What better time to discuss family dysfunction than the Christmas season? Truly. Recently I conversed with some of our adult children about the effects of our family flaws—-the trauma, the anger, the immature parenting, the conflicts.

I have apologized for my failings. I know I am forgiven. I have grown. We now work hard to repair the wounds of the past. Yet, I am the parent.

These discussions pummel my heart every time, because I should have been able to do this—-my most important job ever—-better than I did. We parents want our parenting to be flawless. Our children are the people we love more than any others on earth.

And so, as we talked, I found myself ashamed of my failures again.

Self-protectively I began minimizing the impact.

I felt defensive.

I was tempted to think it could be okay if we simply denied the evidence.

I didn’t want to see yet again what is right before my eyes – more proof of my brokenness as evidenced in the human struggles of my children.

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My own efforts cannot earn favor with God. They never could. If I were securely resting in this truth, I would feel no need to minimize or defend.

I would freely say, “Yes, here it is, yet more proof of our family brokenness and need for you. Thank you, Jesus, for your mercy. Now, how do we move forward to heal and repair?”

It requires great effort to rest in God’s grace.

Our human tendency is to think we can fix our own brokenness. But, we must release our pride and embrace true humility, so we can face our failures without crawling back into the hole of self-condemnation and regret.

Resting in the Lord is so difficult, because our sins are so appalling. We can scarcely believe God can love us in spite of what we’ve done. But he really does. So, when we rest in him, truly rest, there is no need to minimize or defend.

Jesus saw what happened, and yet he still loves me.

This is true. Do I have faith to believe it?

Hebrews 4 is filled with this tension in our faith. Here we’re instructed to strive to enter the rest God has freely given us. Striving to rest seems like an oxymoron. How can I unite faith with the action of simply sinking back into the grace of God, free of justifying myself, free of thinking I can fix it, free of trying to somehow earn God’s merit through my own efforts?

Humanly, it’s impossible. Like the incarnation, this too is a work of the Holy Spirit. Only God can soften our hearts and prepare fertile soil for soul growth.

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At Christmas we focus on the best news ever received by humanity. A way has been made for us to have reconciliation with God and with one another.

Now is the time to let go of human efforts to gain salvation and flesh-driven attempts to perfect our own sanctification. Now is the time to embrace the fact that Jesus came and did it for us. Now we can rest in him and cooperate with the work of his Spirit within us.

He offers a free gift. He knows we can’t possibly earn it. More than anything we need this gift of himself, Emmanuel: God with us. Accept the gift. Rest in it.

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