Known and Loved

What is family?

Family looks different for each of us. Some of us are blessed with wonderful, close-knit families, while others cannot depend on a shared bloodline to make a relationship. There is a word, ménage, which means the members of a household. While living in the same house as someone does not equate to a family relationship and not all families live under the same roof, there is something about being parts of a whole which is connected to our definition of a family.
 
 Whoever has comprised your household for the past few months, you have probably grown to appreciate them more —even if it is just their presence which allows for the nearness of another human being. The streamlined relationships and lack of outside distractions may have even allowed you to rekindle relationships with the family you are living with. For others, relationships have been more strained due to the close proximities.

The thought of family evokes many different responses depending on your background. For those who have close relationships with family members, it can be easy to take those blessings for granted. I am blessed with a supportive family, and a community of friends who “stick closer than a brother”, but for many, the reality or memories of time with family are not so fondly cherished. For anyone who feels that loneliness, either within their own family or in separation from any form of family structure, there is wonderful hope: God sets the lonely in families.

“God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” -  Psalm 68:6

There are many lonely people in the world, and there are many times when each of us feel lonely or isolated. If you are in a season right now where you feel alone and like you will never be able to find a group of people to be your family, hold out faith. God still has a plan for you, and He is not finished yet.

What does it look like to be a part of God’s family?

The most beautiful part about His promise, is that we get to become a part of His family. Although we could never deserve it, He wants to be our perfect family member. The reality of our family on Earth may shift and change, but we have access to a heavenly family which is eternal.
 
Jesus also didn’t keep any secrets about accepting people into His family. In fact, He turned down His own biological family in order to accept His eternal family. Hearing about a family structure which is entitled a spiritual family versus a physical family sounds a bit elusive and unattainable. However, the people who Jesus accepted into His family were very similar to you and me.

“Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’” - Mark 3:35

Can you imagine being there, in that circle around Jesus? They were believers who had come to hear Him speak. They were people of action who did what it took to put themselves at His feet and listen. But none of them were perfect. He accepted them into His family anyway.

They were just trying their best to do God’s will, just like each of us. While we will each make mistakes and go about doing God’s will in different ways, we need to have grace for each other, just like in any family. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, despite our differences. Not everyone in this family looks or thinks alike – but we love each other.

“And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” - 1 John 4:21

This verse reminds me of what my mom or grandparents would say when my brothers and I fought. A parent loves each of their children, and seeing discord among those children causes them pain. When we state that we love God, but turn around and hate our brothers and sisters, we are not living out the will of God.

It is obvious in those moments of weakness that our strength is not sufficient to withstand temptations of the flesh. We make mistakes, but God is always there to pick us up and help us walk even closer to His footsteps. Even with our mistakes, He is still a loving and caring Father. He knows every thought in our minds, and He still loves us.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” - Isaiah 43:1

What sets family apart?
 
I think that deep down, as much as we want to be loved, we also want to be known. Your family, whether spiritual or blood related, (for the most part) has seen it all. They know your history; they know your dreams. They know what has shaped you, and they know your plans.

It’s hard to have community without knowing each other. Those whom you would call your family likely know most of your quirks and idiosyncrasies. And as many stories or facts as they have about you, you could likely dole out just as many about them. (The potential for embarrassment is often extremely high, here!)

Still, these details are what makes the difference between a casual acquaintance and an intimate friend. And amazingly, just like our physical family knows all about us, God knows us infinitely more intimately.

 “Lord, You have searched me and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely.” - Psalm 139:1-4

I just find it incredible that the God of all creation knows my name. Not only that, but He is not a distant Father-figure. He is intimately involved with every aspect of our lives. Like a proud father, He watches us and He is familiar with each of our habits and our plans. He knows us full well, and He loves us.

 How does the knowledge of our spiritual family change us?

Each of us is created for connection, and we will always yearn for belonging. For those who are not aware of their opportunity to belong to God’s family, that yearning can change to striving and finding acceptance can feel like an impossibility.
 
Many of us have allowed ourselves to lose hope in our ability to create a close community around ourselves. The good news is that we are right! We do not have the ability to make others love us and stay with us. However, we can trust in God’s ultimate ability to love us and protect us from loneliness.

When we believe and embrace our belonging to God’s family, we no longer have to strive for our place. Once we stop operating out of fear and trying to control others around us, the relationships we have can blossom and become even more fulfilling as we provide them with love and acceptance instead of demanding it from others.
 
Out of this sense of belonging, we are meant to respond in kind, by opening up and accepting our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are meant to love them, serve them, and consider their needs before our own. We are meant to count our family as more significant than ourselves.

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” - 1 John 3:1

Author | Mackenzie Wells

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