When I was 2 years old my parents packed my sister and me and we trekked to Minnesota. This move was prompted by a job transfer for my dad that had the promise of a better life for us. I was born in Detroit Michigan and we were surrounded by family there. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents... there was no shortage of people who loved me simply because I was born into their family. This move changed that.
In Minnesota we were isolated - a little family in a strange place with no support system other than each other. I was young, it became normal to me to trust a small amount of people and consider family a small unit that had a connection (but not a strong one) to a larger group of people. These are people we would update on our life, but they weren't a part of it. We visited this larger group of people, we didn't do life with them. Family was also something you grew out of. Family was something you distanced yourself from as you got older and started a new one. With these understandings of family, this is just what I did. For better or worse, my understanding of family was small and finite.
I can't help but think this definition of family has influenced my view of the "family of God". Whether I ever verbalize it, in my heart I have always imagined the body of Christ as something small. It isn't small though, it is quite large (and diverse). My work allows me to interact with this large family and it has challenged my views of how I should be interacting with it. When I first started traveling and working with other local churches I always viewed myself as a visitor, an outsider, hired help - but am I? This is how I have viewed those who visit our local church - heck, we even refer to them as visitors, but are they? Can you "visit" family? Isn't the nature of family that you are included and a part of what they are doing?
On a recent trip I had the pleasure of being with family I had never met before. These were people who are making Christ known in this world and I was humbled by how they accepted me into their work with them. They treated me like family, and it has forever adjusted how I view the "family" of Christ. Family doesn't always agree, they don't always do things the same way, many times the differences they have can add awkwardness to the relationship - but family does support each other and encourage each other. Also, no matter the differences, we come from the same line. Despite our differences there are an overwhelming amount of similarities. We all share in the abundant and unending love of God and the desire to share that with others.
Where do you draw the line on family?
When does family end and friendship begin?
How do you change from simply informing family about your life to actually including family in your life?