Family. I just can’t seem to get away from the subject, like the golden thread of my life’s story will somehow weave in and out of this one thing. Family, or could it be called – love?
When I was young, I lived in a caravan with my family. Those are the days I look back on with deep joy. Although we thought the living situation wasn’t ideal at the time – in hindsight, it was one of the best times of my life. Because we were together. All the time. We laughed together, walked through some incredibly faith stretching times together, cried together, ate together, sat together and stood with each other. All the time – together. We learned to love each other. Really really. Y’all don’t even know.
My family also laughed at me, because I would make friends with young people who would be passing through the caravan park on holidays with their families, then 3 days later when they left – I would cry – I mean bawl my eyes out – like I was saying goodbye to a life-long friend. *Weirdo* 😉
I’ve had friends from all over the world, best friends, so I understand what it’s like to love deeply and then have to say goodbye. Goodbyes suck – they’re the worst, especially when the people you’re saying goodbye to have buried themselves deep within your heart. You know who you are.
I also understand what it feels like to be the one to be called, to be the one leaving everything and everyone you know behind to follow the Spirit’s leading and say a big, loud ‘yes’ to Him. In a way, I feel like that one is worse – because instead of saying goodbye to only one person, you’re saying goodbye to EVERYONE. That’s the kind of goodbye I’ve been working through recently.
In the past year, God has been doing such a deep work in my heart around family, loving the people around me in such a way that it brings healing and freedom to all parties. I’m growing in my understanding of the Father’s heart and the truth that,
‘The more Heaven comes to earth, the more earth looks like family.’
Jonathan David Helser.
In Matthew 22:36-40 we find Jesus being asked ‘what is the greatest commandment?’ Jesus’ response is one I believe he felt would make it easy for us to ‘get’, yet it seems to be one of the things we struggle with most – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind *ok… tick* and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Whop, there it is. So Chantelle, you’re saying, I need to love everybody always? Yep. Sounds like Jesus thinks we’re family!
So why do we find it easier to judge, get offended, call it quits, become bitter and cut people off when we don’t understand them, or they’re not quite like us? Hmmm.. When I was a child, my parents would discipline me when I did something that wasn’t acceptable. When I hit 12 years old, I started to form my own ideas and perceptions about the world around me and even though some of these ideas weren’t the same as my parents they didn’t cut me off or judge me, they understood ‘she’s growing up.’ What if we’re all just growing up?
Ephesians 4:1-3 Says ‘I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’[ESV]
So, walking in a worthy manner looks like love that seeks not its own, with no strings attached, it looks like staying in unity so that when people look in and see a community of ‘believers’ they see people with differing opinions, views, walks of life and backgrounds yet find us living in such a rich love that none of those things even have a say in the matter?!
In our youth community many people would come, and then mention to us how wrapped up, seen, known, and loved without judgement they felt in our family. It’s the one thing we really ran after as a group of people. But it didn’t come easy, in fact it was costly. But a price worth paying. It’s the kind of thing that needs to be fought for, it requires risk, the kind of risk that the people around you might see something ugly and be faced with the choice – ‘do I really love this person without condition? Will I continue to call out the gold and destiny even when they’re not believing it yet?’ If we’re in Jesus, the answer must be yes.
John 13:35 says ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
When people look in, are they seeing a community – a family that genuinely loves each other? We actually have the power to make others feel safe around us! Through being entirely authentic and genuine in our love, we give others permission to be free in our presence – to be the best version of themselves possible. Yes. Love does that, but it also needs to grow in family. Where else can love be tested and proved genuine? It’s in family – the everyday testing where we have the opportunity to grow good fruit. 😉
‘Love looks like something.’ – Heidi Baker
Love, family, looks like something; and although I’ve had to say one of the hardest goodbyes yet, I have never been so wrapped up, and felt the embrace of family as I have now. The amount of phone calls while I’ve been on the road to ‘check if you’re still awake’, the messages, the song recommendations from students, the financial surprises, the airplane tickets from our youth family (just to make sure I come home) wow. And it hasn’t stopped! And I love it. I know at any moment, I could walk back into any one of their homes and be received as though no time had been spent apart. Our hearts vulnerable and open, willing to lay our souls bare before one another to love and be loved – just like Christ loves the church.
Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about ones achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honour. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honestly and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love never stops loving. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a) [TPT]
Wait. Stop there for a minute, go back and read that verse again, except this time, insert YOUR name in every place it says the word ‘love’.
Doesn’t that feel good? You know why? Because it’s the truth about you. Even if it is a faith statement for now 😉 So if you’re up for it, go back and read it AGAIN, except this time, insert the word ‘family.’
Switching gears; I believe this is where the rubber meets the road. A space where the ‘I love you’s are tested. In family.
Although we aren’t together anymore, although we’re not on the same team or ministry anymore, although you’re not officially pastoring my kid anymore – did you mean it when you said you love me?
Is a family no longer a family just because one person moves location? Was Jesus no longer the Son of God when he left Heaven and came to earth? If I close my eyes does it mean the sky is made of skittles?
No. Of course not.
Family is family no matter the distance, and though I can’t comfort you with a hug, or be in the room when life gets hard, or be there to take photos when you win, it doesn’t make us any less family. It just looks a little different in this season than it did in the last. Instead of a hug, it might be facetime. It might mean surprise visits, hand written letters, consistent communication. But whatever it looks like – it looks like connection.
There is a level of investment required to sustain a family – a deep connection, the kind of ‘I’d die for you’ connection. It takes time, vulnerability, trust, confidentiality, communication, learning how to best love each other and choose to hang in there and allow conflict to strengthen relationship instead of damage it.
I can’t change my DNA, and I wouldn’t want to either. I love that I’m forever connected to my family. Just the same when we were born again into the family of God, we received His DNA and we’re now forever connected to each other. Like it or not… some of you know too much.
Am I an expert? Not by any means (just ask my family). Will I get it right every time? Probably not. Am I learning? Yes – I am committed to it. Forever a student of family, and yes, I do love you.
To the family of God, particularly my Brisbane and extended family.