue on the current course, I’ll end up perpetuating relationships that are similar. More than anything, this is what I do not want. I’m unwilling to live in the past and end up sacrificing my future on that altar.
I’ve been working on this thought, this essay, and bringing it before God for about a month. Until now, I’ve felt unable to release my thoughts in a meaningful way. Then this morning, as He often does, God gently revealed himself. Bible Gateway’s verse of the day was from 2 Corinthians 5 , so I read the entire chapter. I’ve chosen the New King James Version, because of the specific wording in verses 5:5-8 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5 New King James Version (NKJV)
Jesus reminded me today that He knows all about absence. Jesus absented himself from the presence of His father so that he could be present with us on earth, that he might sacrifice himself for our sin. He felt the abject misery of having his own Father turn his back on him when he was on the cross. When Jesus left to prepare a place for us, he sent the Holy Spirit to be present with us as a comfort during this time of separation. As eternal beings created in God’s image, we are programmed so that we feel both absence and presence. We experience the friction between the ‘what is’ and the ‘what should be.’ While we live in these mortal bodies, our souls are longing for something more and complete. God himself is the answer to my needs, my inner longings, and I can trust him with the broken pieces until he calls me home.