My father was an only child, but his father had four brothers and a sister so there was a crowd at family reunions. The one I remember most took place in the summer of 1964. I remember the date because that Sunday evening there was a rerun of the “Ed Sullivan Show” which featured the Beatles first U.S. television appearance.
I also remember it because family reunions were not a regular thing. This one was on my great aunt’s farm and inasmuch as I was just going on ten years old, I was blissfully unaware of some of the family dynamics. For reasons that remain a mystery to me to this day, my grandfather and his sister did not get along. As far as I know, there may have been other family reunions that we did not attend but for whatever reason this one was supposed to extend an olive branch.
It all started out well, cars and pick-up trucks loaded with people and coolers and casserole dishes rolled up to the home quarter and parked on the grass. People sat in various clusters of chairs and tables and umbrellas and a game of croquet ran continuously near the barn.
By the time the youngsters had gathered in the living room to watch Ed Sullivan introduce the Fab Four, the combination of heat, humidity, alcohol and too much food had taken a toll on the cordial détente of earlier in the day. Conversations ranged from politics to religion to whether rock and roll was the beginning of the end of decent society. Old conflicts rose from the depths. Everybody went home sweaty and sun burned and I cannot remember another family reunion.
So just what is up with Jesus’ comment, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” His only family reunion in the bible is in Mark’s gospel and it doesn’t go well. At first his brothers try to keep him from the crowd because they think he’s lost his mind and then later he denies being related to them.
One term I never used as a therapist was “dysfunctional family.” For one thing, its kind of a pejorative term. For another, we all come from families with dysfunction; it’s just a matter of degrees. I don’t think Jesus was really on a mission to divide families. On the other hand, he did call us to honesty. Like I said, I don’t know why my grandfather didn’t get along with his sister, maybe they didn’t even remember. Burying the truth however, never resolves conflict.
Here is some wisdom on families from Anne Lamott:
“I wish I’d known what I wrote to my grandson, Jax, in “Some Assembly Required,” that everyone goes through life thinking that he or she missed school on that one day in second grade when the wise Elder came and taught the kids the secret of life, of living to find your self and your own purpose and voice, instead of needing to become addicted to people-pleasing or domination. But that no one was there that day. Everyone is flailing through this life without an owner’s manual, with whatever modicum of grace and good humor we can manage.”