Week before last, a friend from church and I made similar journeys. She and her husband drove to Texas with their two small sons while my daughters and I flew to South Dakota. We were traveling to be with our extended families – she to say goodbye to a much-loved grandmother; me to help lay to rest a cherished brother-in-law. Back in our home state of Georgia last Tuesday, we hugged and tearfully shared details of our bittersweet treks. We affirmed to each other the assurance our loved ones are safely Home and agreed the tears we shed weren’t for them, but for ourselves, the ones temporarily left behind.
And then my friend said something that resonated with me just as deeply: “When I’m with my family, I remember who I really am.” Yes! The world uses myriad criteria to judge us, each with an implied worth – income, education, appearance, occupation, and so many more. But in my family I’m valued simply because I’m one of them. I belong. Not that we don’t encourage each other to do our best and celebrate our successes, but they aren’t the cost of entry. And our calamities, even when self-induced, aren’t reason for dismissal. I’m thankful for the unconditional love I’ve experienced in my family of origin. I’m equally blessed to have married into a family whose members are there for each other. They accepted me into their fold when Ray first introduced me to them over 30 years ago and have welcomed me ever since.
As I listened to the prayers that punctuated many of our gatherings while we were in South Dakota, I was reminded of the heritage of faith undergirding my daughters and grandchildren. There are generations of faithful believers on both sides of our family, many now part of the great cloud of witnesses. Because of the boundless love the Father has lavished upon us in sending his Son, we’re part of his forever family – chosen, unconditionally accepted, destined for another Home. No matter how the world chooses to judge us, when we’re in the presence of our Father, we remember who we really are.