BY LANCE LIJEWSKI
Our family are gifts. A lot of us don’t see them that way. When some of us do, it’s a little too late. They’ve separated themselves or passed on. It’s a plague; a sickness I’ve seen destroy families, including my own, too many times.
My relationship with my Mom reached a point last year I thought was beyond repair. We’d talk multiple times a week, but out of her own desperation not mine. We’d visit every couple of months but it was so I could see my brothers, not her.
We never spent time one-on-one and never knew what was going on in each other's lives. Our conversations were as engaging as one you would have with a complete stranger.
For the longest time, I always thought it was her fault. But a conviction from the Holy Spirit made me realize I was feeding the tension the most.
For three years, heartbreaking tension kept us apart. I was waiting for her to ask me to forgive her for countless wrongs I wanted right, but God made it clear I was the one who needed to ask for forgiveness instead.
So, for Lent in 2016, I didn’t talk to my mom for six days a week. But I’d call every Sunday and asked if she would let me spend the entire conversation asking for forgiveness. I asked to be forgiven for things I realized in my daily prayer and weekly fasting that I had done wrong to her.
Giving up an already broken relationship in hopes of a better one might not seem like much of a sacrifice, just a gamble. But the sacrifice of separating myself from my mom with the intention to return transformed by Jesus makes this unique.
I genuinely enjoy hearing her voice. I loved the conversations we had before the brokenness. I adored having a mom I could also call my friend. Yet a lack of hope, weak discipline, and a poor position of the heart made slow abandonment much easier.
I thought leaving my relationship hanging by a thread was good, because it’s not dead. It’s just damaged. But fighting for an intimate relationship with family, no matter the cost, is so much better.
Running away is easy and common but coming back with a renewed spirit is much more difficult. No one wants to admit they’re broken. No one wants to admit they’re wrong.
I pleaded with God to forgive me for my lack of discipline and love in my relationships. In response, God transformed my desire to have people ask me for forgiveness into a desire to ask for forgiveness from others instead. I long to trust the gospel instead of my own instincts.
I am confident the Holy Spirit intervened in my relationship with my Mom before it was too late for us. This behavior wasn’t only toxic to my parents, but toxic to people I was close to.
During Lent, a lot of people are giving up things like social media, music, or coffee, etc. Those are all great things to abandon in pursuit of God. However, if anyone has heartbreaking tension with family, I encourage you to leverage this season to bring healing to those relationships.
J. I. Packer wrote once, “We tend to think of fasting as going without food. But we can fast from anything. If we love music and decide to miss a concert in order to spend time with God, that is fasting. It is helpful to think of the parallel of human friendship. When friends need to be together, they will cancel all other activities in order to make that possible. There’s nothing magical about fasting, it’s just one way of telling God that your priority at that moment is to be alone with Him, sorting out whatever is necessary, and you have cancelled the meal, party, concert, or whatever else you had planned to do in order to fulfill that priority.”
In Luke chapter 9, Jesus says if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. By fasting from certain things, we practice dying to ourselves. By refocusing our lives and living to God, we intentionally choose things that help us become the kind of people God desires us to be.
Choosing to deal with my family struggles brought me an intensified prayer life, a healthier relationship with my mom, and peace with other family members. It was the most influential and significant period of spiritual growth I had experienced in a long time.
Don’t waste this opportunity to practice discipline and devotion. It is worth the sacrifice and the joy that follows.
If you connected with this story and want to speak with someone about it, email firstname.lastname@example.org.