I am a social introvert and I am drawn to smaller crowds with intentional conversations. When the crowd is too big, or the conversations feel exclusive, I tend to shy away. Regardless, the one thing I always want when I am around others is to feel wanted and valued. I want to know that me being there makes a difference to others and that I matter to them. Don’t we all though? From the beginning of creation, God said it is not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). It’s in our nature to crave connection and to feel a part of family.
I’ve realized that I have come to a place in my walk where I crave connection, but more importantly, I long to find a few close to me to call family. My immediate family is amazing. I love the times we spend together laughing, celebrating, crying, and even arguing. I know that no matter what happens, they will always be with me and never leave me. Some of my favorite memories that I have are the times when we are driving back from Ohio together and all four of us are engaged and talking and usually Luke will say something funny and we just all laugh . . . or the times when dad tries to be funny and makes a joke, but he is the only one hysterically laughing at his own joke while we just laugh at him but not with him. These are precious moments to me. However, I am finding, as I am now sort of living on my own outside of the four walls I call home, that I long to feel like family with those who are not my blood. I want to have connections and relationships that are real and authentic and that do not waver in hardships or the pains of miscommunication. For me, however, I have always struggled to keep or maintain my friendships—and looking back, I realized, though quirky, it was for the best. The one good thing that has come from the end of many friendships is this: that I got to experience, meet, and love many people in my life that I would have never been given the opportunity to love if I was only attached to a few friends my whole life. I strongly believe that I have been called to love many, and in some ways, it is a call that we are share—but I feel there is a strong theme in my life that I continually encounter new relationships and friends that I have been chosen to reach out to.
Growing up, it was hard to embrace and celebrate friendships that once were because I always struggled with the idea that it was always my fault that others left me. Now, I can look back and find thanksgiving in my past. At the same time, I have hit a road block and noticed that I want to find, stir, and cultivate the few friends I see that have the potential to be with me through it all. Outside of my immediate family, I want to search and find individuals that I can call family and lean on when I won’t always have my parents around. Even though I know I will continue to be inviting and welcoming to anyone God brings my way, I believe that God also want us to find people who we can call our community or family. So this leads to the question of what does it look like to be the family of God?
I know, for some, family is a reminder of nothing but pain or discomfort or . . . fill in the blank. However, the true family of God should stir in us feelings of love, comfort, and healing. Remember we still live on earth and we are just merely humans. People will make mistakes and cause disappointment, but persons who are truly seeking connection and family won’t abandon you in pain and distress, but will lead you to the Father.
(Disclaimer: the ideas below come from Bill Johnson's sermon titled, "The Family of God" in Sept. 18, 2016) What is this concept of family? The relationship between father and mother and children is meant to be a reflection of what the church is. There is order, but order always serves for the purpose of life. There is a process for the development of what we do. There is order established to bring out the best of us.
Let's look at the heart of our Father first: Psalm 68:5, "A father of the fatherless and a judge and protector of the widows, is God in His holy habitation."(AMP) This is who our God is and this reveals His compassion for us as He longs to be a loving Father to the fatherless and He cares for those whose family has died. In essence, God becomes family for those who do not have family. God is searching for the widows and the fatherless. He is searching those who are broken, which leads us to verse 6: "God makes a home for the lonely; He leads the prisoners into prosperity, only the stubborn and rebellious dwell in a parched land." (AMP) It is true that God sets us in a place to be at home. He creates a space to build relationships with others so that we may be like family because we were not meant to live alone. Then he leads the prisoners into prosperity because it is the will of God that we prosper. He is a good father who longs to see His children living in abundance just as He does.
Now let’s look at Ephesians 3:14-15, " For this reason [grasping the greatness of this plan by which Jews and Gentiles are joined together in Christ] I bow my knees [in reverence] before the Father [of our Lord Jesus Christ], from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name [God—the first and ultimate Father]" (AMP) Hold on to that, but I want to bring to light the Lord's Prayer and it starts with "Our Father" and there is a reason it is OUR father and not MY father. God designed us to members of a body, relying on one another to function together as one. (Look up 1 Corinthians 12:12-31) The other piece of this is that we are family as the family of God. It all starts with God first, and there is something about the nature of God that can only be experienced through relationships.
One relationship in particular in the Bible that is an excellent example of family is that of David and Jonathan. Samuel 18:1-4 says that Jonathan loved David as much as he loved himself. Jonathan recognized the calling on David's life to be the next King and stepped aside even though it was Jonathan's right to become king. He protected and encouraged David in his calling to be the next king of Israel. In friendship, he supports David in what God called him to be. It is a crazy display of love, friendship, support, and what family really is (2 Samuel 9). Later, after Jonathan died, David became king and wanted to seek out any family members left in Jonathan's line. Usually when a new king took the throne, they would seek out the family of the old king and kill all the family members that were left in order to ensure their throne was secure. So Mephibosheth (Jonathan's son) is summoned to the kingdom and thinks he is going to die. Yet, when Mephibosheth arrives, David bows down before him saying, "I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table” (verse 7). David restores it all back to Mephibosheth, and now he is not only wealthy, but David also says that he would always be at his table.
Mephibosheth is lame and has nothing to offer David in return, but this is of no importance to David. When you sit at the table of the Lord, when you sit at the table of family, all your lameness is covered. There is something about the connection of family that covers lameness, blemishes, brokenness, and the things that don't work well. Relationship means we work on this together. That's family, and there is something about the nature of God that can only be experienced in family. There are aspects of God that can only be experienced through other people. You cannot get it on your own because he has locked it up in people. God wants us to see the face of God in the face of people, just like Jonathan giving up his right to be king for the sake of David. Jonathan saw it in David's life, and he said my ambitions and goals are secondary in my life and I'm going to champion you. This is the heart of our God, who champions us. It is one thing to expect and receive that encouragement from God, and this is necessary and important—but to experience it through relationships leaves a lasting impact in a different way, one that is just as vital to our ability to grow and thrive.
Family—it’s hard, it's true, it’s self-sacrificing, it's giving, it's love, it's our design, and it's worth it. I'm still only learning this and trying to live it out, but I know that I am no longer okay with surface relationships. I long for family and I won't stop until I see it because you cannot become what God intended by yourself. We have to do it together.