The holidays are always a difficult time for me. I struggle with wanting to spend time with my family and knowing that being around my family only makes me irritable and depressed. Thanksgiving was just that, we time spent with my family and when I left I spent at least an hour after I got home having to de-stress.
Growing up Mormon, I was taught family is everything. It is the end goal of life. It is the reason to live. It is the point of salvation. Mormons teach, family’s can be together forever. They believe that if you are good enough and do enough to make it to Heaven, and your family does the same, you can all be in Heaven together.
As a Christian this was one the of the hardest things for me to reconcile. It was hard for me to let go of. I love my family and although we don’t get along all of the time, and some of them drive me absolutely crazy, they are my family. But the reason I have a difficult time is because of the man God put in my life. How could God put someone like Brian in my life and not let me be with him in the next life. I want to be married to him forever! I know for some that may be a crazy thought but Brian and I have been married for over 22 years. We have been a couple for over 24 and best friends for over 25. That’s more than half our lives!! I really don’t know what I would do without him. He is my rock. I also want to know I will be able to be with my kids forever. So this promise the Mormon’s make, of forever families, is hard to let go of.
We spent Thanksgiving day with my family. One of the first things I did was walk into the living room. I had to make sure the picture frame was still empty, because like I’ve said before, this is the real picture of my family. As we spent the day eating and playing games there was, as always, a heaviness in my heart. I want my family to know Christ like I do. I want them to experience the freedom that comes with the knowledge and understanding of true grace. As I sat there and watched, I could see the sadness, the depression in my sisters and sister-in-law’s eyes. It’s exhausting to try and be enough. It’s hard to try and fit into the cookie cutter mold of what you are supposed to be when you are created for so much more! I wouldn’t say they aren’t happy, they have moments of happiness, but they are lacking joy and freedom. They aren’t able to be who God has created them to be. It’s so hard when you know just one small change in their mindset would truly set them free.
One of the hardest things I struggle with is the fun times we always had as a family growing up and the fun times my kids have when they get together with their cousins. We have such fun family traditions and fun things we do together. One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is our family Turkey Bowl. The whole family gets together and plays a game of flag football. We have a family of athletes many of the kids have played sports in high school and all of my siblings played sports in high school. So it is a fun event. It’s also common in the summer time for my family to get a game of basketball going on the cement slab in the back yard, or a game of “ennie inne over head”, a game where you have 2 teams, one on each side of the house. One team throws a Nerf football over the house and if the other team catches it they run around to the other side and try to hit as many people on the other team with the football as they can. It’s a fun game we have played ever since I can remember. We have played tennis together and an endless number of board games and card games. We are a competitive family, but always have a good time. We know how to celebrate a win but have also learned how to lose.
We also know how to eat, and no one ever goes hungry when we are together. We come from a family of good cooks, there is always something cooking or something that just came out of the oven. Never say you are hungry around my family because they will offer to make you something to eat, even when the kitchen counter is full of food. It’s been fun to watch my kids grow up with many of the same traditions. I love that they get to spend time with their cousins and have good friendships with them.
This is what makes the family struggle, so hard. There is a part of me that thinks, at times, it would be easier to just go back to being a Mormon because maybe there wouldn’t be the tension that now exists in my family. But then I look at my life and I know there is no way I could ever go back to the struggle of having to be, “good enough”. Wondering and doubting myself. Trying to fit into a cookie cutter that I was never created to fit into.
The hard part about the forever family in Mormonism, is that there is no way to determine if you’ve done enough. And even if you manage to do enough, that’s only you. How do you have a forever family if you all have to do enough?
When I first became a Christian one of the songs I fell in love with was Audio Adrenalin’s Big House. I love it. I describes what I think Heaven will be like. It is what I imagine a forever family to be. The chorus says:
“It’s a big big house
With lots and lots a room
A big big table
With lots and lots of food
A big big yard
Where we can play football
A big big house
It’s my Father’s house”
How can you not love that! I think that sounds just like my family. I love the thought of a good game of football and Jesus is the quarterback. Or us sitting around a big table full of the most delicious food you can imagine sharing a meal with Jesus. Being in Heaven and spending time doing the things we enjoy as a family, but all in worship! I don’t know if that’s what Heaven will really be like, but I think it would be amazing.
As I’ve grown in my Christian walk, I have realized one of the biggest differences between Mormonism and Christianity is, the focus. Mormons focus so much on the effort of man and man made things they forget about God. The difference between Heaven in Mormonism verses Christianity is, in Mormonism you continue to learn and work and try to gain your way to the different levels of heaven, even after death. In Christianity, Heaven is continuous worship of God. You are in Heaven to worship God, there is no more.
I also know, as I have grown in my Christian walk, the only way to be with my family forever is through grace. I will never be good enough on my own, neither will Brian, my kids, or my family. So accepting God’s grace, though the sacrifice of Christ, and teaching my kids and family about grace, that is the only way to be with family forever.
I know I have no control over the future. I have no control over whether or not my family ever accepts grace and truly comes to Christ. But I trust my God. I know he has a plan for my life and he has a plan for my kids and my family. I know that if I keep my focus on God, he will direct me in everything I do, and that’s all I can do. I know most days I’m not the greatest example to my family. I avoid them because I have a hard time with the negativity and the stress when I am around them. But I hope and pray, that someday they will see the difference Christ has made in my life and they will have a desire to at least explore what made that difference.
I’m just a small town girl…. living in a world of grace.