Written by Robbie Down

There is a strange phenomena that has most likely happened to you:
When you listen to a certain song a lot during a certain period of time, your brain actually weaves that music into the pictures, feelings, people, and even smells of that time. Then the weirdest (and sometimes the best) part is when you listen to that music again after an extended period of time. Instantly you start getting flashbacks of the place you were in and the things you were doing and feeling. Sometimes this can be a brief moment of nostalgia, but sometimes it can powerfully bring you back as if you were there again.

I had one of those moments the other day. I was driving on the left side of the road 8,000 miles away from home in a place they call “down under”. I couldn’t be much further away from home if I tried. Yet when I played my phone on shuffle, and this old song started to play, I was ten years old again sitting in the kitchen listening to my mom’s music while she cooked dinner.

Growing up had, as the proverbs would say (17:17), many times of adversity. I was surrounded by a family that loved each other very much, but didn’t always like each other. I remember getting buttons pushed by my sister that I didn’t even know I had. On one occasion, this resulted in me kicking a large hole in her door. I snapped out of my anger and my stomach dropped as I heard the dreaded “What was that?” from the other side of house. I remember crying over the smallest things, like not getting the front seat to the grocery store, or not getting the next turn on the computer. As me and my siblings learned how to play patience game, our parents were the real winners.

Mom and Dad always practiced less patience than I could understand then, yet definitely more patience than what I can understand now. The more independent I become, and the more I experience on my own, the more I appreciate every little thing my parents taught me. Along with receiving my father’s jokes and my mother’s thunderous laughter, I also accredit much of my maturity and wisdom to them. As I become older, I slowly begin to realize why my parents did so many of the things they did. It might have brought turmoil into the home for a week, when they replied with “no” to a request I had already committed to in my mind. Yet, looking back, I see the reasoning for their answers. Now I am not saying parents are always right, one thing I have been realizing is that my parents were doing just as much learning as I was growing up, just in a different way. As I was learning how to respect authority and make real apologies, they were learning how to best raise three kids that couldn’t go a day without being at each others’ necks.

A particular thing that stands out to me was our family dinners. It became more rare for us to eat breakfast or lunch as we grew up, but until the time my eldest sister moved out, we had family dinner as often as our parents could rope us in. I remember arguing time after time with my parents about staying at a friend’s and skipping the dinner. Although I didn’t see the value of it then, I am thankful now for the community they created through these dinners. Week in, week out we shared our ups and downs of our days. No matter if my day was full of excitement or loneliness, I was guaranteed to have people listen to me over that meal. We could share our achievements and disappointments together, we could share our learnings and lessons of the day. I often shared transparently about how I felt mom’s cooking was that night, but that didn’t always bode so well for me.

In hindsight, I recognize the importance that my family circle played in my community circle in my early years, amplifying the significance of intention. As I’m living in dorms currently, many times I am having to practice the same patience that I learned so many years ago with my siblings. If family can’t prepare you for living with people and still loving them, I don’t know what does. We are all blessed with the opportunity to learn from, grow with, and love our familyno matter what size or form it takes. Not only this, but I believe Christ has called us into appreciating fully the family we have (Hebrews 10:24-25). Loving and encouraging them as we learn to do life together, or in some cases, learn to do life apart.

I’m constantly reminded that within the little things about each family member that I just can’t stand, are the people that formed and shaped me to the person I am now. This is a powerful parallel to the family in Christ we have around us. God calls us to love those that we may be in turmoil with now, knowing that we are constantly being shaped by them as we grow together. Although living in this isn’t always the most pleasant, it sure makes for good laughs later, and priceless lessons we couldn’t have learned otherwise.