Families & Belonging

Matthew 10:31
Image by Oliver. via Flickr

There are some families I have the honour of knowing who make me smile and want to cry all at the same time. These families show me how powerful it is for a child to know that they are loved and that they belong. Witnessing these moments can also explain to me something about why I so often feel insecure. Any psychologist will agree with me that someone’s childhood builds the foundation for their self perception. It is the time when they learn how lovable they are, how valuable they are and how much they belong. These aren’t questions that are answered through only words or only actions but a constant blend of the two.

How, then, do we in the church help people who haven’t had the blessing of a family that ensure their children know they are loved, valuable and that they belong? If children are shown their worth through both words and actions, then we need to not just preach about our worth being found in Christ and our eternal place in his family, but we need to act in a way that reflects that.

1 John 3:1 seems to be a very excited John telling the recipients of his letter something…

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

I didn’t add the exclamation points there, they were already in the text with the translation I used (NIV today). Part of our job as the church, both for people who have functional families and those who don’t, is to assure us all that we are first and foremost children of God. That is our identity. That is our worth. As we run ministries, we need to reflect that not as a token sentence that’s about as exciting as a bunch of young adults reading from the Prayer Book (try it, they’ll sound bored and confused), but as part of the basis of what we do and who we are. Our words need to show that we are children of God.

Actions are the most challenging aspect of this for me. I only know what I’ve seen work, and most of what I’ve seen work is what people have done to show me that I am loved and belong. I distinctly remember a conversation in a friend’s lounge room one night. This couple and I had just finished watching Twilight, which was torture for the husband and I suspect we only watched it so they could give me a chance to pull myself together after a hard day. The wife gently asked me if I was ready to talk and I responded simply with “My family don’t want me.” and their response was, “if they don’t want you, we’ll have you. We want you.”

From that night, I spent a lot of time at their house. I’d hang out with their kids, nap on their couch, watch American Idol with them and a few other friends. It was a whole lot of things that seemed so small, but for the first time I felt that being part of God’s family meant being part of an actual family, not just a symbolic one. Does that make sense?

I think it is as simple as opening up your family and your life for other people who need to see that they belong and that they are loved. It’s powerful.

Praise God for parents who go out of their way to make their children know that they are loved, valued and belong.

Praise God that we are all his children, and that as the church, we have the honour and responsibility to show each other that we are loved, valued and that we belong…

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