“My family is crazy.”
That is the phrase we use to describe ourselves for lack of a better word that can fully encompass all that our family really is. Living with my family after having been on my own for the past five years has brought me face-to-face again with all that family really is, from the sense of belonging to the raw and messy interactions that occur day-to-day in our home. We are family. And there is something so divine about that.
Our family has a tendency to say that someone coming into our family for an extended period of time will have one of two reactions. You’ll either be so overwhelmed by us–either by our extreme collectiveness (constant togetherness in some way, shape, or form), our openness (we may have a tendency to blame our heated tempers or emotions on our Italian heritage, but regardless, you’ll see the full range of emotions within the first day in our home), or our laid back approach to life (which drives time-oriented cultures crazy)–or, if you survive the initial feelings of being overwhelmed, you’ll come to feel so at home with our family that you’ll never want to leave. We’ve had both reactions many different times (which may have to do with clashes of culture since our family itself is a massive cultural collision). Either way you react to us, we’ll love you just the same, but from experience, we rejoice when your reaction is the latter because it means that, just like we’ve accepted you as family, you’ve accepted us as family. And there is something divine about that.
I was flipping through old pictures and a guest book our family used to keep during our years in Mexico and our first few years in England. Many comments went along the same line of how at home people felt visiting us or how they enjoyed being part of the family. It brought tears to my eyes. Why?
I came to realize that, while my family has many flaws, obstacles, and areas to grow in (we are human, after all), our family carries a unique gift of hospitality that invites people into all the messiness and beauty of what family truly is. I’ve seen the enemy try to attack us at the very heart of who we are in many ways recently. My mother, the heart of the home who loves so unconditionally and selflessly, has been afflicted with cancer and the inability to warm our home in the way only she could. Through the stress of sickness in our family, among other things, the enemy has threatened to divide us and turn us against one another. Our home has felt the barrenness of people just enduring and passing through, when before it was filled with vibrancy and life and people constantly being here for meals and games and joyous fellowship and community. It grieves me to feel the loss of something so integral to our identity as a family.
But Jesus has overcome.
And so I cling to the hope that, in Christ, our family is unified and stronger together than apart.
In Christ, my mother will receive healing and come home, and as her children, we will carry the legacy of hospitality, warmth, and love if she no longer has the strength to carry it.
In Christ, our home will be filled with people who will find home and love and family, whether they have known it before or not.
Because I believe that human family is meant to symbolize the beauty of God’s family. Every one adopted into the Father’s family is different (whether personality-wise, culturally, ethnically), but the beauty of church is that God desires to bring all those differences into a unity that both displays the glory of a creative Creator and the power of the Holy Spirit to bring together so many different people with one heart and purpose, to lovingly invite others into His family and sing the praises of our Father. Family displays absolute love, acceptance, and belonging like nothing else. We find that completely in the Father’s heart and I would hope in His church as well.
So I will start with learning to love those God has given to me as blood family, where I have the opportunity to love unconditionally and accept those given to be my father, mother, sister, brother, because family allows us to display ourselves in our raw vulnerability, our best and worst. And from there, we’ll be a family that will invite others to come feel fully at home in our warm and close little house in Manchester, eating a hearty meal from a recipe native to a faraway land, and laughing until our bellies ache. If we start with the little things, I believe our global church family will look a lot different. And if you don’t have a family, feel free to come on over, and we’ll make you feel very much at home, accepting you for who you are and letting you decide whether or not you’d like to be part of our “crazy” family too. And hopefully, in our home, you’ll find something divine. Hopefully, you’ll find family.