As we continue our series in relationships, we want to know how we can make our current relationships more meaningful and satisfying.
Exploring our past gives us information about what we bring with us into our present day relationships. We may not always find the answers we want, but we find enough clues to help re-direct, fix or change courses today.
Patterns are repeated from generation to generation.
Children growing up with an alcoholic parent are only too aware of how destructive addictions can have on the family. They swear they won’t repeat the same mistakes. Yet, more times than we want to recognize, children growing up in alcoholic families end up marrying an alcoholic or someone with an addictive personality.
We repeat what we are familiar with. It is what we know. To keep from repeating them, we need to have new information to work with.
Remembering those good times
We often forget the positive experiences we had growing up. There were those times when we knew we were loved and appreciated, complimented or encouraged. Who were involved in these affirming experiences?
But as we grab hold of understanding our past, we can let go of those parts that hold us hostage and keep us from swinging free into tomorrow.
My son was born without the muscles to hold up his head. A special brace was designed just for him so he could learn to walk and do all the things every kid does. It had a metal rod that went up the back and was anchored around his waist and around his forehead to hold the head up.
He never let his brace or lack of muscles deter him from grabbing hold of life and swinging into the unknown. He let go of anything that kept him grounded and swung freely.
Handicaps of any kind do not need to deter us. Difficult childhood experiences of neglect, lack of love, favoritism, alcoholism, rejection, abandonment or abuse can feel like handicaps. They can make us feel as though we are trapped in an ongoing cycle of shame, anger, self doubt or depression. But these nor any other handicaps need to keep us imprisoned to a past or unable to find hope for the future.
Let’s create a rope we can grab hold of and swing to a new way of doing things.
Years ago, I facilitated many parenting classes for Kaiser Permanente Health Education. We helped parents identify the needs of their children and the importance of establishing rules, structure and communication within the family.
If children know what is expected of them, they will know how to comply. They will understand the consequences of their choices, good or bad and know that they are making those choices.
When children are unsure, there is an undercurrent of not knowing what to do.
One way for parents to set rules and structure is to do hold periodic family meetings. In these meetings kids are able to give their input while parents make the final decisions. Here rules and responsibilities can be discussed and chores and household tasks set for everyone. It is here where the family can discuss vacation options and review different outside schedules.
Do you remember when you were a teen and couldn’t wait to leave home? You couldn’t wait to live life the way you wanted to and didn’t want anybody telling you what you could or could not do.
Kids often can’t wait to leave home, establish their own rules and leave behind sibling rivalry, jealousies and what they might view as ongoing conflicts with their parents.
But like it or not, we take our families of origin with us. We can’t run away from them.
And whether we like it or not, we often end up repeating the behaviors we saw modeled – good or bad – even if we desperately want to do things different.
For those fortunate to grow up in nurturing and caring homes, we will have the support of our families as we leave home. We still want to be on our own, but will be able to appreciate the sacrifices and values and discipline we had as kids especially when we start our own families.
But for those who grew up in less than nurturing environments, were subjected to emotional or physical abuse, leaving home represents freedom from neglect and less than favorable family dynamics. They want to remove themselves as far as possible from their family of origin.
What is the earliest memory you have as a child and the relationships you had? Was it pleasant or sad?
We are shaped and molded by people and events as we grow up.
The experiences we had as a child affect our relationships as an adult.
Max Lucado in one segment of “Traveling Light for Mothers” writes about a “wedding reenactment” they did at his church. In this staged drama the thoughts of the bride and groom were revealed to those watching as they stood before the pastor and the altar.
Each had armloads full of “excess baggage” of “guilt, anger, arrogance, and insecurities” they were bringing with them to this new relationship.
Each believed they were marrying the person who would help them carry or relieve them of their load, and would take care of them.
As they stood before the congregation, their “baggage”, typically unseen, was piled high around them.
“You always try to pin the blame on me. If you stayed home once in awhile instead of going golfing, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“Oh, and how about you – you are always out with your girlfriends shopping again…. ”
And round and round and round it goes. And we end up with two angry people who continue to find ways to attack, defend and destroy each other.
Have you ever found yourself in such a situation? The anger we feel is intensified as we go along. We dig in our heels believing we are right and refuse to budge.
How did we get into this conflict in the first place? And how do we get out of it? Everybody wants their needs met. Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to be liked and appreciated and respected and….. and the list goes on.
Would you see Him as stern – unforgiving – waiting for you to screw up? How does your perception of God influence your relationship with Him? Does it bring you closer or keep you at a distance?
In “The Shack,” by Wm. Paul Young, the main character, Mack, receives a simple typewritten letter in the mail telling “Mackenzie” that he had been missed and if he wanted to get together, he “would be at the shack next weekend”. It was signed “Papa”.
On his quest to overcome the sadness Mack continued to experience after the death of his daughter, he decides to take a trip back to the scene of the crime where his daughter had been snatched by a predator during a family camping trip and was murdered. On the way he meets with an accident and Mack discovers himself at “the shack” where he comes face to face with God.
And the journey begins.
What would you do or say if you came face to face with God, especially if He was totally different than you had envisioned Him? What would you do if He greeted you with love, a hug, excited to see you and with an invitation to join Him for dinner? What if He laughed and saw His world with eyes of positive expectation? In fact, what if He was a She?
Can you laugh when your expectations of life have been turned upside down and you wonder how you will handle what has just been given to you – when the world you expected to be one way has been changed forever?
Yes you can. But maybe not immediately.
When my husband and I took our third child home from the hospital after he was born, it was with joy and excitement as he was a husky, healthy ten-pound baby boy. However, by six months we knew something wasn’t right as he was still unable to hold up his head.
Many months later, we again took our son home from another hospital after extensive tests and a weeklong stay. Only this time we were in shock.
The final diagnoses was that Don had cerebral palsy of the worst magnitude (a-mi-tonic-quadriplegic was what we heard). We were instructed to have a brace designed for him as quickly as possible so he might have a chance to walk.
They didn’t give us have much hope of him having a functioning brain: in fact, they gave little hope of him able to accomplish anything.
Laughter is not just good for the soul – it is vital for our overall health – mental, psychological, spiritual and physical.
“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” Voltaire, French Philosopher
Are there really health benefits to laughter, other than it feels good in the moment? Yes there is and it is confirmed not only through scripture and sages of the past, but also from medical research. Unchecked long held stresses over time contribute to illness.
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Proverbs 17:22
Laughter releases the hormones that heal our physical body and strengthens our heart and immune system. Hearty laughter exercises our heart – lowers blood pressure, gives our lungs a workout, releases tension in all parts of our body and releases opiates in our blood system giving us a high – a lift.