Today I’ve been giving some thought to what family is.
I know family isn’t one of those unexplored, under-discussed topics. I promise I am not trying to be profound in any way. I am just wanting to be honest. To explore in writing what God has shown me.
I don’t know why God gave me the family He did. I don’t know how He, knowing how things would turn out, could possibly see my family as being the best fit for me. I don’t know how He could possibly have thought it would make sense to put a tender-hearted, family-oriented person into a family that was destined to crumble. But it doesn’t matter. I don’t have to understand. My understanding (or not!) doesn’t make God’s decision and plan any less perfect.
A dear friend of mine used to tell me to love people “with open hands”, which used to make me really mad. “If you cannot depend on someone to stick around, if you cannot rely on them, what’s the point in loving them!?” I used to wonder. But now I know that people will always let us down, and that their flaws don’t disqualify them for our love. I also know that loving people is much less scary when God is our God- and not man. Some people will stay, and some won’t, and that is okay.
When I watched my life–everything I thought I could rely on–crumble, I was not alone.
When I thought I was an orphan, I was wrong.
When I thought no one’s eyes would ever light up again when they thought of me, I was foolish.
Every day I’ve felt like I was marching through this life alone, I have been mistaken.
And also, there has been blessing in those days. On the days I thought I walked alone, the days I thought I belonged to no one, the days I felt like no one would claim me as their family, I had no choice but to cling to Jesus. And I am so grateful for that. I am so grateful for those days.
It doesn’t matter if we understand. We will never, in this lifetime, fully understand what God is doing. But it doesn’t make it any less beautiful. We have to trust in Him, and not in our own understanding, right? I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere… 🙂
And now that I can see things more clearly, now that the dust has settled and I am looking at this new life of mine, which is nothing like the life I envisioned for myself, I boldly, and with a smile on my face, will testify that the Lord provides.
I am not without family.
Family isn’t about last name or whose smile most closely resembles your own.
It’s not about who understands you or who even appreciates you the way you most deserve to be appreciated.
It’s not even about who you spend your holidays with.
Family is about who carries you in their heart.
Family is the people who tell you the truth, even when it makes you feel mildly violent towards them.
Family is the people who say to you, “Drive safely. Call me when you get home.”
Family is who you feel comfortable calling “just to say hi”.
Family is the people who know you and still claim you.
And family isn’t forever. It just isn’t. I have had family, biological and otherwise, who were only in my life for a time, for a season. And that is okay. It doesn’t make it any less real.
For instance, I don’t have to question my entire childhood just because things are different now. My childhood wasn’t unreal. I wasn’t unloved. It was just a temporary thing. A sweet, sacred, imperfect, lovable time in my life which I can look back on, both with fond memories and with the objectivity that comes with adulthood.
When I lived in Maine, I had a family. I didn’t realize it at the time, nor did I appreciate it as much as I should’ve, but a small band of individuals claimed me. They took me in. They called me theirs. Even though I did nothing to “deserve” it. That’s another characteristic of family- you don’t have to earn their love or prove yourself or “qualify” in order to belong; they just love you. Again, it’s imperfect love, but it’s still love.
And love, whenever it shows up in life, is a gift from God.
There is purpose in the loneliness. God doesn’t waste anything. Not one tear, not one prayer, not one dream or hope or longing, not one single moment of suffering or joy have gone undetected to Him.
He knows me. He knows what makes me laugh spontaneously, even when there’s no one around to hear. He knows what makes me tilt my head toward heaven and thank Him. And He knows what makes me fall to my knees and plead with Him. He knows the empty places in my heart. And He knows what I need.
Infinitely better than I ever could, the Lord provides for me.
He will give me surrogate mothers and sisters, fathers and brothers and grandparents as He sees fit.
And my friends’ children? My nieces and nephew? My clients and their children? Not having children of my own right now enables me to fully embrace and love the other children in my life.
No longer having faces I can rely on seeing around the table on Thanksgiving has enabled me to expand my definition of family. And the beauty of that? Not only does God provide for me, but He provides for them as well. The people in my life who I call family? Not only are they my family, but I am theirs. We are doing life together- combating loneliness with love and laughter and the comfort that comes from really knowing someone. That’s yet another characteristic of family- family is who you do life with.
Lord, expand our narrow view- of family, and love, and what we “need”. Change our definition of what our life “should” look like. Change our perspective. Help us see more clearly just how well taken care of we are. Help our prayers be punctuated with hallelujahs.