by Jess Dahl, Resonate CWU Staff
You can already hear the comments as you make the drive back home for Thanksgiving.
Your mom will inevitably make that remark about your personal life (and you will inevitably get defensive). Your uncle will definitely make a comment about your skinny jeans and your taste in music. You might even get questions about where your time is being spent, what you believe, and why you changed your major and are obeying Jesus into a life of mission instead of following the expected path toward money, power, and success. Even if you and your family get along well, extended time with them will begin to show the cracks in the idol of the nuclear family. Whether it’s the warmth of belonging or the sting of rejection, nothing can get at you quite like these people who have known you since birth.
This coming week will be a test of your heart. Thanksgiving break and its pitfalls will be a chance for you to take God at His word and invite Him into the chaos, the free time, the hard conversations, the brokenness in your family, into every second you feel out of control and want to hide behind Netflix and busyness. Although you cannot control your family, you can control your heart and invite Jesus in as you interact with your family for extended amounts of time this upcoming holiday season. If they do not know Christ, or know him but don’t want to sacrifice for the mission, it is a weighty battle-filled time ahead of you. Here are three common pitfalls of going home for break:
1. Lack of Depth
Because of the work it takes to explain so much of my life within Christ, I have found that my time with family can be shallow unless I look and pray for opportunities to talk about real things. Don’t get me wrong, my mom and I are going to watch way too many Hallmark Christmas movies, but if that’s all we do because I’m too lazy or scared to go deeper, we will both miss out. Don’t avoid the hard topics.
My friend Amy Martin recently reminded me of the picture God paints for us in Psalm 1. We are to be like a tree planted by a stream of water, with roots sunk down deep into our source of life, always connected. So often we cut ourselves off from that time with God because it feels like a chore, or one more thing to add in. Spending time with the Lord is not one of many things to schedule in, but our source of life and energy to even attempt to be good news to our family.
How To Invite God In:
Start each day with a prayer for your heart to stay connected to your source of life instead of searching in things that will leave you empty. Prayerfully press into where God is at work in your family and spend time with Him so you have an overflow to give out. Ask deeper questions like what they’re learning, or what they’re anxious about lately. Share those same things with them from your standpoint of a Christ follower. Listen well. Ask to pray with them.
2. Defensiveness or Avoidance of your Faith
Many of us go home to family that doesn’t see or understand our spiritual growth. You may want to talk about how you are different but don’t know where to start. What if your family just doesn’t understand the goodness of God and the call to follow Him?
1 Corinthians 2 tells us to expect that what we believe will seem like foolishness to those who don’t believe. But if you enter these conversations with a heart of humility, you can paint an incredible picture with your life and how you talk about it. Find ways to share the good news of a God who left heaven to know us, has paid our debt of sin, and invites us to quit trying to be good enough on our own. Be willing to be misunderstood, but don’t sugar coat. Don’t give into pride and talk down to your questioning family, leaning into false righteousness that creates separation and distance. On the other hand, don’t allow their disbelief to shake your new identity in Christ. Their reasoning is of this world, and we work for a different kingdom with a different standard of success.
How To Invite God In:
Colossians 4 says to let your speech with nonbelievers be full of grace and seasoned with salt. Grace-filled is the opposite of defensive. When friends and family ask questions about your life, be ready to give a grace-filled answer. One that assumes humility, listens before responding, answers with a gentle question back. A response seasoned with salt means it is full of flavor, witty, it makes sense. Even if they don’t believe, talk about your life in such a way that makes much of Christ and leaves them wanting to know more. Ask God to help you to have a humble heart as you navigate questions from those curious about your life.
3. Your Old Friends
If you’ve had a transformational encounter with Jesus since coming to college, your old friends may not understand how or why you are different. You have a wonderful opportunity to show and share your faith with them. But participating in the old things that used to define your friendship will only lead to confusion on both sides. You say you’re different, but you still drink the same amount of alcohol, smoke the same amount of weed, delight in gossip, or lash out in anger?
Romans 6 talks about leaving those things behind, no matter the pressure or risk of rejection. Paul writes, “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Although it may mean an uncomfortable conversation, those old friends trust you more than most so ask God to help you take the risk to show and share your new life with them. The freedom you’ve found in Christ could be theirs.
How To Invite God In:
This is hard, and you can’t do it alone. Invite your friends who do know Christ to pray for you to be obedient and have boldness as you interact with your old friends. They might not understand, but try to hang out with them in a different setting. Go see a movie, ask them to lunch, invite them over to hang out with you and your family. Show that you still want to fight for the relationship even though you have changed and your interests aren’t the same as they used to be. So many new Christians feel the tension and just cut ties all together. God calls us to remain and fight for our friends to see the beauty and worth of Christ, showing them a better way to live. Do you trust God with these relationships? Do you love your friends enough to risk the awkward conversation?
God wants to meet you this week. May you walk with obedience as you go deeper, talk with grace as you share your story, and live with intention as you let your life speak about the God you follow.