I still remember the picture of our family in the newspaper – I remember it, because not everyone was in the photo.
It was Christmastime and our family was being highlighted in the newspaper for our award-winning Christmas light show that ended up helping raise 600 lbs of canned food for a local nonprofit organization.
We smiled as the newspaper took our photos, picture perfect family, right?
Nope… in reality our family was at war.
It was an incredibly difficult season for everyone in my family. Our house was filled with yelling, crying, anger, frustration and, at times, hopelessness.
My parents’ marriage was great. They raised us in the church. But still during that season our house felt like a war zone (and sometimes looked like it too).
I’ll spare you the details, but what finally pushed our family over the edge was that many of the people who walked with us during the good times, vanished during this difficult time.
Many people saw messy and decided not to get involved.
Maybe without even intending to – people chose to keep their safe distance.
But there were some... a few people had compassion, saw the need and stepped in to make a difference.
They chose to be peacemakers. They recognized that a crucial part in making strong families is having intimate community.
On Christmas day, a man was willing to pause his family’s celebrations to support our family. In the middle of the night, there were people who made themselves available. Pastors went above and beyond to come alongside us. There were friends that chose to stand by each one of us.
Those people are the reason our family made it this far.
War is foggy, when a family is left alone to do battle - it’s easy to lose sight of who the true enemy is.
Peacemakers remind families that we are fighting a spiritual battle and they join the families’ ranks and fight the battle with them.
Peacemakers help families fight wars together, instead of against each other.
Peacemakers are willing to be inconvenienced – they stick around longer than makes sense.
Strong families are not strong just because of the individuals that make up the family, but because of the community that surrounds it.
Each of our lives can feel like war zones.
Left on my own, I can be easily deceived into fighting the wrong battle.
You and I need peacemakers in our lives – to walk us through the battle. But you and I are also called to be that for others around us – that is the essence of community.
Community is saying we’re going to be peacemakers for “one another”.
You can choose community by “bearing one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).
You can choose to be a peacemaker by taking “care of those who are weak” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
You can help make strong families by spurring “one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
As a child, I got to see ordinary people choose to be extraordinary as they stood by our family and took our burdens on their shoulders.
That experience is largely what drives my passions today. It reminds me to love those who are on the margins, to be willing to be used as a peacemaker, and to engage in the messiness of community.
As I was asking my parents permission to publish this post (since it’s their story too!) my mom, Linda Maddux, reflected on that season, “There is nothing worse then going through this and having the feeling that you are in it alone with no one to talk to or reach out to.”
My mom also said that when community does not surround families the families have the tendency to “divide and conquer, instead of stand together.”
Strong families begin with people like you and I saying, “Lord, send me.”
Get messy. Join their ranks. Be inconvenienced. This is a spiritual battle.
You can be a voice of peace in families at war.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).