Chinese Church Voices

Handling Family Relationships at Holiday Time

Chinese Church Voices is an occasional column of the ChinaSource Blog providing translations of original writing by Christians in China. The views represented are entirely those of the original author; inclusion in Chinese Church Voices does not imply or equal an endorsement by ChinaSource.

One of the challenges facing those who come to faith in China is how to handle family relationships during the traditional holidays when they return home to be with family members who do not share their faith and may not accept it. In this article, published in the Christian Times just prior to the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday, a believer shares some thoughts on how Christians can handle the tensions that naturally arise during holiday visits.

Every year, the arrival of traditional holidays and festivals deepens our longing for family. One by one people take up their bags and begin the journey home, filling train and bus stations with throngs of hurried passengers anxious to reach their destinations. It seems that home will forever be our heart's refuge. Are you among the masses returning home this year?

Returning home, returning home, the comfortable haven and the wonderful food a place to relax freely, unencumbered, and be pampered by our parents this is surely the expectation of everyone returning home. Yet within these cozy surroundings, there is the possibility one will face difficulties. A common Chinese axiom states: "Every family has its own hardship." Have you had to face any hardships after arriving home?

Many Christian brothers and sisters who have worked away from home for long periods of time want to visit parents during the holidays. But the moment they think of the various difficulties they will have to face upon returning, they begin to feel uncomfortable and anxious thoughts immediately fill their minds. Single Christians are most worried about family asking whether they have found a boyfriend or girlfriend or if they are interested in being set up with a prospective marriage partner. When working Christians return to visit, questions from friends and family regarding income are also tiresome. Worldly distractions such as this are difficult to avoid. Married Christians are also not immune. Often, because of relationship problems they experience difficultysuch problems often seem unavoidable and even irresolvable.

When faced with difficulties that will likely have to be dealt with, some bite the bullet and force themselves to go home while others avoid visiting altogether. Whether they return or not, both must confront the problem of how to get along their families. Avoidance is not an effective solution, nor is it wise to return home begrudgingly. Thus the question is how to wisely face the problem in order to enable the family to truly recover the feeling of home?

At the heart of the entire Bible is the message of salvation, which at its essence is the restoration of relationships. First is the restoration of relationship between God and man and secondly is the restoration of relationship between man and humanity. Fallen man has severed his relationship with both God and fellow man. Thus, the problems and conflicts of the world we live in all stem from relational problems. If relationships can be restored then problems can actually be resolved. Christians realize that only by first restoring relationship with God can relationships between humans gradually recover. Of these human relationships, those between children and parents are extremely important.

If from a young age children have failed to establish a good relationship with their parents, it is likely that in later years problems between them will be relatively common. In fact, more than a few Christian brothers and sisters come from families with this kind of relational strife. And if they return home to this kind of relationship dynamic, problems will be unavoidable. Given such circumstances, many Christians choose not to return home.

I believe, however that parents whose children have been away from home for a long time, particularly if they are the only child, naturally will long to see their children. Holidays do not come around often, and as such children should feel obligated to visit, and demonstrate a bit of filial piety to bring comfort to parents gradually advancing in years. But, how can we do away with the various problems that come with returning home?

Firstly, there must be clarity concerning the priority in visiting family. This is extremely important. For Christians returning home to reconnect with parents, the focus should be restoring relationships with parents and family. This means deepening relationships with parents, becoming more united in love and growing closer to one another. This is the focus. No matter what kind of environment we encounter, if this can be the perpetual focus in the heart of a Christian, and if our faith can be strengthened to unceasingly beseech the Lord to make a way, I believe the trivial matters that weigh us down will not influence the purpose of returning home.

For many Christians returning home, however, mistaken priorities create an inability to handle relationships with family. When various and chaotic circumstances arise it is very hard to remain joyful, and even more difficult to guard our hearts and minds all of which will likely lead to discord within the family. If there is a very clear goal in mind prior to returning home, then even if the time at home is not that successful, God will slowly and gradually open the door for more amicable relationships with family members. After all, relationships are established one step at a time, not suddenly transformed to be better.

Of course, for some brothers and sisters the problem of finance must be taken into consideration. It is difficult to face parents and family when one has little money. The crux of these problems, however, still lies in whether you yourself understand where God's focus lies. Indeed, God shepherds people because he desires to continually reconcile humanity to himself and restore relationships among mankind. Once relationships are restored, I believe that other problems will be cast off and lose their potency. When priorities are clear, we will become more relaxed and free and will not be bound up by small problems.

If we are able obtain a deeper relationship with parents and family, I believe that all the difficulties we experienced during the process would have been worth it. May Christian brothers and sisters returning home this holiday be blessed and may they be able to carry God's blessing, maintain proper focus, face family with wisdom, fix their eyes only on God's will, and trust that everything that will be experienced is part of Gods perfect plan.

Original article: 中秋国庆长假回家 基督徒如何处理和家人关系? 

Image source: Chinese Dumplings, by Clement Belleudy, via Flickr

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