Have you ever noticed that in every Christmas movie there is a fare share of family dysfunction? Because it's Hollywood, things always works out in the end, but we don't all have the luxury of personal screen writers to solve our family dilemmas. I don't know about you, but I've experienced a good portion of family dysfunction over the years, especially around the holidays. So how do we bring peace to our family dynamics? I think the key is going in with a new perspective on how to love our families well and to recognize the things that hinder us from doing so.
Like I said, relationships with family are vulnerable & usually clunky especially around the holidays. There can be all kinds of past wounds and issues that cause this, but one specific relational characteristic that consistently challenges our ability to love are the unmet expectations we place on others. Sometimes disappointment surfaces because of an unmet expectation the we didn't even realize we had. One way this can happen is when we don't get the gifts that we hoped for. But the place that I see expectations causing the most anxiety is in regards to how we spend our time over the holidays, the worst being when we compare who gets more time with our loved ones. Scheduling and planning can give me an anxiety attack and cause me to wonder where all the "Christmas spirit" has gone.
These unmet expectations can quickly grow from just a fleeting thought to a root of bitterness in our hearts if we don't deal with them quickly. When our expectations come anywhere except from loving others before ourselves, the result will always be disappointment. We form unrealistic expectations when our view of love is skewed: "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine." But that's not how love works. Love is not a give and take relationship because the moment we take anything from anyone, we are no longer loving them. Instead, love is choosing another's highest good, usually at our own expense. When we do this in the context of family, it will still be hard, as sacrifice always is, but the fruit will be joy and peace in our hearts. And although your Christmas may not turn out like the movies, it will certainly bear fruit in the Kingdom.
This Christmas season, may Jesus free us from our expectations so that we take nothing and are then free to love by choosing others highest good even when it cost us.
By Donny Martin