Finding Family

I think it was in 1978 that I first realized it. Coming from a small church in a small town, I was under the impression that believers like me were few and far between. But 1978 was the year that I, a newly licensed driver, headed out of our small town in my father’s old Chevy Vega to visit my sister in a city a few hours away.

I was used to being the odd one, my parents desperately hoping my religious fervor was a passing phase on my way to adulthood and sanity. Their disappointment was palpable. “No more church”, my mother decreed. And so I climbed in the Vega to head for freedom, if just for a weekend.

I had first tasted the goodness of God’s family when a friend brought me to a little gathering in her parents’ living room. It was the love there that drew me close. Welcomed me in. I heard them pray, watched them care for each other, listened to ancient and beautiful words, my arms wrapped around skinny knees with a curious, throbbing soul.

In time, we became a church. We held hands at the end of our services, singing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God”, and the truth of that pierced deep.

I knew there were others out there in the world outside my little town. They came to the camp where I worked, their guitars around the campfire connecting us even as I watched from outside the flickering ring of light. “Bind us together with love,” they sang, swaying together under the stars. But I still thought that we were the odd ones, lucky to find each other in a sea of secularism.

But there were more – many more, I found out that weekend in 1978.

I had heard of a church not far from my sister’s place, so I decided to go. Scooting into the back row, I watched as dozens of people my age filled the aisles and the floor down front, laughing and singing. It was then that I realized I was part of something big. And immensely beautiful.

This church was ground zero of the Jesus movement of the 70’s, and I had unwittingly stepped right into the middle of it that Sunday morning. I was stunned. Thrilled. Never had I dreamed there were so many other “Jesus freaks” as I’d been called, just like me.

Since then I’ve been part of a few different churches, and visited many more around the country, from large services in modern spaces to smaller ones on beaches and in the woods. And always, everywhere, I found family. Other people just like me.

My family of origin has few members, distantly related and widely scattered. I didn’t grow up near aunts and uncles; didn’t have grandparents to confide in or cousins to play with. Discovering God’s family, then, was a revelation. Having church family meant that there were people to cry with, and to celebrate with; to learn with and to serve with.

God’s family is a precious thing, bound by wine and bread instead of blood and resemblance. Its members don’t dress alike, share a uniform culture or a common language. But whether it be in a building or a living room, whether through candles and liturgy or guitars and blue jeans, whenever believers gather, we belong to each other. And wherever two or more of us come together, Jesus is there.

Some think of “church” as a formal gathering or an exclusive club where only the good are welcomed. Some see it as an antiquated tradition or an outdated obligation to a stern-faced deity. And, to be honest, some churches are indeed those things. Some have formed an unholy syncretism with politics or siphoned off gospel glory into the stagnant pool of cultural niceties. There are many churches where the Holy Spirit has been pushed out the door in favor of something safer.

But a real church, in addition to being faithful to scripture is, at its core, a family. “Everyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” Jesus said, his gaze penetrating, willing his ragged band of followers to understand. It is both our gift and our responsibility.

Family. In all its mess and beauty, faults and shortcomings, provides comfort and welcome. “He sets the lonely in families,” the Psalmist sang. How we live out that reality speaks to a watching world. We who were once the outcast; the liars, haters and thieves, are now to become a home and a haven for each other under the care of the Good Shepherd. How are we doing?

May we work to become home and family for the cold and weary wanderer; for the wounded, broken and confused. For the people we once were, and the ones we are now.

And for the girl sitting quiet in the corner, eyes wide in wonder.


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11 thoughts on “Finding Family

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  2. I really enjoyed this Andrea. I was saved in 1972 at age 20 and what an extraordinary time in history that was! I have never seen such a revival since. I miss those days of spontaneous sweet fellowship and evangelism.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. I became a Christian as a teenager in the “Jesus freak” movement, too. And when I told my mom I’d been saved, she said, “Oh no.” 🙂 Thankfully, she did come around years later. But the family of God has been precious to me over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Andrea, I too remember those 1970’s where we were pulled into the charismatic movement. I was very young and just happy to be part of something bigger than I. It took some years for me to really know about Jesus’ love. But God drew you to himself and you knew about Jesus’ love at a young age. Once the Holy Spirit gets ahold of you, he doesn’t let go. Thanks for sharing your life with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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