When some Midianite traders passed by,
         Joseph’s brothers drew him up, lifting him out of the pit,
         and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.

                  —Genesis 37.28

Frost is mostly right that home is where,
when you have to go there, they have to take you.
Mostly. But what would Hagar say? Or Joseph?
Biblical families aren’t havens of belonging,
places of safety or unconditional acceptance.
Think of them. Every one. They struggle to be decent.
I can’t break it to you easy:
Loving or not, family is where your shit comes from.
Where your problems start. Where conflict is inevitable.
Where we treat loved ones as we would never treat strangers.
Home is where monsters live under our beds, and in our closets,
and maybe in our parents’ room.
The monster is who we are supposed to be, expected to be,
made to be. It swallows us.
Sooner or later we have to come home and reckon with family.
It’s the final frontier: the deepest wounds, the greatest fears,
the heaviest failures, the sneakiest neuroses
we have to wrestle with. Jacob and his angel.
Face to face or elsewhere, we have to go back into that house
and work things out. Engage in loving conflict.
Accept without yielding. Take what’s true and flush the rest.
Forgive them, and ourselves. Honor the child of us,
the one who protected and sustained us—
and thank that child, and say goodbye. Let them stay there
while we move on. It’s how we get free.
The Bible is right: family is where you work your stuff out.
I pray for your courage to go there.
I pray that, alive or dead, they will help you.
But remember nothing depends on them. It’s your work.
Do it, and even to those who sold you into slavery
you will be ready to act with grace and honor and generosity.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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