Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What Does it Look Like to be the Family of God?

I wrote a post a couple of years ago about a challenge that comes with the change of schedule in summer. As I reread it recently I still resonated with the every word I wrote then.

It is hard when the arrival of the May long weekend typically means a transition to sitting at home alone most evenings and a greater challenge in getting people to commit to making any kind of a plan with you. I understand that it is often a very necessary change of pace. I understand the desire to take advantage of the different activities that come with warmer weather.

But, that doesn't change the fact that, for me and many others like me, summer can be a very lonely and isolating time. It's often very difficult to add anything to a calendar that has nothing more than work and going home to my house where there's no family waiting for me, every day for a week or more at a time. This is really nice for a few days and then it becomes suffocating and isolating.

All of this leaves me asking me one question.

Before I share it, this is my preface: This isn't an easy question. It gets in our business. It challenges every single one of us who call themselves Christians.

If we, as Christians, as the church, are the family of God, then why are content to leave a large portion of our family lonely and isolated for one quarter of the year?

Now, before you take issue with me asking this question, realize that I'm not asking to any one part of the church; I'm asking it to all of us. No matter whether we are single or married, with kids or without kids, are a young adult or a senior, if we're part of the church this question is one for all of us.I ask this question as much of myself as I do you - those who are reading this.

There is a large segment of our church community who don't work around the school calendar - there's no Christmas break, or spring break, or extended summer break. Yet, often in the church it seems as if there's an assumption that everyone's lives work according to the school calendar. There's a large number of people - single and married of all different ages - for whom the school calendar has no impact.

Obviously, there are many facets of the answer to this question. And my own experiences and life situation are going to be at play in how I deal with this. Just as it will have an impact on how you would answer this question. Because of that, I don't think I have the final solution for how we deal with this. But, I do believe it's a conversation that absolutely has to be had and every one of us needs to have a voice.

So, back to my question:

If we, as Christians, as the church, are the family of God, then why are content to leave a large portion of our family lonely and isolated for one quarter of the year?

The time frame I'm talking about is the 3 - 1/2 months book-ended by the May and September long weekends. In much of the church (and to some degree our society in general), those weekends often signal the beginning and end of the "ministry year." But, even beyond formal ministry in the church, they also seem to signal the beginning and end of a time period when people will schedule anything other than a camping trip or a vacation.

All of this presents a challenge. A challenge that leaves some people feeling lonely an isolated.

When I think of a family, I think of a group of people of all ages and walks of life who love and care for each other. We often talk of church as the family of God. Most of the time family does things together, supports each other, loves each other. Of course, in our fallen world, this doesn't always happen, but I think we all have some idea what it should be. The thing about a healthy family is that they included everyone regardless of their circumstances or life situation.

I've tried to figure out how to say this part without being really blunt, and I can't do it, so I'm going to say it and then hopefully explain what I mean.

When the family of God stops everything, "because it's summer," "because school's out," "because it's nice outside," "because people are away," it makes some of us feel like we're being left out of the family - whether it's intentional or not.

Since, I'm in the habit these last few posts of being brutally honest about things here. The thoughts that run through my mind when I'm told there won't be anything scheduled, whether church ministry or social events for 3 - 1/2 months aren't great. I can think of all sorts of ways to refute those reasons. If I'm not careful, it's really easy to begin to feel like I'm not really considered part of the family of God (or, at least I'm not from mid-May to the beginning of September).

For a long time, I didn't communicate any of this to anyone. I kept it all inside. And that makes me just as much a part of the problem as anyone else may be.

But, it also means I have as much an opportunity as anyone else to be a part of the solution. But, there's no chance of anything being different if we don't say anything, if we're not willing to have some potentially uncomfortable conversations.

So, what do we do?

I don't know that we have to change everything all at once, but there are small things we all can do to better be the family of God for each other. We need to have those uncomfortable conversations. Everyone needs to be able to explain what they are looking for and what they need from the family of God. And we need to seriously consider what those who have a different view than us are saying.

As we talk, we need to show grace and love to each other. And figure out how we can better love and include all members of the family of God. It doesn't have to be hard. It starts small. After I first had this conversation with some friends a couple years ago, those friends listened and cared. Realizing what I was looking for when I asked for more scheduled things over summer and that I also wanted to respect their time for additional family time, meant that we were better able to be the family of God for each other.

Really, it starts with things as simple as invitations to each other's places for dinner, or to join in an activity of some kind. Or a plan for a camping trip together. All things, that put more on the calendar for some who find the summer lonely and isolating - making it just a little less so.

Maybe that is all that's needed. And maybe at some point, we need to have a bigger conversation about how we do things. That is something that remains an unknown, but we'll never know for sure until we start somewhere.

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