Loving the Wartzenalls


Family. A mixture of people we get and don’t get. People we like, and people we would never have chosen to be with if we had a choice. But we don’t. Because they’re family. Right?

I haven’t seen my cousin Ralph in 50 years. The moment he hit his teens he chose to stop attending family gatherings. Why? His sister tells me it’s because he feels he has nothing in common with any of us; we’re just a bunch of strangers he was randomly thrown together with at birth. Funny thing is, before he disappeared, Ralph was the only person in the family I related to; he was the person most like me. 

I was a smidge more loyal. I never actually stopped attending family gatherings. However, by the time I was a teenager I’d decided my friends, the people I chose, were far more important than a random group of strangers called “family.” So I graciously tolerated “family,” but I loved my friends. And I felt positively virtuous about this (I felt positively virtuous about everything when I was a teenager).

Until one day (a day that lasted several decades) I began to realize that loving the people I chose—people who were more like me—wasn’t the virtuous path, it was the easy one. It was, in a sense, simply an extension of loving myself. Which isn’t a bad thing (friends can extend us in the best sense of the term, too).

But it’s not the whole thing.

Recently, my family got together. I watched with an anthropologist’s eye as this seemingly random bunch of people–we’ll call them the Wartzenalls–at first vacillated toward the ones they find easiest to love. But I also watched as they reached out to those they don’t find easy to love, sometimes amid hot tears and frustration. Because, while Wartzenall love might not be enemy love, it’s definitely a step in that direction.

Enemy love? You know, the kind Jesus commanded us to do (Matthew 5:43-48). It’s the hardest kind there is. It’s forcing ourselves to understand people we have no desire to understand. Why? Because understanding our enemies is the first step toward loving them. It’s the opposite of feel-good love; it’s get-down-in-the-dirt commando love. By comparison, Wartzenall love is paintball!

Still, family love, Wartzenall love, is the perfect way to train for enemy love. And for that very reason, life gives us lots of surrogate families: spouse’s families, coworkers, neighbors, church congregations. Some of these tribes might even provide opportunities to practice full-blown enemy love. If that happens, it won’t feel good. But it may just be the most important thing you’ll ever do (Jesus thought so). Why? Because it’s the only way…

To heal this broken world.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Loving the Wartzenalls

  1. “I began to realize that loving the people I chose—people who were more like me—wasn’t the virtuous path, it was the easy one.” Excellent point! I love this whole post – very profound.
    PS Love the picture. (Is it bad that I see Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope?)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mitch: Fantastic post! Would you mind if I featured you as a guest blogger on my blog, using this post? I’d like to introduce my readers (all 200 or so of them, between FB and WordPress) to your work, as I think they would enjoy your posts as much as I do. Thanks for considering. Mike

    Liked by 1 person

  3. numrhood says:

    matthew 5:18-23


  4. nancyehead says:

    Wartzenalls–that’s great!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nancy Ruegg says:

    The Wartsenall Family is very blessed to have you–someone with humor AND wisdom! I never thought of surrogate families as potential training ground for enemy love. Thank you for the new perspective, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fleur McMorrow says:

    It may be less virtuous, selfish, but some of us leave our families in order to survive. Mine was not a Christian household, and abusive–so it’s no small miracle I gravitated to the God who sees, and who set me apart from the gang I grew up among. It’s not ideal, not what I dreamed of–and over the decades I’ve made gestures to connect–but the damage is real, and there were never substantial connections aside from blood. God bless you and your family abundantly, Mitch.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Excellent post! 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Mike G. Smith and commented:
    My first guest blogger (ever) is Mitch Teemley. He’s a Christ follower, a filmmaker, and a story teller extraordinaire. The daily posts on his blog “The Power of Story,” whether inspirational (like this one) or just plain funny, combine hilarious visuals with outstanding writing, and they always make me smile. I know they’ll make you smile, too! I definitely recommend following Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. manitobamomblog says:

    Well said!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. sharonbakerholland says:

    I enjoyed this a lot, Mitch. It reminded me of G.K. Chesterton’s chapter on the family in his book Heretics: http://www.gkc.org.uk/gkc/books/heretics/ch14.html

    Liked by 1 person

  11. theburningheart says:

    “Family. A mixture of people we get and don’t get. People we like, and people we would never have chosen to be with if we had a choice. But we don’t. Because they’re family. Right?”

    Long time ago figured, there was a reason to be thrown into such circumstances, and growing up with total dissimilar characters , we learn our lessons, then we go our own way.

    We still keep in touch, but at a distance, and share memories, once in a while, visit rarely, but always present like the background color of our walls, we learnt to accept we are different, and mostly respect each other boundaries, and keep family opinions, out of the conversation.

    Yes, I also was the odd egg, they put into the nest, even Mother used to tell me so.

    I love them anyway.

    Great post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. There is so much truth to this. I love your perspective. 👍👍👍

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ann Coleman says:

    My first thought when I saw this post was, “Where did you get that picture of my family?” But then I read it, and realized that this post actually had a very serious and timely message. Sometimes it does feel a bit too hard to get along with people who rub us the wrong way and just happen to share some of our DNA. But you’re right, learning to cope with our families (all kinds) does teach us how to love our enemies. And what could be more important than that? Thanks, Mitch! I’m going to try to remember this as I move forward with helping my mom move into a retirement home. And deal with my sisters in the process………

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Bill Sweeney says:

    Excellent stuff, Mitch! I have nine siblings and we have HUGE differences when it comes to politics, religion, and just about everything else – except our love for one another.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. johnlmalone says:

    Beautiful post, Mitch. I love the compassion in this.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Jaime Luce says:

    Fantastic! Both the blog and the picture. I hope it’s alright to share on my blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Pingback: Loving the Wartzenalls — Mitch Teemley – Jaime Luce

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