Hope for When Family Relationships Are Hard

Mom, why does water fall as drops?  Why doesn’t the air pressure change the shape into something else . . . or break the shape apart?

It’s not even 8 am and my 10-year-old is asking me to unearth knowledge from the dark and dusty places in my brain, pull out something from a high school science class that I may or may not have been paying attention in.

My mind shuffles fast – something about molecules.  Or was it atoms?  Uh, let’s see, two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen.  It quickly becomes clear that I am not going to be capable of faking a scientific answer that is half way intelligent without pulling out a book…or Google.

So, for the time being, I throw out the only truth I am certain of.

“Basically, buddy, the forces attracting those water particles have to be stronger than the forces that are pushing against them, or pulling them apart.”

While he sat pondering for a minute, my mind drifted to a conversation just a few days prior.  A friend struggling with in-law relationships.  Misunderstandings, distance, harsh words, little grace.

Why is family so difficult at times? Is there hope for when relationships are hard?

I’ve been there.  We all have.

Sometimes the most fundamental of relationships seem to be the very ones we struggle with the most the – the ones that offend easily, exhaust endlessly, frustrate effortlessly.

This whole idea of adding another family when two become one often starts out beautifully, when we are all wearing fancy clothes and hairdos.  But then real life begins.  And we trade off holidays.  Expectations form, jealousy forms, tiny wounds and unattended scars form.

And at the same time, without even realizing, we pull in our grace barriers.  We draw lines we don’t let grace extend beyond.  With our own flesh and blood, grace runs more freely but with in-laws it becomes clogged and clotted, and we see every intention through increasingly jaded eyes.

Snapping my wandering mind back to the world of science, I sat down with my boy and we studied precipitation a bit.  

Water vapor, accumulation, cohesion.  We talked science terms and principles.

We watched water drops on a smooth surface and used our fingers tips to pull and stretch them.   We filled a glass to overflowing and watched the water sit just above the rim as those molecules clung tight to one another, fighting the pressure to spill over.

The sum total of our exploration left me with quite the same conclusion I began with.  In order to exist as a water drop, the forces drawing the particles together, attracting them toward one another, must be greater than the forces drawing them apart.

And I began to see the key to those tough and trying relationships in life – in-laws and friends, spouses and even adult children.

The forces drawing us together must always be stronger than the pressures pulling us apart.  And we get the choice of which forces we will focus on, zone in on, move our hearts toward.

Sure, we all have differences.  Sure, we all get offended at times.

We all get short sided or are occasionally insensitive, but what if we stepped back and looked at the bigger picture?

What if we looked at what we are really fighting against and what we are fighting for?

A God-honoring family that loves strong, forgives big, endures bravely and supports tirelessly – may these be the forces we focus on and fight for, the forces that will always and forever draw us together.



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