Sara and I are just winding up a beautiful vacation in the Sierras, and that included an extended weekend where our family was able to join us, as well as a few others who often hang out with us when we get together. Our last meal was pizza on the deck and looking around at those who sat around my table that night and listening to the laughter and expressions of love for each other, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for the people God has surrounded my life with in these days. I love them all so much and am blessed by any time we get to share life together.
When family life is good, it is very good. It encompasses people of all ages that have lifelong connections, however long that life has been. It was only five years for my grandson and so many more for my ninety-one year-old dad. Many of us spent as long as a week together without any of the drama so many families experience. We lived together, cooked together, cleaned up together, and played together with everyone pitching in to help and no hurt feelings or people pushed to do what they don’t want to do. It was free-flowing, enriching, and loads of fun. Life in a family like that is so renewing, of course the primary image used to describe the church in the New Testament is of a healthy family under the most amazing Father in the universe.
At the same time I am well aware that this isn’t every family’s experience. Sara and I have both had some challenges in our extended families over the years that made such gatherings awkward and at times even painful. In addition my email is filled with people who are suffering from the pain of dysfunctional families—with absent or uninvolved parents, manipulative siblings, and constant expectations and hurt feelings no one can satisfy. When family is good it is very good, and when it is painful it is incredibly painful.
Whatever your experience with family, painful or not, we all have a better family we belong to. Jesus is building his church out of people who are learning to live in the love of his Father, so they can share it freely with others. You’ll notice it taking shape around you when you meet people who don’t hold expectations for you or seek to manipulate you to their own ends. They love others as freely as they have been loved by God, and look to share their lives in helping care for others around them. If you don’t know people like that, let God make you a person like that. Only those extravagantly loved can love with extravagance. Learn to live in that reality and you won’t need to use others to meet your own needs. Then we can uncover the glorious treasure that other people are around us, even at their most broken, and find ourselves in a family as full of care, love and joy as the most healthy family on the planet.
And if you have family life like that, keep an eye out for others who could benefit being involved with yours and invite them to join you. There is no greater environment to discover God’s love and for people to relax into his life than a family that knows how to love, laugh, and celebrate God’a life together.
Some other notes of interest:
This coming Thursday, August 18, Sara and I will be gathering with brothers and sisters just down the mountain where we’ve been staying. We’ll meet at a private home in Clovis, CA. If you want details you can get them from our travel page. Just email Amy to RSVP and get details for location. We would love to have you join us.
Also, I was recently interviewed for The Love Cast, a podcast hosted by a friend of mine, Jamal Jivanjee, who has an interesting journey of his own paying quite a price to help encourage the church Jesus is building in the world. We talked about my journey of learning to live loved. Our conversation is Episode 8. We finish the conversation in a second part that will appear next week as Episode 9.