we are all products of the families we grow up in. some have wonderful, warm and healthy memories of childhoods full of love…full of great experiences…full of large extended families.
others have memories of family life that is not so good. dysfunction. neglect. fighting. separation. abuse. empty promises. overreaction. apathy.
and everything in-between. the family dynamic is huge. for all of us.
the family i grew up in shaped me. i am an only child. my mom and dad had siblings that lived in other parts of the country. i met my cousins when i was young, but had no real relationships with any of them. i only met one of my grandparents…and she lived 1500 miles away. the other ones died before i was old enough to know them.
we never had family reunions. there were no cousin camps. there were no trips to see grandma and grandpa. there were no family vacations to see the relatives. there were none of those cool family pictures where everybody’s colors are coordinated. there was no extended family for me. nada.
both of my parents were gone pretty early in my kid’s lives (my dad held on a little longer, but we had moved away). both of wanda’s parents died when our boys were really little. our boys have almost no recollection of trips to grandma and grandpa’s house.
almost from the very beginning, family was just the four of us. and our church family always meant everything to us.
admittedly, i have a totally different perspective on church and church attendance than most. my most significant mentors and examples were church leaders. church activities were seldom ever in competition with family events. older couples in the church were functional grandparents to our boys.
our closest friends and ministry partners were written into our early wills to take care of our boys, in the event of our deaths.
the four of us were never insulted from life in the community or neighborhoods that we lived in. we were always active in youth sports and school activities. probably more active than most. we even had to make a few hard decisions about which events we would participate in…and those we wouldn’t. but that never happened very often.
but our extended family never competed for our time or allegiance. because we had no extended family.
we have always been free to invest ourselves in the lives of others. our hearts and calendars have never really been pulled in different directions. we always made time for our church family…because, if we didn’t, there wouldn’t have been any family.
our church family has always provided our deepest and most profound relationships. it is where we have found accountability and teaching and healing and profound life experiences. for wanda and i, family reunions happen every sunday. for us, family dinner happens every sunday at whatever restaurant we find ourselves in with friends.
oh…wanda and i still have special times with our boys and their wives and the great holden. in fact, they don’t happen nearly often enough for us…and we always make time and whenever we get together, it means more to us than anybody knows.
but our lives have always been bigger…waaaay bigger…than just the four (and now seven…and soon-to-be eight) of us. “blood” has never been “thicker than water” for me and wanda. there has only been “blood”. family has always meant the people we share life with…and not just the people who live under our roof.
this is why church attendance means something more to me than it does to most others. it’s never about counting noses and getting bigger and proving my worth as a leader. it’s about connecting and relating and being near people.
attendance just means we’re all home.