I drove my mom to the viewing of her great aunt here in Nashville yesterday. There was an informal service where various family members shared their memories and stories of Aunt Bonnie. For the most part, the group present were mostly my mom’s age (which she would tell you is still very young), and these were people that I did not know or had only met once or twice in my life. Of course, this was not my immediate family or my cousins. They would have been a little more distant, more like my second and third cousins.
We all have stories that we tell as a family, and, on this occasion, it was amazing to see what was involved in these stories. Most of these stories were episodes that illustrated Aunt Bonnie’s personality, but many of them ventured into stories about other family members. As each story was told, there was a sense of identity, cohesion, and commonality. Even among people that I barely knew in person, you could not help but feel a sense of belonging. Tears and laughter forged the bond even further.
In a sense, this memorial service represented what is involved in the concept of family. Family is a place of comfort. It is a place of identity and belonging. It is the place where you were formatively shaped and molded. In many ways, it defines who you are, or at the least, it provides the context for your choices. You can change jobs, but you cannot really change your family. It is a part of you. For this reason, I have always loved genealogy and family stories. I think knowing your history is important for fully understanding who you are.
It should come as no surprise that the Bible uses the picture of family to describe the people of God. Christians form a family of faith, as they strive together to live godly lives in the midst of the world. They are shaped and formed by their story, the story of God’s redemption in the world. It provides identity and a sense of belonging to something bigger than self. There is cohesion and commonality in being a Christian. It is within the Christian family that we are formed and fashioned, molded and shaped. It is important to tell our family stories as well (the Biblical story and even church history) to know something of who we are and, consequently, where we should be headed.
It is a wonderful thing to be a part of a family. I’ve particularly enjoyed this holiday season so far with my wife and little girls, and I’m looking forward to getting together with extended family over the next few days. With all of the joy in my earthly family, I am reminded of the great blessing of belonging to the family of God and being identified with my Father in heaven.