This morning I noticed my daughter had posted on Facebook a thank you to my wife and I for being her parents and for loving her and her son. There's a whole long story there, but Melissa and Real are a huge blessing to us and our family wouldn't be the same without them. God uses many different ways to create families and ours has grown in different ways than most others. Yet at the end of the day, we are family and I can't imagine our family in any other shape or way. Every time our family grows I find my ability to love grows deeper and richer, even if I don't always say the words. We make commitments to each other that keep us together even when we disagree, even when the disagreements are "atomic," because we belong together as God has brought us together as family.
This got me to thinking about "church families." Like my family, church families grow in different ways and God uses a variety of methods to bring each "family" together. Likewise, every time our family grows, my/our ability to love grows so that, hopefully I pray, the new members of our church family experience God's love through us. I guess what gets me to thinking about church as a family is what happens when some members decide they no longer want to be part of the family and go looking for a new family. I'm surprised every time by how much this hurts.
Two of my children are going through divorces right now, more long stories, but also very painful. I'm recognizing that this feels a lot like what I feel when others leave our church family for another one. There are feelings of sadness and grief, a wondering why we're not family any more, some anger but also feelings of rejection and a wondering what really happened and why. At the same time I also really hope and pray that they will find a church family where they can become lifelong engaged members, a family to set their roots into.
In my own personal family, because of how God put us together, we made promises, most of them to God, that we would commit to each other no matter what. This has led to some very interesting and intense times in our family, but has also made everyone know they belong and are loved. In church families, similar promises are made to each other, but so many of them are unspoken today, that I wonder if this makes the promises less precious, less strong. I wonder about the migration of Christians between churches and I wonder with my own church family, when family members leave, where I have failed them as pastor. I know the reasons for finding another family are complex and each family believes they are doing what is best for them, yet......? I am also much more aware of the pain of other church families when we have former family members from their churches appear in ours. I often say that churches are funny creatures, something only God could have created, considering how many different kinds of people are found in our church from all over the world and such a great variety of backgrounds.
This isn't meant to be a depressing post as a visitor yesterday mentioned how he enjoyed our church and how people seem to care for each other; it fills me with hope that we are being shaped by our heavenly Father in good ways. We have our moments as a church family where things get interesting, and we cannot be the family for everyone, and it hurts then, but I pray that as we live and love together as a church family with all our warts and faults, that our Father God will continue to work through us to invite and welcome new believers in Jesus into our family so that our love might continue to grow larger and deeper and richer and we might all become committed disciples of Jesus.
During this time of advent as we look at Jesus' first coming and at his return, I am reminded that God is in control and that our church family is blessed because He is in control. I pray that as we work on our love for God and each other, that our church family will reflect God's will and plan for who He is calling us to be.