Being a part of a Family is a beautiful and complicated thing. The word family is one with a lot of meaning, maybe even a little baggage because of the reality of sin; but I believe God teaches us a lot about our larger Faith Family through the people we call “our family.” In this past year of living through a pandemic, we have experienced one of two very different extremes. The first extreme has been felt while being around our family CONSTANTLY and never getting a break. Up until schools started opening back up, we have been spending a whole lot more time with family or at least those that live in our homes. On the other extreme, I am keenly aware of people like my grandmother that want so desperately to be with her children and grandchildren. However, she can’t because she is in a facility that won’t let anyone in beside the residents and that has created feelings of isolation for all those involved. There is no balance. Either we are seeing too much or too little of the people we call family and that has stretched us, has it not?
This is not at all about the level of love and emotional health we are currently experiencing, but it is all about the structure of family and how we process all that we are feeling in this new normal. When I look at our little family, the DeLaune household has been filled with a lot of love, and I have been thankful for the extra time I have had with two little ones that thankfully both still nap (Praise Jesus!). Emmaline and Charlie love and adore each other and really enjoy one another’s company. But we have our moments. I had a hilarious conversation with my oldest this past weekend who was really struggling with the amount of attention and energy her younger brother was getting from us these days. Charlie is no longer a baby but not yet a big boy and so this is a difficult stage for him and for all of us. Emmaline voiced what we were all feeling and may or may not have innocently asked if we could please “trade him in!” Poor thing. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.
But when we think about the greater Faith Family, what we call the Church or other Christians, how many of us have felt like Emmaline did. How many of us look at our larger faith family and want to trade someone in? Sometimes people that call themselves Christians give the rest of us a bad name, let’s just be honest. Some followers of Jesus interrupt Scripture and the doctrine of this faith way differently than I do, and with others, it feels as if we aren’t even reading from the same set of Scriptures. But in the same breath, there are people in our faith family that we have a real affinity for that we are proud to be associated with! But we all have our moments, don’t we when we don’t want to be “related” to that individual, or faction, or denomination or group, for one reason or another.
You probably don’t know that I serve on the Board of Directors for the Florida United Methodist Home and I have been privileged to be on this Team for the last two years. Normally, we would travel up to Enterprise to meet together and have a meal with the residents and staff that live and work there. But this time, we met over Zoom. It didn’t have the same feel, which is the reality with virtual meetings now, but the whole mood of the meeting shifted at our Lunchtime session when we met Sarah (named changed for privacy sake). This beautiful, young middle- schooler shared her heart with us and told us how she had been baptized last month. When she started to share why she chose God, she shared about her biological family. She said that she had come from a pretty messed-up family and a lot of bad stuff had happened to her when she was young and she didn’t know what real family was until she saw a picture of God’s family. Once she saw what it meant to be a part of God’s family, she wanted to be all in, and decided to say yes to following Jesus and being baptized! Wow! What a powerful and compelling picture of family! I can tell you we were all choked up because it hit us, that we had forgotten the great blessing it is to be a part of God’s family. What a gift it is and because we haven’t physically met together in a while, we do forget the great blessing it is to be a part of the Family of God.
I pray you live into the beautiful and complicated parts of being a member of a faith family. When something is preached about, prayed about, or talked about that upsets you, makes you angry or you disagree with, fine, feel what you feel, but stay a part of the family. When the Church Universal continues to show our hypocrisy when one Christian leader after another has an affair or an addiction that is brought to light or a moral failure. Be angry and pray for them but stay a part of the family. When your brother or sister reads the same passage of Scripture as you do, but comes to a different conclusion, talk about it, learn from each other, but stay a part of the family. My prayer for all of us, as we continue to walk through divisive times in both our denomination and our nation, is to STAY A PART OF THE FAMILY.
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[f] has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ[g] dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.[h] 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:12-17 (NRSV)
Let it be so.