I bombed. Absolutely, positively, bombed. I had an opportunity to speak in front of a speaker’s coach at a conference. It was a simple 5 minute speech. I’ve been speaking since high school and have given hundreds of speeches. and I bombed. And I had prepared! Diligently I had poured over my words and rehearsed them countless times. This was going to be awesome! I’d deliver my speech with authority and excitement in my voice. I’d capture my audience and take them on a journey with me. Except…I bombed.
My nerves got the best of me. The room set up suddenly didn’t work. The kind, caring eyes of my fellow group members suddenly became judgmental (although only in my mind). My voice flattened to monotone. I fumbled with my script. I lost my place. I made every rookie mistake I thought I’d overcome over the years. It wasn’t my best. It wasn’t even my average. It wasn’t even me.
Ever have something similar happen to you?
As I headed back to my hotel room, head hung low, I couldn’t help but focus on the long list of things that had gone wrong and the opportunity it seemed I had failed to seize.
Then it hit me. I suddenly remembered the essence of the message I had attempted to communicate just moments earlier. I am desperate for people to understand that their true worth comes from God’s love and nothing else. I was now in a position to live my message or be a hypocrite. Would I claim my identity as God’s precious and beloved daughter? Or would I continue to try to find my worth in my ability to perform and achieve? Would I rest in the reality that God (and my group members for that matter!) did not love or care about me any less because of this failure? Or would I only be satisfied once I had the approval and affirmation of others? Would I live out the truth that my value is secure in the love of my Savior? Or would I choose to chase value through worldly riches?
The former offered freedom – freedom to live boldly, love fully, and carry out God’s calling confidently. The latter seemed to offer only insecurity, disappointment, and anxiety. The former offered authenticity. The latter offered a shaky façade ready to crumble at any moment. The former offered relationship. The latter offered only isolation. The former offered community. The latter offered competition.
And so I made my choice…
I experienced 71 hours and 55 minutes of wonderful and 5 minutes of awful throughout the 72 hour conference. And yet I learned more in those miserable 5 minutes than the rest of the time combined. I have to live my message. I have to rest in the loving arms of my heavenly Father and trust that my worth and value are secure. I have to walk humbly in my own abilities and confidently stay connected to God’s strength and Spirit in me. I need to live like I really truly believe that His love for me is so great that He sacrificed His only son to be in relationship with me. That kind of love is not based on achievement or accolades or accumulation. It doesn’t increase when I do well and decrease when I do wrong. God’s love never waivers and never changes. God’s kind of love frees from prisons of performance and praise. God’s love changes lives, and changes the world.
So it’s great to say that you and I are children of God, that we are adopted into His family. But what does that really mean? Our earthly families are so broken that it is sometimes difficult to know what it really means to act like family. Here are the top 10 things it means to be part of a family:
1. Family defends one another. My sister and I didn’t always get along growing up, which I’m sure is fairly typical of many sisters. However, no matter how mad we were at one another, we always stood up for one another. No one picked on her without dealing with me too and no one messed with me without messing with her too. We had each other’s back. We too need to have God’s back by standing up for the things that matter to him. We need to stand up and defend the poor, the widow, and the orphan. We need to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). We need to love everyone and judge no one.
2. Family encourages one another. In all of my endeavors, my family has always been my number one cheerleader. Whenever I doubted myself, they would believe in me all the more. In the Bible, Paul seemed to be constantly encouraging the churches and communities he visited. He modeled encouragement and he repeatedly urged Christ followers to follow his example and encourage one another in their faith. We too need to spur one another on in love (Hebrews 10:24).
3. Family accepts one another. Every family has a variety of personalities. The crazy uncle (I have many of those). The nerd (I am one of those). The jock. The fill in the blank. In my family, I was usually too serious for my own good. My sister was known as the chatterbox. And my brother kept us all laughing. My dad is always late. My mom is always trying to get us out the door. We all have our quirks and roles. And we are all accepted in spite of them. God’s family is no different. We are loved and accepted just as we are. Romans 10:12 says, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.”
4. Family grows together. Although we are all accepted, we also long to grow into better people. People that look more and more like we were meant to be, more like Jesus. My parents walked along side me as life taught me tough lessons that formed my character. And when life didn’t do a sufficient job, my parents and other mentors would come along and gently encourage me in the way I should go. Proverbs 22:6 states, “Start children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” And as our Heavenly Father, God promises to discipline us and mold our character to look more and more like Christ. In Psalms God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you (32:8).” And though discipline and character formation is not always easy and does not always feel good, when it is housed in the security of God’s love, it leads to great blessings!
5. Family delights in one another. Many of my favorite memories growing up include shopping with my family, especially my mom and sister. We wouldn’t always purchase, but even just walking around the mall provided plenty of entertainment for the three of us. On one particular trip, we ended up laughing so hard that my mom began to cry and couldn’t see and almost put the car in the ditch. My family truly loves being together. My cousins are my best friends and we laugh until our sides hurt when we are together. My aunts and uncles have invested in my life. Family delights and celebrates with one another. Family laughs together. Family enjoys being together. The Psalms repeatedly urge us to delight in the Lord and to shout for joy. The New Testament is full of examples of Jesus followers celebrating and rejoicing with one another. One of my favorite examples is when Jesus shares the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. When the shepherd finds the little lamb, “he joyfully puts it on his shoulders” and returns to the rest of the flock (Luke 15:5). And Scripture tells us that angels throw a party whenever someone chooses to follow Jesus. As His children, God delights and celebrates us!
6. Family also mourns together. When tragedy strikes, family comes together to cry with one another. Ecclesiastes 3 states that there is a time and season for everything, including mourning and weeping. When Jesus receives word that Lazarus has died, he stops and he weeps (John 11:35). And after Jesus’ death on the cross, the disciples gathered together to weep and mourn all that had taken place. Family supports one another and grieves with one another in the dark times.
7. Family works together. Admittedly this isn’t always the fun aspect of family, although my dad did try to make picking up walnuts in our backyard more exciting by seeing who could get the most in the bucket. 1 Corinthians 3:9 says, “For we are co-workers in God’s service…” and in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul reminds us that just like every part of the body is needed for the whole body to work well and be healthy, we all need to work together for God’s kingdom.
8. Family forgives one another. This truth is probably one of the main reasons we tend to treat strangers we don’t know with more kindness than our own family. We know there is always grace and forgiveness from family.
9. Family represents one another. Your last name represents your entire family. Good or bad, how you conduct yourself reflects on your family members. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches” and Ecclesiastes 7:1 compares a good name to fine perfume. When we decide to follow Jesus and become part of God’s family, we bear HIs name and represent Him.
10. Finally, family loves one another! What does it mean to love someone? It is difficult to define! I know that it is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling towards another person. Loving someone means a willingness to care for them and meet their needs at the expense of your own. 1 John is full of commands to love each other. 1 John 4:7 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” So if we claim to be part of God’s family, we must love others the way God loves us!
Family is an interesting thing. We don’t always get along with them but we love them all the same. Some of us have wonderful, loving families. Some of us have distant, hurtful families. But even the most broken earthly family should not deter us from understanding what family is supposed to be. If we are truly children of God, that makes us family. In fact, the blood of Jesus should be stronger than any earthly DNA. Unfortunately, even though we are family, so often we do not treat one another like family is supposed to treat one another.
The one thing being family is not? EASY!! Being family is hard!
However, as part of God’s family, as His beloved, we are entrusted with representing the family name. We must act like a family towards one another and we must share God’s love with those who have not yet received His offer of grace and forgiveness because that’s what our heavenly father wants us to do.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list! What does family mean to you?
I’ve been working too hard and I’ve been too busy lately. In fact, I’ve been so overextended that I’ve fallen asleep on the couch after work the last two days in a row. Overextending ourselves is so easy to do. Saying no to people is difficult and saying yes feels so good. Busyness has got to be one of the biggest things hindering a healthy relationship with God. When I’m busy, my relationship with God is the first thing that suffers. I don’t “have time” for Him. Think about how ridiculous that is. In my busyness, I make the decision that my trivial responsibilities are more important than spending quality time with my Maker and my Creator, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! Friends and family are the second thing to suffer. And my personal health isn’t far behind.
So if it is so bad for us, why is it so easy, so tempting, to become so busy? Because I don’t think I’m alone. I see it in the students I work with as well. I see students staying up until the wee hours of the morning because they’ve taken on too many hard classes that have too much assigned homework and they can’t bear the thought of earning less than an A. I’ve seen students refuse to give up any of the activities they are involved with even though they are pulled so hard in so many different directions that they are about to be torn to pieces. I’ve heard the rationale that if students aren’t earning all As and in all the activities they can handle then they won’t get into the college of their choosing. And I’ve heard that busyness is a good thing because it keeps students out of trouble. What lies! And yet these lies seem to have completely permeated our culture and so busyness has become the norm, a badge of honor even. Rest and relaxation seem to be viewed as lazy.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that anyone should settle for mediocrity or that we should be lazy slobs. I’m suggesting that we are human beings not human doings. When God created the world He placed rhythms into the entirety of nature. Why would we be any different? Beyond that, God demonstrated the life He designed for us to live, one of both work and rest. First He worked, then He rested. He even included the command to rest in the 10 commandments! When Moses was becoming overwhelmed at the requests of the people, God told Him that the amount of work was not good for him and that He needed to delegate some of the work to others. He told Moses to rest! Jesus modeled this for us as well. It is difficult to read the passages where Jesus tells people no, and we don’t often like to read them, but He did not heal everyone. He took time to pray. He took time to sleep.
So why are we so obsessed with being busy? Maybe it really comes down to longing for the approval of others and fearing rejection or disappointment if we say no. Maybe we don’t know how to be bored anymore. Or maybe it’s an identity issue. If you’ve read my blog before you know I believe that most things are. Maybe we continue to try to define ourselves through what we DO instead of by who we ARE and most importantly by WHOSE we are. We forget who created us and who loves us. And we forget that God’s love for us is what gives us value and worth and identity, not the things that we do. Here’s the irony, remember those two nights I fell asleep after work? My plan for both evenings was to do more work! I guess God had different plans. “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” And He did. And the world kept turning, and His love for me stayed steadfast, even though I rested instead of worked. May you also find a rhythm to life that includes resting in the arms of Jesus.