Do you have family issues that seem to hurt a little more during the holidays? Yep, me too. Why is it that the love and acceptance of family seems so conditional? It sure wasn’t conditional for Mary’s family.
Mary and Joseph were scandalized when Mary turned up single and pregnant. “The Holy Spirit did it!” Yeah, right. How many people will believe that?! Those villagers heaped scorn and rejection on Mary… because if there’s one thing religious people know how to do, it’s heap scorn and rejection… how could she stand it? (“The Bible’s clear that you’re in sin—I didn’t say it, God said it!” Can’t you hear it?)
“Who needs this?” she must have said. “I know! I’ll get outta here—I’ll go to my family. She’ll be happy to see me, of course! She’s family!”
Elizabeth certainly was glad to see Mary. What a relief it must have been to escape the scorn of every know-it-all in town.
Secluded away together, they could enjoy their pregnancies to the full. After all, pregnancy is a joyful time! How quickly busybodies will snatch away the joy of pregnancy, if the pregnancy didn’t happen in the “correct” way. So much for, “Children are a blessing from God.”
“She’s gone to her sister’s,” is a Southern expression for single women who get pregnant. Best to let this young woman go “take care of this thing that happened” in the care of someone who loves her—better than to remain under the scornful eye of those who’ve never stepped out of line in their lives (just ask them).
I could write a book about the unchristian cruelty of those who stand in judgment—actually, I’m working on one! But today, I’m talking about “the sister”—the relatives who are always there for you. The ones who love you when the rest of the world cast you out.
“She’s gone to her sister’s,” when her husband is threatening her, or abusing her, and she needs a safe place for herself or her kids. “She’s gone to her sister’s,” when she’s married someone from another race, religion, or socioeconomic status. “She’s gone to her sister’s,” when she needs a place where the detractors can’t get her. Everyone needs a place.
My friend from our mom’s group said, “My sister and I don’t talk about my gay son. She just can’t take it, and if we talk about it, we’ll fight. So we talk about everything else.” At least they are still talking.Another mom said, “My sister and I don’t talk. She hates that I support my lesbian daughter, and that stands right in the way of our relationship. I’d love to just put that aside and just talk about everything else in these lives we’ve shared for 45 years, but she can’t. She just can’t see anything else in me now.”
If you are the gay child: are you able to run to your sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, grandparent, when mom and/or dad are the unsafe ones? If they have shut the door in your face, don’t keep banging your head against it. Look around at those who do love you and choose them.
If you are not the gay child, are you a safe place for your sister, your family member, to come when they need love and safety? Some are reluctant to offer their home, afraid to “step in the middle,” of a battle that is not theirs. But this is not just a difference of two valid viewpoints. This is a battle between inclusion and exclusion. It is between love and apathy. It is between protecting and harming.
You may not agree with your sister, cousin, nephew. God knows, agreement is not necessary to be family, or most us wouldn’t have any! That’s true for blood or church family. Agreement is not necessary—only love is necessary. Love is more than the glue; love is the entire structure.
If your family member needs to “go to her sister’s,” I hope you’ll be the place they can go. Be there with open arms.
Welcome, acceptance, compassion, grace, hospitality—these are what God asks of us.
They are the essence of love itself.
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