The long road to reconciliation: Seeking harmony in strained family relationshipsWritten by Tiffany Stuart
What's inside this article
Although Carol, Sheila and Donna haven’t met, they walk the same road – the road to reconciliation. They desire healthy family relationships, but past hurts have set roadblocks between them and their loved ones.
The journey is difficult, and there’s no guarantee of reconciliation, but each woman is striving to live out the love of Christ despite the hurt they experience.
Carol and Lisa
Carol, mother of two grown children, grew up in an abusive home and married an abusive man. Eventually, she divorced and remarried. Through counselling, Carol forgave her parents, her ex-husband and herself. She also apologized to her children for the pain she caused them.
Still, barriers exist between Carol and her daughter, Lisa. Carol wants to support Lisa who is a single mom, but Lisa wants nothing to do with Carol’s advice or faith. Carol can’t make Lisa want a relationship with her, but she does everything possible to show Lisa she cares.
"I want her to avoid the same mistakes I’ve made," Carol says. "I can’t just offer lip service; I try to live out what I tell her and show her the love of Christ."
Despite often hearing no, Carol continues to invite Lisa and her grandchildren over for dinner or to special events. She presses on in spite of feeling rejected. She obeys God by inviting Lisa but leaves the results to Him.
"I’ve had to take a backseat, and it isn’t easy. I have to trust God, pray and ask Him to take charge of her," Carol says. "I pray God will put other Christians in her life to influence her and demonstrate His love."
On rare occasions when Lisa opens up, Carol shows empathy and lovingly tells Lisa she’s praying for her. During those conversations, Carol clothes herself in compassion as Colossians 3:12 instructs.
Sheila and her mom
Sheila, mother of two grown children, has a similar story. She also had an abusive childhood. When Sheila was a child, her mom rejected her, saying Sheila was the child she didn’t want.
Growing up, Sheila hated her mom for not protecting her. However, as Sheila’s faith grew, she reached out to her mom, regardless of how she was treated. Her mom hasn’t changed. Recently, she excluded Sheila from her 83rd birthday celebration, even though Sheila’s siblings were invited.
Despite continuing conflict, Sheila has peace. "I can still love her. I can forgive her. I can be like Christ," Sheila says. Sheila loves her mom by calling or visiting her, bringing her chocolates or sending flowers.
"But I don’t have to let her beat me up [emotionally] and tear me to shreds," Sheila says. Sheila sets boundaries and won’t allow her mom to verbally abuse her. And she asks her siblings not to talk about their mom in front of her.
Most of all, Sheila prays for her mom’s salvation, and asks God to heal their relationship according to His timing.
Donna and Katie
Donna, also a mother of two grown children, has a different story. She grew up in a Christian home, married and raised her children with Christian values. Her relationship with her daughter, Katie, crumbled in high school when Donna caught her in serious lies. Katie denied everything and accused her mom of not trusting her. Communication between them has been a struggle ever since.
Several years ago after an argument, Katie kept Donna’s four grandchildren away from her for a year. Heartbroken, Donna surrendered her unbelief, anger and shame to God. After much time and prayer, she stepped back and gave Katie space. "I couldn’t live the rest of my life with the way things were," Donna says.
Donna tried counselling with Katie, but things got worse, so they quit. As painful as it has been, Donna has seen progress. Trust is slowly being re-established. Donna finds comfort in Psalm 119:24, "Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors." Now she trusts God to counsel her.
Over the years, Donna has underlined Scriptures in her Bible that have brought her hope about Katie, written thoughts in the margins and dated the entries.
Occasionally, she rereads the same verses, and records and dates her thoughts again. She has discovered that God’s message is consistent: Wait upon the Lord, and do not fret. She recently found a note of encouragement she’d written to herself: The road is long, but one I would do over again because of the lessons I have learned.
Carol and Sheila agree. They are called to be an example of Christ’s love and forgiveness – to love unconditionally – and for now, that’s enough.
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