Family is a strange word in American English. Most Americans think of family as their immediate family – father, mother, siblings – and sometimes extend their family to include grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. My definition of family is different.
It’s different because my experience of family is different. Both of my parents left behind their traditional families early in life. My father’s reasons were obvious; my mother’s are similar (and will remain private for the time being). But between them, when it was time to make their family, there was me – and a lot of friends. Growing up I envied their friendships. I wanted to have friends like theirs – people who did interesting things in the world, who were obviously close to my parents, and who clearly loved my mother and father and were in turn loved by them.
Friends like that don’t just happen. It takes a lot of work to create those relationships, and to keep them working over time. It took me a while (ok, a very long time) to understand how to make it work. (Some of you readers may think I’ve never understood how to make it work.) And over time, I’ve met many wonderful people who have become friends – but really, I think of them as my family. (I’ll skip the listing of each and every one of you who are part of my family – but my guess is, if you’re reading this, you’ll know if you are.)
By creating our family, we find a way to meet our human needs in a very tangible way. In my own life, both of my parents weren’t able to understand some of the issues that I brought to them. But my family clearly understands what I bring to them – and know that I can meet and answer some of their needs as well.
Again, it’s grace that allows us to meet our families. I know that grace moving in the world has brought me to my family.