“God sets the lonely in families . . .” -Psalm 68:6
I remember one week when I did a lot of traveling. First, I went to Asheville, NC, where two of my former seminary professors have a home and often invite friends and students to retreat. We had a very refreshing time together, as we shared the struggles of our different lives, listened, and reminded one another that we are not alone. On the way home, I stopped outside Spartanburg to have dinner with my best friend and her husband. Laughing together over food and catching up on each other’s lives is something we do whenever we can. I arrived back in Charleston on Saturday night, so that I could be present Sunday for my friend Marjorie’s ordination to the ministry. She and I are part of the same church, and participating in the beautiful ordination service as a member of that faith community reinforced the sense of family that I have found there. After celebrating with Marjorie, I drove to Tybee Island, GA, where my aunt and some of her loved ones were on vacation. We enjoyed long conversations on the beach and posed for silly photos together in some of the island’s picturesque locations.
Such days remind me of the importance of family, and of the different ways people define “family.” For some, only those who are related to you by birth or marriage can be considered family. But for me, family is so much more than that. Though only one of the people I visited on that trip was a blood relative, all of these people are family to me. At various times and in myriad ways, each of them has been there to support me when I needed it, has stood by, cared for me, and given me the chance to do the same for them. In our society today, it is becoming more and more common for people to move far away from their biological family. When that happens, we can feel rootless, unmoored, isolated. But God does a beautiful thing, by bringing the right people across our path at just the right time, allowing us to build a family. My family includes people scattered from Texas to the Carolinas, with even a few folks in Europe and Africa. I do not get to see all of them as often as I would like to, but we all know that no matter how far apart we are, we can count on one another anytime. And we are united by the love with which God has gifted us. That is what truly makes a family.
God, thank you for the gift of family. You saw from the beginning of creation that it was not good for us to be alone, and you have not left us alone. Open our eyes to the people you have placed in our lives to be the family we need, and to those who need us as well. Amen.
-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent