I have more families than I can count. I have a literal family. I’ve had a few church families throughout the years. When my children were toddlers, I had a mothers’ group family. One especially close to my heart is my SICC camp family. The faces in that one have changed through the years, but all of them are still family.
Looking back, I see the importance of each family group in specific times in my life. My literal family has helped shape who I am from the beginning. My moms’ group family helped me navigate the tough toddler years. Though each church family has impacted my life, my Scottsboro church family was there when I needed a little more spiritual encouragement and love. I owe them greatly for helping me find joy in serving. My camp family, well, I can’t even begin to tell you what it means to me. I can’t imagine my life without each member. They’ve been there since I was six months old, and they play a part in many of my best memories and most of my spiritual development.
Recently, God has added to my family list. In this new writing adventure, He has gifted me with two amazing groups. One is a local Christian Writers’ group. God has used this group to motivate, challenge, and encourage me. We have fun, but we also prioritize growth in our writing. They helped me review and prepare Faith’s Journey to be sent to publishers. They were the first people to know about and celebrate with me when I got the contract for publication.
My other new writing family is made up of the Mantle Rock Publishing authors. I’ve never actually met any of the people in this family. We talk only through social media. But this amazing group has taken me in as one of their own. They’ve answered questions and given tips on everything from using social media to running a book launch party. We cheer each other on and learn from each other. Some have been in the family a long time, but others are relative new comers like me. It doesn’t matter. We all have something to add to the family.
That’s the great thing about chosen families. They each have a special place and fill a special purpose in my life. Each member adds their own unique twist to the family unit. They contribute something special that no one else could give in quite the same way. And, hopefully, I bring something of worth to each of them too. We make each other better, stronger. That’s what family is supposed to do.
That’s also what the church is supposed to do. God didn’t create us to work independently of each other. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 are two of several scriptures that compare believers to a body. Each body part is unique in what it does and how it does it. Each body part is necessary to the health of the body. It’s why we are encouraged not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). We were made to teach and encourage each other. We are meant to rejoice and cry with each other. When we show love to each other the way God intended, the world sees it and amazing things can happen. The first chapter of Acts details many times that God worked through His people and the result was an increase in believers. What starts off each of those miraculous times of ministry? Unity. The church was unified as one family of believers.
So what keeps us from working that way now? Why do so many believers choose to strike out on their own rather than being part of a body? It’s because our church families are like our literal families. If you have siblings, you know what I’m talking about. It’s hard to live without conflict in close quarters with people who are vastly different in personality and likes and dislikes. Sometimes, jealousy creates sibling rivalry. How can we admit our sibling’s idea is a good one? Won’t that mean our own idea wasn’t a good one? Why does that family member always seem to do the one thing they know bothers us worse than anything else? Rather than holding tight to the things that unite our family, we let the differences deplete our patience, tearing us apart.
The things that creep into our literal families also threaten our chosen families, even spiritual families. What God designed to be one healthy body working in love and showing the world a different way to live, becomes a body riddled with the disease of sin. The family God gives us for our good becomes so dysfunctional that family members become estranged. As members strike out on their own, there are two losses. The person that leaves loses opportunity for the support and encouragement God meant for them to have. The ones that stay lose a little more of their ability to impact the world for God as the world judges them to be no different than everyone else. And who wants to be part of a dysfunctional family?
By the Book: Do you have a church family? If not, what keeps you from it? Ask God how to heal the hurts and find the family He has for you. If you do have a church family, is it working together as one the way God intended? Are you doing your part to help it function in love? Ask God to show you how to be the spiritual family member He designed you to be.