Happy Thanksgiving, Freedom Friday readers!
This is Freedom Friday, the Black Friday edition. While some are out and about, partaking in this Black Friday, by shopping till they drop, others are experiencing something quite different.
Thanksgiving, for some, was a joyous time to gather with family and friends. It was an opportunity to practice family traditions, eat lots of food, and overall rejoice at all God has given them over the past year.
For others, Thanksgiving wasn’t quite so joyous.
The past year for them may have been full of growth and victory, setbacks and forward motion. They may have gone into the holiday with high hopes for health, for maintaining appropriate boundaries, for showing their family how far they have come.
Yet they walk away from that day, feeling like a failure, wondering if they’ve grown or changed at all.
For still others, Thanksgiving was a wake-up call, a realization that things cannot continue the way they have been. Boundaries need to be set, words need to be spoken, and possibly some relationships need to be put on pause or even severed. Just the thought is likely completely overwhelming.
All of these people are experiencing their own emotional Black Friday.
They find themselves rapidly plummeting into their default setting, experiencing despair instead of trust, falling into complete and utter hopelessness. They might struggle with turning back to old coping patterns, or even attempt to paint a prettier picture of the past than is the reality (a concept I discuss in the article “Craving Egypt“).
Freedom no longer feels attainable, and we wonder if we put in all this effort for nothing.
Before you make any rash decisions, wait.
Pause. Take a breath.
There is still hope.
When we experience the petri dish that often is our family, it is normal to fall back in to old patterns of relating. We revert to the way we’ve always interacted because that’s what we know.
Egypt was all the Israelites knew as they wandered in the wilderness. The promised land? They could only guess what that would be like. But Egypt, despite being slavery, felt familiar. Familiar was comfortable for them.
Even unhealthy patterns of relating can have their own level of comfort, even in the midst of their discomfort. That may seem odd, but this is why people generally fall into certain roles within the family. That role, healthy or unhealthy, becomes familiar. The reactions of other to that role, good or bad, is predictable. If one tries to fit into a new role, people react in new ways. Conflict creates a new type of discomfort. Thus, we often revert back to our unhealthy role with its own discomfort and chaos because at least that discomfort is predictable.
This is also why we often revert to our destructive coping mechanisms. The pain they bring is at least familiar. The pain of growth and change, as we strive to let go of those damaging patterns, is new pain.
The distress of trying to break into new patterns is also new, but necessary, pain. Just as believers need to learn to walk in freedom in our journey of faith, we also need to learn to walk in freedom in the ways we relate to our families.
What can we do to avoid another emotional Black Friday?
1. Remember what God has done. Pull out your encouragement file. Grab your journal and your Bible to recognize who He is and what He’s done in your life and the lives of others.
2. Recognize what happened and still needs to happen. Ask your Source to show you with His eyes what really happened on Thanksgiving. Ask for His perspective. Was there a moment when a boundary was crossed that you should have left the room or stood up for yourself somehow? Was there a time you did stand up for yourself where you should have been silent, that the energy you used was like throwing your emotional pearls to the pigs? Did things really go as well as could be expected or hoped for, and yet it was simply your perception or expectations that were off? What boundaries need to be set and what healing needs to take place?
3. Reflect on what God can do. Look back on your stones of remembrance, the ways God has shown Himself strong and faithful in your life. Practice gratitude. Find something to give thanks for. Put your hope in Him based on His character, His love for His children, and His desire to bless you richly. He desires that you become who He created you to be even more than you do! And finally, choose to trust Him.
Even today can be turned around. Make one good choice. Choose to turn to God and not self-medication. Choose to call a friend and not isolate. Choose to share how you are feeling, out loud, to God rather than stuff it down with too much pie.
Choose freedom. My prayers are with you.