December 6, 2017 • Life for Leaders
Lift up your eyes and look about you:
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip.
Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.
I began yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion by talking about coming home at Christmastime. For many of us, being at home for the holidays is one of life’s greatest joys.
But not for all of us. Many people experience holiday homecoming with considerable ambivalence. Yes, it can feel good to be back on familiar turf and to spend time with relatives and old friends. But some of these relationships may still be tainted with pain. Visiting our childhood homes can stir up raw memories of rejection, loss, or abuse. Yet we’re supposed to sit happily at the Christmas table with the very people who have made our lives so difficult. We pretend as if all is well for the sake of family harmony, even when our hearts are troubled and heavy.
How can we find God’s grace when coming home is hard? If we invite the Lord into our turmoil, honestly sharing with him our fears and misgivings, then he can begin to work in our hearts. Painful memories can open up avenues for healing. Relational snags can be catalysts of forgiveness. I’m not suggesting that everything will turn out rosy. But I do know that God will be at work in and through us if we open ourselves up to him.
I experienced this very thing several years ago during my own holiday homecoming. I did something that really hurt one of my relatives, though I had no idea I had offended her. The conflict that ensued was no picnic, let me tell you. But we both hung in there through our disagreement. The net result was a much deeper relationship and an opportunity for us to communicate our love for each other. I know it doesn’t always work out this way, but, by God’s grace, it can.
And even if it doesn’t, we can still find peace in the fact that our deepest and truest home is with God. Through Christ, we can always be at home with him. Moreover, Christ understands what it’s like to have a mixed homecoming. He knows how it feels to be rejected by the people you most want to accept you (see John 1:10-11, Mark 6:1-6, Luke 4:16-30).
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How does “coming home” feel to you?
Do the holidays sometimes kick up painful memories or relationships?
How might God be part of your homecoming challenges?
Gracious God, today I want to pray for those who are looking towards holiday homecoming with mixed feelings, if not dread. For them, being at home isn’t easy. It stirs up feelings of hurt and loss. It can become a source of even more pain.
Lord Jesus, you experienced something very much like this when you returned to your hometown of Nazareth, only to be rejected by your own people. You understand the disappointment and sadness people feel when home is not safe or supportive. So, I ask that those who are going home with hesitation might sense your presence and understanding.
Moreover, dear Lord, please work in families and friendships. Help those who have done wrong to apologize, and those who have been wronged to forgive. Do a miraculous work of relational healing this Christmas. And may you receive all the glory! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Jesus the Builder (Mark 6:1-6)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Thank you, Mark, for reminding us that there can be a decidedly downside to homecoming for many people, but even then God can be at work redemptively.