Does everyone have a favorite aunt? I do. Although living over an hour away has kept us from being as close, she has a special place in my life. She’s fun loving, with a quirky sense of humor that I relate to. She’s celebrated with me at every milestone from going to prom to getting married and having children. But it’s more than that. She’s been there in the rough times too. In high school when I faced my first real broken heart, she let me crash at her place for the weekend. She didn’t try to explain it away as kid feelings. She accepted my hurt for what it was, and she let me feel it.
That weekend we wrote a country song full of angst and drama, like great country songs should be. The resulting song was iffy, but we had a lot of great laughs and memories. It was enough to help me see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it reinforced the special relationship I have with my mom’s sister.
Only my mom doesn’t have a sister. Technically, she’s my mom’s best childhood friend. And she is, without question, family.
We aren’t family by blood, but by choice, by love. We come together to share good times and are there to help through the bad ones. Like blood family, we have our ups and downs, but we’re always there for each other. And couldn’t we all use more people like that in our lives?
Cindy and Erin Woodsmall understand this concept. It’s evident in the lives of the characters in The Gift of Christmas Past. Two of the main characters are products of the foster care system. Without biological family, they turn to each other, forming an unbreakable bond. Their family grows as they love the needy around them. Whether it’s a family struggling to make ends meet and care for their speech delayed toddler or an elderly woman trying to raise her troubled grandson, Hadley and Elliott aren’t afraid to care in practical ways. They never have a lot, but they give freely of themselves to make life better for those around them.
When hurts surface through renewed ties to people from their past, they don’t let it stop them. They face the prejudices and misconceptions head on. They keep loving people, and their world is made better because of it. Their family is a mismatched group, but the bond they share goes far deeper than blood.
It should be like this for believers. Several scriptures compare Christians to one body with many parts working together for everyone’s good. In Acts, the newly formed church pooled their resources and took care of each other’s needs. Philippians 2 reminds us to look out for the interests of others and not only ourselves, and Romans 12 implores us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn”. This is what Jesus meant when He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
It begins with our places of worship. God has given us a specific group of people with a variety of personalities and problems. He intends for us to teach, pray for, and encourage each other. When we love those we worship with, we become family.
As we live out love with them, it spills out our church doors. It reaches other church families around us. But it doesn’t stop there. When believers start loving like Jesus loved, lives begin to change outside the church too. Those who might never step foot in a church see God clearly through us. Some will come to embrace God for the first time, and our family will grow again. With a shared passion to live the way our Savior lived, we become a spiritual family bound by God. And I can’t imagine a better family than that.
By the Book: Take time to appreciate the family you have. Choose a biological, chosen, and spiritual family member to lift up in prayer this week. Go the extra mile and send them a card or note letting them know you’re thinking of them.