Over the short life span of my blog, I’ve noticed sustained interest in a prayer about family conflict. This may be because family conflict often glares in our eyes like the sun, and yet we have trouble naming it and standing in solidarity with each other as we live with its disturbing presence. Name and claiming this reality is hard.
Thankfully, this week’s worship included these inspiring and strong words as part of the call to worship:
The Scriptures are shot through with stories of people just like us:
men who grieved, women who questioned,
siblings who did not get along, parents who chose favourites.
God’s word of grace is meant for people just like us.
There is no need for pretense in this place. (p. 70)
And yet, even though I don’t want to pretend I will not share about conflict in my family during our congregation’s time for sharing prayer requests. Would you?
We freely share personal reflections on troubling world events, we request prayer for ailing friends or family members, but we rarely share about family conflict.
However, I think this reluctance goes deeper than a perceived need to pretend. Doing so in a public setting doesn’t feel safe or respectful. That kind of sharing feels more suited to the intimacy of a small group, and I’m grateful to be part of a group where we can do so.
But that is not enough.
Our reluctance to publicly name these common, but oh so personal and painful struggles, creates a perception that those who sit with us in worship are not struggling with these issues. When our hearts are breaking because of conflict in our families, but we only see each others Sunday faces, we feel failure rather than compassion. This makes it hard to summon up enough courage to name our struggles in hope of finding the support and solidarity we need to live healthily with those struggles.
North American families are under a lot of stress as we live at the fulcrum of a society dealing with an incredible pace of change. Virtual communities as well as peers now compete strongly with congregational and family circles in providing group identity. Many youth and young adults individuate by rejecting the beliefs and community networks most meaningful to their parents. Parents feel guilty for inadequate parenting when their children make questionable or misunderstood choices as they individuate. Ways of remaining anonymous with our doubts and struggles abound as individualization makes it harder for us to sense and express our common human dilemmas. Add your own favourite stress factor here:_____________________.
How can we confess the fragility in our family lives, with their sometimes heavy loads of care, and be there for each other, without being disrespectful toward the family members with whom we are in conflict?
How do we get rid of the pretense and open channels for support and healing? Do our egos and sense of family pride allow us to let down our guards? Can calls to worship, like the one I began with help name and normalize our domestic realities? Could Sundays with a focus on the family include times of lament and praise? I hope so. What would you suggest?
“Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us, for we need you to help us find our way.”