As I was working with some long-time friends (and many new ones) this week to present our church drama, it occurred to me just how important my church family is to me. Some of these people I have been friends with for 20 years. I flipped through a photo album yesterday that reminded me just how much things have changed.
Setting aside the primary function of church for a moment, I feel inclined to comment on the benefits of simply being a member. I have changed jobs several times; I have moved from apartments to homes on the west side of town, and then to the east. I have met many great people outside of church, and have socialized with them from time to time, but the longest running social thread that I have is based on my church family. I cannot emphasize enough just how valuable this has been to me over the years. I think in the ever-changing, busy lives that people lead today, it is unusual to have friendships that last such a long time. People move away, they change jobs, or they simply grow apart with no common thread to keep them together.
I was recently talking to my wife about the benefits of having siblings. She talks about how important her relationships with her brothers are to her, and how she knows that no matter what, she can rely on them. Not to minimize the excellent relationship that I have with my parents, but as an only child, I think that I could have easily felt lacking in this area. However, as a member of a family that transcends where I work or where I live, it almost feels like the same thing. We were there when each other got married, and when marriages fell apart – including my first one. I have shared the happiness of new life events with this family – whether it be a new baby, a new house or a new car. I went into business with a close friend, and when we decided to dissolve the business to move on, we still knew that we would see each other every Sunday and find new projects to collaborate on in the future. Members of the family come and go, but the constantly evolving group always manages to exist. We may not talk much for months at a time – other than a simple handshake or a wave on Sunday morning, but then an event will arise or a project will present itself, and we just pick up where we left off.
We all have our personal lives to live, but just like actual family, these other relationships will be there when we need them. They are family whether we call every week or not. We share the same core values, and always keep that in common. We are happy to see each other succeed, and are there to help when each other stumbles.
We had a OneLife meeting at Gary and Laura’s house last night, and Ben led a discussion about faith. One of the things he talked about that really stuck with me is the concept that faith requires moving in a direction. It’s not about believing something and waiting for God to tell you what to do. It’s about doing your best to decide what seems right, and then relying on God to open doors (or make it obvious) if it is right. One of the examples he mentioned about faith really was very insightful. When you are at your lowest, and you don’t have any faith at all – move forward. Move in a direction that you believe will put you in a place where you can gain more faith or restore faith that you have lost. My immediate thought was this: when everything is crumbling around you, just go to church. Maybe you’re mad at God, and maybe you feel abandoned because you are not getting the answers you expect. But it occurred to me that these people that I call family have kept me close to God. No matter what was happening in my life, I had someone that would not abandon me or turn away from me. No matter where you are in life, that is a start.
To you out there that are a part of my ALC family, I love and appreciate all of you.