Sunday, March 30, 2014

Family Wholeness

I grew up with three older brothers.
While entirely complicated, they were still men. Life was fairly simple and understood.

And then they got married.

Suddenly family vacations were filled with girls. Girls who took longer than me to get ready, girls who wore dresses, girls who laid out on the beach and didn't spend as much time as we did in the ocean body surfing or throwing the frisbee around. Girls who were needy of my brother's attention...always.

I remember being filled with despair the moment I realized how different my family had become. Estrogen now outnumbered the testosterone in the family and I didn't know how to handle the new imbalance. I think I probably even cried about it (which is ironic, I realize...).

Part of my despair came from feeling like I was really different than the new additions to my family and I was unsure of how to welcome them in and relate. I suddenly felt like the outsider and I hated feeling like that in the place where I thought I should most feel like an insider. Part of it just came from change and my inability to cope with new things.

This was my new family, and it would continue to change as children were added to the mix. This was my new reality and I either had to choose to accept them with a good attitude, or keep them at a distance.

As time marched on and as I began to know my new sisters-in-law more and more, I realized we shared more commonalities than I had first thought. It wasn't long before I realized how much I appreciated their presence in our family and their ability to draw my brothers into conversations and our reality (instead of them getting lost in their favorite sport's game, video game, or newest sci-fi book). These women knew how to capture my brothers' attention in ways my parents and I never could... and it was good. They brought in a new perspective and they challenged my brothers to be willing to see my perspective in a way that my brothers would actually listen to. It was weird.

As time marched on, I realized that while my family was, in fact, different... it felt more whole. That these new additions brought something out of my brothers that was beautiful. They were being sharpened, changed, sanctified through their marriages and, as a result, the way they interacted with the family changed. For the better.

I got to spend the last week at my parent's house with my fiance and as we all discussed wedding plans and the future, I saw the ways that my fiance's presence in my life (and in my family) would do just what my sisters-in-law had done for my brothers. That, with him by my side, I was more balanced...more engaged...more willing to acknowledge things from a different perspective (and even admit that I'm *gasp* sometimes wrong).

And I guess I would hope that would be true of all of us as we exist in relationships or contemplate getting in them. That, with these people by our side, we would be more whole. That we would be better versions of ourselves. That we would be more present, more engaged, more aware of those around us. That we would be more willing to look outside of ourselves and see things from another perspective. That, with these people by our side, they would be people who actually add to our lives and not people that subtract. That others would see and know the positive influence that our significant others have on us.

It's not always easy. And, sometimes, the positive effects on others in new relationships are harder for us to see when we're so caught up in the changes (like I was with my brothers). But, hopefully we can be willing to step back and allow the newness, the additions to be good. Hopefully we can allow ourselves to see how the changes might be better, even if that means things are different. And hopefully we can be people in relationships who are always pushing the other toward better, toward Jesus, toward wholeness.

That we might truly be better people when we add others to our life, even at the cost of ourselves, our own desires and our pride. Because something good happens when we're willing to really listen to others, place them above ourselves, and allow change to occur.

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