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by Elisa Morgan
I mounted the stairs, reached the landing, and - yuck! There at my feet sat a disgusting mound of grey-green crusted yuck. Cat vomit.
My hands flew to my hips and I raised my wide eyes to the ceiling bellowing, “IS THE MOTHER THE ONLY ONE IN THE HOUSE WHO KNOWS WHAT CAT VOMIT LOOKS LIKE?” I wailed on, “IS THE MOTHER THE ONLY ONE IN THE HOUSE WHO KNOWS WHERE THE PAPER TOWELS ARE?”
My school-age kids appeared at the bottom of the stairs - their eyes wide as well - and shrugged. That was it: their big contribution.
Those next moments were not my best. I huffed down the stairs past my paralyzed children. I tore off sheets of paper towels of the roll – some thirty at a time. I returned to address the mess. I was a mess. And then it happened: shame assailed me.
When I was five years old, my father pulled me to his lap and told me he’d decided that he didn’t love my mother any more and they were getting a divorce. My family fell and broken and like many children, I assumed it was somehow my fault. Then my mom broke under the weight of alcohol and I wondered what I could do to fix her.
So, when it came time for me to form my own family, I threw myself into creating one that a perfect family - one immune from the breakage of my first family. I honestly believed that if I implemented “perfect family values,” then I would have a perfect family.
Problem is, like the day on the stairs with the cat vomit, I’m a mess. I’m broken. Everybody is. Even God’s family was broken – beginning with Adam and Eve and moving forward to you and me. So no matter what we do, we all end up in broken families. Broken in one way or another.
There’s no such thing as a perfect family. Instead of fighting this reality – and failing – God invites us to embrace it. And to see the beauty he brings in the broken.
I come from a broken family. And despite my very best attempts to produce a formulaically perfect Christian family in my second—the reality is that Icome from a broken family. Today we are messy – gooey in the middle – and I love my family more than I ever thought possible, brokenness and all. I love who they are and I love who they have made me to be.
I’ve come to discover that God offers hope in the form of “ family values”—values like commitment, humility, courage, reality, relinquishment, diversity, partnership, faith, love, respect, forgiveness and thankfulness. He understands that no one is perfect. He knows the unique journeys of loved ones. He gets it that abnormal is actually pretty normal. That people mess up and yet are worthy of respect and love and are never—ever—without hope. God holds each family close, crying with his wounded children, tenderly assembling and reassembling fallen fragments, creating us into better versions of ourselves.
God doesn’t sweep the mess of our broken up and discard it. In order to reach the broken in our world, God himself broke, allowing his own Son to die a broken death on a cross for us. He brings beauty in the broken. God loves the broken. God uses the broken. Cat vomit moments and all.