“What is the purpose of your visit?”
The U.S. customs official questioned each passenger upon their return to Port Angeles, WA. Eight family members had spent the day in Victoria, British Columbia, where we had shopped, eaten, and enjoyed the beauty of this Canadian seaport. After an hour-and-a-half ferry ride back across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we queued up to be cleared to reenter the U.S.
When it was her turn, my sister-in-law, in an unspoken plea for a hassle-free border crossing, made direct eye contact with the official. In answer to his question and as explanation for her “Do-not-mess-with-me” attitude, she offered just two words:
‘Tis the season for family reunions. Thirty-five or so of us had gathered that week on the coast of Washington for a reunion with my mother’s side of the family. Time with family can be sweet. And it can also be, shall we say…stretching?
I savored the “sweet” moments…introductions (meeting our newest and cutest four-month-old family member, as well as my uncle’s wife for the first time) and reunions (reconnecting with cousins I haven’t seen in years…or decades!).
I encountered those “stretching” moments…traveling in a herd is never easy. Deciding where to eat? Next to impossible. I think most families can relate!
One evening during the reunion, however, I looked around the circle of lawn chairs as we ate dinner outside. I took in the lines of familiar faces, heard the pleasant hum of conversation, and was struck by this thought:
For better or for worse, this is my family. I belong here.
Whether by blood or by marriage, everyone partaking in that meal was related. Our stories intersect. We share common ancestors. I could see my beloved late cousin Laura in the faces of her two beautiful daughters. I could hear my grandfather’s low, baritone voice as I chatted with my uncle, his eldest son. How proud he would be to see the family which carries his name coming together.
A couple of days later, my daughter Laurel and I headed to Colorado Springs for the “Desperation” youth conference, an annual gathering of over 5,000 teens from all over the country. This was my third time attending; Laurel’s second. So it felt like a reunion of sorts.
As if to validate that feeling, one of the speakers greeted us like this:
“What’s up Desperation family? This is our yearly get-together!”
Yes, there were some “sweet” moments…soaking in the sight of my daughters (and my new son-in-law!) worshiping God together…catching up over meals with some of my favorite friends…witnessing the next generation rising up to take their place in God’s grand plan of redemption.
And there were also some “stretching” moments…bickering among the students…differences in doctrine and practice…tension from past unresolved hurts.
Just like a family.
We don’t always get along. We may not see eye to eye on every issue. Sometimes we don’t even like each other.
But we’re related, descendants of a common Ancestor.
We bear His name.
His blood flows through our veins.
If we look past our differences, we can see the family resemblance.
If we listen carefully, we can hear the familiar inflection of His voice.
We will be stretched.
It comes with the family territory.
But oh, the sweetness when we put our differences aside and come together to worship and fellowship in Him!
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1, NIV)
It’s a taste of that ultimate Family Reunion to come.
But until then, Church, a reminder…
For better or for worse, we are a family. We each belong here.
Let’s make our Father proud by the way we love and accept each other.