Family Rules or Code of Conduct

The Fourth of July found us at our annual family reunion. I am grateful for the fore thought of my grandparents who instilled a love of camping and gathering people together. Hospitality is a core family value. Hospitality that welcomes people and includes them in whatever activities are happening. Hospitality that encourages the sharing of stories, life adventures and challenges while praying, encouraging, loving and helping when they are able in healthy ways.

One thing some of us did this year was to follow the fireworks into the town of Union, Oregon. An online article description led us to park near the middle school while the sound of people’s voices led us to a dark baseball field where small groups of people and families waited in the dark for the show to begin. Off in the distance we heard live music and then someone singing “The Star Spangled Banner”. Abruptly, the sky filled with multicolored explosions of fireworks. If there was musical accompaniment, we could not hear it. My cousins and I enjoyed the show from the comfort of a bench while sharing stories of our past year. The moon was a sliver in the sky. As beautiful as the display was, nothing could compare to the stars in the night sky. Some of the fireworks mimicked the color of the stars but without the staying power.

The end of the show found us making our way back to our cars and looking forward to what a traffic jam in this part of the world looked like. We were pleasantly surprised to see people patiently waiting for their turn to move. We talked about how in Seattle and Portland it can be almost impossible to get out into a lane. Here, people were taking turns. I joked about how “share and take turns” must be a deep seated family rule. We agreed that it was almost an unspoken rule.

At times during my growing up years, I was frustrated and even wounded at times by many unspoken rules that seemed to permeate our home and our family gatherings. Moving so much and seeing family irregularly made understanding the unspoken rules difficult. Perhaps Aspergers Syndrome was already a part of our lives as we navigated the unspoken social expectations.

There are cultural rules that are assumed wherever one goes. Country, city, north, south, east and west have social expectations. School systems have their own code of conduct, dress codes and requirements for each grade level. Disaster could happen as a result of breaking one of these rules or intense feelings of shame and blame would also result because of mistakes I had no way knowing they were mistakes, Who knew when I was five that drinking my soup out of a bowl instead of using my spoon was such a faux pax? Or that joyfully swinging my crochet mallet around would result in my backside being soundly whacked by my uncle so that I would remember not to do something so dangerous again.

This weekend someone mentioned she liked the shape of a certain type of glass and a virgin mixture of a drink. A friend of hers refused to drink water out of those glasses in her desire to avoid all appearance of evil. It reminded me of a time when we we playing Rummy in a little town. My uncle asked us to put our cards away for the same reason. I felt confused because we were amusing ourselves quietly while the adults visited. My grandmother only allowed us to play with Rook cards. My siblings figured out that they could play just about any card game with Rook cards. They also made cookies with food coloring to use in place of chips since we were not allowed to have poker chips. There is always a way to self justify whatever we want to do. Yet God’s Word is the ultimate and only eternal authority.

A question has remained in my mind about the difference between legalism and license, freedom and liberty. Heart changes are more effective than just the behavior. Anyone can act a certain way for a while. But what about consistency? It seems to me that consistency only happens when a heart is changed by the miracle of Jesus coming into it. No good works that I do my best to do will ever be any better than the work the Holy Spirit does when He gave me a new heart that demonstrates my love for Him by my obedience to Gods Word.

Lord, help us to seek Your heart and mind as we learn to do Your will by applying Your Words to our daily lives. Your Words are truth – absolute, unchanging and trustworthy. Thank you that You desire truth in our inmost being and that nothing that ever happens to us is wasted. You take hard things and do amazing transformations in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Help us to maintain our sense of humor while navigating through the challenges with gratitude for Your gracious provision in all things. Amen.

Other things we like to do at our Family Reunions:potlucks, playing washer toss

washer toss competition