Meeting the family

Why is it so terrifying to take someone to meet your family for the first time? We tend to forget how charming our dad can be, or how gracious our mom is, and instead focus on the bad. Sure, Mom’s a great cook, but will they think her spaghetti sauce is just weird? Dad’s funny, but will they get his sense of humor? Will my sister tell the story of why I was called Grace through my teen years? Will my grandmother, an interesting but spunky woman, start spouting harsh opinions of my guest’s weight, religion, moral values, or marital status? What if I turn back into the ugly me, the temperamental one, the one I keep hidden from most everyone else but that my family knows so well how to provoke?

It’s easy to forget that, besides the quirks and flaws and downfalls, there’s a whole lot more someone else could notice. Kindness, funny stories, quirky traditions, a sense of belonging. Unconditional acceptance, and a whole lot of love. We tend not to notice the good traits — they’re easy to overlook when we’re being analytical and trying to see things through a stranger’s eyes — because they’re an inherent part of who we are. We don’t think about the fact that the person we’re inviting to dinner already (presumably) likes us, and therefore will also recognize some of our characteristics in our family. After all, that family is the source, the raw material, which helped form us.

Sometime, when I bring a guest to church, I find myself feeling this way about my church family. Not that I don’t like you all, because I do. In fact, I adore you. All of you. I like our worship, I like our relaxed structure, I like they way Nathan preaches and the way Gran plays the piano and the comfort of hearing people pray aloud all around me and the way we flock to the altar when someone approaches with a need. I feel completely, happily, utterly at home. But when I’m sitting beside someone new, I start to worry. What will they think? Will they decide our worship is weird? Will they jump if someone shouts out a “hallelujah?” Will they see me raise my hands and decide I’m a freak?

God chided me once as I prayed for a friend who was visiting. As I said, “I’ll stop worrying. I give this to you,” He replied, “It’s not yours to give.” He’s right. After all, this is ultimately His house, not mine. I don’t need to defend anyone, just keep on loving them like I always have. The endearing qualities I notice every day are not cancelled out simply because my family might be a tiny bit different than the family they grew up with. I need to relax. My friends will see the good things in my family that I’d like to think they’ve also noticed in me. So I need to sit back and relax. And wait for my Father’s hospitality to make my guest feel right at home.

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