Are You a Peacemaker?

 

In my family, we value land.

 

My father’s ancestors came to Texas in 1836, just before San Jacinto, in the culmination of their ever-advancing westward movement on the frontier.  They were Scots-Irish people who had been in America since the early 18th century.  More than likely, they had a little something to prove in their own version of Manifest Destiny as they tamed the land from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas to Tennessee.  But, although they moved around in different parts of the Republic of Texas, later the State of Texas, once they got here, they found their permanent home.

 

Eventually they settled in South Central Texas.  There, in 1873, they bought many acres of land, paying 75 cents per acre.  My siblings and I currently own a little of that original acreage.  It’s fertile land.  River-bottom land.  Advantageous land.

 

As Gerald O’Hara said in Gone With the Wind, Land’s the only thing worth living for, worth fighting for, worth dying for!

 

And, yes, they did defend it.  One of my ancestors was shot to death at the Goliad Massacre.

 

Spring in Texas

Bible Example

 

In the time of Abraham, in the book of Genesis, they also valued land.

 

Genesis 13:1-12

 

 1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.

 3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.

 5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram's herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

 8 So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left."

 10 Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.

The Background of the Conflict

My grandfather Gene (all names have been changed for this account) lived out in the country in a big two-story white house on a hill – just one-half mile from his son, my Dad.  Gene and his wife only had two children – my Dad and his sister, Meg, who lived about 90 miles away with her family.  My Dad and his sister grew up together with, I suspect, no small amount of sibling rivalry in their relationship.  Meg copied everything my Dad did.  She even scheduled her wedding to take place within a few days of my own parents’ wedding.  Dad and Aunt Meg were never very close, but they got along all right.

 

My grandmother, Gene’s wife, is a woman I barely remember, as she died in an accident when I was about three.  After being a widower for about three or four years, my grandfather started seeing a widow named Jane.  They married and she moved into the big white house with him.

 

My aunt Meg, so the story goes, felt sad that her father should have to be alone, and actually pushed hard for the marriage with Jane.  But, as so often happens, it took no time at all for Aunt Meg to grow jealous, possessive, and suspicious of her new stepmother.  Apparently Meg voiced her criticisms of her new stepmother one too many times.  Estrangement followed.  Father did not see or speak to daughter for a period of perhaps four years.

Childhood Perceptions

 

What do little kids know?  As a child, I was not mature enough to understand the problem, even if I had it explained to me.  As my sister and I played with our new step-cousins, we were asked what was the problem with Aunt Meg and why she and her family never came around anymore.  I remember feeling dumbfounded and very uncomfortable with all of the questions I fielded.

 

In my limited world, things were OK.  My new step-grandmother never remembered our birthdays, but I didn’t even notice.  Many years later, my Mom pointed out this slight to me, but I don’t remember it.  For the most part, I felt acceptance from my new step-grandmother.

 

 Sometimes my family traveled to see Aunt Meg and her husband and two children, and she always had a special hug and a kind word for my sister and me.

 

Our two cousins, Amy and Gary, were Aunt Meg’s kids.  Amy was the little girl who taught me not to fear cows – important, because my Dad had cattle of his own.  She told us it was OK for girls to have their own secret club with its exclusive password.  And she empathized with the torments and teasing from my older brother, because she had her own older brother.

Death of My Grandparents


My parents, living as close as they did to my grandfather, did their best to get along with the new couple. When Jane began to have health problems, my mom showed her kindness and care. But it seemed that Jane did not have any long illnesses, and when she died suddenly (I don’t remember the cause of death), it must have devastated my grandfather, who was now widowed again after only 4 years of marriage.


Shortly after Jane’s death, Aunt Meg asked to see her father again. She hoped to restore their relationship. Although I don’t remember anything she said, I do remember her sitting in our living room, her hand in her father’s hand.


Well, grandfather was a sort of inscrutable person. A very quiet man typically clothed in his khakis, blue work shirt and cowboy hat, he would stand and smoke his pipe and look out at the horizon at sights only he could appreciate. Perhaps if he had joined some kind of bereavement group, he might have been able to grieve more completely. Instead, a few months after his wife’s death, he died in his sleep, presumably of a massive stroke. My father went up to the house on the hill, and found his father lying on the bed.


Grandfather’s will went to probate. My grandfather had changed his will shortly before his death, and my aunt was due to get less than originally expected for her inheritance.


How It Got Settled

I can’t pretend to know what would cause my grandfather to carry a grudge, especially if his daughter genuinely asked for his forgiveness for the way she acted. Perhaps our Scottish ethnicity had something to do with the typical hard and proud line my ancestors took toward individuals, even from among their own family, who trespassed against them. According to my father, my own great grandfather, who I never met, wouldn’t take anything off anyone. And with large families such as they had, perhaps the sibling scheming for affection and prominence within the family established a trend that just got perpetuated with each new generation. That’s precisely the way the Lord says it will happen to families.

Regardless of the cause, grandfather’s unforgiveness was written plainly in a legal document. Aunt Meg was cut out of receiving something important. Of course, I didn’t hear the angry conversations that followed between Aunt Meg and my Dad, but I later found out that my aunt had a strong litigious streak in her. Perhaps she threatened legal action.

While this was going on, my dear Mom stepped in. Did she hear the words of the Lord from Genesis 13? Perhaps she was teaching on this very passage in her Sunday School class. Maybe our pastor proclaimed something in a sermon that caused the Holy Spirit to stir something in her.

8 So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left."

I now know that Mom was instrumental in getting through to my Dad. My Dad was just as proud and stubborn as the generations of men who came before him. One time my Mom told me that she had learned not to cross my Dad, but in this situation, she just had to put forth her own case. She told my father that he was going to have to do something to make this problem right. I don’t know how long her pleading and tears may have lasted, but eventually God prodded my Dad’s heart. Although I can’t say his situation was exactly like that of the story of Lot and Abraham, it was close enough.

My Dad decided to give his sister half of what she had lost in the will, in effect restoring the original intent of previous wills of grandfather's.

What God Can Do

 

My aunt got her portion of the river-bottom land in this deal.  But she got much more than that.  This land carried some nice “extras.”  Just use your imagination to figure it out (hint: this is Texas).

So all was well after that.  My father and his sister weren’t very close, and this incident did nothing to bring them one bit nearer to each other’s hearts, but the important thing is that Dad acted according to God’s Word.

Do you imagine that this just couldn’t happen in your own family?  Think again.  Such things happen a lot.  And the Lord will be standing by, if you know Him, to deliver a word to your own heart as you struggle to make peace in your family.

God gave Abraham the grace to accept that his herdsmen were not going to get along with his nephew Lot’s people.  The land was not big enough for the both of them, so Abraham  decided to let Lot choose which part of the land he wanted.  As the elder of the two, and the source of much of the already accumulated wealth, Abraham had every right to choose first.  But he gave up this right.  Lot chose the land which, to his eyes, looked the best and seemed to promise the most prosperity in the long term.  The fact that he chose to settle in Sodom is especially unfortunate, but that is another story!  In the end, Abraham was blessed by giving up something that gave every appearance of being valuable.

The Holy Spirit is grieved when any Christian refuses to suffer loss  in order to maintain peace with another child of His.  When the peace is disturbed within a family, the Spirit will gently attempt to speak to your heart, and as you search the scriptures, you will find plenty of help.  You must trust and believe that the loss you are about to suffer will not mean a loss of blessings from God.  He will make it up to you in ways you can’t fathom.  It might or might not be a compensation in material things.  But He will bless you for your obedience.  That is part of His mystery and sovereignty.

Are you afraid to suffer the loss of your pride, rather than material things?  God can handle that situation, too.  “God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.

The Ensuing Years

  • Within 6 years of my grandfather’s death, Aunt Meg’s husband died at age 49. As a widow, she could not handle the small business they owned, and decided to sell it.
  • In 1981, at the age of 61, my Aunt Meg showed the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. She spent most of the next six years in a nursing home, and then she died. My Cousin Amy ran up large expenses for the institutionalization of her mother, but because of her mother’s income, the debts did not crush her. She was able to pay them all off in a few years.
  • I have 15 cousins. I’m not close to any of them, except for Amy. She is my favorite cousin, someone with whom I happily converse on the same intellectual and spiritual plane. Over the many years, she has been a special friend. The little girl who taught me not to fear cows, and the kid who helped me form a “girl power” club became a lovely woman who stood by me during an emotionally wrenching time in my life. From my heart, I declare that my life would have surely been diminished if a tragic rift in our family had prevented me from developing our blood relationship.

 

And What About that Land?

 

The river-bottom land, the land my Dad relinquished long ago, was jointly owned by Amy and Gary after Aunt Meg’s death.  Eventually Gary moved his family to live on that land.  But for years, Gary was irresponsible in his management of the land.  Amy, as part owner, endured considerable stress because of her brother’s lax management.  She eventually came to the conclusion that she could not continue on in anger and bitterness toward her brother.  At that point, she gave up all surface rights to that land, and she didn’t even ask her brother to buy her out.  She opened her hand, and released everything she had hoped to gain from that piece of God’s property. 

Did Amy hear echoes of my Dad’s thoughts about his own earthly inheritance so many years ago?  Did my Dad’s example influence her in making her decision?  Did she say to herself that it’s not fair that her brother should neglect his own responsibility to the land that they both owned?  How long did it take for Amy to really forgive and let live about her brother’s faults?

I don’t know.  But God has blessed Amy with a large piece of land in another state, where she lives off-the-grid with her husband.  It suits her, the climate suits her, and the way of life out there has brought her contentment, something she did not have for a long time after her father’s untimely death.

She has become a peacemaker.

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Comments 5 comments

gracenotes profile image

gracenotes 6 years ago from North Texas Author

Steffsings,

Thanks so much for commenting. It blesses me greatly that someone found my family's story inspiring. That was my hope and prayer, and I do appreciate your taking the time to affirm that very thing. God bless you.


steffsings profile image

steffsings 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

Beautifully written and I am so inspired by this. You have caused me to rethink something I have long regretted and have held a tinge of bitterness for... (yes it actually was land related too!!!) I should have, could have, would have... Although there is no anger towards any one person in particular, to release regrets and focus/re-focus on the peace of God,resting in His best plans for my life, is quite freeing...


A M Werner profile image

A M Werner 6 years ago from West Allis

gracenotes, yes, even in my own family, those who have more are negotating with others on how to help others with up giving up too much, and concerned about future dealings. Sad thing is, I've seen some parts of our extended family, the "step" parts even fall apart because of fighting over the possessions of an elder when they pass. It is a terrible thing to see. Peace.


gracenotes profile image

gracenotes 6 years ago from North Texas Author

AM,

Thanks for the comments. Probably I didn't emphasize enough the sentimental value of the land. I'm sure my female cousin made a difficult decision to give it up.

Also, I imagine that my Dad, like any negotiator, thought something like "If I give it up, will it make my position weak in any future dealings?" You know how that is! Most likely it's very difficult if you are a man.


A M Werner profile image

A M Werner 6 years ago from West Allis

gracenotes, you are correct, estangement in family relations does happen in every family. Greed and coveting can cause so much unnecessary strife and it is only the peacemakers who can make things right. Sacrificing a little of the worldly to save the spiritual heartache is an awesome lesson. Thanks for sharing so much of your family's rich history. It was very well documented. Peace.

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